My Pillowy Mountain of a Body

Me and Baby V

Me and Baby V

August 25, 2015 - I had prepared myself for a long recovery. I had no expectations of my body “bouncing back” after giving birth so I was surprised when, after constant nursing, a natural birth, swimming daily for months, etc, etc, my big belly became a small pillowy belly in a couple of weeks. I took photos in our long mirror and documented the rivers of pink and purple, my tiger, warrior stripes all over my tummy and hips and thighs. A day and a half after walking this fire of labor, with blood from the birth still dried on my skin, I cried in the shower when I allowed myself to commune with My Inner Wise Self and do some self talk - Your body did this! You're incredible! You can do anything! I rode this surge of divine female confidence for a while until The Fateful Farmer’s Market last Saturday.

Sketchbook: The Ancient Art of Breastfeeding at 3 Weeks 1 Day, pen drawing

Sketchbook: The Ancient Art of Breastfeeding at 3 Weeks 1 Day, pen drawing

We go to this smallish farmer’s market every weekend since it re-opened in May. They’ve seen my belly grow as the snap peas go out of season and we’ve made friends with Barry from Barry’s Tempeh and Aditi from Calcutta Kitchens. I love going to the farmer’s market. The fresh food is awesome (though expensive) and tastes so good and I like talking to people. It’s a very social experience for me.

Sketchbook: Bear Mountain Woman, colored pencil drawing

Sketchbook: Bear Mountain Woman, colored pencil drawing

This was the second time that we visited the whiskey and rum tasting table. I hadn’t sipped any booze for almost a year so I was excited for my postpartum tiny cup of their brew. Jen, who serves and sells the liquor from Van Brunt Stillhouse, is so incredibly warm and friendly. I had my little, tiny cup and hung around to chat.

These two women came over to check out the free samples and realized a baby was wrapped to my chest. Like most people, they were excited to see such a young baby (or shocked, I’m not sure anymore). And then, The Unsolicited Advice and Comments. One woman was floored to discover I had had a totally natural, unmedicated home birth and jokingly said she was afraid of me which I laughed at. I actually liked this because there is something to be revered in a person who has birthed a baby naturally and walked that fiery rite of passage. The other woman... I can’t remember the exact words but something like Well, now you gotta watch that belly and exercise and get rid of it. I couldn’t believe she made a judgement on my 3 weeks postpartum body. My body that was already significantly smaller than it had been when I was the living, breathing home for this rainbow baby. Jen and Aditi, shocked, immediately said I think you look great! We were all shocked. I think most people wouldn’t say this sort of thing but I’m sure it’s on people’s minds.

Page 33 from "The Affirmations Colouring Book" By Sarah Mangle

Page 33 from "The Affirmations Colouring Book" By Sarah Mangle

I’ve had a lot of conversations in my head about this during my daily shower. I’ll hang up fabric over the mirrors and then take them off again. I don’t want to see my face, I don’t want to see my body - I don’t want to judge myself. But here I am, I’m doing it. Looking at those stretch marks, are they tiger stripes? I barely remember that that is what I call them now. Look at the lines, look at my belly. Well, I always had a belly - But Look At It! I have a belly. I have a body. I am a person. I am a person that gave birth to a baby 3 weeks and 5 days ago. How am I supposed to look? How am I supposed to feel about this body? This body that created a miracle. This body that made magic. This body that walked through fire and hell and has the scars to prove it. This is my body. I love my body. My body is earth, mountains, rivers and trees. My body is the site of an ancient tradition of life on earth. I love my body.

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)

HVAC - Heating, Ventilation + Air Conditioning

Venus-vine, watercolor, painted at David + Al's house in the East Village, 5/6/14

Venus-vine, watercolor, painted at David + Al's house in the East Village, 5/6/14

This week HVAC commenced in our home - that’s Heating, Ventilation and Air conditioning. All you need to know is that it’s necessary work that won’t be completely finished until July 1st, with work-folks in and out all day, every day? Most days? Every week? And so I’ve been sleep deprived.

