MOM CRUSH: SARA

PORTLAND, OR

this momma. ON why podcasts for working moms are like top shelf porn. on surviving a mid-term miscarriage, MAYAN ABDOMINAL MASSAGE, and on why we may all be happier if we learn to 'embrace the poop.'

INTERVIEW BY KARIN HESSELVIK

PHOTOS BY MIKOLA ACCUARDI

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   What’s the first thing you remember creating?

A jumpsuit that I couldn’t wear because there was no opening to get into it. This was not on purpose, like some interesting Rei Kawakubo experiment, I was just new to sewing and didn’t know what I was doing. These days, I always tell my students, 'make all the mistakes you can because those are the ones you’re likely not to make again.' But I am also not the kind of instructor that would kick back and let someone make an unwearable garment. I’d be like, 'hay boo, let’s throw a zipper in there somewhere, yeah?'

What's the most recent thing you created?

A few outfits for a gaggle of teenage bffs. It's the start to an ongoing project I have long fantasized about - doing dress up shoots and in the midst of hair-braiding and popcorn-eating, asking them their opinions about the current political landscape and what their hopes, dreams and fears are for the future.

Are you a kid or a grown up?

OMG, a kid. Such a kid. I don't think I will ever grow up. I don't think I have it in me. Every moment of my life feels surreal. I am married with two (three any day now) children and we live in a house we bought and every day I ask my 4-year old who he is and how he got into my home. When he answers, 'I'm your child,' I exhale an obnoxious sigh and say, 'does that mean I have to keep you and take care of you and stuff?' and he says yes. Sometimes he is close to tears and sometimes he catches the glint in my eye and laughs. Either way this kid is going to need a lot of therapy. 

What are you most proud of?

Jesus, everything. That I got up this morning and put pants on. That I managed to end up being a semi-functional citizen. That I got shit lucky enough to meet a man whom I adore and who was down to put a ring on it and knock me up with two little people who entertain us on the daily. That I sometimes still manage to do things that scare or unnerve me. I’m proud that I've loved being pregnant and have experienced the process of birth. I pee when I laugh these days but it's totally worth it. I am in a constant state of love/hating female hormones because I think if it were financially, socially and globally acceptable, I would probably end up mothering a whole damn football team. And also, I am proud that my marriage has sustained even with two crazy kiddos around, and that we still like being around each other (he works from home like me – it is solid cray), sometimes even enough to get 'nekkid.'

What do you do outside of momming and being a partner?

I get to teach sewing and pattern-making to amazing girls and women (and sometimes men) through PCC, at a non-profit in the cully neighborhood called Verde and at my home studio.

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When are you your most creative self?

When the house is quiet and I have had my coffee. I will sneak into the studio and go nuts to a NPR podcast. Uninterrupted podcasts these days is like top shelf porn for a working mom. 

What does freedom mean to you?

Getting to live a life in a place where I got to make the decision when I wanted to start a family and with whom to start it. I had a couple abortions in the past and I will be forever grateful to Planned Parenthood for being there for me unequivocally, unwaveringly, unquestioningly.  I don't ever want to live in a world where women don't have this right and it stings to know we are not that world yet. And getting to hire a babysitter every now and then so the baby daddy and I can go have non-rushed sex in a pretty hotel, haha, what I really mean is go to the movies and hold hands for 90 minutes.

Your favorite place to hang out at home and why?

The kitchen floor, or the floor in general, anywhere in the house. I eat dinner on the floor with the kids. I change diapers on the floor.  We wrestle and read books and roll around and pig pile on the floor.  I feel so guilty saying this because I see the housing struggle in this city and find it terribly troubling but I love our home, I still can’t believe we have a pad in portland, 7 blocks down the street from where my parents are still living in the house I grew up in.

Three words that describe your take on motherhood

Embrace the poop.

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What have you learned about yourself since becoming a mother?

That little humans will beat a type A personality right the hell out of you. 

What are some life hacks that you’ve learned as a mom? 

