Mothers, Mothering, Motherhood

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M.A.M.A. Welcomes the NEW YEAR – 2018 with Melissa Thomas and Megan Merchant

Artist: Melissa Thomas

Last month Melissa Thomas had a piece of reflective non-fiction writing published on the Mom Egg Review website in relation to her salt labyrinths work. Her latest projects some are due to be exhibited at the Shelf gallery in Cambridge, England in January 2018.

The Mother and the Lemon.

As the sun glows, radiantly flowing through the bedroom window, my daughter wakes by the dawns glimmer to ask if I remembered to buy lemons to make lemonade. In the bright morning light, before the displacement of home life, the kitchen is silently prepared with equipment set in place where two bags of lemons rest in the fruit bowl. Lined up on a chopping board like a diagram of the solar system, each lemon is a surface of its own. Displaying an intimate citrus topography, woven together in similarity through the common characteristics of colour, texture and markings, yet, subtly unique in appearance. Reminiscent of a fingerprint, each inimitable indentation is as distinctive as the dots of pores upon skin. Sliced around the plump centre each half is squeezed, extracting its juice for the recipe. Once the liquid is retrieved, I scoop out the remaining flesh, separating it from the dimpled, delicate rind. The scent arising from the anatomised lemons is sharp and sour, permeating the air and nostrils. Cleansing the debris of domestic duty, they become miniature vessels of material gift, bearing ripe nourishment for the senses.

Through the process, the fruit of the lemon is altered into a pile of translucent skin and fragments of flesh. Examining the squashed segments, soft and pulpy in their consistency, the texture induces memories of a placenta. A life sustaining organ, transferring nourishment from one source to another, the placenta is the forgotten phase of birth. Once a baby has arrived, we do not tell stories of the afterbirth, it remains an invisible entity, labelled as medical waste. Alternate meanings and values attached to the symbiotic unit of a baby and its placenta deviate from the codes of accepted social boundaries, rigidly defining normality. The placenta belonging to my youngest child was shaped like a heart, coloured in rich and vivid shades of crimson, sheathed under the loose and wrinkled pinks of membrane, mapped by sprawling thick blue hues of veins. Rooted at the centre, the thick, white umbilical cord, a twisting helix extending like a bridge between mother and child relays communication unheard.

The touch of my skin against the lemon remnants evoked the residue of the experience of birth. The lemons possess a gestational quality that render the juice amniotic, the pips translate as foetal. Attached to the interior, gentle compression enacts effacement as the seeds emerge in continuum. The dried pips are arranged in three lines, neatly spaced one after the other. They become pauses in the dissection of the fruit, punctuation marks to the story, commas dividing a sentence, separating items on a list; peel, pith, flesh, juice. A composition of the inbetween, they highlight negative space, drawing our attention to the blank. How does something emerge from nothing? Categorisation offers a framework to deduce quantitative meaning. Individual components become labelled and isolated from the whole. Mother, daughter, womb, placenta. Where does one begin and the other end? The linear route of experience ruptured the moment she crowned, transpiring from my body, taking with her the comfort of what is known as I exploded into a new realm, reverberating as the hot nebula of a celestial sphere. Reintegration within the symbolic apparatus of language required my children to become gramma within my story, interspersing the concrete with the fluid, subverting boundaries.

Each persistently fruitful contraction acts as a messenger, despatching significance between the body and mind in a language we must decipher. Fluently breathing through each tightening of her muscular uterus she dressed slowly, preparing to relocate to hospital. Shifting through this passage of momentous transfiguration together, we strode down the wide, white corridors side by side, each step asserting strength and fortitude. The labour room is small and square, decorated with attempts to neutralise the clinical atmosphere; colourful painted pictures filtering the bright daylight through the window, fairy lights strung across the wall in celebration. Rather than blending a sense of unity, the differences seem to contrast. Two ideological philosophies jarring against one another, a nexus located in the physicality of birth, unravelling around the mythic quality of experience. A sonogram affirms the elusive positioning of the baby wriggling in her womb; transverse. Validation becomes immediately distinguished, she had known all along. The emotional apprehension dissipates as the course ahead becomes clear and consent for a caesarean is acknowledged.