Sunday night I couldn’t sleep because I was so anxious that they were coming to start the work so I took a long Spirit Bath and managed to get 15 minutes of sleep. During the day I wasn’t allowed to be in the apartment so we had the cat locked in the bathroom (in a burrow I made for him in the bathtub) and went to David + Al’s house, last minute. I slept about 2 hours there and painted and had long talks and ate and chilled. That was pretty miraculous (Thank you SO MUCH David + Al!). And then the following day I had 4 hours of sleep and then 6 hours and last night was around 5 or 6.

I am so tired.

They arrive at 6:30 or 7 or 7:30am, it changes every day, there’s a lot of work to do to replace the heating/cooling system, remove asbestos (or did they do that back in March?) and replace pipes bla bla bla. And although I made a decision for myself to go to bed at 11:30pm and created a work schedule to include large blocks of time for yoga, baths, painting, eating, meditation, writing and self care, since returning from Miami, I’ve been a hot mess. No sleep will do that to you! I’d love to nap during the day, but all the rooms and potential sleeping spots are occupied with work-folk working.

Last night I told myself that if they were still doing work, I was going to make room in the bathtub for me to nap with Tumble. By mid-morning they were actually finished and won’t be back for another week! But instead of napping, I’ve done 4 loads of laundry, paid the rent and ran house errands as often happens.

There was miscommunication with several of the people about when the work would start again, so that was a tense conversation and it escalated quickly (or felt that way with loud and louder talking). A lot of people are horrible at communicating, doesn’t matter if it’s by email, phone or in person. I really believe that “I don’t know” is always an appropriate response if it’s the truth.

So after that I found myself hungry but in obsessive cleaning mode where I try to control my surroundings and my life by cleaning, sweeping this time. And I’m bawling. The confrontation brought it on but within seconds I realize I’m crying because I lost my baby. I explained to the person very quickly that I had questions about when they'd return because of sleep deprivation and I lost someone recently so I just want to know when I could relax. And saying that - I lost someone - that’s the truth and it’s a hard truth. Because what is a baby? What is a fetus? What is life? Whose life is more important - that of a fetus or that of the mother carrying the fetus? For me the answers are all true. I lost someone and I am still here and I’m alive and my life is important. I cry and cry and wash my face and put on my homemade moisturizer so I don’t break out all over again and then I cry and cry and the cycle repeats. I’m just letting it out, letting it out till it wants to stop, at least for today, till I want to stop. I sob and moan loudly, that helps. It helps me to make loud, awful noises when I am in the depths of this grief. I have no interest in holding back, though when I felt the tears coming on while I was standing in line to buy groceries yesterday, I just didn’t want to deal with a public that couldn't handle the wide spectrum of emotion that we are born with. Thoughts of putting on the pretend-face, masking emotion, re-enter my mind - that’s not who I am or want to be. It’s so hard to be that way.

Untitled, watercolor, New York, 5/7/2014

Untitled, watercolor, New York, 5/7/2014

And even though I need and know I need to eat my second breakfast and stop cleaning, I stop to write. I know I need to write - it’s been so difficult with all of life’s interruptions. I need to breathe. I want to breathe. I want to feel peace. I hoped to take a 10:30am yoga class but that time has come and passed - besides I need to bring up the rest of the laundry.

