my first mamazine?

man. babies. am i right? how can such a tiny little creature devour so much time?


ramona is three months old today. kind of. technically. she was born on november 30, but there are only 28 days in february, so after a long consultation with jared, we decided that we would consider february 28 her “monthiversary”. i tried asking around to other people who are born on the 29th, 30th, or 31st of the month, but obviously the first year is the only one when the monthiversary really matters at all, & no one i asked was in a position to remember how their parents handled the issue. interestingly, both of jared’s parents were born late in the month. maybe that’s only interesting to me, because i’m a big dull loser.

i make these to-do lists that are really just lists of things that probably should happen at some point. i am surprisingly successful at checking most of the items off the list eventually, but i am really starting to wonder if i’m biting off more than i can chew. i asked a mom friend (her baby is 19 months old) if i was just kidding myself in thinking that it’s possible that i will really have any time to do anything other than baby care, & if i will just make myself crazy if i try. her response: “yeah, probably.” she said that literally all she did for her baby’s first year or so was baby care. her partner did almost all the cleaning & cooking, even, on top of working full-time. she didn’t even think about taking on auxiliary projects (aside from starting a new moms group).

i asked because i have been thinking a lot about making a new zine. i don’t know if it would be “love letters to monsters” #4 or a new series. i have been thinking about reprising the name “snakes & tatters” from a brief series of mini-zines i made when i still ran my distro. they had a print run of like twenty copies each (as opposed to 500 for my regular zine). obviously it would be a zine that is a lot about being a mom. a “mamazine,” if you will. now that i am in the position to actually write a mamazine, the term seems a little twee. i liked it better before i became a mom.

but, i mean, i have to actually put things like “brush teeth” & “eat lunch” on my to-do lists or i will possibly forget to do them. there are days when ramona doesn’t allow me to do anything except for hold her, feed her, & change her. i barely have the time & energy for the basics; i really don’t know how i will manage to add the work of making a zine to the list. i hardly had the time/energy/inclination to make zines even before i had a baby. & if what i want to do is make a zine about having a baby/being a mom…well, who is my audience? i mean, realistically?

i asked a zinester that today & she said, “other parents!” okay, but there aren’t really that many other parents in the zine world. there’s this stereotype that the average zinester is a twentysomething drifter type with few legitimate adult responsibilities, & although there is a certainly a diversity of people making & reading zines that fall far outside that demographic, i think it’s fair to say that it’s largely an accurate description. or maybe i just think that because that’s mostly who was reading my zine when i was a twentysomething drifter type with few legitimate adult responsibilities? hmmm….

i had a bout of temporary insanity a few days ago when i seriously considered packing ramona up & jetting off to the chicago zine fest next weekend. i priced airfare & was looking for a hotel room. but then i came to my senses & realized that i get stressed out enough taking care of her sitting on my own couch, wearing pajamas. (sometimes. like when she cries constantly & won’t let me comb my hair or make lunch.) how much more stressful would it be in a whole other city, with no one to help me out (because jared would have to stay in lawrence to work on school stuff)? one zine friend was like, “it’ll be really fun! there’s going to be zinester karaoke!” & while that does sound really fun, & while ramona is still small & mobile enough that i don’t have to worry too much about things being “child-friendly,” i still think it was a case of me maybe wanting to be a little bit more of a superhero mommy than i am.

i decided to go to the portland zine symposium instead, which is in august, hence giving me more time to plan & prepare. plus i know my way around portland better, i’m much more comfortable using portland’s public transit system, august in portland sounds more promising weather-wise than chicago in march, & i know more people in portland. plus, with enough advance notice, jared might be able to come with me. family zine vacay! & it will conceivably give me enough time to maybe make this zine i’m contemplating.

if any of you reading this would be interested in reading a zine from me, what would you like to see? how should i structure this thing? is there anything new i can say, or a new way to say it, that hasn’t already happened in blog form? will this be the first zine i ever make on a computer? i’m kind of thinking that if i managed to pull of a typewritten zine when i have a three-month-old baby to take care of, i really might be a mommy superhero.


