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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CFP: MOM Conference 2018 – Teaching Mother Studies In The Academy & Beyond [LINK]

LINK TO SUBMIT HERE [LINK]

LINK TO SUBMIT HERE [LINK]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Visit M.O.M. Today [CLICK]

VISIT MOM: Eight months after re-opening the Museum of Motherhood in St. Petersburg, Florida, the M.O.M. Art Annex has enjoyed visitors from all over the country. To schedule a visit write us: info@MOMmuseum.org. See just a few of our visitors here:

CONFERENCE: Our first “I ❤ MOM” Conference” titled Mothering from the Margins was a truly inspiring two-day event with a packed house that took place during Valentines’ week in February. We are in the process of editing and uploading content from the conference to the Journal of Mother Studies (JourMS), as well as crafting next year’s CFP.
COMMUNITY: The local Historic Kenwood Artist Enclave has been busy organizing of community events, including the Arts Walk last March. Their 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. Dawn continues to manage the M.O.M. space while editing her manuscript and we are grateful for her participation. In October, we will welcome Hannah Brockbank who will be joining 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). Hannah is a PhD student and will be utilizing the Demeter Library onsite among other things. Read more about our residencies here [LINK]

INTERNSHIPS: We currently have several calls out to local college students for internships for the fall of 2017. 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 the fall.

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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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

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Spirited Woman Residency At M.O.M – Introducing Dawn Parker and Nancy Mills

Spirited Woman through The Spirited Woman Foundation has created a program with the Museum of Motherhood to honor one courageous unstoppable mother on the next chapter of her journey. The mission of the Spirited Woman Foundation is to help heal and support women through actions of empowerment. The Spirited Woman Residency offers one spirited mom a chance to speak her voice, walk her path, gain time away for reflection and to flourish and thrive through a guided, intensive experience – all within a sacred space, in a creative environment, with the objective of fulfilling her personal dream-goals. Every woman has the right to be heard. Every woman has a voice. Every woman must help another.

THE SISTERHOOD OF THE SACRED SCARVES

– Nancy Mills, Founder of the Spirited Woman and The Sisterhood of the Sacred Scarves – Wearing AWAKENED ENERGY –

A large portion of the Spirited Woman Foundation money continues to be raised through the Sisterhood of the Sacred Scarves program. It is by purchasing these “Spirited Woman Prayer Scarves” that a portion of each scarf’s proceeds is donated by Spirited Woman into the Spirited Woman Foundation.

Purchase a scarf. Assorted colors and intentions! (Click photo)

The Sisterhood of the Sacred Scarves honors women through scarf and ceremony. The Spirited Woman Prayer Scarf is a symbol of spirit, empowerment, and beauty. To date, there have been 18 scarves each with a different theme. 1000s have been sold worldwide, connecting women together energetically. The scarves themselves have been blessed – each carries sacred energy.

Spiritually and socially conscious sisters proudly wear the prayer scarves as a symbol of support at gatherings, marches, retreats and in spirit around the world.

The latest Spirited Woman Prayer Scarf is AWAKENED ENERGY.

The prayer scarves are a Mother’s Day gift for the entire year – filled with meaning – a gift both can share and help others at the same time. By wearing the scarf you will be making a statement of sacred love – together. What a beautiful message to give our daughters, our sisters, our friends, and our divine sacred selves.

PURCHASE A SCARF / SUPPORT SPIRITED WOMAN [LINK]

ABOUT DAWN PARKER – Recipient of Spirited Woman Residency Scholarship

Dawn Louise Parker

Dawn first visited the new Museum Art Annex, which is the personal live/work space of M. Joy Rose in February 2017. There was an instant connection between Dawn’s bright and curious personality and the spirit of the Museum, which had recently relocated to St. Petersburg, Florida from New York. Museum founder, M. Joy Rose and Dawn brainstormed on ways for Dawn to introduce her work at the upcoming annual MOM Conference. That experience quickly evolved into dual participation at the AEHK Art Tour in which Ms. Rose presented new art-works and Ms. Parker dialogued with interested attendees.

