Remembering Little Lentil

Yesterday, October 27th, Little Lentil would have been one year old. All the writing, all the painting... everything I've done has been for LL, everything has been for me. In honoring LL and myself and all my feelings of loss, grief, joy, courage and the full spectrum of emotion and living, I'm re-posting one of my first writings about my radical miscarriage, Dream Journal.

Dream Journal

4/1/14 Tues 3:53 pm

I wake up in our bed, weak, so weak. It’s warm in the room. Our curtains are closed but the afternoon sun heats and still gets in. I feel warm and safe and in the heat of our bedroom, the air is full, a wholeness.

I wake up and remember my dreams. In them I tell my family and friends that the baby died. They look like the faces on the Look Kin side, my father’s side, but they are everyone. I’m in their house - Auntie Yuk Moy’s? - with people friendly, happy but some have questions. And some are so frustrated because they didn’t get the email - What’s going on?! Tell me!? So I tell them. We’re looked at with awe and horror.

I bolt awake and realize I forgot to cancel with my Spanish teacher.

I go to the bathroom for peeing and pooping and The Blood. I write this to Billy: Thank you Billy. We’ve been sleeping and I dreamt of telling everyone what happened. Even in my dreams the truth is present. Thank you for thinking of us on this strange and beautiful and horrible day. Much love to you and Savi and Lena - wow, she lights up our hearts. xoxox

Savi called. Barbi left a voice message. I want to call them but I don’t. I don’t feel like talking to anyone right now. I spoke with Rita but she doesn’t understand though she’s trying. Everyone is sharing their love with us the best way they know how. Sometimes, though, it’s more for them than it is for us. Even when we shared our joy of discovery of this baby, it was wonderful love and response but also a reflection of that person and their feelings and who they are.

I know I’m in shock. At this I break down, falling down a crumbled person. And then I’m calm and philosophical. I can’t help it. And I feel very protective of D. This is hitting him very hard - as excited as he was when he found out - and the the opposite. Deep sorrow. I feel it too. I’ve never seen him cry before. He cried and cried. We’re confused. We’re sad. I’m disappointed. You try to anticipate what you’re going to feel - you can try to be prepared for some things but not for everything. That’s not the point. We have no control. We are powerless, but we are also powerful. I found a new person inside of me as this little person was growing, and she was powerful, almost limitless mama/earth/crab powerful. And creative, so creative. A person who does have a green thumb, who loves life and helping things to grow. And making food - baking banana bread (albeit from a Trader Joe’s box but so delicious) and mashed potatoes for the first time. Hungry + fearless + road-rage-filled on her bike, barking at everyone and that felt good. Being honest + open in a way I haven’t been before. Loving my body. She loved her body. Growing out the hairs, reclaiming her hairstyle. Loving this body: curves + curves + belly + boobs + thighs + beautiful. Trusting the inner wise self - she is there, she is alive, she is here. Accepting things. Becoming more patient. Communicating even clearer than before.

I’ve thought a lot about this quote I read on a doula’s website + I think of it now: “Birth is not only about making babies. Birth is about making mothers - strong, competent, capable mothers who trust themselves and know their inner strength.” - Barbara Katz Rothman

Even though the baby is gone, a tiny little thing that looked like a miniature person, I am still here. This mother is here and she is strong. She is sad and she is strong. Strength is knowing that crying and sharing our sad emotions is ok. I won’t try to “heal” soon. What happens is what happens. As I have throughout this pregnancy, I will listen to my heart, as I am right now, and listen to my inner wise self because she is always there inside of me and she is me. I will know what to do and how to feel and it’s all ok. It’s all ok. It’s all ok.

So, we're in a short documentary...

October 22, 2015: When Vee was 4 weeks and 5 days old, we were featured in a short 7 minute documentary along with five other mamas and their babies. Today, it was posted to the internet. The NY Daily News reviewed it and Mashable quotes me and, um, I feel a little nervous. 

+++

In mid August, I received a Facebook message from a friend of a friend (my high school best friend's ex boyfriend who I've actually never met in real life). His friend, Ashley, was casting a commercial celebrating new motherhood and the producer later wrote that they were looking for “strong, opinionated new mothers.” Well, that’s me! I was a little hesitant to get involved (I don’t support big box stores and the whole culture of consumerism) and yet agreed to do this pretty quickly. Yes, I am a new parent and won’t turn down some extra cash! Also, can’t I be in a commercial/short film and represent the radical side of parenthood, from my experience? I got in touch and after one phone interview at 10:30pm, several written applications and waivers, two Skype interviews (with both me and D, separately) and a personal visit at 7am from the director, producer, director of photography and seven others, within a week we were selected to be filmed for the roundtable of moms and their babies and for a day of filming at our home with a focus on cloth diapering.

I was equally excited and nervous. Though so much was cut from the film (they had to condense 5 days of footage into 7 minutes including D washing fake baby poo from a diaper and serenading Vee with his guitar) I was sure we'd be labeled the “cloth diaper freaks,” a self imposed label. But we weren’t. I was surprised by what an incredible learning experience it was and how transformed I felt after the “roundtable” discussion in the faux living room. During this discussion, I was breastfeeding the whole time, uncovered, and questioned if I should cover or not since they intended for this film to go viral. But I didn’t because I shouldn’t have to. And, I thought, it's important to show people nursing uncovered because breastfeeding is a completely natural and ancient way of eating. It was, along with so much, all edited out. There was air conditioning but due to the little hum it made, the crew had to turn it off whenever we filmed which made it SO HOT and humid. Vee and I may have been wearing the least amount of clothing but we were sweating buckets on each other. Ah the world of film!

