On March 29th, my firstborn, my baby boy, Jacob, turns 11. Hard to believe the big boy he has become – he is just centimeters away from being taller than me. (Not hard to do when you’re a measly 5 feet tall, but he is only 11!) I can see my authority slowly vanishing. Last week at ice skating, I skated at least halfway around the rink, oblivious to the fact that he was giving me bunny ears. Each time he passed me on his rotations around the rink, he would smack me in the butt. I was indignant. “I am your mother! That is disrespectful!”
He still likes to cuddle and hug despite the fact that he is all sharp elbows and knees. More often than not, he clocks me in the face. When he comes to me for a hug, I instinctively cringe for fear of being inadvertently hurt or having my coffee spilled all over me. The other morning he sensed my reticence: the corners of his mouth went down and quiet tears rolled down his face. I told him, “I hug you when you’re sleeping.” This is true. He is peaceful when he sleeps and looks just like the newborn he once was, lying in the bassinet next to my hospital bed. I hug him and then the tears roll down my face. He is growing up.
A mother’s love is strong. My ex husband’s mother claims that a grandmother’s love is even stronger than a mother’s love she loves my two children so much. She really believes that she loves my kids more than I do and now that I left my husband – further proof!
One day, Jacob asked me “what happens when you die?”
“Some people believe that you go to heaven, some people believe that your soul lives on, some people believe that you are born again and come back as another person…” No answer felt right.
Jacob, my sweetheart, replied with great conviction, “Mommy, if I come back as a different person and you come back as a different person, I will find you.”
When I first began composing this blog, my goal was to find art that dealt with motherhood. The pickings were slim – most of the art was super-granola-ey: paintings of goddess mothers cradling their radiant infants. But then, I came across these photographs by Heather Gray – they made me laugh out loud. My above reminiscence about being a mom to my no-longer-a-baby boy verges on the saccharine. Heather’s work adds a little spice to my sugar.
In Heather’s own words, she describes the genesis of her art:
“I first began making art about motherhood when I entered into the MFA residency program at Vermont College of Fine Arts three months pregnant. When the word got out at the residency that I was pregnant I was overcome by all the attention. Older women would tell me their birth stories, complete strangers felt the need to touch my belly and the question of whether I would return next semester kept arising. During the critiques of some of the women’s work, I sensed the resentment they had for their children. Several of them mentioned that having a child postponed their ability to make art. One woman stated, “You won’t be able to do it. I had to take two semesters off when my son was born.”
Women artist are told they should not have children, and the “you-can’t-create-if -you-procreate” myth is common… Only in the past few decades have women artist had the choice to have a career in both motherhood and art.
It is obvious that becoming a mother has a tremendous effect on your lifestyle. Being a mother and creating art are both part of the human experience. Why can’t we do both at once? Having a child is a very important experience in a women’s life, so why isn’t there more art about such a wonderful subject? It seems that women/mother’s would find more time to create if they used the subject of motherhood to their advantage.
I finished my MFA through the Vermont College of Fine Arts program and never took a break. I went into labor the day after I left my second residency and graduated from the program when my son was only twenty two months. My son Aasha is now seven and I continue to focus on developing an understanding of the broader social and cultural context of my personal experience as a mother and woman and address these insights in my art practice as a photographer.”