“Dawn impressed me from the moment I met her,” says Rose.” I could perceive that she was thinking deeply about her life and was committed to the next stage of her journey, namely that she had dedicated much of her life to raising her child (who is now a successful filmmaker living in California), and that she was ready to come into her own power. She was very focused on the next steps that would help activate her four years of writing, spiritual evolution, and prepare her to successfully launch her new career as an author and inspirational teacher.”

Ms. Parker is a writer, intuitive problem solver, empathetic public relations expert, thought provoker, outdoor beachy sun lover, wildish nature nurturer, and a fiercely independent self-starter. Her current writing project, “Forty-Seven Days of Love,” journals her soulful search to find self-love as a way to heal emotional wounds and heartbreak, anxiety, low self-esteem, negative self-image and relational dysfunction.

Speaking at The Academic MOM Conference in St. Petersburg, Florida inspired Dawn to enroll in the SHFT Catalyst Coaching Intensive to become a certified life coach. She is currently a contributing author to their blog on SHFT.us.

Dawn wants everyone to know how blessed she feels to receive the Spirited Woman Residency Scholarship! (thespiritedwoman.com). “This gift,” says Dawn, “will allow me to focus on completing my book while remembering my very spiritual connection to not only my life but the lives of women everywhere. I plan on wearing my scarf while I write and on making it part of my daily ritual. I also plan on conducting one workshop focused on women’s issues here at M.O.M over the summer.”

WHY DAWN IS A SPIRITUAL WARRIOR

“I am a Spirited Woman because my story is a story of transformation. I have not sugar-coated the raw emotion, love, heartache, and pain that were part of this ongoing healing. I want to share my evolution towards a purer heart, focused on compassion, while seeking forgiveness. I celebrate the glimpses of triumphant peace that I am always arriving at. Telling my story comes directly through an intimate connection with divine love, which is the source of light that runs through every human heart. I know we are not meant to do this life alone. I want to share the knowledge that each of us matters, that our hearts are precious, that each person’s story is important, and that feelings are valid. I want each and every one of us to know that we are capable of living in the light and that we are meant to shine.” ~ DLP INSTAGRAM / FACEBOOK

THE MUSEUM OF MOTHERHOOD

The Museum of Motherhood (M.O.M.) is an exhibition and education center dedicated to the exploration of family – past, present, and future with a focus on women, mothers, and families.

M.O.M.’s mission is to start great conversations, feature thought-provoking exhibits, and share information and education about women, mothers, and families.

The Museum of Motherhood is made possible by the Motherhood Foundation Inc. – is a certified nonprofit 501c3 that creates, produces and presents artistic, educational and cultural content that studies and supports mothers and their activities. MFI disseminates information about mothers for broad public consumption while paying tribute to mothers (Moms) free of age, race and socio-economic barriers. MFI cares about and acts upon the status of women while celebrating their courage, fortitude, and ingenuity, and while addressing important issues, creating meaningful content, and providing compelling community experiences

SPIRITED WOMAN

Spirited Woman (www.thespiritedwoman.com) is a leading global women’s empowerment community founded close to 20 years ago by Nancy Mills. It is known for celebrating the every woman visionary, who is inspiring and changing the world one Spirited Woman Step at a time.

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MAMA – Privatizing Motherhood and the Pussy Bow

Featured Artist is Christen Clifford and her Pussy Bow (from imprints of her actual pussy on silk) – See more at ProCreate for images [LINK}.

Christen Clifford is a writer, feminist performance artist, curator, professor, actor, and mother who lives in Queens.

Christen Clifford, Pussy Bow at the Museum of Motherhood Art Annex Residency in St Petersburg

Christen Clifford, Pussy Bow at the Museum of Motherhood Art Annex Residency in St Petersburg

Privatizing Motherhood
By Karen Malpede

My daughter, born the year Ronald Reagan was elected president in a landslide, has given birth to her first child in the year Donald Trump squeaked into the presidency. She was raised on the outskirts of what was then un-gentrified Park Slope and she lived in a theater, the loft-space held our living rooms and our stage. She was raised collectively—at the Park Slope Food Coop and the Park Slope Child Care Collective, where she and I met friends we have to this day. I mothered her collectively as well. She came with me everywhere: meetings, rehearsals, my monthly food coop work slot and I worked one day a week in her child care. She came with me to women’s conferences on war and peace, and ecofeminism. She camped with me at the Women’s Peace Encampment. I have a photo of her, at four years old, dressed in a striped red and white bathing suit, weaving yarn across the exit to the military base, to keep the nuclear missiles inside. They were supposed to be sent to allied nations in Europe, where they would be driven around on trucks for quick launch into the Soviet Union.