The director, Cynthia Wade, warmed us up with questions and discussion about how each of us had been judged by strangers, by family and friends as well as words of encouragement. During the roundtable and in between takes, I felt that I made a connection with all of the moms. We all became friendly and at the end of the close to three hours of filming, we were finally asked how we had judged each another. Oof! According to D, of course I was the first to volunteer. In fact, Cynthia had created a safe space for all of us to talk and be vulnerable. So when she asked how we judged one another, I was right there, ashamed but admitting that I had judged the mom who used the formula and I judged the mom who covered while she breastfed. We had all judged each other. In those moments of judging, I would have that thought and then immediately say to myself Well I don't know her story, I haven't lived her life, I can't judge her and I wouldn't want her to judge me. I mean, that's why we were all there! And while these conversations were contrived on some level in a studio intended to look like a home (and a lot of time spent in the editing room), there were also very genuine connections being made and experiences shared and a desire to build a sisterhood.

Admittedly, I didn’t watch the director’s previous short documentary style commercial for Dove called “Selfie” (and later made me cry!) until after I met her. I did, however, google her and wasn’t surprised to discover that she's a Smithie. Of course she is! During the roundtable and the day of filming in our home, I got to know her and her crew more. Turns out she filmed Savi & Billy’s wedding (of Rev. Billy)! Chatting with the film crew, I also discovered a savvy group of people who were familiar with the evils of Monsanto and the creative community of Bread & Puppet Theater. The director of photography had even made a short film about the vanishing honey bees. Everyone working on this project was doing just that - working to pay the bills. At lunchtime, instead of eating from one of those food trucks you always see with film crews, they asked where the cheapest food in the neighborhood was (which is Dil-e Punjab Deli, between 20th & 21st Sts on 9th Ave).

Later, Cynthia wrote me the kindest email, “Thank you, my Smith sister, for being a part of the film last week. Thank you for your willingness to share your personal journey, and thank you for being the ice breaker at our round table discussion -- your willingness to be open, honest and vulnerable on camera allowed the other women to do the same. Thank you for that.” Oof! What a validation of my early mama-hood! 

In the days leading up to the release of this film, up to today, I've been nervous. I was nervous about how my radical communities would feel about me being in this commercial. Today I'm questioning myself a lot, worried about how I've been depicted in the film, if my hair is “too weird” or if people think I'm endorsing a formula company. I worried that I’d be judged for a film/commercial about judging moms! I absolutely do not support formula companies and at the same time I also don’t judge the parents that use it. There are many reasons why parents make the decisions they do and all of them are hard! Any issue I have lies in the way our historical memory and culture dictates and influences us to make the decisions we do and its erasure of our collective experiences with pregnancy, babies and our relationship with our bodies. I say end our cultural misogyny that pits women, female bodied people and parents against one another. We need to have full comprehensive access, support and education about the power of our bodies, pregnancies, breastfeeding and beyond. But as I re-read Mashable’s quoting of me these fears melt away when I realize that I, along with Yalixa (and Leslie!), helped to bring the often silenced and shamed experience of miscarriage and pregnancy loss to the national and international discussion. 

Thank you to Cynthia, Willa and Ashley - I hope you have a vacation soon and are getting the rest that you need and deserve! Sending so much love to the warrior mamas and their babies featured in this: Liz, Jennifer, Yalixa, Shyrelle and Leslie. It was a pleasure getting to know each of you. You are my heros! 

xo

It Takes a Village: The Courage to Ask for Help

My 13th bowling birthday party: Me, Tak & Jazzy J (June 1995)

My 13th bowling birthday party: Me, Tak & Jazzy J (June 1995)

August 17, 2015 - I was raised by a village. When I was 6 years old, my dad moved back to Trinidad and my mom raised me as a single parent. That was the same year we joined The Community Church of New York, a Unitarian Universalist congregation. Previously we attended The Riverside Church where I was also baptized. To explain what UU is...it’s basically the everything bagel of religions. We have Christians, Jews, Buddhists, Wiccans, Atheists, Agnostics - everyone is welcome. Each UU congregation is different - some are more traditionally religious than others. Mine was very liberal and progressive but I wouldn’t describe it as radical. Located in Murray Hill, it’s still a great, diverse place to raise your kids. The main Hall of Worship is very traditional with cushioned seats bolted to the floor in set pews with a stage at the front where ministers make announcements and preach and are flanked by busts of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Margaret Sanger, Albert Schweitzer and Mahatma Ghandi as well as banners representing major religions from around the world. 

Wearing my UU chalice in the Spring of 1996

Wearing my UU chalice in the Spring of 1996

When I was 13, it was time for me to go through my Coming-Of-Age ceremony. Although I had attended church school (and other activities and outings) regularly from the age of 6, I was the only 13-year-old at my church so I went up to Fourth Unitarian Universalist Society, near Central Park. I knew about this “Society” because I was in middle school with one of member’s sons, J, who was also good friends with my mom. Later we discovered a photo of us at around age 3 or 4 at church school at Riverside Church before our moms had met. At Fourth UU, the pews were moveable and often placed in a circle for worship. It was a smaller congregation and had a homier vibe. Other non-UU kids were excited to be able to play basketball there and other fun things not typically associated with church.

My graduation from 8th grade: Grampy + Rev. Marjorie Bowens-Wheatley, my mentor (June 1996)

My graduation from 8th grade: Grampy + Rev. Marjorie Bowens-Wheatley, my mentor (June 1996)

Our Coming-Of-Age group had 2, sometimes 3 girls and 3 boys. We had two group leaders, and every Sunday we would all meet to talk about our belief system and other religions and white privilege and all the sorts of things a “hippie church” would have you discuss as you enter “adulthood.” Sometimes we met at Fourth UU, sometimes at All Souls (a really God-centric, traditional, large and diverse UU church even further uptown). Throughout the year we went on "Cons," mini sleep-away conferences for Teen UUs in NJ and Upstate NY. Typically everyone smoked cigarettes except for those kids from NYC. We also each had a personal mentor we met with to discuss our belief system/credo. Mine was Rev. Marjorie Bowens-Wheatley who became my friend and even gave me her bible from seminary which I have yet to read. At the end of the year, the boys and girls were split up for our rite of passage ceremonies. These were created by us, our mentors and our families. The boys stayed at Fourth UU and did things like get their feet washed by their mentors. The girls, on the other hand, had what felt like a real adventure.

