Mothers, Mothering, Motherhood

By

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

By

M.A.M.A. – The Riddle, The Interior Vacation, and the Mother House [LINK]

The Riddle (2017)

This stop-motion animation, made from collaged monoprints

The work focusses on the loss of self-identity in early motherhood. What is left of a person’s personality once the numerous responsibilities and anxieties are taken on.

Anna Fennel Hughes is a freelance artist creating monoprints that are often used to form illustrations, animations and textiles. She works from her small printmaking studio in northern Italy, but studied and graduated with first class honours from Duncan of Jordanstone, Scotland.

POETRY WITH THE MOM EGG REVIEW
Elise Gregory
The interior vacation
 
can’t be taken with small ones.
Times are set for such things: bed,
naps, or best “quiet time.”
Before dredging internal lakes,
the child must be watered and set out
or fought into bed.
Moms must wonder if
a brick wall may be more swift—
a long-term vacation.
Though a concussion makes for poor
interiors, chances are your mate
feeds the babes while you sleep
for a month.
I’ve wondered where all the titles,
and two-cent words have gone.
Say I was given a weekend with hiking
boots and head lamp. Perhaps I could find
my misbegotten learning.
The problem remains: I have no
maps and little training—the trail littered
with roots and misplaced anger.
Maybe rethink the bikini….
Slip in the revolver. Call what my mind game is—
an internal bear hunt.
Elise Gregory tends gardens, sheep, goats, chickens, three human children, and one spouse. Her poems have appeared in StoneboatRock & Sling, Sweet: A Literary ConfectionCider Press ReviewWomen Arts Quarterly and elsewhere. Her second chapbook is forthcoming from dancing girl press. All We Can Hold: Poems of Motherhood, which she co-edited with Emily Gwinn was published by Sage Hill Press in 2016. www.allwecanhold.com

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

Announcing the Mother House Opening in England

 

By

Disruptions, Extrusions, and Other Chaotic Consequences by M. Joy Rose

mama-22PRODUCTION SITE

MOTHERING THE WORLD

This project started after I moved to the Artist Enclave of Historic Kenwood.

I’ve spent the better part of the last ten years championing other women’s work. Prior to that, I focused musically on “performance” art. During years of songwriting and concert-making ideas are projected outward in a noisy fashion. The work I’m engaging in now is very intimate and is more of a reflection than a projection.

I am interested in exploring my body is a site of production and reproduction. It is (and has been) a site of concept making and conception-formation. Through the years it has belonged to many people, including children, partners, governments, societies, country, state, church, and home. Some of these places are unique, and some are not. However, this basic premise is clear – my body has been a site of production and “making.”

As I began editing my thoughts for this project, I realized that I never said my body belongs to me. So, more than ever this fact becomes a justification for this work, which in so many ways, mirrors what so many women have been taught to feel –namely, that women’s bodies belong to others more than they belong to themselves. Now, in the era of the new Trump administration, this may be true more than ever. It is especially important to share the truth of what it is to bring forth another human, to nurture them, and to make my body a site of visible production and labor. I want to disrupt the “nice,” “perfectly groomed,” woman-mother-persona. Here she is. Stripped down: naked, bloody, imperfect, and old but still a work of art.

Martha Joy Rose, January 29, 2017

marthajoyrose_body_art

Joy Rose is part of the Artist Enclave of Historic Kenwood. Sheis a musician, concert promoter, museum founder, and fine artist. Her work has been published across blogs and academic journals and she has performed with her band Housewives On Prozac on Good Morning America, CNN, and the Oakland Art & Soul Festival to name a few. She is the NOW-NYC recipient of the Susan B. Anthony Award, her Mamapalooza Festival Series has been recognized as “Best in Girl-Power Events” in New York, and her music has appeared on the Billboard Top 100 Dance Charts. She founded the Museum of Motherhood in 2003, created the Motherhood Foundation 501c3 non-profit in 2005, saw it flourish in NYC from 2011-2014, and then pop up at several academic institutions.

