I was running on a treadmill in a strip mall gym off Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, when I was 15 weeks pregnant with my son, when I first realized I was now, forever and always to be someone’s mother. I had been living in L.A for less than a year and everyone who knew I was pregnant, had told me not to run anymore, especially not outside on the canyon trails and most certainly not on cement. They had told me to go to Cedars-Sinai Medical Centre, stop working so much and to sleep, sleep, sleep. Jogging at the gym in a consistent environment was initially my compromise. In the end, I worked right up until the day my son decided to be born and was back at work four days after his birth, being interviewed for a profile in The New York Times on The Feel Studio, my newly launched denim business. Working, the need to provide and create and collaborate, has only, in fact, heightened since his birth. I find motherhood an inspired state, as well as a discipline that is adept at teaching one the art of efficiency.
It was on that treadmill, when it first dawned on me that I wasn’t alone and never would be again. A sweet and also overwhelming sentiment that still rings in my body now. As I ran that day, I felt for the first time in my life as if someone was running with me, cheering us on, as we methodically paced the moving belt together, hearts pounding, not in sync but in motion to the same song. I remember stopping instantly and looking around the gym to see if anyone else seemed to bear witness to my own existential awakening. Later, that afternoon, I could hardly do much. I remember focusing my energy very acutely on catching up to the idea as swiftly as possible, that even though he wasn’t born yet, my son was here. Little did I know then, I would be having a beautiful boy we would call Harmony. A broken kneecap not too long after his birth would await me. As it turned out, they were right about running those canyon trails. A broken relationship would follow, and I would be back on the East Coast, during a global pandemic, right in time for the new decade to truly set in.
There is a line in my favorite Joan Didion essay that reads, “ I could stay up all night and make mistakes and none of them would count”. Being a mother, it dawns on one, that this will never again be the case. Indeed, being a single, working, self-employed mother, in such unrelenting, uncertain times, seems to underline this. In part, this realization is a well-earned relief, as much as it is a travesty. In fact, all mistakes count now, and cut so very precisely. Being alone with a small child under the age of two, sans his beloved father (my ex, and now dear friend, who sadly got stuck in Paris as the borders shut) sans his beloved nanny and without his beloved grandmother too, as much of the world sunk into social distancing - any illusion I may have still harbored about freewheeling and revocable endings most certainly came to an end. For now, I have the honor of attempting to be Harmony’s entire safe place, stripped of all other resources. I am his provider and protector, as much as I am his chef, his water fountain, his masseuse, his resting place, his ride, his buffet, his clock, his cleaner and who he can turn to for boundless amounts of affection and deep expressions of love and encouragement. I just adore being Harmony’s mum. I just adore Harmony . In the middle of the day for the two hours that he naps during this pandemic, I then resume my other tasks, running my creative studio as a photographer and stylist and as the creative director of my company FEEL. Oddly, I have never felt more inspired and focused.
Before I became one, being a mother to me had always been an infinitely romantic notion. I never once considered the labor-intensive reality that I now surrender to. Never once considered the diapers, the bottles, the peeling of apples, the steaming of apples and the feeding of apples, that would later come to define my days. Never once realized just how much pumping of milk, or gas, or baby lotion would be involved to maintain said motherhood. Never considered the clockwork routine and bad backs that would result from bending to pick up stuffed puppies and strollers or kissing scraped knees. It never crossed my mind to consider the degree to which I would rely on late-night internet essential shopping. There is always something I never knew I would ever need, arriving at the door, be it baby nail clippers, suction plates, save the day serums or sound machines that make the SHHHHHH noise incessantly until my dear darling manages to catch his sleep. Indeed, I was so desperate to be a mum, I had never even imagined what it would take to get there; never imagined the pregnancy or the healing aftermath or how on earth I would continue to persevere professionally as if nothing had ever changed. In fact, life is not the same. It is all the more acutely heartfelt, as if now I hear all of life’s vibrations in surround sound and on the big screen.
In my pre-pregnancy naivety, I had imagined something quite different; a motherhood montage of endless hugging, picnics and swimming lessons. Like any good dream, the sun never set, and the hand-blown glass flutes overflowed with golden rivers for us to dive into with singing seashells who sang songs you never wanted to end. Harmony’s dimpled smile, purer than humanly possible, was reflected in each and every pane of glass as he held my hand, never letting go. In some ways, it has all come true, that dream, now he is here. This is surely the most magical art of motherhood and the act of selective memory. Though staying up all night will never again feel novel, as Harmony is not yet two, being with him reminds me constantly of just how lucky I am to be his mum. Truly, it is all I ever really wanted of this life.
Eight weeks into the pandemic, we traipsed across the country to my brother’s house in Massachusetts. We needed to be amongst family again; be on the East Coast again and have more hands to hold again. We struggled with many bags, masks and spent two weeks more in quarantine, post-flight, by the Cape. Like all these journeys of late, it was testing, but all the more worthwhile.
Once we arrived, and were with family once more, we made these photos together for you. Harmony wanted to say , “Hi”.