Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Artist Inside

My college photography professor was exactly what I needed in a professor. He was easy to read in someways, like if he really wasn't too impressed, but he never would just straight cut me down. There were plenty of professors like that. The ones that just saw all my work as something to criticize. And if it hurt my feelings, well then I was taking things too personally. Well, except for that one time. The time I bawled hysterically to a professor. I told him he never told me what I was doing well. And there was a lot more going on in my life than just his class. From that day on he started telling me positives. And giving me hugs. Other students said it was needed. Anyways, thats getting away from the point.

My photography professor was the one who told me I should major in photography. I think he also knew I was never going to make too much money taking photographs. At least not in a studio or with a private business. He knew I loved people, traveling, emotion, and art. Maybe he knew I should keep with it because he too loved photography and didn't make that much money. I mean he taught at a private Christian college. I can easily forget a lot of things. Especially in school when you are being told so many things at once. But I remember almost word for word certain things he would tell me. One thing I tell myself still almost every time I take is pictures is that I do not need fancy equipment to take pictures. When I went to JBU there were lots of kids that just had money. Well their parents had money. Some of them had way nicer cameras than me and they didn't even take photography. My professor knew I was always struggling to print my books and for supplies mostly because of the money. He told me though that things like lighting and composition are what make truly beautiful pictures. If I could take great shots with whatever camera was given to me, then one day if I had the top of the line equipment, my work would just be that much better.

Sometimes I get frustrated when I look at other people's photography or moms that take pictures of their children and blog. Everything is just so clean and crisp and clear. There is always someone doing it better. Andrew and I talked last night about how money really does help people. I mean, money is power. But in the end I don't think it really is. Passion is power. Passion will bring a person so much farther in life than money. I tell myself that actually taking pictures more often is what will make me better.

I think a big part of motherhood that is especially hard for me as a creative type is that I have little time to create. I have another artist mom friend. She feels the same way. Although now I guess she has just given up sleep and maybe cleaning her house to pursue her dreams. She inspires me daily by her ability to create with a one and two year old running around. I admire her creativity and passion in keeping with her little business. She has started to become noticed more and more in the last few months. Her work is popping up everywhere. I think she started with pillows and has worked to banners. Visit her shop. She is awesome.

Sometimes I wonder what it is I should be creating. I mean other than babies. I seem to be pretty good at that.

I think photography is hard in this stage of life because my hands always seem to be full. But I am writing this to inspire myself. To remind myself there is something out there somewhere, that I will stumble upon and capture just the way I have been wanting to.

For whatever reason I have always been drawn to Sylvia Plath. She was the poet I picked to study in my high school creative writing class. I think I thought she was edgy. However at seventeen there was very little of her work I actually understood. Now as an adult and mother I enjoy reading her work much more. I am reading through her personal journals at the moment. I am in her journal from her first year of college, and in one part she describes having this feeling like she is on the very brink of something. Maybe it is an idea or a revelation. She knows it is there but can't quite reach it. This is why I love reading her words. She describes life in such a detailed and poetic way. She has written out the feelings I have had fifty years before I had them. I feel like there is something I can't quite grasp. Some sort of expression I have that is yet to be discovered. Maybe some of you are wondering if I am a little crazy. I think most artists are. Maybe thats why we dye our hair blue and walk off the path a bit.

I am a mother at home. Changing diapers and sweeping the floors. But most of the time there is a world behind that image. One that I try to grab and bring forth. I know I had my babies because I am in love with the human experience. I wanted to carry life and feed my babies with my own body. Just like I wanted to experience India and Spain, I wanted to experience having babies. Plath writes about how she would like to live a hundred different lives, of all types, just so she could experience more of humanity. Maybe I write all of this just to tell myself I am more than a mother. I love being a mother. But that is just part of me. And writing and creating is what reminds me.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Wrinkled Noses, Smiles, and Coos

Even though I took these pictures last week, things pretty much look the same around here. Blanche goes back and forth between a very loving, well attached child, who says Rosemary is cute and kisses her and says "Oh hi, how are you??" in such a sweet voice, to the other side of herself. The one that has a winkled nose and is maybe deaf? All I know is we have to physically remove her from what she is doing before she will stop. It actually gave me great comfort to hear my mom tell me, "You were my little sweet buddy before your brother was born and then you became Nightmare on Elm Street." I was a nightmare? Oh thank God. There is hope for Blanche after all.