Published by Ciara

Ciara Xyerra wrote zines for the better part of two decades. She has a brilliant & adorable preschooler named Ramona & sews as much as she possibly can. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas with her boyfriend. She enjoys catching up on "The New Yorker", meatball subs, keeping it cranky, intersectional post-third wave feminism, dinosaurs, & monsters. If you have nothing nice to say, she recommends that you come sit here by her, so you can say not-nice things together.

26 thoughts on “my first mamazine?

  1. Yes! I will be reading your zine for sure. I love your writing and critical thought process. Emotions are great but logic is also important to me.
    I think the fact I don’t have kid prospects may somehow make me more interested in the topic than I might otherwise be ’cause I will never find out about it through experience. I often ask random parenting questions of my partner (he has 2 kids, but he’s 24 years older than me & his kids are adults so I am not having any sort of step mother experience myself).
    I found your last entry interesting because of the connection you make between … radicalism (?) and zines. Also the drifter thing. I have far leftie/almost anarchist politics, but don’t make zines about that as such, dunno, I’m not very preachy (I think?). Also not a drifty person, I like having a house and being able to pay my rent first and foremost! And I need a secure job to do that.
    I think my zines are more like an extension of my love of letter writing, and cut & paste decorating. I like the physical construction part of making zines as much as the writing etc.
    Also excited you’re planning to go to the Portland Zine Symposium this year because I am definitely going too, finally (all way from isolation city in Western Australia). See you there …

    1. i like to think that i am not a preachy person either, but obviously my zines have contained a lot of political content over the years. intentionally. i think as i get older, my feelings about why i’d like to make a zine have changed a lot, & my feelings about what a zine i’d make would ideally contain, content-wise, has also changed. thirteen years ago, making a zine at all was a project that i considered kind of inherently radical because i had all these ideas about how i was silenced as a young queer working class woman, blah blah, but…i don’t know. i don’t identify as queer anymore, really; i don’t identify as working class because i don’t work (plus a decade-plus of living on a fixed income has made thriftiness just part of my way of being & not something that i really feel compelled to discuss); i’m certainly not “young” anymore in the way i was/felt i was then. (i felt like people a few years older than me–like 25 to my 20–had a tendency to dismiss my perspectives just because they saw me as a dumb naive kid. now that i’m on the far side of thirty, i recognize that i was a dumb naive kid. as are most 25-year-olds, ironically.)

      gah! i don’t know! this is the problem with making zines for so long! you change as a person so much but the medium remains the same & it can be hard to adapt it to your new life.

      i like the way cut & paste LOOKS, but i’m not really wild about putting the effort into it anymore. i guess my zines never really were too cut-&-paste-y. i just used a typewriter. i did a few with a lot of drawings & stuff, & i think those are by far my best-looking zines, but i’m not particularly creative in that respect, so it was a lot of work. i like to think i’d make a really nice-looking typewritten zine with some cool drawings in it again, but…we shall see.

      awesome that you’re going to PZS all the way from australia!

  2. I would definitely read your zine. I think non-parents would too (and I’m not a parent yet, just anticipating becoming one). I read your blog pretty closely for months, even posts about cloth diapers etc. And that was well before I was expecting a baby myself. Your writing about pregnancy/parenthood was interesting in the first place, and now the interest is just more personal and directly related to my own life.

    I definitely don’t fit into the drifter/non-conventional mode now, and I never really did. Even so I read zines, and loved them. My trajectory was Nirvana/Hole to Bikini Kill to zines, but my lifestyle was always totally conventional. I think I like that zines gave me an outlet on different ways of living, even though I didn’t always manifest much difference in my own way of life. Maybe I am just projecting from my own experience, but I bet there are probably lots of people interested in radical politics who nevertheless live a pretty settled life and who would like to read about your experience.

    As for what should be covered — I think given the extensive reading you’ve done you’re really unlikely to stumble upon the pitfalls of so much bad mama writing (lack of a larger perspective/phoney “Amirite ladies?!” tone/righteousness about choices that largely amount to preferences). I’d be happy to read honest and intelligent writing about being a mom, regardless of the specific content.

