For Amaia Arrazola (Vitoria, 1984), illustrating is the best profession in the world. “If I didn’t do this, I don’t know what I’d be doing,” he said in a TED talk on creativity in 2015. That Amaia in which a racing heart is sensed behind a veil of nerves, is not the same Amaia with whom I speak today. The meteorite of motherhood fell on her two years ago. He was 34 years old. She was the first of her friends to become a mother and she does not hesitate to admit that until then she had very little connection to “the motherly”, that she had no references. “We need to know these stories in the first person because they are the most truthful and the ones that really bring us closer to what it is to be a mother. They bring us closer to that ambivalence of feelings, emotions and tensions that having a child involves ”, she tells me. She contributes her own account: The meteorite (Lunwerg). And in it we see many women reflected for whom reaching motherhood has also been like receiving the impact of “a small meteorite of flesh, bone and tears” that has blown up our previous existence. At the time this interview takes place, Amaia Arrazola has just started reading Three womenby Sylvia Plath, and I can’t think of a better literary company.
Pregunta: He writes at the beginning of the book: “I knew I was going to have a daughter. What I didn’t know was that this daughter was going to have a mother. Can we prepare for what comes with motherhood?
Reply: Keep in mind that in the book I narrate my experience, I always say that there are as many maternity wards as there are mothers. I certainly wasn’t prepared. And that I did my homework: I went to all the prepartum courses that they told me I had to attend, I learned to inhale and expire as they explained to me, I walked on all fours through the living room of my house … I had bought the bathtub , the prepared room and the hospital bag on the front door of the house. He knew what temperature the bath water had to be when Ane was born and he was clear about the sleep schedules that she would follow. But I was not ready. Absolutely. Now I look back and I think that I experienced that pregnancy in a very “infantilized” way, from a visit to the doctor, more concerned about my swollen ankles than about the meteorite that would impact my life and the consequences it would bring to it. I was not prepared for the ravages in my body, loneliness, isolation, loss of identity, or work-life balance problems.
P: Who is ready?
R: I suppose there will be women better advised than me. Women with closer networks. Women more in touch with motherhood, who have seen more closely what it means to be a mother. Society could also prepare us more, not making care a third-tier activity. To me, of course, it caught me very by surprise. Let’s say motherhood blew up in my face.
P: Would you say that we need first person texts (and in your case also illustrations) that speak to us, that explain to us, the experience of being a mother?
R: Of course. I think it is a very silenced issue, very ignored, it was taken for granted that being a mother was a woman’s obligation and its consequences, “things in life.” There is a lot of literature on mothers, a lot of literature from men, doctors, psychologists, therapists, male nutritionists all of them writing about pregnancy, childbirth and parenting. But not so many first-person accounts of mothers telling us how they got through it. We need to know these stories in the first person because they are the most truthful and the ones that really bring us closer to what it is to be a mother. They bring us closer to the ambivalence of feelings, emotions and tensions that having a child involves.
P: He also tells in the book that it happens that no matter how much they warn us, we really do not believe that it is “so bad” until we are immersed in the experience. Isn’t this in itself a symptom of our blindness to “the maternal”?
R: Totally. I was very little connected to motherhood. He lived to work, to travel, to go out with friends. I was the first of my group of friends with a daughter and when I held her for the first time I realized that I had never seen a mother breastfeeding her child up close. I had no idea where to start. I thought it was like little dogs, which are born and “lick-lol-lol” hook up with their mother. But what about. I had to learn to feed my daughter, and she had to learn to eat.
Now, I look back and wonder how I could have been so blind because it is obvious that we are not all mothers or fathers, but we are all sons and daughters.
P: What would you say drives us to be mothers?
R: Well I do not know. I suppose there will be women who have been waiting for a long time, who feel like it and who decide freely. But I am aware that there is also a great social pressure in being mothers. There is great pressure to be free, hard-working, successful, to have great bodies, but at the same time there comes a time when we are required to be mothers and not overdo it.
