Okay so I must have officially crossed the threshold in the last few days – or else somehow wearing looser clothing has inspired MORE focus on my bump than two weeks ago when I was rocking my new ruched shirts – but I don’t know, EVERYONE has been all about my bump and it’s…really hard.
I’ve spent many, many, many years being self conscious about my belly. I have pictures of me on the cusp of puberty where my tummy already stuck out past my (very barely there) boobs and I remember how I slowly started to hate that.
Looking back on what I expected my pregnancy to be like before my cyst, it was simpler – I was excited to just finally say “yes I’m pregnant” when asked about my large belly. And not necessarily notice a significant physical change. So when the cyst was gone, and I got the chance to experience a more natural bump progression (don’t get me wrong, I in no way suddenly became flat-stomached), I guess I was just…not prepared for people to want to notice my stomach.
And comment on it.
And touch it.
This week, looking probably more pregnant than I’ve wrapped my head around, I’ve caught myself being SUPER self-conscious about my stomach and trying to hide it like I used to.
It’s something I want to try really hard to work on because it does make me sad – I finally have a baby bump and I’m anxious about it most of the time when I’m in public.
Obviously since I’m doing this daily drawing project…you know, daily, most of the time it’s been all I’ve done that day. And while I probably didn’t fully take advantage of my time at home as much in terms of art (I was, admittedly, a bit busy with finally celebrating my pregnancy *very late*, and midterms, and you know, healing), I got a few good, full illustrations or else some funny comics or good process images.
On my last weekday off a few days ago before I started work again yesterday I randomly wanted to draw a cute girl in sakura blossoms. Shani/Lucy is always my go to cute girl and it always makes it easier for me to invest in a drawing if it’s someone I “know.’
It’s been a slow week and a half of recovery since my laparoscopy – mostly my energy level and concentration seem to be the last to recover. My incisions look tiny and great and Baby is sounding as strong as ever (it’s a few weeks before I get to see them again, but I consider myself lucky to have gotten to see them at 12 and 13 weeks, even though it was because of the surgery).
Tonight I get to find out if we’re having a boy or a girl, so expect a follow up post about that! It’s gonna be a weird balance for…I mean the rest of my life to keep some of my energy on OCs and art projects and Emotia drawings and also knowing that I will become increasingly obsessed with my child as time goes by.
Anyway, probably over a full week ago now, this familiar drawing showed up on my Timehop…FROM A DECADE AGO.
God, you mean I’ve been drawing these three idiots on a computer for AT LEAST 10 years? What is my life? (It’s great. My life is great.)
I always loved that image though; it was kind of the launch into my digital art not being creepy and terrifying as it was when it started.
And I’m a sucker for a good kick of nostalgia, so I decided it was time to redraw it.
But, that’s kind of where my mention of my concentration and energy levels came in. For the first 5 days or so after surgery, I couldn’t sit at my desk that long before my back and/or stomach ached. And even when I was in bed, I seemed to be drifting in and out of a bit of a fever dream state. Really, the whole first week after surgery feels very vague and dreamlike.
But I plugged away at it, kind of cheating and using my progress on it for three or four of my daily digital art works. The line art and paint splatters came pretty quickly but as per usual I dragged my feet on coloring and subsequently shading. I’ve still been trying to refine my airbrush shading but it felt kinda gross on this one (granted, looking above there are about 4 spots on the original with some cell shading and it’s otherwise flat), so I had to add some vector shading today to finish it off.
I at once like the paint mess more and less. I like this one because you can kind of see the narrative for how the paint fight started. But since I went that route there’s a lot less random splats and stuff.
Of course the all look older now too, and only Andrew has his gross baby ponytail anymore (I’m going to blame his hippie age). Danny’s black rose tattoo still looks stupid, but maybe a bit less so.
Do you like my lame attempt to pretend to do a background? Hey, I think it adds dimension.
Hooray! My surgery is over – it’s been 6 days already! – and baby is sounding as sturdy as ever in me. I’m 14 weeks and 1 day today! We bought our first onesie over the weekend (my blessed mom gave me a boxful of baby things at 5 weeks when we told them. I’m looking forward to investigating that again now that I’m not dreading the wait to a “safe” time).
And Saturday afternoon, we finally became social media official!
I would say sadly the image itself went a little under-appreciated. I could have posted a onesie with a cat in the picture and people would have given it the same attention. But it’s fine, I think it turned out super cute. And I actually totally redid it; I had a draft done for weeks and then restarted on Thursday. Understandably this turned out wwaaaayyyy better. I’m getting some airbrush shading practice in after avoiding it for most of the beginning of my digital art days. Between this, and buying some stuff, I’m finally starting to believe this is all real!