Actually the wrinkled nose in the top picture was Blanche telling me to cry as she left her room to go to "school." Crying really wasn't the emotion I had, but I snapped a picture and then did my lazy impression of a distraught mother who's little angel is going off to school.

Rosemary is still doing as seen above, nursing. She is a good baby, but I like to tell myself that I have brilliant babies who love to be held as an instinctual survival skill. Can you tell I have been spending several hours a day alone? Well, alone in the no one over two years old way.

The third picture is Blanche in her two year old frry. I just read a quote from Jerry Seinfeld today, "Two year olds are like blenders without lids." Blanche likes to make "piles." She likes to pack bags full of things like two play dishes, a pretend carrot and turkey leg, a book, a block, something of Andrews, something of mine, something from somewhere else that is not hers... and so on.

I also took all these pictures while nursing. I can almost do anything while nursing. This includes resetting the internet for Blanche multiple times, making coffee, going to the bathroom, eating breakfast, lunch, and/ or dinner. I have yet to master putting away laundry, changing diapers, and sweeping the floors while nursing. Wish I could.

It can be easy to feel like these things make a difficult life. I know though that my life is not. I am blessed with two beautiful girls. What can be hard is to not feel like a machine. A robot in ways, going from child to child and room to room. Cleaning and helping. I like to remember that I have thoughts and ideas and that there are people that care about them. I just spend all day with two people that really could care less about "my ideas and thoughts." But what makes me know that all of this is worth it, is that one day they will care. I hope they will call me like I call my own mother to hear that they were lots of trouble and work when they have their own children. Hopefully Blanche and Rosemary will reassure me as well. That although they watched too much television they turned out to be loving adults who cared for their mother. I also know that they do care for me now. Anytime I sneeze Blanche will come running into the room and ask, "Okay mom?" Rosemary has started cooing and smiling at me.

On days like today I make coffee and sit here writing instead of cleaning while Blanche takes a nap. I know I should clean and when I start writing I think I have made the wrong choice because my mind feels a little like mush, but I at least have written down things that I would have otherwise forgotten.

(Also, I have never seen Nightmare on Elm Street. Probably because it was made before I was born. But when I googled it and read, "A child murderer..." I am not so happy about my mom's reference. Thanks mom. Geez. Haha. Love you!)

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Everyday Motherhood

Rosemary was three weeks old yesterday. I find myself describing time as moving fast and slow about many things. I tell Andrew that thinking back to the time we lived in Arkansas feels so long ago, but then again I can't believe we have lived in Austin for seven months. Rosemary is already three weeks old, but then again, it's only been three weeks? I seem to do this, ramble on about time. I know I am not the first. I will always be amazed at how so much of our life is measured by time, but in the end it all seems to run together. Time seems even more real when you are surrounded by growing things. I can feel time changing and growing Blanche. Her head is now so heavy when she lays in my arms. At night when we lie in bed I feel my whole arm stretch across her. I can feel the effects of time with Blanche. I can see them with Rosemary. She is growing and changing each day. We are becoming friends.

There is no other relationship like the one between a mother and child. It feels so normal and odd all at the same time to have something be part of yourself and then become its own. That really is what motherhood is about though I suppose. One time my brother told me that a baby's heart starts in the womb with one little cell beating. Then more and more cells start coming together and are beating in a sense. They make the heart. Rosemary started so small as a single beating cell in my body, and now she is out and looking to me. We are still one in many ways. She sleeps best right beside me. Her breathing is calm and normal when she is fast asleep beside me. We connect through nursing many times a day. All that she is and is becoming is life from me. I give her everything she needs to grow for the next half of a year at least. As a mother I will continue to give physically but also emotionally.  Thats why being a mother can be the best thing and the hardest. A mother is always giving. In the early years a mother gives so much in so many ways. Many times way more giving to those around her than to herself.

