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. 

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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

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)