Jupiter

My son Jupiter was born on 8 May 2011! I was induced 2 weeks early due to a pregnancy related medical condition. Apart from the induction I had a natural labour & birth which lasted all of 1.5 hours (I know you’re jealous. Or if you’ve never given birth you probably have no idea what this means).

He is absolutely amazing and I am loving it! I know you’re kind of supposed to say that, and sure there are things that aren’t easy (breastfeeding for one) but overall it’s just so enjoyable. I really feel very fulfilled and like I have a new purpose.

Between taking care of Jupiter and working part time and THE LAUNDRY I have very little time, so rather than writing more I will just say it with pictures!

Birthday & Scan

Yesterday was my 26th birthday! I don’t get super excited about birthdays anymore, maybe that’s an indication of getting older hehe. It’s strange, in a way I feel like I never really experienced the ages 24 and 25.. I kind of still feel 23. And in other ways I still feel 15 and 12 (never less than 12 though).

In the morning Andrew gave me a birthday card with the most amazing loving message inside. We left work in the afternoon to go shopping for my birthday present! As an early birthday present I had gotten a place on the 21 Secrets course which is all kinds of awesome. So as the rest of my birthday present I wanted to get art supplies!

We went to Atlantis, which as far as I know is the biggest art supply store in central London. I had a few things in mind that I wanted to look at, but was also quite keen to just browse and see what struck my fancy. I think that’s so great about mixed media art, you never know what tools you’re going to use and you can potentially use anything. It’s very inspirational to just walk around the store to look at stuff and think about how it could be used.

I’m very excited about the things I got! I got:

Desktop Easel
I’ve never had an easel before and I’m really excited to try it out! The one I got folds up into a box which can also be used for storing some supplies. Really handy!

A3 Sketchbook/Journal
I’ve been keen to start working a bit bigger. I like working in a book, rather than loose pages, because of the cohesiveness of having a finished ‘book’ of art once it is full. It’ll be exciting to use this in conjunction with the easel and also try my hand at some abstract stuff (following one of the 21 Secrets classes).

Caran d’Ache Neocolor II
I always get some new colours whenever I shop for art supplies (I already had the tin of 15 and an assortment of skin tones and reds). I went for greens/blues/violets as those were colours I was attracted to and want to start using a bit more.

Brushes
I got three sturdy brushes of a slightly bigger size than I usually get, to go along with working in the A3 journal.

Palette Knife
I thought this would be fun to have to apply paint/mediums to create different textures than when applying with a brush.

Brayer
I love the aesthetic of brayering paint on my paintings. I already had one but it’s so big it’s hard to avoid areas I don’t want to touch (like a pretty face), so I went for the smallest size this time.

Acrylic Paints
I wanted to get some heavy body acrylics for Tam’s 21 Secrets class but unfortunately they were out of the colours I wanted (two different type of flesh-tones). So instead I got some regular acrylics in those colours. I’m sure I’ll be able to make them work for the class and they’re handy to have in any case.

Texture Medium
Or something like it, I forget the exact name. Basically an opaque gel medium to create interesting texture.

I think that was it! I’m so excited to start playing with my new toys!!

In other news, this morning Andrew and I went for our third ultrasound scan. Usually you only have 2 scans (that’s standard in the UK anyway), but at my 20 week scan I had a low lying placenta (where the placenta covers (part of) the cervix, which means you would have to have a c-section). It is fairly common for it to be low early on, and usually it will move up, but they need to monitor that to be sure. The scan went well and they told me my placenta has moved up. I am so happy and relieved!! Everything is fine with the baby as well. His measurements are pretty much average, although apparently he has long legs! He weighs approx 2.5kg at the moment.

We’ve got an appointment with my midwife this afternoon to discuss my birth plan. So very happy to be able to discuss a natural birth!

Crocheted Caterpillar Stuffed Animal

I made this toy for the Baby in the Belly. I quite like crochet (like it better than knitting – and tend to be better at finishing stuff) but crocheted clothes tend to look quite girly, so I decided to make a stuffed animal. I wanted a simple shape that would be quite ‘huggable’ and I happened to find a pattern for a caterpillar on Ravelry. I’m really pleased with how it turned out!

New Art Pieces in February and March 2011

I have been busy busy for a change! Usually I am just lazy lazy. I have been cutting down on my World of Warcraft time lately (and unfortunately also violin time, I’d like to play more but am feeling hugely unmotivated currently), not really as a conscious choice but I just find I am busy with other things that I enjoy more.

