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Wednesday’s Bloom: Textual Portraits of a New Mommy

Mommy and Munchkin celebrate World Breastfeeding Week by nursing through the tough moments of head colds and writer's block.

Mommy and Munchkin celebrate World Breastfeeding Week by nursing through the tough moments of head colds and writer’s block.

49 weeks | Get well soon, please | no. 0043

I am watching these weeks go by. When I started this series 8 weeks after the munchkin’s birth, I didn’t know how far it would go. I just set out to do something with all the stories that were quickly accumulating in the chaotic haze of life after birth. The blurry, sleepless, achy, overwhelming, exciting, happy, bleeding, funky, hungry, hallowed hours that never coalesced into separate, ordered days. The heavy, slow, determined rhythm of newborn patterns, spreading out and changing all the things I didn’t know needed to be changed. His first months on the planet were amazing and perplexing. We had so much work to do.

Establishing a strong latch on both sides. Holding my breath while struggling to not ignore the left, because the nipple was sore and it was much more difficult to breastfeed from that side for a long while. Learning how to latch while side-lying so that I could rest more strategically. Figuring out how to squeeze in an experience of soap and water on my body every few or four days or so. Preparing the baby bag for any possible unexpected event while on the occasional half-hour outing to the store. Practicing wrapping the munchkin on my body, and then venturing onto the bus where there were people, and germs, and obnoxious behaviors galore. Presenting my newborn to the elders in my family, so that they could look on him with their own eyes and see that the newest child had indeed been born unto them. The awkward, at times comical, at times heartbreaking, joy-filled life of a new mommy. That’s what I wrote about at first.

In true form with needing to live my life as one, gigantic, ongoing experiment, Wednesday’s Bloom was also my secret attempt to stave off postpartum depression. It was only a partial motivation though, as depression has been a recurring thread in my process and doesn’t really scare me. It comes in waves. It comes like storms. Even in the thickest of sorrows, I’ve always trusted that whenever the storm had made its time with me, the depression would give way and the sun would come again. This was, and still is to some degree, my normal. But I did think that if I could author my moments at least, even the imperfect ones wouldn’t be as impossible to accept. It felt good thinking about the power of telling all my stories for myself, generating an archive of mother’s work in real time that could reverberate for years to come.

It happened to be that each week contained a “Wednesday,” and so the posting became a weekly intention. Just like that, a perfect opportunity to share a bit of myself with the world wedged its way somehow into the middle of our week. I often wonder what if the munchkin had been born on Tuesday night, because it was only minutes into the next day when we heard his spirited cry announcing he had arrived. Would I have still dreamed this up to be Tuesday’s Bloom? I don’t know. Doesn’t have the same ring to it. In the beginning, I admit, it was a very poetic decision to pour my heart into these words every 7 days.

But it wasn’t just the world I was sharing with. It was a more intimate, albeit largely virtual, audience of other moms near and far from my little spot on the globe. Other mommies smelling the stank under their armpits too. Tired and beautiful mommies looking down at the crust on their feet while rocking their clean, fed, and healthy babies in their arms, and saying a big “whatever!” to the collective ignorance that could not understand the shift in priorities. I was writing to encourage these complicated, internal conversations within the mothering bodied people and our families. Ancient truths, fading truths, ill-fitting truths, all layered and buried amongst the things we mothers have been told not to say. I opened up this writing because I believed the capacity for humanity to evolve into something greater than a fitful history of wars and peace talks was clearly a measure of us mothers being willing to take up more space. To greet the long labor of this life’s work with ready hands, fierce tongues, enduring hearts.

I was also writing to those women steeped in the work of invisible mothering. Those special women privately dreaming about becoming a mother one day, despite being partnered with a situation that was in painful opposition to that dream. Pondering baby names for make-believe children, considering which month would be best to conceive, imagining what it would be like to be pregnant and be in labor to birth a baby. Feeling almost pleasant in their belly about these maternal visions even though the current design of their lives or relationships seemed to be in disrepair. Some tangled, draining, clogging entity that was wholly incompatible with their undeniable, spiritual imperative to mother another life force into being. Those vibrant sistergirls who managed to be such fabulous aunties to our children and who, after spending some time in our family vibe, went home, looked up into the ceiling on many nights, and wondered when the stars would ever line up for them.

I know this work all too well. I was that woman for so many months of unwanted menstrual cycles, and even more months of dangerous illusions. Irrational, wasteful wishes that this man who did not love me and who did not want to be a father would one day wake up and be something more along the lines of what I needed. A fragile hope created and destroyed in the soft rumblings of one shedding uterine wall. These were just the contractions no one could ever see.

I write because I know everyone can’t stop and weave several hours of their full days into sentences and paragraphs. I know we’re all dealing with our own stuff. So many moms send me appreciative messages that say “me too” and “thank you for writing these stories about us.” But I know there are even more who participate in this weekly ritual from their quiet place and reflect in solitude. Women and mothers, fathers and lovers I will never discuss these stories with. I write for them too. We’re all growing through something.

This week the munchkin had his first real cold. I also had one. Many days we were doubly miserable, but still found ample minutes to laugh and hug up on each other. I fell in love with breastfeeding all over again and the awesome way that my body is its own pharmacy. We are on the mend, but the munchkin’s congestion is a bit trickier to deal with. I never really thought about those vital life skills of blowing one’s nose and clearing one’s throat until now. So many times I have worried I’m doing it wrong. But the community of mothers has assured me that he’ll survive this snotty, sneezy, sniffling mess.

This is also why I write. To be honest that the act of writing is also exhausting and very hard for me to do some days. Especially when I’ve been up a good portion of the past five nights holding my baby because he’s too congested to sleep without being in a more vertical position.

But here is my everything anyway. I am grateful that I can find a way to give even when I feel all tapped out. The story, thankfully, is so much bigger than me.

~~~

The munchkin, my first born, was born on a Wednesday. Wednesday’s Bloom: Textual Portraits of a New Mommy is an ongoing multi-media documentary project about my process as a mother. Today’s story is a part of Volume 1, 73 consecutive weeks of posts, spanning about the first year and a half of the munchkin’s life. Each episode explores my weekly discoveries, challenges, questions, and hopes as a mother. I also facilitate the New Mommy Writers’ Workshop for all mothers and women active in their mothering work who are excited about cultivating their own writing practices.

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