And the last, but certainly not least dramatic thing…my cyst is out. I lost 10lbs. I look pretty different (except when baby starts to get me all bloated). The more I’ve thought about, the more I realize I’m not “shocked” per se because, like, there was a part of my brain I think this whole time that knew something was wrong with my stomach, and knew this is what I was always supposed to look like. When I pined after a body type, it wasn’t stick thin or big boobs it was just…me, minus the cyst. Don’t get me wrong, I still don’t think I have fully conceptualized what I look like. I’ve gotten no photos and I can’t wear anything tight yet because it hurts my incisions. And tomorrow I have to take the steri strips off it; that’s like phase 3 (the last phase) of healing and I’m sure it’ll result in a new type of discomfort for a day or a few.
As expected, the most difficult part to figure out about, honestly, a lot of it is the combination of baby vs. cyst. I just hit the 2nd trimester and any time now baby’s gonna be popping out of my pelvis. So, what’s left of my belly, is it baby? Is it flab? Is it, as my husband insists, leftover skin from the sudden absence of a 10lb, foot-long cyst? I’m not gonna know for pretty much a year. I’m glad the cyst is gone, but it’s bittersweet that I don’t know how to enjoy how I look now or how long I’ll even look this way.
I just also like how symbolic this one feels in terms of where I’m at right now. I feel very bleak and in the dark but there’s a definite light to focus on in the future. It’s just faraway and uncertain.
So one of my classes for this spring semester is called Learning & Behavioral Change and, surprise, it involves a behavioral change project! Our professor wants us to essentially use the skills we learn in class to develop a new habit/break a bad habit. And of course a bunch of his examples are like, weight loss, diet, etc., and I’m like, well I don’t foresee that going well as I get increasingly pregnant. Some of the non-negative examples were like, write a journal daily and meditate daily. So I was like well…I already journal enough, and I don’t really want to try meditation.
And then I was like !!!! I’ve been feeling distant from my art life lately, why don’t I do a DAILY DRAWING?!?!
I figured it wasn’t quite specific enough to just do a drawing since I could do sketch or computer and it would be difficult to keep them all together then. And like also, my digital tools are spectacular and I kind of never feel like I fully utilize my $800 display tablet.
Sooo, a digital drawing a day! And then I have to write a paper about it.
The good news is it’ll keep my blog busy, so here’s some of my favorites.
The last 7 days have been extraordinarily … what’s a word for difficult that encompasses the emotional drain, the serious and unanswerable questions, the sheer exhaustion of your brain, your body, your life not stopping or slowing down for you despite your desperate desire to just be able to stop and be silent and thoughtless and still? There’s probably a German word for it.
So although this was not the manner in which I planned to be able to make an art blog post about it, fate had other plans for my art blog pregnancy announcement.
I’m 9 weeks today. And for the next 4 weeks, I will be waiting to see if I’ll make it to week 14. You’re supposed to be able to celebrate after you see your little bean on an ultrasound. They read the heartbeat and suddenly it’s all very likely everything will be fine and you’re going to be a parent and there’s going to be a new little life you brought into existence.
I guess I should have known? But at the same time, I thought I was average, and the pregnancy would be average and my experience would be average and maybe I don’t believe in the miracle of childbirth but I know I would be soaring with love and excitement and hope for me and my husband’s new little family.
But when they saw our baby on the ultrasound the technician also found out that I have what turns out to be a 27cm ovarian cyst that has basically inflated on top of my organs in my abdomen and has been hanging out for what I believe is probably the last 4 years since I went off hormonal birth control and gave it a chance to grow back. Fast forward to meeting my new surgeon, an OB at the University of Minnesota Masonic Cancer Clinic. She says that the mass and the ovary both need to come out for the baby to even be able to keep growing around it, but that the baby will be at risk of not making it through the surgery due to trauma/jostling/too much CO2 in the baby cavity. And, what’s possibly worse is that I have to wait until the second trimester for the operation, in order to reduce the risk to the baby.
So now I have a month to try to work through these vast and varied feelings about…all of this.
I feel like I went very rapidly from the relief of seeing my fluttering baby heartbeat on an ultrasound to the horror, confusion, relief, and anticipation of this growth and its upcoming removal.
I’m in the midst of a really intense identity struggle today because of this. I thought it was going to be difficult enough coming to terms with becoming a mother. But now what this has essentially told me is that even my physical appearance is not what I have thought it was. I don’t know to what extent this growth has changed how I look. My theory is that it contributed to me gaining 30lbs post-birth control and significantly increased my stomach protrusion. And so in a way I’m ecstatic that it’s not all my fault I look the way I look, and the next time someone asks me any time soon if I’m pregnant they will feel even guiltier when I tell them it’s actually an enormous cyst they’re looking at and thanks for the reminder I’ll be having surgery soon. I’m excited to be unburdened by this and all the pressure and probably pain and discomfort it’s probably caused me for the last few years. I’m excited that maybe my self esteem will have a chance to not be scraping the ocean floor because of how my stomach looks. I’m excited that the deep, painful sense of disgust I feel about my stomach might be able to lessen.