Maine, Summer 1996

Maine, Summer 1996

We went Upstate (or somewhere in "the country"), and it was beautiful. It was me and E, our mothers, her mentor (mine couldn’t make it) as well as one of the boy’s moms who was going to lead us in a Wiccan ceremony. It was so green and lovely and there was a wandering cow roaming about. At night, we all sat around a fire and made clay sculptures of our fears and later went to the pond and symbolically and literally threw them away. We also danced around a fire to the moon and the goddess. The moon was so big that night. In our separate tents, E and I were to write our feelings, hopes and dreams. I wrote, "When I am faced with a problem, I either react in two different ways. Depending on the challenge, I may prove that I am fearless and dispose of the problem. Other times I will look for someone else (my mother) to get rid of the problem." (My Coming-Of-Age Journal, 6/1/96) I was by myself a good long while until I found a tick and got my mom to get rid of it. When we got back to the city, there was a party, full of women, at the boy’s mom’s apartment where we were given gifts and were celebrated. I remember always wishing that I had gotten the “Clueless” DVD gift instead of “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.” Later on we each wrote up and read our Credos to our congregations during a special church service. 

There are many other instances of my UU community village raising me on overnight nature retreats, Special Friend Sundays, marches, parties, church school activities and play dates outside of church. They are actually too numerous to list!

Little Lentil Landscapes II: The Shame of Womanhood, Watercolor, 12" x 16"  May 2014

After I had the miscarriage last April, although at first I was ashamed, at the first sight of the blood, that D and I had told over 100 people we were pregnant at 8 weeks and then lost the baby at 10 weeks, I was relieved. From the email I sent out, people wrote back their condolences. For those that wrote those 7 key words - Let me know how I can help - I wrote back. We sat a radical Shiva for the next two weeks. Friends brought groceries and dinner and sat with me in groups, one on one. I shared variations of my radical miscarriage story and they in turn would share theirs, if they had one. Some had many. Others knew they just wanted to feel with me and be with me even if they couldn’t personally relate to having a pregnancy loss. Friends appreciated being told how they could help and that there was something they could actually do to provide the support that I wanted. The months that followed, when the visits stopped, were particularly difficult as I fell into a postpartum depression until the end of November when I found out I was pregnant with V. Even though I was pregnant with our Rainbow Baby, feelings and emotions are complicated.

Little Landscape I, Watercolor, 11" x 14" May 2014

I knew with this birth/labor/postpartum I would need help. I made an announcement at rehearsal, my radical community village, which I’m so blessed to have and be apart of, requesting help. I started to make a list of people who I felt comfortable with coming and helping out as well as the kinds of food I’d like to eat. The three godparents, D, A & J went above and beyond! Not only did they help us to purge and make this into a home and me, to finally feel like a human being at home, they organized and hosted the baby shower. After D (the papa bear), they were the first ones to arrive and help me labor, feed me, give me sips of coconut water and then take care of all three of us after the birth by making us meals, washing the dishes, sweeping, cleaning up the kitchen and eating areas, shopping for groceries, doing the laundry, and folding the laundry besides entertaining us with songs, music and friendship. D (papa bear) was also doing so many of these things and was in charge of my placenta smoothies (which I miss so much). They stayed from Thursday when I went into the "early" labor until Monday morning (V was born Friday morning).

Little Lentil Landscapes III, Watercolor, 12" x 16" May 2014

A has been in charge of a (short) list of some friends to help us out and created a schedule for visits, food drop offs, etc. The last few days (and week) have made me see that I need to tap into my Courage Reserves and put this Big Ask out there: Hello Village, will you please help us? Someday we will need babysitters but right now, if you live in NYC and are willing and available, are you able to: drop a meal off, do a load of laundry or pick up some light groceries? If you can do one or more things either one time or on a weekly or monthly basis, please send me an email and let me know (I’ll also put you in touch with A. to add you to the roster of helpers). If you’d rather buy us something, our registry is going to be open indefinitely with things that we need and would be so appreciated.

dawn@dslookkin.com

THANK YOU SO MUCH.

xo

The Face Box

I moved my art supplies and a makeshift desk into the baby's room so that I can paint while the baby nurses because...

I moved my art supplies and a makeshift desk into the baby's room so that I can paint while the baby nurses because...

Yesterday I woke up and in a sleepy ramble, told D I wanted to watch The Social Network and that I wanted to “friend” Jesse Eisenberg, the actor that plays founder Mark Zuckerberg. You’re weird he said. Did I dream this? Or maybe it’s because I’ve been on the Face Box every single day, all day long since giving birth and before, and a decade before I even met D.

+++

...this is what my actual art desk looks like! The Messy Desk + cat! 

...this is what my actual art desk looks like! The Messy Desk + cat! 

I attended Smith College, one of the original Seven Sisters all women’s colleges, from Summer of 2001 to Spring of 2005. I was accepted into the pre-orientation program, Bridge, for Women of Color before they started allowing caucasian students to be in it. This changed my senior year, the same year I was a Bridge leader/mentor. When I first visited Smith in 2000, they didn’t allow Asian students to be in this program, let alone hapa/multi-racial/multicultural students so things keep changing. If it weren't for Bridge, I'd only have a handful of Smithie friends that are Students of Color because there are that many white students there. As it turned out, the majority of my friends were Jewish. I majored in Studio Art and Women’s Studies and sang with the Glee Club, The Chambers Singers and Groove, the a capella group, of which I'm one of the original members.