    1. thanks, this comment is very encouraging. you’re probably right–there are so many non-parent people out there who read zines, some of them will probably want to read mine. either because they have liked my zines in the past or because they are interested in parent perspective. i always liked reading zines by parents before i became one.

      it’s just so hard to write about this stuff! i don’t want to fall into the trap of scaring people & being all, “parenting is so hard & time-consuming & expensive & awful,” but i also don’t want to make it sound like it’s all rainbows & unicorns & baby smiles. & it’s especially difficult to write about parenting without coming across as prescriptive, which can tip into sounding judgmental really easily. you know, “i do this with my baby…so you probably should too.” ugh.

      1. I imagine it would be really hard to come up with a way of writing about it! I have a hard enough time talking about it. Having babies is literally the most common thing in the world. Everywhere there are people, there are babies. But on the other hand, this is the first time I’ve been pregnant. This is your first baby! It’s monumental, even if it’s also — simultaneously! — trivial.

        Still, I think you are up to the task!

        As for being prescriptive — I don’t have a problem with people have clear opinions and perspectives on parenting. When it’s a problem, it’s usually a problem with tone.

        1. yeah, once i really started writing, it came pretty easily. the anticipation of the blank page is always way worse than the reality of just hammering out the words. & it is always worth remembering that while these huge life changes that are happening to us are absolutely earth-shattering…lots of people have babies. whenever i start to get too in my own little world with it, i remind myself that my own mom had not one, not two, but three babies, & she’s the biggest train wreck around.

          i definitely don’t mind when people have strong opinions about their parenting styles, but i think getting too into it in a zine format might just make for kind of dull writing. it works better on a blog, where there is a more immediate conversation that can form. or in a book, which people pick up precisely because they want to know what the fuck to do. i think people read zines more out of curiosity & less to be instructed. but so far, i think i’ve done a fair job getting too detailed about my parenting choices.

  3. I don’t know much about zines, but I do know about taking on projects while caring for an infant! You are soooo close to getting some time back to yourself. Right about four months was when I discovered that I could start doing more stuff around the house. And actually working my master’s thesis.

    I think Ramona is just starting to get into toys, yes? Once she is capable of holding a rattle or chomping on a stuffed animal without your help, you can put a nice, squishy blanket down on the floor, put her on her back, and then surround her with toys. Then you do whatever it was that you wanted to be doing, right there next to her. It’s good for you to get a little bit of extra time to yourself, and it’s good for her to learn how to play and have fun all on her own. I usually stop whatever I’m doing every 5-10 minutes to make faces at her or play with her a bit. It’s not good time for doing something that you need to really immerse yourself in, but it’s good for taking care of some things.

    When you’re done with whatever it was that you were doing, you can flip her over and let her have some tummy time. Multitasking! :p

    I do a lot of work after Lilian goes to bed. I know a lot of new parents just watch TV for an hour or two, but I’m actually kindof glad that I’ve had a big project to keep me for getting sucked into that lifestyle. When I’m done with my thesis (hopefully, in 2 weeks, gah!), I’m hoping to start working on some home improvement and craft projects.

    I’m definitely lucky in that we have a very mellow baby who is easy to amuse and likes to play with her toys. If Lilian was fussy, I’d probably spend a lot more time dancing her around the house. And sometimes she has days where you can’t put her down and you have to be constantly distracting her. But they do get a little more independent over time.

    We’ve brought Lilian all over the place, including going to NYC for a long weekend when she was less than three months old. And some people don’t even leave the house during that time! So, I definitely have a different parenting style than some moms I know. But I think it’s good to do things with your kids, and to not let your entire life revolve around them. It keeps me sane, and it will probably make Lilian more well-rounded in the long run.

