Changing: excerpt from Yo'Mama! a play about new motherhood
by Heather Scarlett Arnet

Editor's Note: Yo'Mama! is a one act play set in a post-natal yoga class. Each monologue explores some aspect of new motherhood. The extraordinary thing about this play is that it includes a monologue about new motherhood after stillbirth. Ms. Arnet has given equal weight and voice to the parenthood of all mothers -- regardless of the outcome of birth, live or still. That's pretty amazing considering how most stillbirth parents are simply ignored to shoved into silence. Here at KotaPress we are hoping to raise awareness about this play. We are offering the excerpt of the stillbirth monologue here. We'll be doing a "reaction writing" exercise after reading it in our "Giving Sorrow Words" workshop at the 2004 MISS Conference next week. And we are planning a 2005 Mothers Day reading of the entire play to be held here on Vashon Island. If you like what you see here, check out the Yo' website and find out how you can arrange a reading in your city!


Someone asked earlier if Hope had had her baby yet? I know some of you know her from the pre-natal class. I did get a call a few days ago from Hope and she asked me to share with you her birth story. She had a little girl, Nevada, last week. Hope was about one week over her due date. This was her first child. Like most of you she was anticipating going into labor, looking forward to it, feeling like she couldn't possibly get any bigger. She could barely fit into any of her maternity clothes anymore, and she and Steven had finished painting and decorating the baby's room. Even the crib had arrived so they were all set. Like most first time moms she found the waiting unbearable. Each braxton hicks contraction brought images of a mad rush to the hospital. But she never did go into labor herself. On Thursday she went in for a routine stress test before work. They wrapped her tummy with a heart rate monitor for the baby and put that cold jelly on her stomach in preparation for the ultrasound. The doctor started to roll the ultrasound paddle over Hope's tummy. After several minutes she asked when the last time was that Hope felt the baby move. She said it had been a pretty quiet morning, but she remembered feeling kicks the night before. The doctor said, I'm sorry, Hope, but your baby has no heartbeat. They called Steve and the doctor gave Hope a choice of having a C-section or vaginal birth. She chose to bear her baby without surgery. She said that she had come so far she wanted to know what it felt like to bear a baby into this world. So, they induced with pitocin and twelve hours later Nevada was born still. She was 6 lbs. 10 oz., 19 inches long. Steve said that the silence that filled the delivery room as they handed Nevada to Hope to hold a first and final time was deafening. The baby had evidently gotten wrapped up in her umbilical chord, perhaps as she was preparing to enter the birth canal. Something they couldn't have predicted or stopped. Hope wanted me to share her story, the way I have told all of your birth stories in class, because she had been looking forward to joining this class after Nevada was born. I told her of course she was still welcome, her body has just gone through nine months of pregnancy and birth just as we did, and it too will need a way to heal itself, but she said hearing your stories of your children, would be too difficult for her. I visited with her yesterday at her home. She has been spending a lot of time in Nevada's lavender nursery. It is heartbreaking to see her sit in that rocking chair with empty arms surrounded by the bunny rabbits and teddy bears that she and Steve had painted on the walls to welcome their little girl home. Hope is now a mother too. A mother who will never get to hold her baby or sing to her or hear her first words but still she will always be Nevada's mother. I am telling you this because Hope wanted me to, but also because we talk so much in this class about our struggles with motherhood and our fatigue and confusion and our terror at being swallowed whole into motherhood and Hope has reminded me that indeed we are changed immediately from the moment we decide to become mothers. Whether we bear our children, outlive our children, adopt our children, or welcome a partner's children, we become mother's immediately when these children enter our lives. From that moment we are changed. I hope it doesn't mean we can never again be who we were before, or listen to loud music, or curse, or fit into a favorite pair of jeans, or stay out all night, or make wild love to our partners, or decide to have more children, or become famous. But it does mean that we are permanently changed. Our children are a part of us forever just as Nevada will always be a part of Hope and Steven's life. (pause) So, our hour is almost up. It's time to close our class with some toning. As always we will chant a round of Ohm, and then the primal sounds Ah and Ma and then conclude with another round of Ohm.

About the Author
Heather Arnet, the playwright and director of Yo' Mama! was honored in May 2003 with an award for "Art and Activism" from the Thomas Merton Center. Recently, she directed the world premiere of Yo' Mama! at the Three Rivers Arts Festival in June 2003, for which she was awarded a PA Partners grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts to direct it again at the Center for Creative Play (where it will run from April 28 - May 16, 2004). Arnet also received support for this production from a Seed Award from the Sprout Fund. Other Pittsburgh credits include her direction of Beth Amsbary's Priestess of Plenty at the Frick Historical Museum, and the writing and direction of her play Superheroes, Artists, and Other Fly Things which she performed at Ground Zero's Making A Scene, UnBlurred 2002, and at the Gist Street Reading Series. She has directed for the NYC International Fringe Festival, New York New Playwrights Festival, NYC Shakespeare Festival and MOMA Stage to Screen Festival. Most recently in NYC, Arnet collaborated with Joyce Carol Oates, on a new stage adaptation of Oates' I Stand Before You Naked, produced by Women's Expressive Theatre at the Harold Clurman Theatre on 42nd Street. Heather is currently preparing to direct a new play by Sallie Patrick, Twelve, about population restrictions and resulting gender discrimination in China for the Half The Sky Foundation timed for the 2005 Chinese New Year. Arnet is a member of the executive staff of City Theatre and has a Bachelor's degree from Carnegie Mellon University in English and Drama.

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