Art Show in March: Rose’s current live/work space in Kenwood St. Petersburg, Florida is devoted to the exploration of mother-labor as performance art.The upcoming date for the next Kenwood Artist Tour is March 18th and 19th, 2017 noon-5pm. See map and find out more and to tour the studios of participating St. Pete, Fla craftspeople: [LINK]

The Disruptions, Extrusions, and Other Chaotic Consequences exhibit begins with an enhanced chest of drawers. Says Rose, “we are always trying to put everything in a box….Make it neat. Or, hide things away. Here is your chance to pick a secret or leave a secret behind.” There are also photographs of body parts, paintings, and mixed media with emerging dolls. You can visit the MOM Art Annex during the Kenwood Artist Tour.

Poem for Canvas Squat

I went out to the studio and sat on a canvas

I don’t know why except that everything that has sprung from my loins is fantastic.

Four amazing kids- now adults: Brody, Blaze, Ali, Zena.

Before that, lots of painful blood. Since them – ART!

If art is like giving birth, then let the creations be fantastic too. This is my pop squat.

Everything truly great has come from between my legs. Occasionally my throat, but, mostly from between my legs…. What have you got down there? Show the world.

https://m.soundcloud.com/electric-mommyland-1/electric-pussy

Sources:MoMA:https://www.moma.org/learn/moma_learning/themes/investigating-identity/the-body-in-art

The human body is central to how we understand facets of identity such as gender, sexuality, race, and ethnicity. People alter their bodies, hair, and clothing to align with or rebel against social conventions and to express messages to others around them. Many artists explore gender through representations of the body and by using their own bodies in their creative process.

The 1960s and 1970s were a time of social upheavals in the United States and Europe, significant among them the fight for equality for women with regards to sexuality, reproductive rights, the family, and the workplace. Artists and art historians began to investigate how images in Western art and the media—more often than not produced by men—perpetuated idealizations of the female form. Feminist artists reclaimed the female body and depicted it through a variety of lenses.

Around this time, the body took on another important role as a medium with which artists created their work. In performance art, a term coined in the early 1960s as the genre was starting to take hold, the actions an artist performs are central to the work of art. For many artists, using their bodies in performances became a way to both claim control over their own bodies and to question issues of gender.

See also:

By

MAMA: In Her Own Words – Painting Scotland

Aga Gasiniak

Aga Gasiniak – In Her Own Words

My creativity is a journey. My work is very intuitive and symbolic. I tell stories through my paintings. Paintbrushes, paints, varnishes and canvases are tools to describe emotions, colors, and forms instead of words.  Every painting is a glimpse of memory, place, stillness and natural beauty. Every painting is a story. One takes place of another almost simultaneously.  Synchronicities happen also in art.
Painting requires taking risks, it is like a jump into deep water. The moment of emerging to the surface is pure happiness. It is also a joy, need, relief, meditation, getting through and fixing, constant learning. It is a fear as well, journey, expression, and the act of self- love.

Painting helps me to feel the past moment of beauty, peace, and happiness one more time. It is sometimes like time travel through parallel worlds. Past, present, and future penetrate through the process of creating. I am here and there at the same time.
My inspirations are strangely almost seasonal and follow’s cycles in nature and life. They are black and white photographs of remote places, electric posts, stars, children, moon, women, shells, the seaside, driftwood; feet, spirit and wild animals and all those things which are lost between words and images and could be found only through emotions.  I leave the clues of my identity in the techniques and the subjects I use and the more I paint or create the more I become aware of it.

Creating is constantly affected by life changes. Everything is connected which leaves every painting with an emotional and personal touch. I painted my recent landscapes during pregnancy. They represent not only places and moments of stillness but also emotions related to expecting a first child, adapting to changes and getting through the journey of the pregnancy. Go to PROCREATE PROJECT FOR MORE…. [LINK]

Aga Gasiniak

Aga Gasiniak

About Aga

Aga is a self-taught artist and finds that she is continually learning and evolving in her artwork. Her current body of work is focused on Scottish landscapes and her son’s portraits. Many of her images are inspired by visiting and taking photographs of Scottish landscapes and people whose stories or lives have had an impact on her life. Her art and creative process are an endless journey of experiences, feelings, ideas and thoughts. Aga works with various mediums including watercolors, acrylics, pastels, and oils. Aga’s work was exhibited in Edinburgh and was published in ‘The Mother’ magazine.