The operating room is bright and busy. Her naked skin sits at the centre of bustling bodies veiled in sterile overcoats, manoeuvring between the concentrated landscape of wires and machinery. I observe the surgeon’s fingers tracing the ridges of her spine as the positioning for the needle is located and anaesthetic administered. Sitting by her side, caressing her soft arm, the process is quick and smooth. A green screen draped between her torso and the surgeons work creates the illusion of two halves. A mind and a body divided at the centre, I witness her wholeness through moments of disarticulation. She is the centre of the universe as tears roll down her cheeks like rain falling from the clouds, nourishing the fertile soil, eternally giving and receiving. The baby nestled sideways within her womb, emerges purple and quiet, safely tucked inside her gown, skin to skin. The surgeon begins the process of suturing her abdomen, each layer of flesh dexterously adjusted under the bright overhead spotlight. With nimble hands, a threaded curved needle draws the deep incision together into a rippled seam tracing the contour of her swollen uterus, a threshold on the edge of the fabric of creation.

I returned home in deep exhaustion, my body heavy in a haze. Romantic and visionary ideals of expectation are torn away by the wild, bold autonomy of parturition. There is no personal, there is no political as division dissolves, blurring dreams and nightmares. I awake. Upon the floor, next to my bed there is a single lemon. I stretch my legs to begin the day and I stand upon its oval shape. Beneath the weight of my body, the fruit splits across its ellipsoidal meridian squirting citrus juice onto the soft, beige carpet. I pick up the injured lemon, its form encased within the palm of my hand, bearing resemblance to a tiny body, perhaps of a bird or a small mammal. With flesh and liquid contained beneath its surface, it appears to be breathing. Squeezing the supple, waxy peel between the gentle pressure of my fingertips, the pulp contracts and expands, it’s alive. Transformed into a subject, not solely an object, becoming more than an ingredient for culinary, domestic or medicinal purposes but emerging from its own stories and history.

 

June 2017 Melissa Thomas

Poetry by Megan Merchant

Working the Night Shift

 

String a white sheet

from the body of trees

in the wild,

 

set a lantern

behind its screen

and wait

 

for the flush of

mottled wings

to lisp and net

the light,

 

note how some

are frayed as

edges of a rug

beaten against

wind,

 

how the brightest

markings allow

the most brazen

behavior,

 

a wingspan—that if

crumpled

inside a mouth—

will tart a tongue.

 

Wait as they collect

like silk eyes

twitching,

 

paper darts

that shred rain,

 

and can trace the scent

of a wounded leaf

to know where

to slip their young

safely.

 

Wait long enough

and they will show

you how to be reborn

into night.

From Mom Egg Review Vol. 15 2017

Megan Merchant lives in the tall pines of Prescott, Arizona where she spends her days exploring, drinking too much coffee and avoiding the laundry.

Her poems and translations have appeared in publications including The Atlanta ReviewKennesaw ReviewMargieInternational Poetry Review, Diode  and more.  She holds a MFA degree from UNLV and was the winner of the 2017 Beullah Rose Poetry Prize, the 2016-2017 Cog Literary Award and the Las Vegas Poets Prize, She is a multi-year Pushcart Prize nominee.

She is an editor at the Comstock Review, and the author of four chapbooks: Translucent, sealed, (Dancing Girl Press, 2015),Unspeakable Light (Throwback Books, 2016), In the Rooms of a Tiny House (ELJ Publications, 2016), and A Thousand Paper Cranes(Finishing Line Press, 2016).  Her first full-length collection, Gravel Ghosts, is currently available through Glass Lyre Press and was awarded the 2016 Best Book Award.  Her second full-length poetry collection, The Dark’s Humming, won the 2015 Lyrebird Award and is also available with Glass Lyre Press.

