I put my hand up to her nose to feel her breath and reassure myself that I have kept her alive for one more day.
While I have always done this, as an Artist Resident in Motherhood I have decided to document it.
(As I write this my daughter is very calmly putting butterfly wings on me, instructing me where to put my arms between words.)
My documentation will be a nightly sketch of her nose and/or mouth in the dark.
My Mother Bear anxiety that compels me to check my daughter’s breath is heightened, as I am sure yours is, by the COVID-19 pandemic. In my postpartum period I had intense visions of terrible situations my daughter could be in and how I would save her. Situations like kidnapping, natural disasters, or zombie apocalypse. It could happen at any moment and was like a movie playing before my eyes. I called them my Mama Bear visions. This would often happen while I was walking with her strapped to my chest in a baby wrap and I would stop for a moment and when it passed I would just keep going.
In this real life Mama Bear vision that hasn’t ended yet I am paused and taking daily documentation of my child’s well being so that when it is over I can keep going.
I have known about Lenka Clayton’sArtist Residency in Motherhood since 2015 when my daughter was 2 years old and I had the sudden urge to make art again. I read every book, article or blog post about art and motherhood I could find and somewhere in there was this intriguing idea- to re-frame the space of motherhood and the domestic as an Artist Residency.
In addition to being the mother of a 2 year old I was an in home childcare provider, caring for four other toddlers and financially supporting the entire household. It was stressful, I was not OK. So I created an Artist in Residence at Preschool for myself.
I hung large pieces of white paper on the walls of my home/childcare. Every time I had to take away a toy that was being fought over I traced it on the wall. Every meal the small humans did not finish I blended up into “ink” and screen printed onto the wall. I threw their loads of construction paper artwork into blenders and remade paper. (I did this to all their snotty tissues too!)
That residency saved my sanity.
Fast forward to three weeks before the closures started to go down. I was let go from my job in local food production and had decided to finally try to start a career as an Artist. For three weeks I worked in my home studio for FIVE UNINTERRUPTED HOURS A DAY while my 6 year old was at school. It was blissful.
Then schools closed and my momentum vanished. Then everything closed and the reality of the situation set in.
It is stressful and I am NOT OK. So… I am intentionally re-framing this time at home as an Artist Residency in Motherhood.