We were successful, by the way, not just “we” of course, but the anti-nuclear movement kick-started by women on the antiwar left in England, at Greenham Common, in Germany and in the US. I was arrested as one of the White House Lawn Eleven in 1979, the year before my child was born. I was arrested, again, at a Wall St. anti-militarism demonstration when I was six months pregnant. These protests gained enough popular resonance and force to result in the nonproliferation treaty between Reagan and Gorbechov (which might well be over-turned by Trump and Putin).

My daughter knew my friends, who were artists, activists and mothers: Grace Paley, Barbara Deming, Dorothy Dinnerstein, Judith Malina, Sybille Claiborne, Eve Merriam, and the only two still alive, ecofeminist organizer and writer, Ynestra King, whose birth I assisted and whose son my daughter met the day after he was born, and Martha Bragin, an international child-of-war trauma specialist with a program for Afghan social workers in Kabul, whose child was in the same collective day care. My daughter was breast fed on demand until she was four years old because she was mainly always with me and because it was always all right, or it felt all right to me, to breast feed where ever I was when she was hungry or needed comfort (although I lost a theater grant for breast feeding at a meeting with a local Brooklyn utility). Only once did I pump milk for her to leave in reserve so her father could do the feed—when I went to the second Women’s Pentagon Action, in 1982; and, then, too, to relieve myself, I expressed my breast milk into one of the public toilets in the shopping mall underneath the Pentagon, which felt like a ritual-offering of sorts. I finished a play the day before I went into labor. I remember sitting on the floor bending over my huge belly collating pages. That night I went to the Women’s Salon which I had co-founded, a monthly forum that hosted major writers the minute their books or plays came out. The play I finished before labor was produced in Brooklyn at the Arts at St. Ann’s, then still in the downtown church, when my child was one year old. The first time I took her in my arms into the church for a rehearsal, she, excited but too young to speak, pointed at the domed cathedral ceiling alive with light flooding through the stained glass. “Mama, see!” The words burst out in awe. It would be months before she actually began to talk, but during rehearsal breaks she would crawl onto center stage, sit and mime the gestures of the actors.

Does all this sound antiquated and odd? Or does it sound like a golden age long gone?

Nothing could be less like the motherhoods of my daughter, or of Martha’s daughter, a housing lawyer, or the daughter of another friend, a public health specialist at a state health and human services department. These mothers spend hours of their day pumping breast milk for storage in refrigerators and freezers to be given to their children when they are away at work. My daughter pumps in an employee bathroom at Trader Joe’s, where she works, in San Antonio, Texas, where she and her husband moved because on working class salaries they could afford to buy a house. Martha’s daughter refers to herself as a small-time dairy factory, pumping milk for her son born prematurely who has yet to be fed except through a pipette. At the health and human services agency, nursing mothers must make a reservation to use the lactation room because it is too small for more than one breast-feeding woman at a time. It never occurred to anyone in   “human services” that women might pump and talk together, about work or children or whatever, or, perhaps, it did occur to someone and this is why the room is only large enough for one. Another friend with a young child works on the UN Food Program and is based in Egypt. She has to pump in the prayer room reserved for her Muslim co-workers; there is no other space even for those whose job is figuring out how to feed women and children across the African continent.

These first-time mothers have all been told, they’ve told themselves, they must breast-feed their children for the first two years. My daughter comes from her late shift at 12:30 am and pumps for an hour so there will be milk for her next shift the next day. Then she nurses the baby when he wakes in the middle of the night. Before she leaves for work, she pumps again, after nursing and feeding her baby his home-cooked organic, mashed fruits and vegetables. And she does without another woman’s voice, another woman’s helping hand. She’s alone in her suburban house.

At the same time as the fetus has become “a person”; motherhood has been privatized. What once was, in my memory, collective and communal, joyful—with children passed from day-care to play-date to sleep-over among families who knew each other well, or taken with their mothers to work and on adventures where there were other adoring adults—has become a solitary endurance contest. The mother must not falter; she cannot not produce the milk. She cannot not go to work. She is busy virtually 24 hours a day; she rarely sleeps and is always tired.

