Jackie Freedman, age 57

California: Pico Rivera, Whittier, Orange County, Thousand Oaks, San Diego, and now New Mexico

The best thing about being a woman, for me, is the ability to have babies. When I was pregnant I felt so special. I actually felt good. I would walk around with my hands on my belly, to protect my child within. I would talk to my belly, and say excuse us, if I had to get through a crowd. I was always afraid to hold other people’s children, but when I had my own, that was replaced by this urge to protect my child. I wanted to nurse and be there with my child all the time. Even if I had a break, I couldn’t wait to get back to my child to nurse. My breasts would call out, “Hey, where’s the baby?” I nursed my son until he was about 3 and my daughter until she was 2. I would of kept nursing her, except that she got Hoof and Mouth disease, and couldn’t eat for about 18 hours. She slept for 14 hours, and when she awoke she no longer wanted to nurse. My children are now 25 and 20. I think I took the selfie with the ceramic leaf with children, because it speaks to who I am as a woman, a mom, and a teacher. Perhaps, I see myself as a tree, giving life to those around me. Aware of my potential to sew the seeds of misery or joy. For the last 14 years I have worked with special needs children; often doing my best to nurture them and to honor them. Helping them to grow. Over the years I have looked toward various models of kindness to help me water and give light to the children around me: Marshall Rosenberg’s Nonviolent Communication, Dr. Jane Nelsen’s Positive Discipline, the teachings of Thich Nhat Hahn and others. Being a mom, a teacher, a student of those of I have studied and tried to emulate, has made me who I am. 

When I moved to New Mexico about a year and a half ago, I was shattered. I had left my daughter behind. I moved to save my husband. His years of paying for health related issues had drained our ability to stay in California. New Mexico offered a new beginning.   A house almost paid for, and the dream that we could retire before we turned 80. What I didn’t know was how painful it would be to stop being a mom. I cried for 2 months. The only thing that got me to stop wishing I was dead, was when I was diagnosed with cancer. I told G-d I was only kidding.

Because this plate is about the effect men have had on us in negative ways…if I am understanding your purpose correctly, I can see how when we are brought up to believe women are only good for having children, we may come to believe that without our children we are nothing. I am working on believing I am more than just a mom. That I am enough.