Her first children’s book, These Words I Shaped for You, is now available with Penguin Random House

http://meganmerchant.wixsite.com/poet/about

MAMA_Logo_2015

The Museum of Motherhood, the ProCreate Project, the Mom Egg Review, and the Mother Magazine are pleased to announce the launch of a bi-monthly international exchange of ideas and art. M.A.M.A. will celebrate the notion of being “pregnant with ideas” in new ways. This scholarly discourse intersects with the artistic to explore the wonder and the challenges of motherhood. Using words and art to connect new pathways between the creative, the academic, the para-academic, the digital, and the real, as well as the everyday: wherever you live, work, and play, the Art of Motherhood is made manifest. Download the Press Release here or read about updated initiatives#JoinMAMA  @ProcreateProj  @MOMmuseum @TheMomEgg

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Schedule Your Visit to MOM in January 2018 [Click]

VISIT MOM: Help us celebrate ONE YEAR at our new location in St. Pete! The M.O.M. Art Annex has enjoyed visitors from all over the country. To schedule a visit with us in January 2018 sign up online here or write us: info@MOMmuseum.org

By checking the above box, I agree that I am participating in a tour offered by Motherhood Foundation Inc. at the Museum of Motherhood (MOM) Art Annex at 538 28th St. N. in St. Petersburg, Florida during which I receive information and instruction about mothers, fathers, and families from an interdisciplinary perspective. I recognize that with any activity, unexpected physical injury can occur, and I am fully aware of these kinds of risks and hazards. I agree to assume full responsibility for any risks, injuries or damages, known or unknown, which I might incur as a result of participating on the premises of MOM. I knowingly, voluntarily and expressly waive any claim I may have against owners, volunteers, other participants, and the non-profit Motherhood Foundation Inc. for injury or damages that I may sustain as a result of participating in activities at MOM. I agree that Motherhood Foundation Inc. at the Museum of Motherhood (MOM) Art Annex and its agents may use any image, photograph, voice or likeness, in its promotional materials and publicity efforts without additional compensation. I further understand that by participating in the photography or filming, I release Motherhood Foundation Inc. at the Museum of Motherhood (MOM) Art Annex and its representatives, licensees, employees, photographers, and their designees from any and all liability for any violation of any privacy or proprietary rights. I have read the above release waiver of liability and fully understand its contents. I voluntarily agree to its contents. I voluntarily agree to the terms and conditions stated above.

CONFERENCE: Our second “I ❤ MOM” Conference” takes place on February 16-17th in collaboration with the USF Women’s and Gender Studies Dept. and made possible by a ResearchOne grant. We hope you’ll join us. The event is open to the public through pre-registration. We are excited to feature keynote speaker Andrea O’Reilly and a book launch of the new edited collection, Music of Motherhood by M. Joy Rose, Lynda Ross, and Jennifer Hartman on Friday evening Feb. 16th. Write us at info@MOMmuseum.org.

COMMUNITY: The local Historic Kenwood Artist Enclave has been busy organizing community events, including the Arts Walk coming in March. The new enclave motto “where art lives” is particularly salient considering we really do live and work at the museum.

RESIDENCIES: Thus far, M.O.M. has hosted three residencies. In January, artist and activist, Christen Clifford arrived as our first guest and spent two weeks editing her latest work. She returned again in July. Also, we saw the first summer Spirited Woman Residency with Dawn Louise Parker who has been hard at work on her manuscript titled Forty-Seven Days of Love. In October, we welcomed Hannah Brockbank who joined us for a two week residency. Hannah is a poet hailing from Sussex, England. Her pamphlet Bloodlines will be published by Indigo Dreams in 2017 and she is a Kate Bett’s Award winner (2016). Read more about our residencies here [LINK]

LIBRARY: MOM is proud to announce that it now has the complete Demeter Library onsite!!

EXHIBITS: Try on a pregnancy vest, view anatomically correct dolls, see art from around the world, and experience a new historical display about women’s work in the home.