Rice and glitter.  Lots of it.  All over the floor.  Whenever you need to. Just give in to the mess, it’ll be okay, I promise. It will absolutely get everywhere but a broom and a dustpan from the dollar store will clean it all up and in addition to the fun your 'chillrun' will have while adoring you for letting them go buck wild, just think about all the extra comic moments you’ll get out of it like when you’re changing your baby’s diaper and he has a rice-coated penis, or when your toddler walks around for days with purple glitter stuck to his eyelid/cheek/neck/hair and he looks like he just emerged from a long night inside a strip club.  Also, the free coffee and snack station at New Seasons are pretty great. 

What role does creativity play in how you parent?

Without it I think I would shrivel up into a defeated, hollow version of myself.  There are some McGuyver-type tricks I have come up with in a pinch, meaning my kids are entertained while I regain a sense of purpose while parenting.  It creates one of those astounding momma moments I never knew myself to be capable of.  They usually involve high-grade supplies like tape, glue, rubber bands, paper clips and dental floss. Or making up the words to songs or just plain making up songs. Really terrible ones.

 

What’s the best thing about having sons?

They are only 4 and almost 2 but so far, when it’s not killing me softly, their energy and constant inquisitiveness in the world around them. I tell my toddler that being a boy is rad because he can pee anywhere and while standing up. He’s into it.

The hardest thing?

Their energy and constant inquisitiveness in the world around them.

 

Can you share the story about your mid-term miscarriage and how you dealt with it?

It was the most painful  (emotionally and physically) life event I’ve gone through.  It happened at 19 weeks, well past the point of telling everyone we were pregnant.  I had a little belly.  I felt pregnant.  But something was also off, like, different than with Sebe (my first born).  I was really uncomfortable early on but all the pre-natals were perfect.  I started having some discharge but it was very dark brown and because it didn’t look like blood I wasn’t freaking out.  The midwives didn’t seem alarmed – my first pregnancy and labor were so smooth and I’m in relatively good health.  One night when Sebe, who was a little over a year at the time, was sleeping and both the baby daddy and our roommate were out of town, I writhed through about three hours of excruciating pain before deciding to call my midwife. It was 3 am and she was also a new momma and I just remember thinking, fuck, this is not a phone call I want to make. She told me she didn’t think it was a miscarriage but that I knew my body better than her and if I felt like I needed to go to the hospital then I should. The next call I made was to my parents.  I’m sure I was crying by this point and my dad said they would drive separately so that one of them could drive me to the ER and the other one could stay at the apartment with Sebe.  

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The next several hours are still so clear, I think there must be something about going through trauma that you remember it, even if you don’t want to. I stumbled to pull on some leggings and then I tiptoed downstairs. I paced up and down the sidewalk holding my belly and trying to breath. My dad showed up and when I opened the door he looked at me and I think he must have just known something bad was happening but wanted to stay strong for me. Through tears I told him I thought I was losing the baby and he said 'it’s okay, just get in, it’s okay, let’s get to the hospital.'  When I sat down I felt the worst gush of liquid come out of me and I lost it. I couldn’t stop crying.  He was driving fast, through red lights, and when we got to the ER, he ran inside for a wheelchair.  When I got up I looked down at the passenger seat to a big pool of blood.  The hospital was quiet and there were four bored looking admittance nurses at the desk.  They took my information and I remember all their faces falling as I told them what has happening.


They wheeled me into the nearest room and while sobbing, I was told to push. To push out a half-cooked and dead baby. They asked if I wanted to know the gender.  I said no. They asked if I wanted to hold it. I said no.  Then there was a drug IV drip so the nurse could stick her arm inside me to try and sweep out any bits of “ragged uterus” (her words).  She didn’t feel like she was successful so suddenly I was signing paperwork saying if I died due to complications from the D&C surgery I was about to endure, I couldn’t sue the hospital.  The nurse told me I should call my husband.  It was too early, I told her. I didn’t want to wake him up. Call your husband, she said again. So I did. I called him while he was out of town for a big work thing and told him we had just lost the baby.  He told me he loved me and would call me back soon. I remember his parents coming into the room soon after. I realized he must have called them. My mother-in-law is a terrifically strong woman who had several miscarriages while trying to have children.  She made me laugh when all I wanted to do was cry.  It was good.  