I often say that Smith is an institution of complete privilege and luxury but that the students come from all different backgrounds. I was able to attend because I had a very generous financial aid package since I was raised by a single mother, who at times worked three jobs to send me to my various elite private schools in Manhattan and Brooklyn Heights. I also received annual art scholarships from the Unitarian Universalist Association and an annual scholarship from Green Point Bank as well as others. At the same time, although I didn’t have a lot of money, as didn't a lot of Smithies, once you are accepted and enroll at Smith you enter a special club (although we had no sororities). Even if you are a Student of Color and are the token student in class and deal with some form of bigotry every day, we all received some benefit from being enrolled at one of the top women’s colleges in the country with a long history of powerful and influential graduates from Gloria Steinem to Julia Child to Sylvia Plath. So despite all kinds of wonderful and horrible experiences one might have at Smith, you leave with a degree and a network of women all around the world who always have your back.

The co-sleeper/baby stuff caddy and where I nurse - so glamorous I know! 

The co-sleeper/baby stuff caddy and where I nurse - so glamorous I know! 

Why am I writing about my alma mater like this because seriously who cares? Well it goes back to Facebook...the first time I saw “The Social Network” it was surreal. Almost everything they talked about in the movie had happened in real time for me since Zuckerberg’s first beginnings for Facebook started in the Fall of 2003. That was when I started my Junior Year Study Abroad at Kansai Gaidai University in Hirakata, Osaka, Japan. For the rest of my time at Smith, including my Senior year, I lived in a “house” called Chapin House in the center of campus, a really nice dorm with beautiful views of the pond, a large living room with a TV and a grand piano, it’s own laundry room, dining room and it’s own kitchen and housekeeping staff. For my work study, I chose to assist the housekeeper which led me to the discovery that with showers and bathrooms, gender, class and ethnicity didn't dictate how gross and dirty you can be. I'm not sure how I ended up in this House - I requested Tyler House where I completed my Smith Summer Science Program when I was thirteen. Chapin was known to be a "nice" (read: white, mostly affluent) house and those that lived here were early acceptance students. I applied to too many colleges because I didn't know who would give me the best financial aid package and got my final decision certified by the midnight deadline (it was between Smith and Hampshire College). Before dropping out, Margaret Mitchell lived at Chapin and the staircase inspired the one in the book and the film “Gone With the Wind” (a little misleading as the staircase was not fancy at all but whatever - HOLLYWOOD!). I too had a LiveJournal and would update the interwebs on my love life and Feelings. I remember “Hot or Not” and even clicked through rating people’s appearance because that’s what you did at 3 in the morning in college. I had active MySpace and Friendster accounts. After Harvard and the other Ivy League schools, Smith also got the exclusive membership to Facebook. I remember when you had to be enrolled at a private college to get invited. And then any college. And then anyone.

These things help: drying rack, changing table, garbage pail. 

These things help: drying rack, changing table, garbage pail. 

Things just get so metta. If it weren’t for Facebook, would you even be reading these words right now? This social network machine is bizarre and twisted and a really false sense of self and how we interact with one another. Besides Candy Crush, Farmville and other evils of the internet, it does connect us. Last year when I made my first post for My Radical Miscarriage Blog, so many people wrote me with their stories of heartbreak surrounding their miscarriage, their stillbirth, their abortion, getting raped and how, sometimes, I was the only one they confided in because I had the courage to share my story.

My plant babies all grown up. 

My plant babies all grown up. 

It was emotionally overwhelming for me to read these stories, some from people from high school who I never talked to before and others from my closest friends. Sharing what I was going through with my pregnancy loss felt so intuitive to me, like an obsessive storytelling regurgitation that I didn’t see it as being brave or courageous but that’s what it was and that’s what it is. I can embrace that because my story is my truth.

So to Mark Zuckerberg I simultaneously say fuck you and thank you for making us so dependent on this evil thing called Facebook and for bringing together radical communities to bridge injustices and experiences and truly change this world into the one we want and know it can be.

xo

(*Editor's note* I take back what I said about Mark Zuckerberg - I just read that he and his wife had 3 miscarriages so I'm feeling a lot of compassion towards him today. Also, I "friended" Jesse Eisenberg.) 

My Radical Home Water Birth / My Spirit Walk Through Fire (PART I)

There are many shrines around our home including this one, dedicated to my father, Victor Hong Chu Look Kin. 

There are many shrines around our home including this one, dedicated to my father, Victor Hong Chu Look Kin. 

After having my baby on Friday, July 31st at 5:46am, on the Full Harvest Blue Moon, I get asked a lot, What was giving birth like? Now some people ask and actually really, really want to know. Others are just going through the motions. I have the short and the long answer. The short answer: It’s like a Spirit Walk through fire and hell and when you emerge, you’re a Warrior Mother.

+++

On Tuesday, July 28th, my “due date”, I got ready to go to PT (physical therapy) for my hands and wrists. For the past 4 months I’ve been swimming increasingly more and more to the point where it was daily, sometimes 7 days a week if not 6 days at our local NYC Recreation Center pool. People come from Queens to swim in this pool, it’s that nice. Well the pool is nice - the locker room is pretty disgusting and falling apart because the city doesn’t put enough money into it. And people steal the rings that hold up the shower curtains and sometimes steal the shower curtains as well! Ruby, who often cleans the bathrooms, told me this. I see her literally every day. She says How are you doing mama? and I tell her. There are other regulars, mostly swimmers, the old Chinese ladies, actually a lot of them are in their 40s and 50s and really what do I know. They swim faster than me even though we're all in the slow lane. I have a lot of swim buddies and some kind of recognition with the life guards. For a while there was Jose who was like a father figure and looked out for me. But when summer started he was sent to supervise the beaches which made me sad. The three times I’ve been to the beach before giving birth, I’ve kept an eye out for him.