INTERNSHIPS: We currently have several calls out to local college students for internships for the spring of 2018. Our high school intern, Andres’ has been with us since the spring and is a St. Pete High School senior. He is hard at work cataloging our library and creating a new student exhibit for January 2018. We welcome one new intern in January as well. We’re looking forward to introducing you to her.

ONLINE: In July of 2017, according to our google report 4,239 conducted searches and found us online. We are happy and proud that people are thinking about us. We hope that we can continue to expand in our new location. If you have ideas or want to get on board, please write Museum Director: Martha Joy Rose at MarthaJoyRose@gmail.com Introduction to Mother Studies classes will re-launch with a new partnership sometime within the next six months – stay tuned.

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Raising Awareness of Hyperemesis Gravidarum [LINK]

Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) is a debilitating and potentially life-threatening pregnancy-related illness impacting two percent (underreported) of pregnant women globally. HG often begins by week six of pregnancy and includes malnutrition, rapid weight loss, dehydration, limited mobility and psychological trauma due to unrelenting nausea and vomiting with potentially adverse consequences for moms and babies. HG significantly disrupts women’s daily life. Yet, no standard medical definition exists nor adequate medical care for most of us.

HG is often medically misdiagnosed as extreme “morning sickness” and medical personnel (from physicians to midwives and doulas) often believe HG will resolve by week twelve. However, each pregnancy is unique and while for some women HG dissipates by week twenty, for others (between ten to twenty percent in the U.S.), we experience HG until the end of the pregnancy. HG is NOT morning sickness; it is “beyond morning sickness” as Ashli Foshee McCall (Beyond Morning Sickness: Battling Hyperemesis Gravidarum, 2006, www.beyondmorningsickness.com) puts it. My own experiences with three HG pregnancies over the past fifteen years (with one live, healthy birth) along with my mother studies scholarship (“The Yonic Myths of Motherhood: An Autoethnography”, 2008 (10.1,57-65), Journal of the Motherhood Initiative of Research and Community Involvement & “New Maternalisms”: Tales of Motherwork (Dislodging the Unthinkable), 2016, Demeter Press) calls into question normative stories of pregnancy and birth and motherhood, mothering and motherwork.

At the heels of May 15, 2017 – HG Awareness Day – and October 15, 2017 – Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Day, I write to bring attention to the pregnancy and birth traumas around HG, including one in three women do not come home with their babies. I simultaneously draw attention to some of the supportive voices of HG: Hyperemesis Education & Research (HER) Foundation, HER Foundation Facebook, Beyond Morning Sickness, and Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG): Sufferers, Survivors, Supporters Facebook. Dr. Marlena Schoenberg Fejzo, Ph.D. of UCLA has partnered with HER, conducting a study entitled, “Genetics of Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG)” (if you live in the United States, have suffered from HG and had treatment that includes i.v. hydration, TPN and/or other form of non-oral feeding and are interested in being part of the study, then please contact Dr. Fejzo at nvpstudy@usc.edu or 310-210-0802). And, Dr. Chandler Marrs, Ph.D. has recently published an article, Hyperemesis Gravidarum – Severe Morning Sickness: Are Mitochondria Involved?, outlining a potential nutritional intervention that may help to navigate HG better (see also the often unacknowledged work of Dr. John B. Irwin, M.D., author of The Natural Way to a Trouble-Free Pregnancy: The Toxemia/Thiamin Connection, 2008, Aslan Publishing).

Finally, I center my work not only in producing HG scholarship in the field of mother studies but I also practically assist women to plan HG pregnancies and develop strategies for managing HG. (I contain in my work a therapeutic shamanic healing component, grounding my work in motherwork, pregnancy and birth traumas for HG suffers and survivors, which embraces experiences of HG-related therapeutic terminations.) We are not alone! I can be contacted via email at drrokbad@gmail.com – Dr. Roksana Badruddoja, Ph.D.