I have been so frustrated - I’m planning a fundraiser for myself on May 22nd for me to attend a Yoga Teacher Training for the month of June and I haven’t had time to fully promote the event the way I wanted to. I have a whole blog post about how and why I came up with this idea and it’s mostly written but editing takes time, and oh the time and oh the sleep, Where’s the sleep? Where’s the time? I’m terrified that no one will come or only 10 people will show up. I hear and see my anxieties taking over me like a separate self that I once knew and meet again. I put on music, my special energy music, that reminds me that I believe in myself, that I am in love with myself, that I can do anything that I dream up, that I am capable and capable of anything, and it’s ok. I know her, that confident person who knows things will work out, who thinks like a sage, who is so in tune with her feelings and has become so skilled at communicating effectively her needs and desires and boundaries. Sometimes we’re different people and I look at her and say Can I be like you? Can I have a little bit of your spark? And I remember I am you and I am her. And I do believe in myself and anything is possible because I believe in myself and I am here for me! I am present fully, I travel these rivers of emotions where they take me, the deepest sorrow, the frightening, shouting, screaming anger, and I am sobbing again because it is so hard for me to talk about and feel anger since I’ve been angry so much of my existence on this planet and the last time I had a therapist, it was for anger management. And here I am, simultaneously experiencing my creative spirit, utter joy at living and connecting with everyone around me, feeling the glowing life of Possibility, baking treats (even though I won’t use egg replacements for vegan brownies again!! Ali says bananas are better), caring for my plant babies and for the adopted Thumbelina Park when I pass by on my bike, spending time with friends, all kinds, and feeling really really really happy that Jennifer, who is my accountant and has become my friend, is coming over in a few hours to sit a radical shiva with me, the 2nd round of shiva, and feel with me because that is what I need and want. She was one of many that I emailed - if she couldn't come during those first two weeks after the miscarriage, to please come next month or the month after that because I’ve been here before, experienced debilitating loss, when my father was killed on his bike 12 years ago and I think that finally this year I’m going to create a ghost bike for him...and she wrote me! She initiated the newest wave of this radical sitting shiva. She remembered that I’m still in pain! She remembered that I still need support! The night before the complete miscarriage on April 1st, she was one of the last people I spoke to. We were talking taxes (duh) but I also told her how I’d been spotting since the Saturday before and how the sonogram showed that the baby was alive but I was still bleeding and we were both worried but hopeful. Now we’re just hopeful but there is still worry.

Today when I was sweeping, I sobbed thinking I would have been pregnant at this point in time, I planned for this, though I hadn’t looked forward to being pregnant during HVAC, it had still been a part of my fantasy. And I think, well, what if we try to get pregnant, get pregnant and I have another miscarriage? So many work so hard at convincing me that pregnancy loss happens so often (and oh I know it!) and that I’ll get pregnant next time or soon or someday. And I think now, what if it doesn’t happen in July? What if it doesn’t happen next year? Or ever? I know what you might be thinking but this is not needlessly worrying. These are questions I ask myself - how can I not? I absolutely know that I cannot be prepared for everything, and control almost nothing, but I am allowed to think these thoughts. They are mine. And all feelings are valid. I believe this but I have to say it almost daily to myself and those around me, sometimes a defense, sometimes an explanation. So these are things I allowed myself to think for the first time today and those thoughts - they’re terrifying to me. I continue to live in the present as I do in the past and the future and I am open to the feelings, to the potentials in life, in my life, and to the questions and the unknowns and my own hopes and dreams and desires and also to the disappointments, because those are inevitable and that’s ok and they help make the joys that much more joyful because I know they are fleeting and they are special and - do you get me?

Venusverse, watercolor, New York, 5/5/2014

Venusverse, watercolor, New York, 5/5/2014

5.9.2014 Friday 11:35am

Everybody Poops: Shit + Blood + Mucus

4.17.2014 Thurs. 7:19 AM

Like some kind of unseen clockwork, I awake at 7:12 AM, without hesitation, still sick, my body working to get into equilibrium again.

In my dreams, there was music, different kinds.

The bathroom at  s'Nice  which will be seriously missed (and the only bathroom related photo most appropriate for this posting). 

The bathroom at s'Nice which will be seriously missed (and the only bathroom related photo most appropriate for this posting). 

I know this body is a good body because it expels waste. It knows when something no longer belongs. I cough and this big green mucus mass comes out and I spit it out (the sink is nearby). I feel sneezing coming on + I sneeze twice. More green mucus, a lot of it, comes pouring out of my nose. For me, I need to see what comes out of my body whether it's shit or blood or sickness mucus (+ even vomit though that actually really repulses me because I loathe being nauseous...on a side note, although I did not experience “morning sickness” [a lot of people do not], during pregnancy + miscarriage, I experienced pretty much every bodily function there is, including two horrible horrible vomit expulsions as well as the most major one, the miscarriage aka the complete miscarriage aka the natural abortion). I need to see where my body is at and the type of waste I produce communicates. Right now it feels like Diarrhea. I knew it. Last night - no veggies except for a pickle + that instant mac/cheese, completely processed + barely food, but I was so sick + couldn’t cook so I didn’t. I know it was just something to fool my mind + body into thinking it’s eating (and though the mind can be deceived, the body cannot). And also I’m sick. But what do those words really mean? It has such a negative connotation. My body was out of equilibrium. But it is this imbalance which helped make the art + writing happen. Things aren’t all “bad” or all “good” because there is no such thing. They are all states of being. I write this as if it’s so easy to be me in this body-ejecting-waste, but it is not. Sleep + rest. Sleep + Rest? These I have always resisted, even as a child. Am I not a child now? The anxiety lies in the dreams, so many dreams and remembering almost all of them contributes to a disturbing and exhausting waking life. But these/those dreams come from me. Am I frightened of myself?