Additional Words: The Giraffe

By Laura Sloan Patterson from Mom Egg Review Vol. 14

There is a cry across the hall. Not the toddler cry of I want, I hate, You will do it now, but an adult sob wrested into baby vowels. He squats on the floor, holding a rubber giraffe we once pretended French, a toy he hasn’t touched since early teething. He’s unearthed his own archeology, buried in a canvas bin, the culture of his babyhood, and there’s an electrical crackle of shock. He folds her neck rhythmically and with each chiropractic bend, her keening squeak, and tears squeezed from his eyes. He cannot stop—the squeezing or the crying. He used to squeeze her like that and laugh deep in his body. When he tips his face up to mine, I see that it has happened: he knows I’m useless. He’s two, the age of purest reason. But perhaps I am mistaken: was there another offense? Did they quarrel? Did she come home late, smelling of Snoopy and snow cones? I’ll kill that giraffe bitch, I think. But later, while my son sleeps. I’ll disembowel her and dance on her squeaker. Lying down at night, I see my boy’s eyes in that moment of looking up, dimensional tunnels of sorrow. I mentally gather my tools: kitchen scissors, X-Acto knife, trash bags. But in the early morning I wake and know: I could hack legions of rubber giraffes, slit the evil girlfriend’s tires, blackmail every admissions committee in the world. No use. It’s not them but a sadness sipped from my own placenta, grown in the calcium of his bones. He grips the giraffe like the last bitter tuber in a burned-out forest, a rhizome he must carry on from here.

mama_logo_2015-copy

By

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.

#JoinMAMA  @ProcreateProj  @MOMmuseum @TheMomEgg
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Scream; and a Story of Loss [CLICK]

The ProCreate Project, the Museum of Motherhood and the Mom Egg Review are pleased to announce the continuation of  this literary and scholarly discourse which 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

Silent scream– paint,marker and menstruation blood on paper (2015)
Artist Statement by Dagmara Bilon

MAMA ISSUE 14

My current practice is an expression of liberty and defiances to taboos and conventions. Opening up awareness to my wonder-es cycling self, gluing plastic bags with gaffer tape to make a gigantic placenta, feeding my plants menstruation blood and using the earth as material to make body prints. In a self-preserving, modern capitalistic and digital, detached society; I seek authentic expression and an intuitive exploration of felt experiences and impressions involving in a direct way the body.

Creative frameworks allow me to investigate a visual language that layer various realities to express surreal depictions of the female body as a source of vulnerable confinement and humerus provocation. The process of making is an invocation and reality is dissected into images fusing the imagined and the real. Scenes form out of the process of bringing together objects in relation to body, space and text. My work is process based and unfolds through experimentation, embodied investigation and collaboration with other artists.

More about the artist:
Dagmara Bilon is a performance artist/maker, who have been making work since 2003. She creates durational, action based and one to one performance work, for live audiences and for video. Dagmara is also a Dance Movement Therapist, a Purple Lady and lives with her two daughters in south-east London. Work has been presented in England, France, Romania, Iceland, Denmark, Croatia and Spain.
For more information on her work see website www.dagmarabilon.com www.thepurpleladies.com

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On Friday Nights by Gabriella Burman

Originally published in The Mom Egg

Lately, my four-year-old thinks she is old enough to strike the matches. On Friday evenings at sundown, when we light candles to usher in the Jewish Sabbath, she climbs onto the countertop, and grabs the slim box with chubby hands that resemble her oldest sister’s.

Without fail, each week, she does this, and without fail, each week, her father and admonish her that matches are dangerous, somehow not mastering, ourselves, the lesson to keep them out of her reach at the moment we take them out of the cupboard.

Every family has its variation of how the blessing is recited. Some light a pair of candles; some, as we do, light for the number of members of the family. Some recite the blessing in order of seniority; others, in unison. In traditional homes, only the women light; in others, the men participate. But the Hebrew words, whether sung or spoken, remain the same: Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, who has sanctified us with

His commandments, and commanded us to light the Sabbath candles. In our family, the blessing is sealed with a kiss. This is how I was raised. As soon as Shabbat began, my sister and I stood by our mother’s side as she lit her silver candelabra. It stood on a shining mirrored plate on a buffet in the dining room, in front of an octagonal mirror that reflected us, watching her.