After getting discharged, I was really weak but excited to hold Sebe, and was worried that I wouldn’t have the strength to take care of him.  So after getting to snuggle him, which helped tremendously, my mother-in-law took him to her house to spend the night. There was about an hour or two at my apartment, being surrounded by my mother and my mother-in-law and I felt like, I’m going to get through this. The next several days/weeks/months entailed so much uncontrollable sobbing. Mostly at night. I wanted to be strong for Sebe and would get through the day but then at night, lots of crying.  After a mid-term miscarriage, your hormones are FUCKED up.  So I blamed most of how I was feeling on that. But it was hard.  I was doing the mommy n’ me circuit with Seb and all I would see were pregnant women with their big, healthy bellies or mommas who had what I wanted, a toddler and a newborn. I would be so mad at pregnant strangers I didn’t know but I was also so genuinely happy for one of my best friends and my sister-in-law, both of whom had gotten pregnant when I had. I went to a Hanukkah party thrown by my pregnant bestie just days after my miscarriage.  I called her the day before to let her know what happened and she cried and said I didn’t have to come.  But I insisted on going and after seeing and holding her belly I definitely had a moment with myself in the bathroom. It was hard. 


Every woman is different.   For me, I wanted it back – I wanted to be pregnant again immediately. I had to go through so many doctors appointments and blood draws and all the while waiting for my period to come back, which is a sign that your body is getting itself back on track. I would get lost in miscarriage message boards online and read every article I could find about getting pregnant again after a miscarriage. I don’t recommend those message boards to anyone.  

Two of the most magical things that happened through all of this. One, while in pain alone before I went to the hospital, I sort of blacked out and had an out-loud conversation with my grandmother, who has been deceased for some time now.  She survived 18 months at an Auschwitz concentration camp when she was a young woman and I think in all the pain I was experiencing, I thought about her and her life.  She definitely helped me get through that night.  The other magical thing is that my second baby was born on the day of my miscarriage, exactly one year later.  I’m not so hippy dippy woo woo but I think that’s pretty special. I feel like Sasha is my miscarriage baby, he just wasn’t ready to make his entrance yet.

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Why do you think there is still so much social stigma attached to miscarriage?

Ali Wong, a comedian and one of my femme crushes, said that her mother had one but never talked about it so when Ali had one and went to her momma, instead of offering support her mom was like, 'Yeah, so? So what, you had a miscarriage.  We all have them. Try again.' Look, I totally get why women who are going through one or have gone through one don’t look to make it the dinner party topic of the evening.  We still, sadly, live in an extremely male comfort driven society that tells us from birth that all women-related things are not hot to talk about so we don’t.  And also of course, it’s fucking painful.  Every woman on some level assumes she did something to cause it, even when every intelligent person and doctor in their lives is telling them differently.  It’s gutteral to blame it on ourselves. Learning more about miscarriage from a purely scientific standpoint made me feel better on a how-our-bodies work level, but my heart still hurt and the hormones... Oh god, it was a process to heal. I am thankful I gave myself the gift of special bodywork, have a husband who went on that emotional ferris wheel with me, and have the most loving and supportive parents and in-laws a girl could ask for.

What is intervagional massage and why does it rock?

Ohmygowd.  The best way I can describe it is that you’re being fingered with intention by a professional whose goal isn’t to get you off, but rather to help your body release points of holding/tension/stress/pain related to miscarriage, trying to get pregnant, birth or any other sitch involving your lady parts.  It helps realign out-of-whack muscles and can help create a mind/body connection or reconnection to your uterus in the most powerful, loving manner.  The woman behind this experience is called Tami Kent. Homegirl is famous for this bodywork and she happens to be based in Oregon.  Women travel far to be treated by her.  She is the shit.  She helped pull me out of the darkest miscarriage tunnel and brought my vagina back to life.  I think every woman should give herself the gift of Tami’s work. Treat. Yo. Self.

What advice can you share with other women who have suffered a miscarriage?