So I was swimming because my hands were swollen from the pregnancy and I had Carpal Tunnel Syndrome as a result. No, I wasn’t typing a lot. I wasn’t doing anything to aggravate my hands - I was just pregnant! Everything below my neck was swollen. So I started swimming to help relieve the pain and reduce the swelling. It worked for a long time until it didn't and then I really, really had to get a PT.

I started seeing Phaeleau at Spear Physical Therapy in mid-June. I went to their location in midtown because they could see me sooner than the one closer to me. I wasn’t planning on continuing there since I had to literally walk up 4.5 flights of stairs to exit the subway but I stayed because of Phaeleau. Phaeleau is the hapa papa bear of the mid-town PT location. He’s the senior staff there and the head hand physical therapist. A native New Yorker, he has a daughter who’s going to start high school in the fall and grows a tomato garden outside of his window in Brooklyn. He’s super friendly as is everyone there - these people really love their job and their coworkers! I’ve never seen it before so it’s such a unique and lovely environment. PTs are talking to each other and their clients and clients talk to other PTs and other clients. There are a lot of conversations going on at once and it’s so fluid. It’s a beautiful thing.

For the past couple of weeks before I went into labor I had to reduce my bi-weekly appt to once a week, a Monday or Tuesday, because it was just so crazy hard for me to get there. And because I’m so cheap (read: thrifty!!) I refused to take a cab until I did. I had my session and it was good. Another PT whose been there every time recently took the course to tape up people’s arms so I worked with him as well. He had asked when I was due and at this point I just knowingly would say Soon. It’s like that scene in Beetlejuice. Lydia asks what his name is and he says Oh I can’t tell you that because then you’ll tell your friends and I have to show up at the mall and sign autographs and shit. You feel me? I said Soon because otherwise I’d have to deal with bull shit comments like Any minute now! which I actually used to say until it was actually really true. Or Any day now! Or (in an elevator I accidently pushed another button in addition to the ground floor button) Don’t go into labor! So, it’s Soon. But to this PT I whispered, Don’t tell anyone but I’m due today. I explained why I was being so private and he totally got it. He also asked the other question that people just ask, I’ve asked!, but which is really unempathetic and insensitive: Is this your first? I said No, I had a miscarriage last April but this is my first rainbow baby. He totally got it and didn’t get weirded out that I just told him that a baby died in my tummy. This was such a refreshing reaction considering that 25% of all births result in miscarriage (or more). I always have fun at PT and this was another great appointment.

I took a cab home and when I got inside the apartment I felt different. Like really subtle tiny differences. I’ve been having Braxton Hicks rushes (read: contractions) for like 2-3 months but it wasn’t that. This felt like tiny, miniscule cramps in my tummy, like more body feelings in some more places than before. Moments after getting home, I transformed our bedroom, with its one ocean blue accent wall peppered with my watercolors, into a space of complete mediation. I covered up the mirror, the table with the fish tank on it and the bookcase. Every surface had a Venus of Willendorf/Animal/Mama Earth shrine on it with plants, candles, my hand held goddess sculptures I made in ceramics class, incense, lavender, shells. It was so peaceful and beautiful. After I set this up, I began to doubt myself - Am I in labor? I feel like I have so many days before. But I knew I would know instinctively and if I had done this to our bedroom it must be true. Uncertainty, however, is what pregnancy is all about.

Tuesday, July 28th at 4pm, the very earliest of changes were felt in my body signaling the beginning of early labor. The following day, I gave a tour of how I set up our bedroom to prepare for my home water (natural) birth.

+++

Stay tuned for Part II!

xo

 

Every day is a time for forgiveness

The Hairy Goddess of Love Takes a Spirit Bath, 9" x 12" watercolor

The Hairy Goddess of Love Takes a Spirit Bath, 9" x 12" watercolor

Last night after rehearsal, five of us walked, Jessica, Onome, Lizzie, Ashlie and myself, singing down the street. At the corner of 8th and Avenue C, we sang and we chanted, we improvised and supported each other, sang songs that we knew and made up the rest. This was a gift.

Every day takes courage for self love. And every day is an opportunity to be reborn. It's been a long while and today I had my Spirit Bath. While the hot bath was filling up, I smudged my whole home with sage, blessed with the friendship of birthday love, blessed with my living plant babies.

I rang bells in every room, to the closets, to the guitar. I came to the living room and realized I had created a space for creativity, a space to support myself. This is a space of courage. What is courage? Courage is asking for what you need. Courage is speaking your truth. Courage is owning your story. Courage is setting boundaries. Courage is reaching out for support (a quote from Brené Brown).

Last night I made three signs with this affirmation. One in orange craypas and then in permanent blank marker and then I painted it. This helps me to remember what courage is and believe that I am full of courage. Courage means being open to making "bad" art and "poor" writing and still wanting to share it with the world. Courage means making mistakes. Courage means allowing myself to be imperfect. Courage means embracing myself every day.

Have Courage My Friend (inspired by the inspirational quote by  Brené Brown ), 9" x 12", watercolor

Have Courage My Friend (inspired by the inspirational quote by Brené Brown), 9" x 12", watercolor

In my Spirit Bath I poured lavender Epsom Salts, my large and interesting shells already beneath the water and rang bells around me. I drank and drank my water. I asked myself what was the intention for this bath? I didn't know. In silence I got in and allowed my mind, myself to wander. I cried and cried. I forgave myself for misjudging old friends and new friends too. I forgave myself for misjudging myself. I thought about my father. July 29th will be the 12th anniversary of his death. I cried and cried. Is this Shadow Grief? It is my truth and it is my story. I thought about him and what I can do to honor him this year and honor my own grief. I want to make a ghost bike for him - paint a bike white, have a ceremony and lock it near where he was killed on 34th St. and Dyer Avenue. It's time.

