i am growing but please let me be

Blammo! I have just now completed a brand new Emotia drawing. It’s been a year and a half since my last piece in this series, and good god was there plenty to try to put into it since then.

I would like to present, “I am Growing But Please Let Me Be.”

This took an extraordinary amount of work to conceptualize. I actually had a fairly completed first draft of this concept that hung me up when I got to the shading pieces. Looking at the first draft now I definitely see how it hadn’t hit the mark yet, but honestly it left me fairly surprised that when I sat down to restart again, I actually completed it. All week I’d been trying to start a new draft and not getting much farther than an outline and maybe a background color. But I also couldn’t stop thinking about it, so I guess I knew I wouldn’t quit until I had finished this.

I’m not really sure why or how this ended up being the final pose. The previous drafts after the first attempt were much more aggressive than this one. But I looked through my other Emotia paintings a lot as I was working on this and none of the others are incredibly assertive or aggressive either, so ultimately I don’t think that would have worked. Plus, if this hadn’t been the final pose I don’t know if I would have liked how I tried to incorporate the books/papers.

Anyway, there were so many emotional layers to try to fit into a single image from 2019. It’s been intense. It’s been really difficult to process.

In many ways I don’t believe I’ll fully process my cyst and subsequent surgery, weight loss, and recovery until long after I’ve also given birth. The cyst still feels like an emotional gaping hole because I have a lot of resentment for the timing of how we found it. While on the one hand if we’d found it on its own, when I wasn’t pregnant, I know we would have felt convinced it meant we could never have kids, and that would have been devastating (and also incorrect). But as it happened, not only did it make the first trimester really really difficult (not that anyone loves the first trimester), it robbed me of the opportunity to essentially see what my healthy body was supposed to look like without the cyst. And I never will, because the next time my belly will be empty will be after I’ve given birth to a human.

And it also definitely feels like the cyst came out and my baby filled that hole without actually…patching it up so to speak? It was really interesting gaining those first 15lbs after the surgery because I still maintain that since my belly had previously been stretched around the cyst, I didn’t get a pregnancy belly so much as my baby belly filled up the cyst belly, same shape and everything. It wasn’t until after I passed the point that my cyst had brought me that my stomach looked and felt different to me. So it felt more appropriate to include the representation of my pregnancy still in a gaping hole in my body.

Finally, this year I’ve also just been calmly keeping my schoolwork in lockdown. What a better way to represent that than have it be squished under my thick ass? I actually put some screenshots of three papers that I wrote for my program on the fluttering papers haha. It was hard because I haven’t really had any significant textbooks necessarily for this program; it’s been mostly the paper-writing that has provided most of the learning. Grad school has definitely been a non-issue in many ways, but it always seems to come up and people always seem awestruck that I’ve been doing as much school as I have this year, with as slow as I’ve actually been going with the program.

Moving up, I’ve got my heart on my sleeve this time because pregnancy has destroyed any sort of social filters I used to possess. I’m cranky, you’ll know. Immediately. You offend me, you’ll now. Immediately. Fortunately, most of the time since maybe May, I’ve just been indifferent. But hell hath no fury like my opinionated ass if you start to rile me up.

This has not felt like “me” either. I’ve felt a bit of distress over the seeming lack of control I have over my tongue. I don’t consider that maybe I’ve gone too far till after the deed has been done. Fortunately I can still focus on smoothing things over with people after I wound them, without actually apologizing given that usually I lose my temper over shit I definitely still mean.

And…the eyes. So 2019 has been a very…public year for me. But not in a social, I’m involved with people kind of way. Pregnancy just is a very public affair. Your body becomes public property, essentially, with everyone soliciting their opinions, admiration, curiosity, etc. where they have previously not shown any interest in me. I think that’s the biggest difficulty I have with how closely people watch me these days. I know that many of the interactions I have had with people, especially at work, would not have happened if I weren’t pregnant. People who hardly consider me a fleck in their vision have to ask me “how are you feeling?” every time I see them. So really, the question is not even directed at me, but my pregnancy.

And the thing about pregnancy is most days, most hours, most experiences are just daily living, only it’s living that is happening while I also have a little boy in my belly rolling and jabbing and growing.

People are just really excited and curious about pregnant women and it generally ends up being inappropriate, invasive, and unnecessary in their execution. And circling back to me not being able to hold my tongue, if you are the 50th person in the span of a very long day where I work 8 hours and then go to 6 hours of class who loudly and enthusiastically asks “HOW ARE YOU FEELING!??!?!?”, then I will probably shut you down.