P: And the context? Can we be free in our maternity wards in a context that is not kind to childhood and care?
R: It’s hard. Information channels must be sought outside of the established ones. I, for example, had real problems with breastfeeding. I couldn’t get Ane to gain weight because she wasn’t eating well, because she wasn’t hooking well. I went over and over to the outpatient clinic in my area and neither nurses nor pediatricians told me anything other than “the girl does not get fat, keep trying.” This gave me a feeling of guilt that was difficult to explain and difficult to understand. The first task that life entrusted me to take care of Ane, I was already doing it wrong and without knowing how to remedy it. After months the physical pain (cracked nipples, injuries) and mental was such that I Googled the phone number of a lactation consultant who came to my house. He listened to me cry for two hours, he repositioned Ane and gave me a couple of tips, and from then on things started to flow, I connected with Ane and I felt free.
P: How does being so alone and so alone influence parenting, without that much-needed family network?
R: It influences negatively. We are more alone than ever and parenting flows much better with a network of people who help you and relieve you of certain tasks – especially at the beginning. The demand with a baby is very intense and if you have people to help you with the logistics from the beginning, everything is easier. Not to mention having a network of women around you who have more experience than you, who have gone through what you’ve been through and who can guide and advise you.
P: It speaks of the loss of identity, of leaving ourselves “for later”, of how the physical boundaries between your “I” and that of the other disappear. What do we do with the guilt?
R: I blame her I confront her. I try to find out where it comes from, rationalize it, name it. It is inevitable that when you have a daughter the borders between you and her are blurred a bit, both physically and mentally. Recently you were one, and now two. At the same time she cannot live without you, she needs your arms, your eyes, your chest, your energy, your whole being to live. If you are not around, cry. If he doesn’t feel you, he doesn’t smell you, cry. So being able to get into the bathroom and wash your hair for 40 minutes is a bit tricky. And whoever says to wash their hair, says they have a moment for themselves, to think, to read.
I was used to drawing, to expressing myself through art. My life, my work consisted of being able to paint, be able to draw, think, create, travel to paint murals, whether they were personal projects or commissioned commissions … And when I say my work I mean my personality. There are people who need to write, compose a song, or play the trumpet. Illustration, drawing, is part of my being. So when I stopped being able to “do”, the question was inevitable: now who am I?
P: I do not know if there is a life experience that contains more contradictions and greater ambivalences …
R: No. I, even what I have lived, I think not. There are strong experiences, experiences that change your life, and will probably shape your personality, but that will take you from one pole to the other of your being, from the most absolute love to the loss of nerves and back to total love and back to fatigue and loneliness, I think there is nothing like it.
P: She mentioned earlier her difficulties in working since she was a mother. On creation and motherhood, he raises in the book how it is possible that throughout history there have been women who have been mothers and artists. “The breeding and creation binomial can be devastating and frustrating.” What are the biggest challenges you have faced since you became a mother that you never imagined before?
R: Make room for everything. To rediscover that own physical and imaginary room in which I found the tools to create. One baby occupies everything. His clothes, his toys, the guests at home, but you also occupy your arms, your thoughts … Everything. The biggest challenge that I have encountered has been to find the place from which I was drawing and to find my voice again. That is why for me this book is the most important that I have done so far. The meteorite it is a desperate cry: “I’m still here! I still exist! Don’t forget about me! “
P: Can motherhood also be a source of inspiration? Can it transform you as an artist?
R: Of course. In my case it is a source of inspiration every day. I look at Ane and I see how her eyes discover and hallucinate with things that pass by for me. I transformed since I found out I was pregnant. I changed certain habits, I prepared myself and with her birth, the responsibility of her life has made the Amaia of today different from the Amaia of before. As an artist, seeing life being born and growing is amazing. I see how he is composing sentences right now and I can’t help but marvel at how his little but perfect brain is building. That pride. Right now I love taking jobs where I can involve him in some way and in almost everything I do there is a bit of it.
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