I get out of the bath and notice some soot from my sage stick on the bathroom sink and I tell myself Every time I want to clean something or do something that is not apart of my new habits of living with Spirit Baths, singing, eating and painting and writing, I will take a moment to breathe. Ten deep breaths.

I find that I forget who I am or forget that I am loved. I can be so hard on myself. Every day is a time for forgiveness. And a time for singing. A time for swimming.

My Inner Wise Self Gives a Pep Talk: Shit Happens

The anger takes up so much of my time.

I wake up and I remember that I am here, I have a purpose, I can make choices for how I will choose to live this life. No, I'm not in control but I can choose how I will react when shit happens - there's awesome shit and messed up shit but SHIT WILL ALWAYS HAPPEN.

Are you loving yourself? Like, IN LOVE with yourself? Fuck obsessive cleaning. Fuck all the bullshit. And fuck shame, insecurity, judgement and all the rest. I am here, I am alive, I am fearless, I am a writer - write! Be fearless! It takes courage AND YOU'VE GOT IT!

YOU DO!

It's there. It's always been there. Fuck all the rest, you know what I'm talking about. You're here. You're alive. Live!

What is your purpose today?

LIVE YOUR PURPOSE.

Warrior Survivor, watercolor, 11" X 14", New York, NY (6/14/2014)

Warrior Survivor, watercolor, 11" X 14", New York, NY (6/14/2014)

Shaming + Blaming: Unconditional Self Love

Often it is hard to be honest, to get the words out especially when talking about anger and pain. I wrote this to a friend early this morning who has become my pen pal. We are both aligned so deeply with our own feelings and creativity - it is a blessing to have people like this in my life. I share it because this has been on my mind.

Hello R-------,

Thank you so much for your kindness and patience. I don't apologize anymore for "not writing back sooner" only because there are just too many emails and I find in this life I've apologized for too many things, for myself every day. So I am not apologizing, but I am writing back!

Thank you for becoming my pen pal! It's so funny that we've barely spoken longer than a minute or two - I know we will! - it's nice to get to know one another through our writing. I find I express myself so clearly this way and with you.

Thank you for the loving critique of my posts. You're right - it really is vulnerability pouring out of me because that's where courage comes from. In the beginning (in the first week), everyone told me how courageous I was, how brave I was for speaking so openly about the miscarriage (I often find myself almost saying abortion - it was technically a "spontaneous or natural abortion" and I feel like my body is a smart body, a good body because she knew to abort and reject a dead fetus). I didn't believe them - I felt that I had to talk about it for my own sanity and I just couldn't help it. But now I accept and open myself to the idea that I can be courageous. I can be brave. I am brave.

I have to say that there are the difficult experiences of living with loss in your life, grieving and being so open to it, even terrified of the madness of grief (and the accompanying madness of creativity). N------- tells me I'm unhinged and I say Yes I am unhinged! Yesterday was a particularly rough day for me. I feel insane, I feel unhinged, I feel crazy, I feel the madness. I know it's all ok because all feelings are valid. A friend, who had a miscarriage last year, wrote that to me when I announced the loss of our pregnancy and it's stayed with me. I frequently say it to people after I talk about feeling failure, shame, embarrassment, and like an outsider. Everyone wants to "silverline" the hardships (coined by Brené Brown during The Power of Empathy!). I opened a tiny window to this conversation with U-------- and she shamed me for my feelings. I was sobbing and shouting, All feelings are valid! but she comes from another time and place and has her own story of struggle. Everyone has their own story. I have never been shamed so intensely, publicly and on so many levels. Others have said shaming/blaming things to me about the miscarriage and every time I call them on it, for every single person regardless of who it is. At this point, I love myself too much - I mean I actually love myself! I think before I loved myself only a little bit in different ways but now I am in love with myself and that love is unconditional. And this means that I also have a deep confidence in myself to be anything, say anything, accept myself and my flaws, embrace the vulnerability, embrace myself and embrace those around me. But when these people shame me, when she shamed me in front of everyone...she put into words what I'm sure many think and feel. She had the gall to say those things to me - you would be ashamed for her for saying those things! I was in shock. I was in a raw place and the more she invalidated what I was feeling, the more I sobbed. She told me Don't ruin your marriage. I said I'm not ruining my marriage - this is making us stronger! She said, You need to live life and look forward! I said I am living my life! That's why I paint and write every day! And I look to the past and I look to the present and I look to the future - I have so many plans for myself!  She said, Well what if you carried that baby to a full term, to all nine months - and I interrupted Yes that would be worse! And she said, You see?! And again I have to say that all feelings are valid. But it's as if she hears nothing. I shout and cry It's only been a month! Later N------- tells me she didn't realize this. But how long is "long enough" for grieving? I've spoken to so many people who have lost babies in their wombs at 5 weeks and 4 months and 9 months and for those who haven't lost a baby, they have a story to share about their friend, their mother, their grandmother, their aunt. Often I am told it was last year, it was 5 years ago, it was 25 years ago and I still grieve the baby that I lost. That is honest. It is so hard to be honest and we are also so different in our ways and in our grieving (or our non-grieving-grieving).

I am grateful to have the confidence and the language to speak up for myself, to explain myself, to attempt to make myself understood even if I can't be heard by others. And I appreciate those, like you, who are so open to what is happening to me, what happens to millions of women (yes U------- - I know!) because even though it happens and has happened to so many all throughout time and will continue to happen because there is no such thing as just pregnancy or just miscarriage, it is the wide spectrum of pregnancy which includes miscarriage and still birth, it does not take away the sting and confusion and madness of loss and it does not mean my feelings and what I am experiencing is invalid.

Because all feelings are valid.

love, dawn

New Old Friends: Part II

Here is another dedication to new and old friends that I've made (all on Wednesday!):

Diane, the Smithee and professor of graphic novels from Delaware, we discovered after talking about tea, oh Friday afternoon teas at Smith, who is such a delight and who, while not a big fan of the whole alumnae club thing, loves to gather beautiful books in a big fundraiser for scholarships for Smithees (maybe I was a recipient?).