Saturday just gone marked 30 weeks of my pregnancy! So over the past few months and the coming few weeks I’m seeing a lot of friends to catch up before ‘my life is over’ (as I’ve patronisingly been told by some people). It’s both scary and exciting to think that it’s not much longer to wait now. We’re doing a lot of preparations at the moment, mostly in the form of buying stuff. We still need to get a car seat and the carrycot attachment for our pushchair. Other than that it’s just a ton of small stuff we need. We’re also starting antenatal classes at the end of this month. We’ve signed up for the NCT courses and I look forward to meeting other couples in our area.

I’ve been fairly productive with art lately. I don’t know if it’s the pregnancy that’s inspiring me or maybe the feeling of spring which is always a positive time of year. When it comes to creating art it’s the mental obstacles that stand in my way the most (I am not good enough, my art is not pretty enough, it doesn’t look as good as x/y/z artist’s work, I don’t create as much as others so mine isn’t ‘valid’ somehow etc, the list goes on for a looooong time!). I can’t say I have found a specific way of battling these demons, but I am feeling slightly more confident lately and am really trying to tell myself that doing ANY art is all part of the process, whether I like the piece I end up with or not.

Pregnant Princess – I’d had the idea for doing a whimsy pregnancy painting floating around in my head for a while. After doing Bird in a Cage which had very dark colours, I wanted to do something with light and cheery colours. We’ve been working on our baby’s room and I wanted to make something that could possibly go up on the wall in there. I am quite pleased with how the piece turned out overall. I always find it scary to paint a face because I never feel like I have a lot of fine control over the expression, but it turned out OK (although quite different from the sketch I was working from!). I also like the colours and the textures.

Walking My Elephant – I actually don’t like this one particularly. I felt good about it when it was still a sketch, but then I started with the colour and stuff went wrong (the black outlines smudged around her mouth and I didn’t end up being able to fix it properly). Ironically I’ve had some comments from people that they like it and they think it’s cute. That just goes to show! I guess I like the concept but too much went wrong with the execution so it just left me with a bad feeling that I can’t seem to shake.

I Am Already Authentic – This one I like, both because of what it looks like and what it represents. This is an art journal spread that is the week 1 assignment of Tam’s free Art, Heart & Healing course. The aim of the assignment was to listen to my inner critical voice and write down all my self-criticisms and doubts. Then I gessoed over the words as a symbolic letting go. The next part was to paint a ‘self portrait’ and turn the criticisms into one positive statement (coming from the point of view that the critical self is only trying to protect us, albeit going about it in a negative and self-destructive way!).

For me the main theme that came out of this exercise is around not feeling authentic or special as I am, and always feeling like I have to be more like other people in order to be liked or loved or noticed. It’s a constant struggle as intellectually I know I am authentic and special and have my own unique message to impart, but I find it very hard to really feel and believe that as well. It is one of the many reasons I find it hard to create art and update my blog regularly as well! I often can’t imagine why anyone could possibly be interested in me or what I have to say. I am not saying that in a self-deprecating ‘pity me’ way by the way, I am just trying to illustrate some of my personal struggles around self-worth and authenticity.

Hint Of A Smile – A while back I did a workshop at Blade Rubber Stamps to learn how to make your own Japanese Stab Bound Journal. It was a fun class and at the end we took home our own album that we made during the class. I think it has about 15 pages in it with nice high quality paper (not watercolour paper but it’s fairly thick and very nice for art journalling on). This piece is on the first page of the album. It’s so nice to work in an album I created myself from scratch! Really adds to the feeling of ownership and pride. I am also very pleased with this page. I felt confident and in control about the face and I like the colours and level of complexity in the background.

Iris’ Life Update ca Feb 2011

I find it hard to update regularly. Part of it is laziness, part of it is not knowing what to write about, but I think the biggest part is feeling like I don’t have anything interesting to say, or that people won’t be interested in what I have to say. I guess that’s a problem of self-confidence. So what I’ll do is I’ll make this an Iris’ Life Update ca Feb 2011, because that easily solves the problem of not knowing what to write about. The other ones I’ll have to work on solving.