I wrote in my last post about walking through labor and knowing the feeling of it this time more than with Blanche. I think that is why it is easier with the second than the first child. I know more of the feelings I will have. I can understand much faster that I have been over touched or that I feel a little trapped inside of my own home. I am so thankful for the people around me. Andrew continues to do the grocery shopping. Always taking Blanche with him to give me some time. He plans meals and makes them.

I have also discovered that I am that odd type of person who feels better after cleaning my floors. And that it's okay. I think I have told myself in the past that I need to relax and let things go. Which I am sure I do at times. But I am also learning that if working really hard to clean my house one morning is what I need to do to be a better mom all week, than thats what I should do. I feel more at peace and calm when I am in a clean environment. I know spotless isn't an option with a toddler, but I find its easier to sit down and play when I have some where to sit. I can sit and nurse and relax when I look down at our floors with the sun shining on them and there isn't a week's worth of crumbs on them.

Motherhood can be isolating and lonely. No mother of young children needs to be told this. It simply happens when one adult is alone with small children for much of the day. Its okay to be lonely. Not too lonely, but to be enough alone that I can see myself for who I am. I can see my children and who I am as a mother. It is good to embrace a simple life. I enjoy time alone and at home. Having a newborn with a toddler as well forces you to slow down. I have had a couple of friends come over, which is greatly needed. But overall I can't plan my week jammed full.

Not leaving the house can be hard but I know it is a season of life. That wearing my purple sweatpants most days because nothing else really fits won't be forever. Winter will be gone before I know it. Rosemary will be older tomorrow. I will soon look back to this time with sweet memories of snuggling my two little girls inside our little apartment on cold winter days. I will tell them stories of how I got us all down to nap in the same bed, with Rosemary resting on top of my postpartum belly and Blanche under my right arm with my old t-shirt and nursing bra tangled around the top of my breasts. For now at times I feel sloppy and tired. And although I don't enjoy having milk stains on my shirt and unbrushed teeth, I am giving love and life to my girls. This is such a grand time of life that can feel mundane because of how much work it really does take. That is why I should never stop remembering that time is growing both of these girls. One day can feel long, but before I know the week is over.

I have sat here for the last thirty minutes writing and thinking with Rosemary nursing and sleeping on my lap. Gigi and Showpa have had Blanche for the last couple of hours and will be home soon. I know people read this blog, and maybe knowing someone will read it is what inspires me to keep writing. But really, anytime I write it is for myself. Writing slows my mouth down. I can talk and talk but there is a different understanding that comes from writing down what I am thinking. Maybe it still seems a bit like rambling, but maybe one day Blanche and Rosemary will be mothers who's shirts are stained with breast milk and they haven't left the house in several days. Maybe they will be able to look back and read my words and know they are not alone. That they never have been, and neither have I because motherhood connects us all. My own mother has told me some of her favorite memories are laying in bed nursing me while I was just in my diaper.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The First Few Days

Rosemary Joyce Nycum born on a Tuesday night at 7:34pm, January 21st 2014. 

It feels like so much has happened in such a short time. That is partly why I hate waiting for a baby at the end of my pregnancies. I know so much is about to happen. More things than I would like will be packed into 24 hours of night and day. There is no way to work ahead and change some of the dirty diapers ahead of time or take some of those long nights and space them out. The most planning I could really do was continue to wash the laundry in hopes that my water would break while hanging up the last clean shirt.

Of course, no matter how much planning or anticipation I had, I did not know when this baby would come. And she came in her own time. I was so happy for that. With Blanche I had to be induced because of pre-eclampsia, but this time I was given the go for not only full term and late carry, but Tuesday morning when I went to the doctor sure that I was in labor, they sent me home. The Dr. told me I was so low (and probably 80-90% effaced) that if I went to the hospital they would keep me. But my breathing was steady so she basically told me to go home and labor. This is why I love Austin, Texas. Or at least that a city like Austin has a OBGYN office that supports natural labor. For someone  like me who longs to do things naturally but medically that can't always be the case. 

I never wrote out my detailed birth story with Blanche. I told my mother in law it would have been a novel. And who wants to read about 30 hours of complications? I did write things in Blanche's baby book, and if she ever asks, I will be ready with a story of how she beautifully changed our lives. I am writing out the detailed story in my journal this time for Rosemary. I think the thing that is staying with me very clearly about this labor was that although things weren't exactly the way I would have liked, that I was able to do so much more on my own this time.