Hehe, vintage tea party time at Smith College, circa 1892 (thanks internet!) ..."'A Memorial of exams, essays, metrical travilations [sic] and the like.' Tea party with Bertha Allen and Helen Lambert, ... " hehehe

Hehe, vintage tea party time at Smith College, circa 1892 (thanks internet!)..."'A Memorial of exams, essays, metrical travilations [sic] and the like.' Tea party with Bertha Allen and Helen Lambert, ..." hehehe

AK Summers, the graphic novelist of Pregnant Butch: Nine Long Months Spent in Drag, who I actually got to meet Wednesday night at her reading/slideshow at Bluestockings Bookstore, for which I rearranged my work schedule to attend because I’m interested in writing a graphic novel about my Radical Miscarriage (and other things) and because her book is probably the only one out there that comes close to the kind of experience I had/was going to have as a person outside of The Heteronormative Mainstream.

Excerpt from AK Summers "Pregnant Butch: Nine Long Months Spent in Drag," a graphic memoir

Excerpt from AK Summers "Pregnant Butch: Nine Long Months Spent in Drag," a graphic memoir

Liz Murray, author of Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival, and My Journey from Homeless to Harvard, who was standing in line in front of me to speak with AK, had a flyer in her hand for The Business of Being Born, which I watched after a horrible shaming OB bullied me into being “open” and essentially not to use a midwife or do a home birth, and after that first appointment at 5 weeks made me not want to have a baby at all, and then I angrily watched this doc, crying, which made me say, like I said when I first got pregnant, F-yeah I’m doing a home birth (hopefully with this midwife)!

"Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival And My Journey From Homeless to Harvard" by Liz Murray

"Breaking Night: A Memoir of Forgiveness, Survival And My Journey From Homeless to Harvard" by Liz Murray

Why and how do I meet these amazing people and make these seemingly coincidental connections? By being open, speaking my truth and taking a risk. Be fearless!

Also, thank you Diane, AK & Liz and to all the people I meet every day and for being open to share your stories with me and allowing me to share mine with you.

4.25.2014 Friday 1:11 AM

There is no fear.
— Jessica Wiscovitch, Healer

Compassion for Lindsay Lohan aka How To Empathize With Your Neighbor

I have been dismayed that I haven’t been able to write up my daily Radical Miscarriage Blog post. Yesterday I finally went to CityMD where they told me, by just looking in my throat, in my ears and by talking with me, that I have Bronchitis & Post Nasal Drip. The doctor said everyone freaks out more than they need to - it just means that I have a sore throat and that mucus is dripping down into my lungs - fun! - and I need to sleep for two days! But yesterday, when Danny sent me a link about Lindsay Lohan, I knew I needed to write this post.

When (and if) you hear about Lindsay Lohan’s recent miscarriage, be kind and be compassionate. Regardless of your opinions on her acting or her life, when you think of Lindsay, think of me. Because now she and I have something in common; we’ve both had miscarriages.

I read this article yesterday right before taking a 4-hour nap to do my self care, my healing, doctor prescribed and Danny-enforced. I cried and cried. I can’t imagine the whole world knowing something so tragic in my life without my choosing to share it first. And I was mad. I felt like people were going to judge Lindsay, blame her, shun her. Again, think of me if you think these things and be kind and loving.

My friend Jessica, who I mention often, has said to me that we are from a generation that is more open than the Baby Boomers, more open than other recent generations in regards to so much and how we deal and journey through life. As a media figure, Lindsay no doubt was forced to reveal her private experience (while filming a reality TV show based on her life, meta!), but nonetheless is possibly one of the first celebrities or public figures to share their story of pain, vulnerability and transformation.

Last night, while coughing and not able to sleep and drinking a lot of tea from my mom + Danny, I watched Brené Brown’s TED talks and was especially moved by the animated short, The power of vulnerability. This short film should be required viewing for everyone, especially those who know someone who has experienced any kind of loss, and especially those who know someone who has experienced a miscarriage.

Yes, dear reader, I’m speaking to you. Because I’ve been open about my miscarriage from the first day, horribly, ironically on April 1st, 2014, with over 100 people and then posting my story online as My Radical Miscarriage Blog and on Facebook (!!), I have experienced a wide and varied response of support. As soon as I sent out an email to the 100 friends-family that already knew I was pregnant, I received many many emails of love and support and kindness and deep empathy. I also received emails that tried to “silver-line” my experience (coined by Brené Brown!). Since “coming out” on Facebook as well as in person to people who didn’t even know that I was pregnant, the response is the same varied reactions.

The other night I told a friend, a friend who has been through a lot, and she “silver-lined” my experience again and again, meanwhile with a big smile on her face, even when I told her this has been very painful and tried to open up that kind of “feeling” conversation and connection. It made me so angry. Part of me knew why I was so angry but I had to search in myself a little bit for all the reasons why. Watching that short on vulnerability and hearing and seeing the words “empathy fuels connection; sympathy drives disconnection” (Brené Brown) gave me the words and imagery to understand why it is that it bothers me so much when people don’t want to talk about or let me focus on the deep pain that I’m in. It helps me to understand why others, who do have “the best of intentions”, get so uncomfortable and defensive and dismissive when I bring up topics of Shame, Failure, Embarrassment, feeling like an Outcast and a Leper in relation to my experience of having a miscarriage. So let me tell you now: all feelings are valid. All feelings are valid. Repeat after me, shout it out loud: ALL FEELINGS ARE VALID. (Another close friend, who had a miscarriage last year, told me that and it’s now one of my mantras.) And all these feelings, I’m sure, have a place in a history that is repeatedly fueled by misogyny, these feelings have a place in ourselves - otherwise why would I be feeling them? I (and I’m sure many others who have suffered a loss) feel these things. I feel all the feelings. I don’t feel them every day, but they are apart of me and apart of what gives me courage to speak out and break the silence around miscarriage and loss in our daily lives and simultaneously inspires in me art and writing and singing and creativity and connection and joy.

