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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Birth Art

My first son, and I, still connected via umbilical cord.
  I remember the words of my abuelita as Akinyemi descended from me and I crowned, "Ya estas como tu foto, hija!".  I was in a full squat, with my grandmother, husband, and mother supporting me.  I was astonished at the power of myself- birthing EXACTLY in the same position as my birth art- down to the last detail.  In her natural wisdom, my grandmother always knows what to say, and those words gave me the extra energy I needed to push out my son...Calmly on the outside, with hysterical joy and confusion on the inside.

"Lalo's Birth", Drawing at 28 weeks gestation.

As artistically challenged as I am, I have not quit art therapy.  Birth art serves as evidence of the metaphysical power we have, as women, to materialize thoughts, desires, and goals, simply by fantasizing on paper. Digging deep within ourselves without inhibition or judgment, teaches us about ourselves, and facilitates deep healing required for an easier birth and postpartum experience.

Here is a short guide to Birth Art:

"Arbol de la Vida", by Jess at nine months.
Every day, we are inundated with social expectations and norms we women must abide by.  During labor especially, our identity, sexuality and language are often repressed- either by a hostile environment, or by self-inhibition.  Birth Art helps us move away from decision-making and opens our primal brain and heart.  This helps us transition to the state of mind so vital during labor. 

Anyone can make birth art.  Create birth art to open up the silence kept by linguistic, logical processes. We express thoughts, feelings, concerns, fantasies, and emotions creatively, instead.  Learning more about ourselves, and preparing for our ceremony, is more important than how our art actually looks. 

Belly painting as birth art helps connect with baby and celebrate mother's body.

"My Sister's Placenta", by Tots
You can use paper, canvas, clay, dioramas, belly casts, collages, paint, body art, sand, recycled items- anything you feel comfortable using to express yourself.  If you’re not an artist by trade, you’ll be surprised at how art can help heal your emotional stresses during pregnancy and postpartum.

Birth art after childbirth helps support and integrate us into parenthood. Traumatic births kept in silence will be examined and released for more clarity and management strategies.  Pride, anxiety, and other feelings and inner stresses that motherhood may bring about are proudly displayed as art, helping parents cope- rather than hide or feel ashamed about our emotions. 

You can get creative with a fresh placenta print.  The whole family can participate.

Birth art Prompts:

1. Tlazolteotl has come to take your filth, so that you may have a smooth, pure delivery. What does she take with her? How do you feel afterward?  How does baby feel?

2.  Create your ideal birth. Fantasize on paper- no matter how outrageous.  Include details like scents, what you are wearing and thinking, who is with you, backround noises, etc.

3.  Role reversal: Imagine you are your fetus. What does your world look, feel and sound like from inside your womb.  What flavors do you experience? Who's voices do you recognize, and what do they say?  What type of connection do you have with your mother? You can use icons, symbols, colors, words, phrases, etc. 

Blessings on your journey!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Nitty Gritty Postpartum Tips for Fathers and Co-Parents

Thinks he has it all figured out...

Many couples separate during the tribulations of new parenthood, the majority occurring in the first year postpartum.  Dads and other Co-parents, here are some helpful tips that will help you get along.  This is my first attempt at making my blog male-friendly.

  • If mom complains about breastfeeding, don't respond "Well at least you don't have to pay the bills!" or, "Just let me give him a bottle".
Instead:  Ask mom how you can make it easier.  If she doesn't know, make her tea, bring her water, help her latch and position baby or simply sit next to or look into her and baby's eyes while they nurse. Demonstrate appreciation. She is, after all, providing the ultimate sustenance to your child.

  • Don't ask for sex, let her initiate the sex talk.
Instead: Find creative ways to be intimate.  Reduce her stress, help her regulate it, and she'll be interested in sex sooner.

    •  If she makes a mess, don't complain about how messy she is, or how she has a problem with cleanliness.
    Instead:  Tell her she must be having difficulty caring for herself and the baby and you will do your part by cleaning so they can have a comfortable environment.  Trust that she will do more as she adjusts.

    • If baby is having a crying spell, and mom is stressed out, it's up to you to be the calm one.  Refrain from comments like "I told you those greens were going to give the baby gas", or my mom did it alone and she survived".
    Instead:  Allow the baby to cry and release stress, in your calm embrace, away from mom's earshot.

    • If she asks you not to touch her, don't comment on hormones or postpartum depression.  
    Instead: Understand that having a baby latched to you 24/7 can be draining.  A new mom might feel her identity has been taken away overnight.  All she needs is some time with herself.  Offer to take the baby for a walk around the block.