The unknowns are everywhere including the universe of the body, the mind, the subconscious (your “spirit”?).

But still I need to rest to be “better”. And still my body continues to expel shit + mucus though all the available passageways.

We are living, breathing flowers, pores + openings all over, meant to take in + take out. We are designed this way. Evolution is beautiful thing.

(It’s 7:43am + still there is more shit pouring from me! Welcome to my life! My daily morning routine.).

p.s. Everybody Poops, by Taro Gomi, is possibly one of the best books ever created, definitely in my top 10 favorites.

Spirit Bath

4.16.2014 Weds 9:57 AM

Without fail, my body wakes me up. Its/my/her/our need to empty myself of waste is powerful.

Morning Spirit Bath Candles + Incense

Morning Spirit Bath Candles + Incense

Last night at midnight I started a spirit bath. A spirit bath is a spirit walk to the other side of myself, where all is revealed. Often the information and epiphanies arrive too quickly for me to remember or to process. Often I have long conversations with myself. My Inner WISE SELF says And now this is what you’re going to do or This is what will be shared or revealed. All of it, even now, is a compulsion on my behalf. I am compelled to write. I am compelled to paint. I am compelled to share. I literally can’t help it - I keep it inside and it wants to come out. The desire becomes its own agency. I have no control and I have all of it. I am joyfully compelled. Does that make sense? I feel as if I’m looking so deep inside and that’s where the answers reside. They live there with truth, love, honesty, compassion, a place where being humble is embraced and there is a celebration of your inner super hero.

I’ve always had (at least) one super human power: taking my body - or my body taking me - into the coldest water, any water, and feeling Home.

Water worship is the only one I can follow. I am my own religion. Gaia. Every time I step a toe into that steamy, hot bath with Epsom salts, meditation shells and candles (always at least 3 - that is significant), I see that I’ve created a protective chain of six all around me: four candles, incense and pumice stone. I also have small towels to keep me warm in the bath to give the sensation of seaweed, wrapped and trapped under water, an oceanic comfort, the comforts of home. A womb? An umbilical cord? A galaxy?

A blank canvas is beautiful because it is full of possibility.

A blank canvas is beautiful because it is full of possibility.

And that 4th candle, the purple one, I bought it with J at Stick, Stone & Bone. The orange one was for Joy, and I discovered, was for little lentil. We got those healing tools and didn’t even know that I was already pregnant. I also purchased a hematite ring + rock crystal that I’m always losing - I don’t even know where it is right now! But I always find it, eventually.

That 4th candle, I don’t know what you are, what is your purpose, I misplaced the instructions, but to me you represent mystery, the complete mystery that is life + living.

Every time I come back to this moment, My Spirit Bath, my spirit walk, I tell myself, This is my only church and my only religion. And this time, even though I fell asleep and it’s so late and only hours passed since I dreamt, my body is on her new schedule and up I go for the compulsory shitting and even despite having a cold, sore throat, runny nose from talking + laughing + singing too much over the weekend, I remember everything and I write it down here, in my Dream Journal.

Compelled to paint, the following morning after my Spirit Bath and Spirit Walk + Talk, after my self care (shitting, journaling - this journal entry in fact - bathing, spirit bath, eating), I put all the water color sketch books I have onto the center of the floor. Some were my grandfather's who was an artist and painter. This is the beginning.

Compelled to paint, the following morning after my Spirit Bath and Spirit Walk + Talk, after my self care (shitting, journaling - this journal entry in fact - bathing, spirit bath, eating), I put all the water color sketch books I have onto the center of the floor. Some were my grandfather's who was an artist and painter. This is the beginning.