1 in 4 women have a miscarriage. 1 in 200 women have a stillbirth. This is what my new OB told me. He said, Every year I deliver 200 babies and every year there is a stillbirth. This is heart breaking and it is also eye opening. In my mind, it should not be Pregnancy and Miscarriage and Stillbirth. It should be the Wide and Varied Spectrum of Pregnancy. If pregnancy loss is so prevalent (hello folks, that translates into 25% of the human female population on the planet earth which is A LOT of f-ing people!!) than we should not be separating out the horribly lonely experience of (in my case) miscarriage.

I am open so I tell everyone this and of course, hear the wide and varied response. Often I hear that people think this is such a painful time in a woman’s life (and it is! Believe me I KNOW) and that she will not want to talk about it. I’ve also heard others say that they know a friend who had a miscarriage and she didn’t take time off of work when it happened (which translates to me as she didn’t take time for herself) and “pushed on through with her head held high” or something like that. Well, I want to talk about it. It happened to me. I had a miscarriage and I want to talk about it! I know that I’m not the only one. I know that I’m not the only one who doesn’t want to feel the deepest sorrow in my life all by my lonesome self. I know that I’m not the only one that doesn’t want to enter a place of horrible darkness not knowing if I will come back out, how this will change me, if I will become self destructive and all the unknowns. I know that I’m not the only one who doesn’t want to do this alone, feeling the feelings, sometimes it seems, 25 all at once. I know that I’m not the only one who wants to talk about my feelings to others, who are open to truly listening, to going inside of themselves and tapping into their pain and empathizing with me and facing our deepest fears together.

If it wasn’t already blaringly obvious, I am on a mission. I am on a Crusade To Make Crying Ok + Courageous. And I’m on a mission to make a space, to create a world in which we do not need to be ashamed of our feelings, of our bodies or our experiences or our loss. I am creating a world with you, in which a woman or female-bodied person doesn’t need to wait until the 2nd trimester (approx 11 or 12 weeks into the pregnancy) to announce that we’re pregnant for fear of a miscarriage. I am creating a world with you where, as soon as any of us become pregnant, we can be open and share it (if we want) and will be supported and loved and given resources and access to an abortion, post-abortion doula care, prenatal care, midwives, birthing options, etc etc if we want it. What is choice anyways? The ideologies of liberals and lefties and the term “Pro-choice” (which was recently changed and abandoned by Planned Parenthood because it is so limiting and promotes a binary that shuts down the conversation of women’s and female-bodied people’s agency in their own lives) and which I followed for many many years, do not cut it any more. I believe we need to be bold and courageous and fearless and turn this world upside down and inside out. And we can do that together. I am doing it right now. You may be too. Join me!

4.22.2014 1:51 PM

New Old Friends

I thought it was time to dedicate a post to all the new friends I've been meeting and making in the past four days (and some longer than that). To new friends everywhere - remember, a friend is first a stranger.

Thank you to:

Steven, who owns + runs an antique vintage art glass + Scandinavian ceramics neighborhood shop/installation on Hudson that's been there for 17 years (!), his shop that I've walked past many times, but this time I went in, who, after talking about my love of elephants and inquiring about them (investments someday to be mine!), gave me this tiny, heavy elephant which I now carry in my pocket every day. 

my little friend

my little friend

Sarah, who recently joined the choir, with whom I've begun an email-pen-pal-writing-adventure before even having spoken in person, and then only speaking for less than two minutes a week or so ago, who herself is an incredibly creative, brave + talented writer + person and inspires me with her writing and thoughts and feelings.

Succulent has a new home with new friends!

Succulent has a new home with new friends!

Nicole the artist (+ baker + florist), at the flower shop on Hudson (near Perry) who, whilst I was checking out the succulent air plants (and subsequently purchased one), gave me some flowers after I told her my story which I then gave to Rita whose birthday we were celebrating later that day.

Ranger Bob who was sprinkling seeds on a square of grass + tree, "thumbelina park", on 25th St & 8th Ave as I was bicycling by, one of those divider green squares, who, after I asked what he was doing and showed an interest, appointed me on the spot to Ranger Dawn by us holding up our right hands and repeating "I do solemnly swear to do whatever the hell I can to make this into a park".

           subway elephante

           subway elephante

(Another) Steven, the photographer, on the subway ride home from Boozy Birthday Brooklyn with Louise + Ali (+ Brook!), who asked what I was painting (photo at right) and with whom I had a swift ride home due to pleasant + friendly conversation.

Amy, who I met possibly one or even two years ago at The Brooklyn Free Store, and met again at a party on Saturday night and she remembered me and thought it was serendipitous we should meet again because after I told her my story, told me that she is curating her first art show (which is extremely interesting!!!) and has some elements of focusing on pain and invited me to submit my work now or in the future.

Ruth, who I've known a while through Community, gave me gifts of laughter on the retreat last weekend, and who last night gave me one of her handmade journals (which will be my next Dream Journal, I told her).

Ruth Miller's handmade notebook pour moi.

Ruth Miller's handmade notebook pour moi.

Is it serendipity? Is it synchronicity? Is it fate? Or is it just life? Is it about being open to life and everyone and everything in it? Is it about believing in the impossible or in limitless possibility? Is it about being open to change? Is change inevitable? Is it about a deep unknown need for human/life connection? Or is it about love?

love love love love love yes yes yes yes yes yes love love love love love yes yes yes yes yes
— Rita DeCassia, Healer + Multi Linguist

p.s. joy comes in all sizes.

meow!

meow!