Pregnancy/Baby

Obviously this is the most dominant feature in my life at the moment. You know how once people get pregnant or have kids that’s the only thing they’ll talk about anymore? Well, it’s true. It completely takes over your life. Especially in the first few months it was all I could think about all day. I would obsessively check how many weeks along I was and how the foetus was developing, not to mention worry about all the things that could go wrong. The obsession is abating a bit now (I am nearly 26 weeks, or 6 months, or roughly two-thirds of the way through) but it gets replaced with more practical concerns like what do we need, how much does it cost, where do we buy it, where do we put it.

So far I would say pregnancy has been a mixed experience. On the positive side, I love being pregnant and knowing that there is a baby growing inside me. I love feeling the baby move, it’s really funny and touching. It’s like I always have company. I also think that because the baby is inside me and moving, I tend to regard it as more mature than an actual baby, it’s kind of hard to explain what I mean. I really like sharing the experience with Andrew and whenever he can feel the baby move it’s so special. I also love it when Andrew talks to my belly! It’s so funny and touching, makes me feel really loved.

The negative aspects of pregnancy are pretty much all physical at this stage and they fluctuate a lot from day to day. In the beginning (first trimester) there was the nausea and the tiredness. They went away around 3 months into the pregnancy and since then until about early January things had been quite comfortable. For the past month or so I’ve been experiencing quite bad back aches and I’m starting to get tired again. The tiredness isn’t so much from the pregnancy itself, but rather because I wake up about every 2 hours during the night, so even if I sleep for a long time, the quality of sleep I’m getting isn’t great. The back aches I’m doing some exercises for and taking paracetamol. The combination of the two seems to help although it fluctuates from day to day. I also asked my midwife to refer me to a physio, for which the waiting list is 6 weeks…. alright then.

From an emotional point of view there are a few things I’ve struggled with. Firstly, my growing belly and weight gain. It’s something I find incredibly hard to reconcile and know how to feel about it. On the one hand it’s awesome and a great source of pride. On the other hand it triggers a lot of negative feelings about my self-image. I’ve always been a fairly slim person (although I had a bit of a pudgy phase when I was a teenager) with stable weight, but at the same time that doesn’t mean I didn’t worry about being fat/gaining weight/the way I looked. Although I have never been either anorexic or overweight physically, emotionally weight has always been an issue for me. So gaining weight due to the pregnancy affects the way I feel about myself and I guess I feel less in control. Currently I eat whatever I want and whenever I’m hungry, and my weight gain is about on par with what is normal. That doesn’t stop me worrying about it though =p

Secondly, the sex of the baby. Andrew and I were in agreement from the beginning that we wanted to know the sex and I never made a secret of the fact that I really wanted a girl, no matter how ‘politically incorrect’ that may sound. As an aside: sure you’re supposed to say ‘as long as it’s healthy’, but I find that a bit of a ruse, because it’s not like there is anyone out there actively hoping their baby isn’t healthy. I think it’s much more healthy from an emotional point of view to be honest about what you’re feeling, because whether you announce them to the world or not, the feelings are there and need to be dealt with.

So, I wanted a girl, which made me quite sure that I was going to have a boy (because that is how the universe works n’est-ce pas?). Andrew was really convinced we were having a girl. Turns out I was right =p So we’re having a boy, which is something I have really had to get used to. I still really want a girl, but I don’t wish this baby was a girl. Having a boy is emotionally complicated for me. Girls are much more firmly in my own comfort zone: I am a girl, I was raised by a single mother, I didn’t have a father figure or much exposure to boys/men. On some level I have probably always been intimidated by boys/men, because they were so very other. And I probably also passively got the message that women don’t need men, and that boys don’t need their mother. Having a boy triggers many more feelings of discomfort and insecurity in me. It is funny, but also reassuring, that all my friends who have had babies in the past 1.5 years (or are expecting now) also had boys.

Thirdly, going through this huge life changing experience without my mother. This is a difficult one, because as of yet I don’t actually really feel the impact of this. Of course it sucks in an ongoing way, but what I am most worried about is the labour and that is a big unknown. Although I’m sure the labour isn’t going to be a picnic physically, that is not what I am worried about (ironically, before I got pregnant it always seemed the biggest obstacle, why would anyone willingly push out a baby through their vagina? Insane – whereas now I’m worried about NOT being able to have a natural birth and needing a caesarean). As of yet, and I imagine until I actually go through it, I do not know what my emotional needs are going to be during labour. Of course I will have Andrew, which is hugely important to me, but he is not a woman, nor is he my mother. I have read Hope Edelman’s Motherless Mothers (a few years back I read Motherless Daughters) which has already been hugely helpful and actually made me more aware of the emotional issues that could come up during the birth (and afterwards, but that’s a whole ‘nother chapter for later).