Miscarriage is one of those terrible things that every woman has to heal from in her own way, whatever way that may be. What helped me was journaling about it, Tami and Dana’s work (see below), talking with a therapist who specialized in pregnancy and miscarriages and understanding that you will grieve, just as you would if someone you knew passed away. The grief period can look differently for every woman too. Cry all the cries. Pamper yourself.  My husband convinced me to leave Sebe with our parents and go to the coast for a weekend. I adored him for that.

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How do you nurture yourself?

Long showers.  Cups of tea. Sneaking out of the house for an hour to sit at my favorite coffee shop, fashion magazine in hand.  And Mayan abdominal massages.  This was something that my midwife suggested after my miscarriage and like Tami’s work, it was something I had never heard of and like Tami’s work, it is incredible bodywork that I think every woman should get to experience. Dana Mozer is the goddess whom I was lucky enough to find and she helped me tremendously to heal post miscarriage.  She burned special incense for me and was so incredibly nurturing. I definitely cried on her table more than once. 

How do you stay inspired?

I am one of those people who is in awe of the sun rising every morning, of the fact that my body built babies, of the stars and the moon and our planet so even on my grumpiest days, it doesn’t take much. I’ll tell the toddler, look Sebe! the sky is blue and we’re healthy and happy and it’s going to be a beautiful day!  Obnoxious, i know. I’m just hella thankful to be here.  Also other people’s Instagram feeds. And anything Beyonce does.

What’s your biggest struggle right now?

Time. Always time. I need hella more of it in a day. And then sometimes, it’s the last thing I need more of in a day.

What would you do with more time?

You mean ALONE time, right? Insert tampons without an audience. I feel like I’m starring in a Western film every month, it requires a quick draw to take a tampon out with a 4-year old watching your every move. Yes, my toddler has deep separation anxiety and still follows me everywhere. I haven’t taken a shit in private in a very long time.

What’s a question you wish more people asked?

I’ve seen other mommas interviewed say this but it’s so true so I will say it again.  Asking for help.  Like, you’re a momma out in the world with a little human or humans you’re responsible for keeping alive, would you like some help?

What’s one thing you would still like to do?

Is it too late to become Beyonce? Travel the world as a family unit.  Where in some of the countries we magically transport our parents to babysit so the baby daddy and I can eat pad thai in the streets at midnight and not have to share any of it. Also train to become a legit lactation consultant. Because the one who came in to assist me in what should have been a magical unicorn ride into the sunset moment where my newborn and I bonded but really sucked ass and I can never forgive her.

 

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In this current political landscape, what role do you think we can play as creatives and as mothers in affecting positive change?

I hear Canada is lovely this time of year... Fuck, I don’t know. I feel overwhelmed and like maybe I can just sit these four years out.  But I know I can’t.  And also I don’t want to.  Personally, I would like to find the strength to pump up my daily aspiration of living by the golden rule of doing unto others what you would like others to do unto you. I like the simplicity and the quiet power in that. Our children see our every interaction with people; family, close friends, complete strangers so I plan on helping a lot of elderly folks across the street, volunteering with my kiddos at shelters and giving out as many unsolicited compliments as I can muster.  The other day my toddler told a neighbor that he, 'loved her beautiful, colorful sweater.' Ripples in the pond I tell ya. 

One lesson from 2017?

A woman’s ability to multitask without children is phenomenal. A woman’s ability to multitask with two children is whatever the word for phenomenal on crack is.

One Dream for 2018?

To sprout a second set of arms and legs and eyes and functioning brain cells. Not scientifically possible, you say? Then the dream is to keep striving for a sane work/life balance where I, baby daddy, three kids and four grandparents feel loved, respected and heard. Making time for girlfriends. Making time for pedicures. Making time to help others. Making time for unrushed sex. Making time for the crock pot. 

 

One thing you’d like to tell another pom pom mom trying to figure it all out

Embrace the poop. All the poop. The up-ten-times-a-night poop. The my-nipples-hurt poop. The I-need-adult-interaction-or-I-will-go-mental poop. All the first milestones poop. Every time they laugh poop. Every time they smile poop. Every time they cry poop. Because it really is the longest shortest time. Because it really is the most beautiful, terrifying, glorious, disgusting, gratifying, exhausting, stupendous thing.

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