One of my memories right before Jack and Fiona were born, was the night of my baby shower. I looked at the red double stroller, assembled for the first time. An uncomfortable mood kicked in. It lay between me and that stroller, that Mercedes Benz of a double modern stroller for twins. All the infant attachments intact, reminds me of how small Jack and Fiona will be when I bring them home. They are my infants, growing in another womb. Is this one of my last days of not having kids? I thought to myself. The surrogate could go into labor any day this week, we are at 36 weeks. The strange feeling of being pregnant, but your babies are three hours away in someone else’s womb. My biggest fear before Jack and Fiona were born was, what will the neighbors think when I start pushing around a stroller with two new born babies? One time, shortly after the babies were born I went to get my eyebrows done. I brought Jack and Fiona with me to the Mall. The woman who does my eyebrows said, “I didn’t even know you were pregnant!” she continued, “I thought you looked like you lost weight!” I went along, acted like I had been pregnant. Today, almost four years later, I’ve already given away that double red stroller, it was such a short part of my life. But it had such a big impact on me emotionally. The only questions I get asked now about my pregnancy is if I knew I was having twins, if I wanted twins, and when I found out I was going to have twins. It’s funny how things change, perceptions and worries. I’m as honest as possible about having a “gestational carrier”, but I don’t offer up the information freely. I haven’t explained it to Jack and Fiona yet, they are still too young to understand how a baby is made. I spent so much time feeling ashamed and embarrassed about what I was going through, that my body was not functioning as a woman should, that I was damaged and unworthy to become a mother. It takes a lot of work to work through these negative emotions and turn them into positive self-worth. It took a lot of courage to make the decision to follow the road of surrogacy. Decisions are the most difficult part of life and deciding what chances to take. But one thing will always be true, if I hadn’t made the decisions I made so far, I wouldn’t be sitting here writing this story, and that would be a shame.
Everything I’ve done up until now has been about pregnancy: wanted and unwanted. It’s been about deep, dark, secrets. The kind in my dreams: I’m climbing up a dirt tunnel, fingers clutching to the sides, dirt crumbling, roots exposed, there’s blue sky above, I can breath but feel the cold at my feet, my face is hot, my feet freeze. The paintings come out murky or scary or dark, with sprinkles of light from behind. In the beginning they were about my strange relationship with my dad, from sadness and depression. They were darker, thicker, and crustier portraits. When my mom died they turned to thin, barley there figures, which have been referred to as children or babies. I based them off childhood pictures of my mom, her baby pictures. I was trying to have a baby myself at this time. It was the beginning of charts, dates, non-fun sex, ovulation kits. I started to stitch and felt and weave and sculpt. I made places to hide if I were to turn into a tiny mouse. Where art emerges from. My childhood, my dead babies lack of childhood, my children’s current childhood, Birth. The birth of an unspoken world uniquely mine living on paper and canvas. Each stain on the paper is a new birth, each stain on my uterus a lost birth. Memories of losing. Childhood angst. The way I see Jack under the table today at the park. Two girls talk to him, older than him. His lip in a pout, ” what did they say to you Jack?” His head angled down, sucking a finger, nose a little runny. “They asked if I scribbled on their”, i finish the sentence, “sidewalk drawing?” I tell the girls he didn’t. He wants me to hold his hand. He’s not that much older than the little baby I used to take to this park, he’s still a sweet baby boy. Born healthy. His sister too. They infiltrate my art. They infiltrate my life. Having young children leaves little time to be alone. It leaves little time to relax. Things happen daily adding to my plate of anxiety. Times like yesterday when we were going to the car from the park, Jack and Fiona on scooters, Jack took off so fast I didn’t even notice until he was no longer in sight. My heart raced, please don’t go in the road, please don’t get taken. There’s nothing much I can do, he can’t hear me call him. I get to the car and he’s sitting by it. Everything’s fine, but I can still feel that panic in my chest. Last night at dinner I was running behind schedule with dinner prep, Fiona is in the bath downstairs and Jack is watching a movie upstairs. I have a sink full of dirty pots and I need to make dinner. When my husband got home he was hungry and ready for dinner. I panic. I start chopping carrots, celery, sautéing onions, in between running downstairs to check on Fiona. I feel a sharp pain in my thumb. I thought it was a carrot, the knife went straight down, slice. I am afraid I will need stitches. I put a Band-Aid on it and hold it over my head. I finish dinner, almost burnt it. And this morning my finger is healing up nice and it wasn’t a bad cut like I thought. I was a stress case before kids too, and going through infertility was the worst I’ve ever been. This is different though. Having kids is a big responsibility. Being a mom and a housewife is hard, it’s a rouse to say otherwise. I think it’s hard just being a human. We are all in our own circles of truth, the circle which we can not escape. Our history is who we are, is what our art is about, is how we raise our kids. And knowing this doesn’t make it easier. But knowing this might help us raise better kids and make better art.