She placed her manicured hands over her eyes, and silently said the blessing, followed by a lengthy moment of quiet that indicated a dialogue with God. What she asked of Him, she never shared. When she was done, my sister and I each took our turn, and then she kissed us with great force. Shortly thereafter, we sat down to eat.

In my home, I bless five candles in the kitchen, atop a paper covered with Sabbath-themed stickers, stuck to a layer of protective, yet scratched, acrylic. It was a preschool present from Michaela, our oldest daughter, who died unexpectedly when she was five. I never added a silent prayer to God the way my mother does, but now, I offer up a silent “Fuck You.”

This is especially true on the eves of Jewish holidays, which are also ushered in by candle lighting, and to which we add a second blessing thanking God for enabling us to “reach this occasion.” The phrase sounds more powerful in Hebrew, no more so than when David Ben Gurion exclaimed it upon the establishment of the State of Israel, or when my grandfather, a survivor of Auschwitz, proclaimed it at my wedding. To me, now, that second blessing is, simply, offensive. I thank no one for arriving at this moment; I feel scorched by my daughter’s death, and have neither the envy for, nor the capacity to emulate, those who retain faith after catastrophe.

But this is my heritage. To have created a Jewish home after the Holocaust was a source of pride for my Zaide, as we called him, and it has been paramount to my mother, who refers to the imperative every chance she gets. It is all she can do for her parents, I believe, after what they endured, their forearms branded with numbers, their dreams blazing forever thereafter, despite the prescriptions they took.

The truth is, when I was a child, I loved being a Jew, the stories of our patriarchs, the exodus from Egypt, the fall of the walls of Jericho. I took pride in speaking Hebrew, mastering text, and feeling completely secure, as when I walked into a synagogue during a college semester in Paris, opened a prayer book in the sanctuary, and immediately felt at home.

And even when, as an adult, I became more skeptical of religion, coming to view it as a man-made construct, I continued to observe Shabbat and to keep kosher. When Adam and I married, we agreed to raise our children the way we had been raised. If, playing out the quintessential Jewish parental nightmare, they ultimately reject our lifestyle, we reasoned, at least, they’ll know what they’re leaving.

Michaela, who had cerebral palsy and could not speak, told us in her way that she enjoyed Shabbat, her eyes widening along with the rise in a melody, and “mmming” at the cold grape juice she tasted after Adam blessed the wine, and I suspect this would have gone on forever. While it is too soon to tell with the more emotional Maayan, I am doubtful that Ayelet, our middle daughter, will ever rebel. Ayelet’s heart flutters with devotion that is absent in my own heartbeat; her soul shines through deep, brown eyes.

She loves God even more than her parents, she says, “because He gave me you!” and she truly believes, at age six, that God is responsible for everything, and that we must thank Him every day.

She is the one who leads us in blessing on Friday nights. Standing at a safe distance from the flames, her hair swinging like a drape, she covers her eyes and sings in Hebrew, using a tune she learned at school. Maayan copies her moves, and sings along in a voice that would be lovely if she didn’t scream so much. I accompany them; if I am too quiet, they shout, “Louder, Mommy!” After we’re done, we grin and hug like happy apes, and then the girls return to their cartwheels.

I linger a moment, before setting the table with challah, silver goblets, and what will always be the wrong number of plates. I gaze at the passport-sized pictures of each of my daughters, which I’ve set next to my own candelabra. For a fine-haired moment, I take small comfort in knowing there is something I continue to do which still involves the number five. I will always, always light five candles.

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Gabriella Burman was born and raised in suburban Detroit and graduated with a degree in Writing Seminars from Johns Hopkins University, where she studied with Robert Stone and Chaim Potok. Gabi has been sharing her life story since she first picked up a diary as a child. She now writes non-fiction from her home in Huntington Woods, MI, where she and her husband are raising their daughters.