Postpartum Pie

 
jennifer hulley food photographer food stylist writer hamilton ontario
 

I sobbed, tears hitting what was supposed to be a light and flaky crumble top but instead was reminiscent of a prehistoric scene. Shiny and molten lava, bubbling away, the refection of the butter streaming through the cracks and crevices.

 This was supposed to be easy. I had done this before. I knew where I'd land. Then where the hell was I?

 Two weeks since returning home, still wrecked and worn from a nearly apocalyptic birthing experience I was desperate to put myself together again. The parts of me I recognize had been tossed around, violently hitting the ground like psychological shrapnel and in desperate need of collection fast.

 Inflated from the toes to the top of my being, I stumbled around the kitchen, each step hitting the cold wood with the heavy blow of stegosaurus. A complete loss of feeling pushing me forward ominous thud after ominous thud, the soundtrack to the devastation that had and was to come. Yet I pressed on, taking small steps, not knowing where they'd land because I had to keep moving. The lack of biofeedback from the pressure of the floor was unnerving, like walking around blindfolded with no idea if what I was doing was correct but knowing it was what I needed to do to move forward.

The first bit of psychological debris I collected was my need to bake, make, and share.

THE SWEET TASTE OF FAILURE

 It was supposed to be an easy feat. A fruit crisp I had made and nailed just weeks before. Cognoscente of the potential of overwhelming myself I chose an "easy" task. One in which success was completely predetermined and with it came the promise of pulling me that tiny bit more out of the physical and mental swamp I was quickly sinking into.

Mental math while sleep deprived, shell shocked from the hormonal fallout in the weeks after birth, along with the process of drying out from an arsenal of unexpected narcotics was near impossible and the magic ingredient that transported me to this mess. Note to self: don't try to double recipes in your head when your head doesn’t yet feel like your head and you’re not sure when it will ever be your head again.

I cried. And I cried. And I cried. Can the baby blues extend to your feelings of failure as a baker? I could not recognize the mess that sat in front of me anymore than I could recognize myself.

 "It looks delicious. I'll still eat it" said my mother. I smiled, graciously accepting the adult version of her hanging a terrible painting on the refrigerator door.

Two weeks later I tried again.

A pie. Challenging but doable in a long, pressure free time frame. Nothing that needs to be done in one setting. Something that with the patience of a slow pace improves. It was hard. He cried. I cried and yet I pressed on.

"You know you don't have to make this pie…you can do it later…”

Except, I did. I really, really did.

Cries of "you need to do less" and "don’t have such high expectations of yourself" came in from all angles. The overwhelming notion being that I was insane for trying. Maybe I was. Maybe this entire circumstance I had found myself in grew from an idea that most would label as "insane" .

 In the end I didn't finish off the entire task as planned, the shoot was rushed and I was unable to actively plan or execute any great images but I managed to get it done and out the door and onto the plates of family in time for the celebration.

 
Jennifer hulley food stylist food photographer food writer hamilton toronto ontario
 

 Why the pie?

 Well, THIS:

Self care is about giving them the BEST of you, not what’s LEFT of you
— me paraphrasing, and likely misquoting, someone else

During a late night/early morning scroll I came across these words and they burned into my brain and immediately became my decision making, daily thinking and motivating mantra.

GIVE THEM THE BEST OF YOU.

For some this requires a night alone stretched out on the couch, wine in hand and Netflix on the screen. Or a run through the park with the summer heat pooling on your pores, pressing forward as your body screams stop.  Or as it was, forcing myself into the mindful state of a physical task requiring mental focus and wrapping it up with something visual and expressive to share.

Whatever it is, it takes discipline to put yourself first, to drag yourself out of the fog and into the landscape of that which keeps you whole, and know that the benefits will stretch beyond your own experience. Even more so when these acts of self care fall into the territory of the “working” as it doesn’t always land to the sound of a roaring applause from by standers. Amy Schumer recently posted about being “back at it” after the birth of her son and, well, the trolls came out to play.

"Jesus, Amy. Let the stitches dissolve first. I’m still on the couch and my youngest is three…”

“Like, I can still smell your placenta. Take a damn break FFS.”

"Already? That’s insane! And inhumane….”

Like her stand up schtick or not, she is doing what she needs to put herself back together, to feel whole and to be able to engage with her home life as the amped up, empowered “freight train full of fuck yeah” that motherhood seems to require.

And for me? In the end the pie was partial success. It tasted good, it didn’t explode or crumble to bits and no one landed in the emergency room after. The photos left a lot to be desired as they were rushed, not planned and had to be executed in a 15 min time frame before it got loaded into the car and transported to the Canada day bbq. For me thats enough of a win for the time being, one that pushes me forward to try again, this time a little bit different so that I can tick all the boxes.

 
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