    I really need to stop writing essays. :p

    1. one of ramona’s favorite things to do is to stare at the ceiling fan. it’s not even on, because it’s wintertime. i think it’s just that it’s made of dark wood & the ceiling is painted white & she likes the contrast of the dark shape against a white background. so the magic of babies is that you really don’t even have to wait for them to be into toys–they are interested in everything because it’s all new!

      already, i can lay ramona on a blanket & sometimes she’ll be happy to just kick & gurgle to herself & i can get some stuff done–pumping or washing dishes or doing a bit of writing.

      one of my friends suggested looking into a woven baby carrier so i can back carry her. do you know anything about this? i asked around, but everyone just said, “i love my beco/ergo/moby/mei tai! i back carry all the time!…but you should never back carry a baby that can’t sit up yet.” yeah, okay, except that i know it can be done in the right carrier. i just don’t know what the right carrier is. if i wanted to wait until ramona could sit up on her own, i wouldn’t have asked. someone told me today that you can back carry a little baby in the ergo with the infant insert…i guess at the end of the day, people make a lot of recommendations about what is & isn’t safe/appropriate/ideal for babies, & i’ve already blown so many of them off (ramona totally sleeps with her on a pillow with loose blankets, for example, & right now she is asleep on her stomach with jared, who is also asleep, on the couch), maybe i should just figure it out for myself & do what feels okay. i did buy a mei tai though. we’ll see how it goes.

      my mind is constantly blown by parents who don’t leave the house during the first few months of their baby’s lives. how? how do they not go insane? how do they ever, like, buy groceries or get stamps or go for pizza or something?

      we will have our first big test with ramona next month when i take her to detroit for a few days. although i’m a little stressed about cloth diapering & pumping on the road, i’m also looking forward to it & i’m hoping it will go well. ramona is always so curious & social when we go out (she was complimented just today by some women who observed that she is awesome at holding her head up), i’m hoping it bodes well for travel.

      1. I’d almost forgotten about our ceiling fan phase. :p LJ used to stare at them as well. It just about blew her mind anytime someone turned one on.

        When she could hold her head up on her own, I would tie a kangaroo wrap with our moby and face her out. I could wander around doing things and she could watch what I was doing. She loved it. We just started putting her on my back in the ergo a few weeks ago. She couldn’t sit up completely on her own at that point, but she had really good neck control.

        Using the ergo as a backpack is good for long walks or extended errands, but it’s not so great if you have to interact with them at all. I am constantly asking my husband how she’s doing. I can’t see her at all. We used backpack mode when we went snowshoeing and it was awesome. She tends to fall asleep back there, and then we just put up the little sleep hood and let her snooze. We took a walk to the grocery store last night and she rode on my back the whole time.

        This is us wandering around in the snow together:

        1. i don’t wear ramona too often because it is hard on my back. i mostly just wear her when i need to run errands or when she is being really fussy & demanding to be held but i really have things i need to do around the house. she tends to just fall asleep, so i am excited to try back carrying, since i don’t interact with her in her carrier that much anyway. i ordered a mei tai. another mom friend with an older baby suggested it as a way to back carry a baby that cannot yet sit up & doesn’t have good head control. with a high back carry, the baby is just completely bundled into the carrier so its head isn’t flopping around. we’ll see how it goes! even if the back carry doesn’t work out, the mei tai seems like a good option for splitting the difference between the moby & the ergo. the baby is bundled & i have lots of back support, like with a moby, but it’s faster to put on & take off, like an ergo.

      2. She will probably be awesome on your trip. We took an 8-hour train ride with our 2-monthish baby and she loved it. I held her the whole time which was fine for me but might not work for everyone. The trip was stressful but only because I was nervous. I’m taking Megabus with her in a couple days so we’ll see how that goes.

        Please make a zine if you can! I’ve made lots of false starts on a zine (my baby’s now 4 months old) but I am able to work from home doing technical writing, so it’s possible. I remember hearing YA author Jacqueline Woodson say that she got better at time management when she had kids. She was a more efficient writer because she knew she didn’t have a lot of time to waste.

        I know that all babies are different(ugh, so tired of hearing this one) but it seems like people talk about how hard it is because they’re kind of making it harder than it has to be. For me, cosleeping has made sleeping sooo much easier than it seems to be for babies who are cribbing it. But then, I don’t have a car so people might think I make life hard. Sigh.
        I’m totally with you on striking a balance between making it seem sooo hard and awful and rainbows and unicorns. Like, don’t want to disuade or scare anyone but don’t want to demean or minimize the work.