I can’t wait to get to the studio! I’m almost there, tomorrow! I can feel myself standing in front of a piece of blank paper, mixed up some paint, paint brush and a drawing tool in my hands, music on, hours ahead of me, an infinity of space for creativity. Free to begin a new series of work for a show next year, a gallery space, a book. Nothing is standing in my way. I need patience and a new attitude for the days in between my work days. It’s hard, with the smell of stinky, fish, pots and pans staring at me, a dishwasher full of clean dishes and a sink full of dirty dishes, walls with drawing on them, toys scattered all over the floor. I can not pick up and clean everything all the time. What did I do before kids? What was my home like? How clean was it then when I thought it was dirty? Was it always clean, picked up? Was that stress I did not have? As Jack and Fiona get older, now almost four years old, the messes appear faster, it’s like Jack and Fiona need to live in chaos. Furniture that we’ve had for nine years, was in great condition, now in tatters. Chairs turned over, turned into forts. Cabinet doors broken, floors and doors warped from water damage in the bathroom when they played in the sinks with the stoppers in, they were supposed to be taking their naps. Dark mornings I am woke, “Mommy, my bed it wet”. I just want a few more minutes to lay under warm blankets. Did I ever think of any of this when I was going through infertility treatments? I thought I could keep my home organized when I had kids, I thought I could keep it clean. What I went through to have kids, the difficulty in raising kids, the way it takes over your whole existence, except those magical moments in my studio, is it worth it? Is it worth it for the sweet moments of pure joy, living life through a child’s eyes, learning about relationships and love like I never have before. Holding their sweet little hands, kissing them goodnight. Learning things about myself I could have never learned without becoming a mother. It is all worth it, to me. The house is here to be used, to be lived in. It’s not a museum. It doesn’t matter, it just stinks sometimes, like last nights fish dinner.
“Will I ever have kids?” I sat and wondered under this same December sky I sit under today. Light yellow mustard leaves, lime green, purple sage, blue sky with a low almost winter sun. Shadows in the yard stay damp and cool until summer comes again. Trying to get my kids to spend more time in our yard playing instead of always taking them to parks. I couldn’t imagine that thought, what feels like ages ago, when I would come out here to listen to the bird’s chirp and watch hawks fly overhead. I felt lost, sad, depressed, and confused. Nothing like the way I felt this past weekend, the accomplishment I felt having my first Solo art show and my first beautiful book published. I’ve been through so much, on such a long, hard, journey to get to where I am today, with everything fulfilled, married with two kids and a satisfying creative life. I felt secure and confident at my opening reception on Saturday, like I knew things about myself I have never known before. Like I was open and receptive to everyone who came to my show. I didn’t hide outside or drink too much wine. I don’t know if this change is due to the unknown being known or the anti-depressants! But it feels good to be here.