I labored at home from 5am-3pm, including a trip to the doctor's office and back. I was able to eat lunch at home while in labor and to walk with Andrew while laboring. It was a very different experience because I had never been able to labor naturally. Once I was crying through and between some contractions I felt like it was time to go into the hospital. I had been told I was going to be able to be mobile in the hospital as well, so I was just wanting to make my way down the stairs and into the van before the contractions were too close.

For whatever reason, sitting during a contraction was the most unbearable thing during my labor. I stood almost all day at home. Now looking back, I think it was the pressure from a very low baby head, still with the bag of waters intact, and a bladder infection making the pressure seem pretty unbearable.

The unfortunate thing about being checked into the hospital was once I was there they read that my blood pressure was climbing. Because I was considered high risk after having preeclampsia they had to take it seriously. Meaning I needed to lay on my side. I swear that looking at that bed and being told I had to lay down after I had stood my whole labor was like looking at a bed of knives. On the way to the hospital I told Andrew through my contractions I just kept telling myself, "You can do this" in my head. I am not a big screamer/ cussing crazy woman while in labor. But I will say that nice little phrase in my head changed to "Get me off my f-ing back." I was in so much pain and all I wanted to do was stand. This kind of killed the natural labor thing for me. I felt like if I couldn't move how I needed to because of medical reasons, then heck I needed something. Funny enough I was only at the hospital for about four hours before Rosemary was born. And most of that time was spent grabbing Andrew and my nurse Emily's hand through contractions and sort of begging that an epidural could happen. We kept waiting for the Dr. and everyone wanted to talk everything out. Long story short, while getting my epidural, and being able to sit up, my water burst, they emptied my bladder, and within fifteen minutes I felt like I needed to push. I guess I used like 4cc of the epidural or something. Just enough to release a lot of the pressure and then to push Rosemary out. 

Andrew warned everyone I was a good pusher. What we weren't expecting was shoulder dystocia. Probably from how fast I pushed her down and out. Maybe a little bit before she was ready. All I know was that I went from a rather quiet and strong laboring woman to having a nurse on top of me while I yelled, "God get this baby out of me!" And then right when everyone started to wonder if this was going to be a real emergency, she was out. And she was on my belly. I saw her face and looked over to Andrew to tell me if she was a boy or girl. He has been the first one to see with both babies. And has announced it to the room of nurses and doctors. I would never trade those memories or experiences for having an ultrasound tech tell us in a dark room. Its more magical with all the bright lights shinning. 

Even with complications I didn't tear and was sitting up before too long and ready to nurse. She latched well and had her first little bright eyed nursing session. I felt that new mother high. All of the sudden I went from so much pain to wanting a million more babies. Or at least making it to our decided "four."

More things have happened in these first few days. A second trip to the hospital. High blood pressure. Crying from exhaustion and medication that makes it hard to be an alert new mother at three am.

But I have always liked to try and focus on the beautiful things if I can. The hard things in life are right there in one's face. But during a hot shower while I am alone I can start to remember how lucky I am. The hard things right now are late nights, not feeling great, maybe messes and a fear of not being able to meet all these new needs around me. But I remember how good God has been to me. And I know that when I feel weak He is there. I know some think that Christianity and things that Christians say may just sound like cheesy cliches. But to me it looks different than an ugly coffee mug with a bible verse on it. To me it looks like crying because I have to go back to the hospital. I have to say goodbye to Blanche yet again and we pack our bags. I feel so sad and emotional. I want to just all be together and happy and healthy with my family. But when I see Andrew, and how he has written my blood pressure readings all day in little handwriting on our calendar. How he has rushed around taking care of Blanche, and how worried he is for me. I see how much he truly loves me. I see my in laws there at a moments notice to help and family and friends texting me that they are praying. I see that God is love. And that love is what is surrounding me. That love is pulling me through. And its teaching me how to love others in the same way. That waking up at three am to nurse and look into wide awake newborn eyes is what God does with me. And all of the sudden it makes sense. All of it.