Birth Stories

Published on October 19th, 2015 | by Jennifer Hayden

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HOW I STOPPED WORRYING ABOUT WOOLF AND WROTE MY TITS OFF: Jennifer Hayden on Art and MUTHA-hood

In my roaring twenties, I was determined to be a great writer. Short stories, fiction, booze, late nights, angst. I met my eventual husband in college, very young, and he was a musician, and I was Ernest Hemingway, and we were a pair of artists setting out side by side to change the world.

On my side, though, I had tits and a uterus and the possibility of creating a tiny little person inside me. It seemed to me that I had to make a choice. I let Virginia Woolf be my guide. That is, I THOUGHT she’d been my guide. In “A Room of One’s Own,” she describes herself, “sitting on the banks of a river,” “lost in thought”:

“Thought—to call it by a prouder name than it deserved—had let its line down into the stream.” Then she got a bite: “you know the little tug—the sudden conglomeration of an idea at the end of one’s line: and then the cautious hauling of it in, and the careful laying of it out?” She jumps up to walk and think about it, when “Instantly a man’s figure rose to intercept me… He was a Beadle; I was a woman.” He yelled at her for walking on the grass. And with that, her idea was gone. “They had sent my little fish into hiding.”

Reading this passage many years later, I marveled at how I remembered this passage ALL WRONG. My memory—a far better writer than I am—had made Woolf say instead that a woman’s concentration was like a person letting down a fishing line, and she needed to be left alone in order to catch a good fish and haul that fish in and make some good art out of that fish. And that in order to do this, she must be left alone to dangle her line in the water. She could not be interrupted by some god-damn child.

So, if a woman wanted to be a really good artist, motherhood was out.

But, I started to doubt myself…. Here’s what changed. (Excerpted from my new memoir The Story of My Tits).

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So, to make the story short—conception eventually took—we had a couple kids. And, they were a blast. I gave up writing (it was shit, anyway), rediscovered my visual artist self, became an illustrator, got breast cancer, and at last fell in love with comix.

And those kids were not only fabulous subject matter, teaching me all manner of things about myself and them and this crazy world, but they forced me to work harder than I ever worked before. My mind got TONED. I could get that line in the water faster than you could say, “change my diaper,” hook a good-sized fish, haul it in, leave it on the table, put in a load of laundry, gut that fish, pick up my offspring at preschool, and turn that fish into art before I started dinner.

The mother-artist to me is a powerful, turbo-charged, multi-layered identity, and it’s my favorite phase of life and art so far. Opening up to kids opened me up to so much in life. Made me love myself, made me stop being afraid to experiment, made me want to show them who I really am.

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And that’s my story. One of them, anyway. The Story of My Tits tells more. I structured it around my body, all the phases of my body—and my mind, since it’s attached. Overall, it’s a story about my tits, my uterus, and my bloody biological link to the past and the future that threads through my body and resonates like the bottom C string of my five-string electric fiddle. Yeah, I got an electric fiddle. I’m in a band. But that’s another story.

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Jennifer Hayden’s new comics memoir, The Story of My Tits, hit stores this October in honor of breast cancer awareness month.  A 352-page graphic novel, it traces her journey from the innocence of youth to the chaos of adulthood, through her mother’s mastectomy, her father’s mistress, her husband’s music, and the endlessly evolving definition of family.  Available now wherever fine books are sold–particularly at your local independent comics shop!

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About the Author

Jennifer Hayden

Jennifer Hayden’s new memoir is The Story of My Tits, now available from Top Shelf. came to comics from fiction-writing and children’s book illustration. Her first Top Shelf book, the autobiographical collection Underwire, was excerpted in Best American Comics 2013 and named one of “the best comics by women” by DoubleX. She is a member of ACT-I-VATE (the premier webcomics collective in New York City), her webcomic S’crapbook earned a Notable listing in Best American Comics 2012, and she continues to update the diary strip Rushes at thegoddessrushes.blogspot.com. Her comics have appeared in print anthologies such as The ACT-I-VATE Primer, Cousin Corinne’s Reminder, and The Strumpet.

She lives in central New Jersey with her husband, pets, and sometimes two college-age children.

You can visit her online at www.jenniferhayden.com and goddesscomix.blogspot.com.



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