Breast-feeding in public is forbidden. Pumping rooms are lonely, inhospitable places. And the burden of feeding her child an optimum diet—of breast milk—is solely hers.

Pumping machines are plastic cups held by hand to the breast, with cords running to a receptacle and they have a wheezing motor. Some pumps are more effective than others, of course, but the machines that come with most insurance plans are ineffectual and slow; it takes a long time to pump six ounces of milk.

Women are isolated, relegated to private, sometimes unsanitary spaces, while they pump. Pumping is considered break-time from work. I had never considered any of this until I visited my daughter in San Antonio and watched her days and nights. When her husband comes home from work, she goes to work. They have an hour or two at most of waking time together. The child is passed between them. He’s still young, at 9 months, but there are no playgroups and scant outings with other mothers. Most of her friends leave their children with their grandmothers while they work (thus, social security subsidizes childcare), but I live and work in New York.

The privatization of motherhood is, of course, the conservative goal. Our lives should be privatized. We should all be in it for ourselves. Wealthy women can hire nannies, but this is just the privileged form of privatization. Mothers on a treadmill from work to nurture to the breast pump have no time to get together, much less to organize.

The point of anthropologist Sarah Blaffer Hrdy’s important book Mother and Others is that children reared and fed by groups of responsive adults (as all children in “primitive” hunting and gathering societies were and are or “they were unlikely to survive”) “learned to perceive their world as ‘giving place.’” This matters greatly, Hrdy says because “Within the first two years of life, infants fortunate enough to be reared in responsive caretaking relationships develop innate potentials for empathy, mind reading and collaboration, and often do so, with astonishing speed.”

Collective childrearing is not just good for mothers, alleviating some of the astonishing boredom of being with an infant or young child; it is essential for children if we wish, that is, to raise empathic adults, capable of understanding and caring for others as well as themselves. Those who see the world as a “giving place” are much less likely to destroy it and themselves with it. They are much more likely to take care.

Hrdy points out those evolutionary traits that are not used can atrophy and disappear. So, she posits, might be the case with empathy. That which once made us human because we recognized the other in ourselves and responded to the stresses and challenges of society as an I and Thou exchange in which our own best interests are best served by serving the best interests of others (for instance, stopping climate change and nuclear proliferation) is in danger of atrophying for lack of use. By privatizing the social activity that demands and creates empathy, we run the risk of raising human creatures wanting this essential trait. A sort of monstrous version of ourselves, loose and amuck in a universe ever-more endangered by our own actions, a world threatened by our inability to understand our own connections.

My daughter’s childhood was spent around the collective, women-dominated antinuclear and peace movements of the 1980ies; it is bitterly ironic that her child has been born into a moment when Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin have decided to play “nuclear chicken” with our planet and to drill for its remaining oil. Nothing would be important, now, again, than women’s voices, raised with all the authority of motherhood, to demand an end to nuclear weapons and real public policy actions to retard climate change. At this same moment, motherhood has become such a private, taxing, full-time job that woman lack the energy and strength, and the hours in the day, to secure a future for their children. This is the cost of privatizing our most communal trust: the raising of children to care.

If my, now elder generation, managed, we also failed to leave a legacy that made it possible for our daughters and their daughters to live collectively as we had. All I can say in defense is that my daughter proves my point; she is one of the most empathic people I ever met; kind and compassionate to her core, struggling and aware. But she is alone with her child. Without collective action focused on planetary peace and renewal her child’s future is grim.

Karen Malpede is a playwright and writer, co-founder of Theater Three Collaborative, editor of Acts of War: Iraq & Afghanistan in Seven Plays and Women in Theatre: Compassion & Hope. Plays in Time, a collection of four of her plays, is forthcoming in 2017. Her work appears in The Kenyon Review, Torture Magazine and The Brooklyn Reader, and has been published in The New York Times, The Drama Review, TriQuarterly, Confrontations and elsewhere. She is an adjunct associate professor of theater and environmental justice at John Jay College, City University of New York.

M.A.M.A. is the Museum of Motherhood, the ProCreate Project, the Mom Egg Review, as an 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.

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