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The Museum of Motherhood Welcomes Hannah Brockbank to MOM Residency [Click]

The Museum of Motherhood Art Annex in St. Petersburg, Florida welcomes Hannah Brockbank in October, 2017.

Hannah Brockbank

Hannah Brockbank is joint winner of the 2016 Kate Betts Award. Publications featuring her work include Hallelujah for 50ft Women Anthology (Bloodaxe), A Way through the Woods Anthology(Binsted Arts)Full Moon & Foxglove Anthology (Three Drops Press), The London Magazine, Envoi, and When Women Waken Journal. Her poems also featured in the Chalk Poets Anthology as part of the 2016 Winchester Poetry Festival. She has also written feature essays for Thresholds International Short Story Forum. Her first pamphlet, Bloodlines, is due for publication by Indigo Dreams Publishing in 2017. She is studying for a Ph.D at the University of Chichester.

During her residency at M.O.M, Hannah will have access to the Andrea O’Reilly Library and Reading Room, the complete works of Demeter Press, and the latest publications on mothering and motherhood. She will respond creatively to M.O.M’s varied galleries and exhibits which incorporate a range of mothering concepts, and will inspire her to embody her own mothering experience through poetry. Creative work written as a result of her residency at M.O.M, will form part of her Ph.D, which includes writing a publishable book length collection of new matrifocal poems. We welcome Hannah for two weeks beginning the third week of October.

Twitter @hannahbrockbank

Website www.hannahbrockbank.com

Instagram @hannahbrockbankwriter

If you are interested in learning more about the MOM Residency Program or you know someone who would benefit from focused time away, working in a supportive environment, and whose concentration is on the maternal, please find out more here. [LINK].

2017 Residencies:
January – Christen Clifford
Summer – Dawn Parker
July – Christen Clifford
October – Hannah Brockbank

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MAMA by Elisabeth Schön Words by Judy Swann [CLICK]

The ProCreate Project, the Museum of Motherhood and the Mom Egg Review are pleased to announce the 24th edition of this scholarly discourse intersects with the artistic to explore the wonder and the challenges of motherhood. Using words and art to connect new pathways between the academic, the para-academic, the digital, and the real, as well as the everyday: wherever you live, work, and play, the Art of Motherhood is made manifest. #JoinMAMA

Art by Elisabeth Schön – See more at ProCreate Website:

ZMOTHERINE

Art by Elisabeth Schön

The postpartum period is a surreal time and space that can hurt or heal a woman but either way she’ll never forget it with her in body in flux and a human being that just came through her and is utterly dependent on her for survival. Their meeting binds them as she’s confronted with her biology and its vulnerability. 

 
Elisabeth Schön is an artist photographer photo book maker juggling her attempts at self-publishing with three young boys at home.

Words by Judy Swann

Fool

I threw rose petals on the ground
and her pink slippers slid on that silky surface, the Muse, when she came just now.

Her small hooves have worn every fabric, every skin, every color, my kids
try them on when she slips them off.

Her little goat horns wobbled and she scolded, “Why am I not connecting? Why so many dreams and so little in my basket, Fool?”

By ‘Fool’ she meant ‘Innocent Child.’ She said, and I could see her beard, she said, “Tell me that you love me.”

“I am,” I said, “not sleeping alone.”
She said, “Tell me that you love me.”
I said she was always on my mind, I called

As often as I could. She said, “Tell me
that you love me.” I said “I’ve spent twenty years, two husbands, and all my thrift on those roses.”

Judy Swann is a poet, essayist, translator, mom, blogger, and bicycle commuter, whose work has been published in many venues both in print and online, including the Mom Egg Review. Her son is (always) on his way home. Her book, We Are All Well: The Letters of Nora Hall has given her great joy. She loves. She lives in Ithaca, NY.