        1. ramona seems like a really happy, social baby, so hopefully traveling will go great. honestly, i’m more worried for myself than i am for her. i think as long as she has something to suck on during the take off & landing, she’ll be fine. but i am worried about flight delays & my pumping schedule. i’m not so rigid about it anymore, but if i go more than six hours without pumping, i start just dripping milk everywhere. i have leaked through no only quilted breast pads, but also my thermal shirt, my sweater, the moby, & an afghan. i’m also nervous about transporting my rental pump to another state. this is definitely one of those situations where it would be a lot easier if i was either breastfeeding or giving formula. ugh.

          i am definitely trying to make the zine happen. i have one mostly written. i will need to edit it pretty thoroughly & then figure out how to do layout. but i think especially if i just bite the bullet & allow myself to make a zine with computer text, rather than typewriting everything, it will happen.

          i agree times a million that a lot of people seem to make the baby thing a lot more difficult than it needs to be! like all the women in my due date club that are like, “sometimes my baby spits up! i think he must have really severe reflux.” dude, sometimes ramona spits up. she’s fine. babies spit up! sure, sometimes it’s a symptom of a more serious health problem, but nine times out of ten, it’s just babies being babies. it bums me out to see these ladies making themselves crazy with anxiety. parenting is hard enough; let’s not make it even harder.

          also, i won’t lie: ramona sleeps in a crib. but! the crib is right next to our bed. like, right next to it. we took off the front bars & her mattress abuts ours, so when she’s older, she could crawl from her crib into our bed if she wanted. but for now she sleeps in the crib, swaddled, propped on the boppy. i bet a lot of people would think i’m endangeroing her for putting her to sleep with her arms pinned down, propped on a pillow, but…it works for ramona. i’m not gonna mess with a good thing.

  4. I’m pregnant with my first (due late September) and I love mama zines. I loved them even before I was ready to be a parent too. I would definitely like to read your zine since I like reading your blog. Even the “babies are time-consuming and I forget to brush my teeth” stuff is interesting to me. I read a lot of “this is the hectic reality of babies” things but I haven’t gotten enough of it yet I guess.
    Part of it is maybe that I will be transitioning from full-time work to full-time stay at home parent and the “what do we do all day?” question is really important to me. I don’t assume that stay at home parents do nothing of course, but I have a hard time imagining the breakdown of a day yet. I suppose I’ll know when I get there.

    Also I had a hard time reading this entry straight through because I kept scrolling back up to look at the cute picture of Ramona.

    1. congrats on the pregnancy! that’s awesome! i feel like practically everyone who reads my blog on the regular is suddenly pregnant or just had a baby.

      your comment inspired the post i wrote last night, where i tried to break down the madness of a day of solo baby care a little bit. i think it’s not that you don’t have time to brush your teeth when there’s a baby in the picture. it’s more the stress & difficulty of not being able to PLAN to brush your teeth, if that makes sense. like, before she was born, i could be like, “okay, i’ll make coffee, & then i’ll have breakfast, & then i’ll brush my teeth, & then i’ll go to the library…” & i could just do it. but with a baby…it’s definitely a case of the best-laid plans. you just never know when it’s going to start screaming or take an hour to finish a meal or distract you with its tiny smiles or whatever.

      in fact, ramona is screaming right now, so i have to cut this short!

  5. I have actually given this a fair amount of thought in the past couple of days. I think that in addition to other parents, people who love babies, people who were once babies, and people who like your writing (and there are a lot), would get your zine. And then you’d have something maybe to trade with other zinesters.

    Again, I think that reading about the whole shebang from pre-conception to now would be interesting, and that’s a great way to break it down into smaller more manageable zines. You have a lot of content from before, too, so even if you don’t use that material, you can use it as a basis to see where your opinions have altered or evolved if they have.