But in a way I’ve known nothing else. My OB kept asking me all these questions assuming I’ve been in constant pain and discomfort and if it feels weird and I’m like HOW WOULD I HAVE A BASELINE FOR WHAT STOMACH FAT IS SUPPOSED TO FEEL LIKE WTF and it was vaguely if not outright frustrating. There is no way I ever, ever would have been able to predict something inside me was this wrong.
There is also an aspect of my situation that is scientifically and theoretically very fascinating. My circumstances are very rare. Not only did they find a mass that needs removal, it’s fucking enormous. Abdominal masses are categorized as “huge” at 15cm and mine is LITERALLY almost double that. Laparotomy, the procedure I will have done, is very very simple. Simple incision, simple “expansion” I think my doctor called it of my abdominal cavity, simple lifting out of this superficial mass resting on my organs, snipping out my ovary, done. The rarity of it being done on a pregnant woman though is such that most of my internet research has led me exclusively to medical journals from Seoul or the Middle East featuring samples of a couple hundred women.
Over the weekend I was oddly optimistic and peaceful about the whole upcoming procedure, the way it will change my body, being able to participate quickly in school, and the prognosis for my baby surviving the operation. Because honestly if we were able to grow a baby in the first place with one working ovary and this enormous mass from my other ovary lurking around in my body, this baby is fucking fierce. And so if it’s made it this far, if it made it through those first tenuous weeks where many women miscarry, then nothing’s going to stop it from hanging on and joining me in this world.
Then there’s the stress of the fact that I have no intention of this stopping me from completing my semester at Saint Thomas, even though it will lead to at least one class each missed if not, if I were wise, two classes. It’s me so I obviously already emailed two of my three professors to warn them that it’s probably not likely I can make it to class 4-6 days after undergoing surgery. And they both respected my proactiveness and wanted to accommodate me. So like, naturally I already got that all sorted. But when I sit back and look at the circumstances I am going into with this semester versus what led me to drop out of Adler I’m kind of like “…how the fuck have I NOT had a nervous breakdown yet?”
Call it treated panic disorder, or simply not having the time or space to process and emotionally react to everything at once…but that might all change, as I also found out an hour ago that my grandpa died. We weren’t close, he had been degenerating for two and a half years since my grandma died, and I haven’t seen him for like a year. But my dad was his primary caretaker and I worry about him. And the timing of it all is making me so angry it feels like I am on the verge of an explosion.
So that’s the latest on me. Not sure what my art life will look like right now since my whole basis of working on displaying curvier women with guts like mine is like…well my gut is a cyst, not fat, so what’s my gut actually look like? And anyway, I start classes tomorrow. But I’m hoping that will make the next 4 weeks fly by so I can get this fear over with and move on with my life, come what may, free of a foot-long ovarian cyst inside me.
After starting out the month very creatively dry, I am working on redefining my art goals for the year.
I’m not promising they’re gonna grasp my attention all that much, but it feels good to try some new things.
After taking a diversity class that made me question my depiction of people of color in my art a little bit (good intentions, but a bit exhibitionist, and ignorant), I wanted to figure out how to make my subjects interesting since I generally find white people subjects to be difficult to depict because they’re sSususuUUupeerrrRRR boringggg, I realized one of the best ways to branch out with my subjects is to depict something that is definitely underrepresented: bodies like mine.
Girls that get asked if they’re pregnant all the time. Bodies you don’t see represented in “love my body” campaigns.
I can’t wait to see what creative directions I can go with this topic.
I depicted myself again in this little dood that’s a shout out to all the introverts around who would rather stay in their houses and drink coffee and cuddle with pets.
I’m slowly chipping away at my artist’s block, but I can’t promise that’ll mean getting back into Dumping a Dragon. I still like the art, sometimes, but…yeah I dunno.
Well, the time has come! I just completed the 50th page of Dumping a Dragon.
To celebrate, I thought I’d pull out my shelf of self-written manga and go on a walk through the 50th page of my other stories! :3 Nostalgia, here we come!
Ah, but first, a spontaneous group photo of me and my 50 pagers!
Oh my gosh I almost forgot! All those ancient scans are only possible because my husband insisted on upgrading my flatbed scanner. Purely by chance, he ended up getting the latest version of the same scanner as I’ve had since my art inception. Thanks best husband ever!
In additional tech information, after fearing my laptop harddrive was failing due to the fact that any time I so much as put my hands too abruptly on the keyboard it would LITERALLY BLUESCREEN, we opened it up to see if it was something we could replace and…that seemed to settle it back into place, and no more bluescreening! I will be very sad the day this ancient laptop finally sleeps for good.