Art/Craft

Art has taken a little bit of a backseat the past few months. I think I go through phases, ebbs and flows of inspiration and creativity. It’s something I used to berate myself for, like I wasn’t allowed to feel good about the art I create (or wasn’t allowed to create at all) just because I’m not consistent and do it every day. I’m trying to let go of that feeling and just create when I feel like it, and not when I don’t.

I had the idea for Bird in Cage for a while, I did a quick sketch last year in a notebook, but hadn’t sat down to actually create it until this year. I used bits of greeting cards and letters that family & friends sent to me over the years as the background. Then I went over it with gesso and paint until I got the grungy textured background I was aiming for. The bird itself was done with watersoluble oil pastels. The cage was done with gold embossing powder. I love the effect of embossing, but it’s such a time consuming and fiddly job.

I’m currently working on a whimsy portrait on watercolour paper. I’d like to improve my shading techniques and generally get more comfortable at creating faces. I also recently worked a bit on the digital portrait I started last year, but I paid dearly for it the next day as it made the RSI in my elbow very bad.

I’m also working on a soft toy for the baby. It will be crocheted. The colours I picked are grassy green, bright purple and navy. It’s going to be some type of caterpillar-like animal. The yarn I’m using is quite thin and I’m using a 2.5mm hook, but nevertheless progress is quite quick. I just have to be careful I don’t overdo it with my elbow. I have until May to finish it anyway!

Violin

Still enjoying & taking lessons! I meet up with a couple of friends every Wednesday (they come to my place, lucky me!) and we practice together. It’s great, because if we didn’t do that I would probably get very behind. I don’t practice a lot by myself, due to laziness and tiredness. I definitely do want to continue with it though, as far as possible throughout pregnancy and after the baby is born. I think it will be nice (not to mention important) to have a few evenings a week to do stuff just for me. The baby enjoys music too! He tends to move around when I play, or listen to music or when we go to a concert.

World of Warcraft

Ahh the time sink and reason for all my laziness! I’m mostly kidding, I haven’t actually been able to play that much lately, but I have to say I am enjoying the game a lot more again since Cataclysm came out. I first levelled my resto druid who used to be my main during TBC and at the beginning of Wrath. I lost interest in the class during Wrath as the challenge was just gone. It’s slightly more challenging again, but once I hit 85 and was faced with the grind for gear and rep I just didn’t feel like it.

Instead I dusted off my holy priest. Holy priesting is SO MUCH FUN right now! The class really has a lot of abilities to play with. She’s about 20% away from lv85 and I actually look forward to getting geared up for heroics. On the side I’m also playing my prot pally a bit. It’s verrry different from what it was like in Wrath, but nice to have new toys to play with and re-learn things. It keeps things interesting.

Baby!!!!!!!

Yes that’s mine!! And Andrew’s. We’re so incredibly super excited and happy! I’m currently 13 weeks and 5 days pregnant and my due date is 21 May 2011.

It’s actually starting to get good now. From week 5 to week 10 I was quite nauseous and incredibly tired all the time. Now I feel fine (although still needing slightly more sleep than usual) apart from feeling RAVENOUSLY hungry pretty much all the time! But it’s definitely preferable to not fancying food at all. Other people probably won’t notice yet but I’m starting to get a bit of a belly, my trousers are getting a bit tight. So are my bras, which I am SO not complaining about =p

It was also really nice and special to get a scan. Before my scan I was just so worried and anxious all the time because there wasn’t really any way of knowing whether everything was alright. I’m not sure what it’s like in other countries but when you get pregnant in the UK you get a LOT of information which include a lot of scary statistics. I’m one of those people who prefers knowledge over ignorance, but it’s very hard to keep positive in the face of so many statistics about stuff that can go wrong (especially in the first trimester).

We went on holiday to Holland for two weeks at the end of October to visit family & friends. Everyone was really happy and supportive. We went by car and actually managed to fit my old changing table (which was also my aunt’s changing table and possibly my mum’s) AND playpen in the boot. It’s like family freecycle haha. I love the idea of using the same furniture that my mum used for me when I was a baby.

On a completely different note, one of my art journal pages is featured in this month’s Art Journalling It’s All Good e-zine. I was really surprised and flattered when they asked. Getting a copy is only $5 and it’s filled with useful and interesting articles about art journalling, I really recommend it. Profits from the sales go to a good cause.