    1. i’ve decided to just go for it without worrying too much about audience. my zines have never been everyone’s cup of tea, & i have always had a lot of readers who didn’t necessarily agree with everything i wrote (as they so often loved to remind me), but read anyway because they were curious or liked my writing style or whatever. it’ll probably be the same for a zine about pregnancy/babies.

      i have the body of one zine pretty much written. it starts with me deciding i want a baby & i think it will end right before i got diagnosed with pre-eclampsia. then i’ll write another about the month i spent being monitored, bed rest, birth, the NICU, & having a newborn. i’m aiming to have each one around 10,000 words (i don’t know how many pages that will be–fifty-ish?). that seems like a good amount to really get into the story, but without overwhelming anyone with just this massive text assault. it remains to be seen how editing/layout will go, but i’d like to have the first issue done by the end of may, & i’d love to have the second one finished in time for the portland zine symposium…but we’ll see.

      1. I’m psyched that you’re doing this. I think it’s super important – that there aren’t any current first-person mamazines implies a need for one, I think. Let’s skype again soon.

        1. i know there must be other first-person mom zines out there. i think celia from “i dreamed i was assertive” does one every year to commemorate her son’s birth. but still!

          i’m just weirded out because i sent a draft to five people for editorial comments & i haven’t heard back from any of them. hmmm.

          skyping again sounds good! maybe some time this week?

            1. i’m going out of town next week. week after?

              supposedly i have five people looking at this draft…they’re just really taking their time getting back to me. maybe the next one? i want to have the second issue (hospital/birth/newborn) drafted by the end of april.

                1. i’m home again! this week is kind of crazy because jared’s parents will be in town, but maybe we can hit skype sometime soon.

  6. One thing I would be interested in hearing from you would be how you’ve handled having a chronic pain condition and pregnancy/motherhood. You may have addressed it in your blog and I’ve missed it, but that is one big thing that still has me undecided on children. As much as we try to get a grip on our pain management, I am sure that some of it can be exacerbated by pregnancy and then again with motherhood simply because of the time you don’t always have to focus on self care.

    1. i probably have written about this, at least in passing, but i couldn’t point you to a specific entry.

      the thing about chronic pain & parenting is that it’s not even an issue of not having time for self-care (although that’s definitely part of it). it’s that so much of baby care can really exacerbate chronic pain conditions. i didn’t have huge issues during my pregnancy. something about the hormones released during pregnancy can actually soothe arthritis pain & various other chronic pain conditions for a while. though i did get syphysis pubis dysfunction, which is unrelated to any previous conditions & is absolutely excruciating. it’s basically a dislocated pubic bone. so i had to deal with that for a few months. & the arthritis in my hands was much worse than usual, but that was probably related to the pre-eclampsia & the extreme water retention in my hands. i looked like i had replaced my hands with latex gloves full of water. they were so swollen, i couldn’t really hold a pen or a fork or turn door knobs or button my coat, etc. but that definitely doesn’t happen to everyone.

      i was more surprised after ramona was born, how much of what i have to do for her exacerbates my pain. even just holding her for too long…sometimes i will get up & not be able to stand up straight. when i feed her, i have to prop her up against pillows or the back of the couch & rest my bottle-holding arm on another stack of pillows or i will pay for it later. babywearing can be very challenging. i simply can;t wear her for as long as jared can, & if one of the straps gets bunched up so the weight is distributed in a lopsided way…look out. there have efinitely been times when i’ve had to pass her off to jared because i’m in so much pain, i’m sobbing, & i’ve just torn off my shirt & slathered myself in tiger balm. i take a painkiller (sparingly, like once a week) that is contraindicated for breast milk-giving mothers because sometimes it’s all that works.

      at my post-partum preparation class, they told us to make a list of two or three top priorities–things we know we definitely want to still do or have done or make time for after baby. i was like, “only two or three?” but it’s true that that’s all you will really have time/energy for at first–& even two or three might be a stretch. i decided that it was really important to me that the dishes are done (we don’t have a lot of counter space & a cluttered house affects my mental health really badly) & that i am given time to go to the pool three times a week. if there’s something like that that you do to help manage your pain, it’s really important that you make it a top priority after baby. i couldn’t go to the pool for about a week & a half because it was closed due to back-to-back blizzards, & i was really feeling it. i can’t wait until the outdoor pool opens again because it’s only three blocks from my house (as opposed to the indoor pool, which is on the western edge of town–a 15/20-minute drive).

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