I never felt that same accomplishment when Jack and Fiona were finally born. I feel accomplishment as a parent, I’m a good mom. I feel a lot of stress as a parent and sometimes I want to have kid free moments, which are hard to come by. But what would my life look like now with out kids? I will never know. My life the ten years it took trying to have kids was a time I would not want to go through again. It was very difficult, but I would like to share my experience with others, I would like to share my journey in a way that I wish had been available for me at the time, something to read, to feel connected and not so alone. I will write this book, I will go back through my experiences and write the story for others to read and hopefully find comfort and not feel alone or hopeless. It takes a lot of work to make things happen, things that are gambles, 50/50’s, expensive. Things that need a person to take a great leap of faith, to take a chance on something that the outcome may not be in their favor. There are no guarantees in life, only that we all die someday. I decided to gamble, take my chances and work harder than ever to make my dreams come true, having a supportive partner really helps! Things have paid off, so I will begin to write my story about how I got where I am today
A fly just walked across the window pane. It’s 2:32pm and feels like 5 or 6 pm. Jack jumps naked from the couch to the chair, chair to couch while he watches Cars. Billy is sprawled out on the floor. I can hear Fiona whispering, I’m not sure what she’s doing. The sky is blue outside, trees have lost almost all their leaves. I feel like going to sleep right now. I finally received my author copies of Nap Time Paintings today, which included a hardback. It is beautiful, what do I do with all these beautiful books? My private opening was this past weekend, it was fun, I got to see best friends and meet new friends. All my dreams have come true, to have a solo show and to publish a book. I feel like sleeping or working in my studio today, instead of parenting! It’s just one of those days. Last night when I checked on Jack and Fiona, while they were taking their bath, I was confronted with the most disgusting scene. Jack and Fiona were laughing and having so much fun, I notice something in the tub, it’s brown, it’s three large pieces of poop! Jack pooped in the tub! He said he did it because Fiona had to poop at the same time and she pooped in the toilet! I couldn’t believe it. I had to throw away all the bath toys and scoop up the poop and wash the whole bathroom with comet. They are starting to spend more time playing together but it usually involves getting into trouble! All I must do for the rest of today, is make dinner and give them baths and make it until 7:30. I’ll worry about all the paintings I need to sell and what to do with my beautiful books another day!
Take one daily. That’s what the directions say. I follow them closely and read all the warnings. But the seasons creep up on me, out of the blue. I can’t blame it on mourning my mom because that’s all done now, I’ve already admitted to that. I can’t blame it on Jesus because Jesus and I had a conversation last night. It’s not the stuff, or lack of stuff some people have. It’s the frenzy, the inability to be joyful about Christmas when my president is starting a holy war, when he is riding sea biscuit to a world of war and blood money. Under the cover of religion, politics, it’s all gone mad out there. I am having a meltdown, I need to start taking two daily. The other thought is maybe I’v done the work around Christmas and religion and politics and I’m OUT. I really think I shouldn’t even stress. I’m not robbing my children of anything if I don’t go Christmas on steroids, or Christmas at all. Who says I must celebrate Christmas at all? My husband and his family and most of the world love Christmas and think it’s in the child’s best interest to go with the status quo on the subjects of Christmas, Children, and God. I’m just not in that group. I have a stomach pain and jitters just thinking about it all. I want to hide away until after Christmas.
A cold night made way for a sunny day. Tiny white moths flutter around in the glimmer December sunlight. The sycamore trees bare branches reveal themselves, scattered yellow and brown leaves and a shadow, half branch, half leaf lies on the ground under the giant tree. It’s Monday, but it feels like some other day, a day not on the calendar, a new day with a new name. Crunchy leaf day or Amazing Late Fall Breezy Day, or ALFBD for short. Can a new day of the week insert itself here? On what by all historical accounts is a crazy day for many, a worry day, thinking about what to buy, what to give, where to go, when to be there. Can the ALFBD be something magical instead? A dreamy, play in the dirt, look for worms, imagine the future and the past with equal delight. My feet, forty-six years on this earth, my beautiful feet that walk on the dirt, the mud, jump on crunchy leaves. Transform my giant body into a little tiny moth fluttering around the tops of the evergreens, with no apparent direction in mind. It’s a non-stress day on a historical stress day, switched up and served. Accepted and appreciated, I like today.