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MOM Residency Testimonial with Dawn Parker [Click]

Dawn Parker has been living and working at the Museum of Motherhood Art Annex in St. Petersburg, Florida as part of the Spirited Woman Residency Program since June, 2017. The goal of her residency is to complete an edited, book-ready version of a writing project she’s been laboring on for several years now. Since beginning her stay with MOM, Dawn has enrolled in classes to become a certified Life Coach. Joining her for two weeks in July, was New Yorker, Christen Clifford who came the the MOM Residency to work on her manuscript about sexual violence, feminism, and radical transformation. Christen’s visit saw her returning to Florida for a second time this year. Hanna Brockbank looks forward to spending two weeks as part of the residency in October. Hannah hails from England, is a poet, and is earning her PhD while working towards a completed collection of poetry about motherhood. If you are interested in learning more about the MOM Residency Program or you know someone who would benefit from focused time away, working in a supportive environment, and whose concentration is on the maternal, please find out more here. [LINK].

2017 Residencies:
January – Christen Clifford
Summer – Dawn Parker
July – Christen Clifford
October – Hanna Brockbank

MOM Residency Progress Report with Dawn Parker

Four and one half years ago, I started writing. I’ve been writing my story; a heartbreak as catalyst for a breakdown; the realization of the breakdown and heartache being symptoms of a larger history of issues; followed by a plan to learn how to love myself as a way to heal my life. Although it’s been an amazing journey of revelation and unexpected manifestation, I can’t really say I could give you definitive methodology that would help you learn how to love yourself. I have no formula or magic bullet. I do not have an article I’ve penned called, “The Top 10 Ways to Learn How Love Yourself”, that would give you any answers. 

From my experiential expertise, self love, it’s actualization and the resulting personal manifestations, are as uniquely individual as a fingerprint. No one person has an architectural design that can build an internal structure to house generic self love that has the ability to stand strong in every individual. Our emotional bodies are put together with different parts, influenced with different histories, and spoken in different languages. Self love is our intimate relationship with ourselves. No one way will work for everyone. Our differences deserve honor and respect.

What I can tell you, is my story.

Late last year, I’d gained sufficient trust in my intuition to make a much needed geographic life change. With barely an outline of a plan, I made a decision to move away from the town I’d called home for 20 years. I was going “back home” to roots, to family. I was nervous and a little scared, but I leaned in and made a leap of faith. Self love replaced insecurity and doubt with the confidence necessary for me to trust the intuition in my gut to override the fear.

Once I took action, that one leap of actionable faith, everything in my life flowed seamlessly into place in ways that I hadn’t even imagined. My bare bones outline of a plan fell apart, so that, as the cliche says, “Things could fall together in a better way”. Self love was providing me the courage to be brave enough to live an expression of unprecedented personal freedom. It was the manifestation of a long held desire. It was the feeling of a dream come true.

Four months from my arrival back home, I was still unsure of what I was doing or where I was going. Nothing had happened as I’d thought but I was still siding with faith and I kept leaping. On one fortuitous night an Airbnb listing titled, “Spend a Night at the Museum” caught my eye. It was in a cottage at The Museum of Motherhood. I was intrigued.

My first meeting with Martha Joy Rose aka Joy, proved an instant connection. She’s… well, I don’t have sufficient space on this page to give who she is the description she deserves. Fast forward five months and I am the current Writer in Residence/House Mother of the Museum of Motherhood. Self Love healed my pain, sorrow and self loathing into a place of non existence so that I could shine a bright light, from my inside out; a light bright enough for others to see. Joy saw that light. She took a chance. She gave me an opportunity that has changed my life.

Now, armed with love, light, courage, confidence and complete humility it’s time for another leap. I understand now, that when we feel better, when we “love” ourselves and feel good in our skin; when we have the strength to feel good all the way into the marrow of our bones, it’s time to give back. It’s time to serve. I know with the deepest of reverence that it is our charge to help our fellow humans. I believe beyond contestation that it is our obligation to do no harm. It is our imperative to educate and do good works. There’s more, but for now, this is what “Self Love” feels like to me. True story. www.dawnlouiseparker.com