Blood Moon

4.15.2014 Tues 7:29 AM

Despite trying so hard to stay awake, I awoke on the couch in the living room. In my mind I “slept in” but it is still before 7:30 in the morning and I shake a dismissive hand at the clock in the kitchen.

I missed the rare Blood Moon, the Lunar Eclipse. Last night I read that it's a tetrad and I'll have three more chances. I went around the apartment smudging with my smudge stick, cleansing our living space on this unique occasion. I had intended to do this a few days after the baby died, at Jessica's suggestion, but it never happened. I smudged our bedroom + looked out the window. Where is this Blood Moon? I can’t see it, I said searching in each window. D said, You can’t see the moon from here, but I knew you could because I had. 

I smudged all the rooms and come to the living room. I sent out extra positivity to the living room which has all these Memories + Things but doesn’t have space for Living Things. It will some day soon, I know it.

I went to the corner of the living room windows which has all the Natural Light and the aloes + poinsettia flourish there. I have a nice wooden chair with sturdy arms that I sit in as I continue to smudge. I look out into the city from this eighth floor - building upon building, all bricks, a darkened, clouded sky. Where is the moon?

And then I see it/her/him. All the way to the right, in the top corner of the farthest window, there it/she/he is. Almost out of sight with clouds passing in front of my view, I see her. The Moon looks to have a permanent haze or cloud over a portion of the roundness - the beginning of the Lunar Eclipse. It is not yet Blood Red but it is the beginning.

I gaze and gaze and continue to smudge. Tumble, our cat, sits on the window sill in front of me. The smudge stick is curious for him. Does he know about the moon and what’s happening? Or does he just want to play? Or is playing the point? If there is so much to learn from children - in fact if everything we need to know lies in the genuine and truly authentic experience of children, shouldn’t Playing be apart of everything? Do not the cats and the dogs and the cows and the pigs and the chickens and the whales and the elephants and the sharks and the birds of paradise and the dung beetles and the earthworms all play? And what of the aloe and the basil and the potato and the daffodil and the peppers and the bamboo - don’t they all play?

I awake this morning and I realize that I’ve missed the Blood Moon, but I haven’t, not really. The Blood Moon healed me, kept me on the couch in deep, deep sleep to heal this sore throat, to heal me, to heal this tired body, to allow me to listen and submit to my body, my body which is Of The Earth, constantly telling me what to do, what to eat, what to feel, this body which is of the cosmos, made of the dust of stars.

Dear little lentil

4.15.2014 Tuesday 1:48 am

I was going through my thank you cards I had been compiling - I wanted to write special thank you cards to everyone who has shared their incredible kindness with me. At times I’m overcome and crying, overwhelmed with my friends-family’s deep generosity of spirit and am moved.

I keep buying more dollar beautiful thank you cards and in looking at them in my small plastic drawer, I find one that is pink and green and white, like a woodcut of a floral still life but is so alive and majestic. It is this card I had originally purchased for little lentil. It is this card that I was going to write to the baby. But I had also asked myself if I would write a love letter to myself instead. I still have yet to write the thank you cards, but I sat down and wrote this:

4.8.2014 Tues 10:26pm

Dear little lentil,

I didn’t know if this card was going to be for you or a love letter to myself but I guess they are both since your whole celestial existence was inside of my body and it’s difficult to separate me from you.

You told me what to eat + when to sleep + how to feel. You are my inner self, the voice that guides + talks with me. Is that why this has been so difficult? Because you dying was me dying too?

You, little lentil, feel like a dream. I feel like I’ve had to accept that you have gone very quickly. I was still in denial, but I knew.

I loved you so much. Even though I was angry + afraid + disappointed when I first found out I was pregnant, it took me only four days to fall in love. There were many days where I had to make adjustments but I was so happy + so looking forward to meeting you some day. I couldn’t + can’t wait to become a mother - that’s what you taught me. Part of me wants to say I would give up everything to have you alive inside me again but that’s not possible. I can’t change what happened though I am changed. You changed me. I changed when you grew inside of me. And I changed when you died inside of me. You help me to deepen my sense of life and love and how important that is to me. You taught me to love my body and all living things. We are all children of the universe + if there was no dying, there would be no living. Thank you for teaching me what it means to be alive + to be a living creature (among) the cosmos.

Love your mama xoxoxo