    • If your  mother comes over and makes comments on parenting, STAY MUTUAL.
    •  Give her a massage and backrub when she looks tense.  Try not to make a move, though.
    • If she asks you to cook a meal because she needs a break, cheerfully do so.  Don't tell her you're too tired to clean up the mess and bring back fast food.
    •  If at any point, she loses it, stay calm.  If she needs professional assistance, bring it up with love and compassion.  Remind her you love her unconditionally, and that you will support her during this time of growth. 
      First few days can be tough for the whole family.

      Wednesday, November 2, 2011

      Baby's First KRS-ONE Show

      Ear protection is important!
      As an artist, organizer, and activist, it has been difficult to make all of those years of work worth something in the realm of motherhood.  As a new mother, I was cursed with inhibitions and biases of appropriate parenting, behavior as a mother, and even what to wear.  Finally, I'm okay with cursing now and then, staying out late as a family, dressing like a "MILF", and doing things that make me happy.  I have found the delicate balance of sacrificing without losing myself. 

      So, taking eight month old Itzix to a big Hip-Hop concert, more than anything, was a test.  "Will they allow him in with me?", "Will they even notice him?", "Will he be happy?", "I hope I can nurse in the green room!".

      My husband, checking bass levels at sound check.
      After sound check, Sherm and I walked down the street for pizza.  Upon returning, we were rejected at the door.  I listened to my husband's performance through the dense walls of the Key Club while I sat in our truck with Itzix.  My cue came, and a friend came out to watch the baby, allowing me to perform our song together.

      Waiting for pizza.
      On the way back to my baby, every other person stopped me, congratulating us, saluting our performance, and thanking me.  I haven't done this in too long, I thought to myself.  The high was so familiar, but instead of sticking around, networking, I  hurried back to my baby, who was in the car with Gabby. 
      Hip Hop Son Jarocho at the Key Club.

      Sherman followed soon behind, and took over babysitting.  I headed back into the club to get a piece of the action. More action than I wanted.  In passing, some nasty drunk dude thrusted his pelvis into my ass.  I turned around to dog him and he shrugged.  I gave another dirty look, looked at his friends, and everyone pretended not to notice.  My bandmates waved me over and I explained what happened.

      "Should we kick his ass?", I didn't know how else to handle it.  I resisted my first instinct to beat him, but why?

      "HELL yeah, let's GO! Let's kick his ass! Fuck him! Let's fuck him up, dude!", Pavis shouted underneath KRS.

      Sounded like a fail-proof plan.  Before leading the way, the music stopped, and while all was quiet, I accidentally shouted

      "-And then I'll break his glasses!".

      People turned, stared, and searched for the nearest guy with glasses.
      Pavis and Juan pretended not to know me, and gave me the 'abort mission' face.
      The Hip Hop legend began to talk about Martin Luther King, Jr, and I wondered whether this was a sign that I should practice nonviolence.

      "But I wasn't RAISED to turn the other cheek".  I told myself.  I have to do something for all of the times I've done nothing, for the women who are silent, and for this pervert's future victims.
      I can't start a fight with my baby waiting for me in the car to nurse, I tell myself.

      I decided to leave- pissed as hell.  On my way out,  I instinctively stopped, turned around at the security guard, and said:

      "Excuse me, I would like to report a sexual battery".

      He referred me to the head of security, a 7-foot meatie baldie, chatting it up with some older women.  He made me wait until he finished his meaningless conversation.  His lady friends paused, looked me up and down, with faces of utter disgust, when I told him:

      "I was sexually assaulted in your club and need you to escort out, the man who did it".

      I didn't file a police report on his white perv-ass, because I didn't want to deal with cops, you know the old saying, "con el diablo, no se habla".

      Itzix and I, playing in the car, enjoying the show.

      Sherman and I watched the cops get there, laughed and pointed at them from our car window.  We kind-heartedly mocked KRS-1, and when he'd scream, "STOP!", to his DJ, we'd almost cry laughing.  "Uh-oh, the Booty Bandit got KRS", we joked.  "It's not a concert without the Booty Bandit", we fooled.  Not the most gentle words after a sexual battery (or "booty bandit attack"), but sometimes, laughter is the best medicine.

      At this point, all of my notions of romance crumbled.  Here we were, in our family vehicle- VIP parking, basking in the breezy moonlight- live revolutionary Hip-Hop, windows down, car doors open, and our happy little Itzix enjoying having us to himself. I didn't care that other moms have babysitters, or baby bottles.  I didn't care about the way the club rejected me and my baby, or about the Booty Bandit, and I didn't care what people thought about me bringing my baby to a Hip Hop concert.  The three of us were safe, together, and happy.

                                             Our Performance at the Key Club, opening for KRS-1.