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.

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.

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