Maybe it’s because I’m someone who has had mental health problems for years and years but someone asking me how I’m feeling when they’re really just wanting to know, most likely, if I’ve got morning sickness right now (people honestly believe it’s normal or expected for a woman to throw up for an entire nine months of a pregnancy apparently), ends up feeling offensive, intrusive and disingenuous. If you didn’t ask the other two people who walked in before me how they’re feeling, don’t fucking ask me. Especially if you don’t actually care what I have to say (if I’m not comfortable with you as a person in my life, do you think I want to be honest when you ask me that anyway? Because the chances are, if I was great before you asked me that, the moment you ask me that my most honest answer would be “irritated” and you don’t want to know that, do you?).

Just because you’re really excited about babies and pregnant ladies doesn’t mean that the pregnant lady you’re projecting this onto has any obligation to share your enthusiasm. There’s less and less to be enthusiastic about when relaxin makes your neck crack every time you turn your head, or your thighs are constantly sore and achey because your pelvis is so aggressively shifting, or your baby moves so rapidly in your belly you get light-headed, or you read another article about the amount of blood you’re going to lose after you give birth and suddenly consider the possibility that you’ll just bleed out after delivery and die in a hospital bed.

At work at least, I’ve expressed my annoyance to the people I trust enough to lessen their pregnancy-related inquiries, and I’ve been rude or cold to enough other people so that my daily experience with people asking about my pregnancy has dropped to a more tolerable level. At school, I found, with few exceptions most 22-year-old girls and varying ages of men are disinterested if not terrified of “the pregnant girl in their class.” I could get away with nobody but me bringing up my pregnancy in a whole class, even after I was very obviously pregnant in my two summer classes. But when I did unironically have to pee two or three times during a lecture, everybody was quick to justify it for me, so I’ll enjoy the free pass to have an overactive bladder while it lasts (although the overactive bladder before pregnancy was most definitely a cyst symptom. It’s going to be crazy when I can potentially go 6-8 hours without NEEDING to pee in a few months.)

So…yeah, that’s the eyes. In my first draft I expressed the constant public interest in my body as a spotlight, but that didn’t feel right. It wasn’t really a source of light for me in any way. Usually it causes latent anxiety if not my normal irritability. And since I knew I wanted my belly to glow (although in the first draft I just did this weird like “here’s my heart, it slid down from my chest into my belly” which I didn’t end up liking), I didn’t want there to be a competing light source. I was going to try eyes on stalks for a while, or just like a grid pattern, but then last night as I was trying to decide how to display them I was like “wait why don’t I just do scribbly inky black drawings of eyes” and aha! Ryan helped me make them a bit more interactive with my hand and then I gave them some pigment and that was done.

Speaking of Ryan, while I originally wanted to incorporate the floofy white skirt that was in my last two paintings, I opted out of that and just highlighted my wedding ring. Which I haven’t even been able to wear for three weeks because it got too snug and I was paranoid it would get stuck. But I still thought it was important to note that my marriage has been a source of constant stability and refuge for me. Ryan has been an amazing and steady source of emotional and physical support for me. We’ll never forget those first few days after my surgery when I couldn’t get up from the toilet without his help. I’ll never forget how he cried when we saw our baby at 12 weeks before our surgery. I’ll never forget the sheer joy, camaraderie, relief, and pride of choosing a name for our son. And I also can’t take it for granted that he has been patiently supporting me while I’m in school even if it’s meant leaving him 2-3 nights a week alone to fend for himself. We keep in constant contact and if we argue it’s straightforward, quick, and honest. I really would be completely alone without him.

Finally, my other Emotia paintings except for “Rise Again, Fighting” don’t really feature “me” even though they’re embodiments of “me.” This time around, this feeling I was trying to depict was so intimate, and so closely related to my own bodily experience, I didn’t even bother pretending like it was happening to someone else. On the contrary, it’s very much me, and my body, that has been affected by these experiences.

The rest of the drawing feels a bit simpler than I expected but again, looking back at the other Emotia drawings, they haven’t necessarily been conceptually more complicated than this. If anything this one is a lot more focused and personal than especially some of the earlier ones were.

Another interesting contrast to the other ones is that at least in the last two I worked hard to include some of the recurring elements of earlier drawings. But any attempt to do so this time around would have been forced and unnatural. I think that makes a good point, though, about how different from my past self I have felt this year. I actually wrote a paper for my careers class, unexpectedly, that made me realize not only that I am in a very different place in my life than ever before, that that is in fact not a bad thing. Of course I am. I am having a child. That will change everything. I am fundamentally as I have always been, but in many ways my beliefs, feelings, and plans have shifted to revolve around the new and slightly strange concept of “my family” …where now, for the first time, by that I mean, my husband and my child.

And with that, here’s all the earlier ones! Most recent to the oldest.

Endure
February 2016

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