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Jackson Heights resident Christen Clifford's one-woman show "Baby Love" is to motherhood what "Sex and the City" is to single women in their 30s and 40s: validating libidos that are conventionally sorted into the unsexy bin.
Based on Clifford's essay published at Nerve.com, the play is a linear and farcical telling of Clifford's hormonal, emotional and sexual changes during her pregnancy and while breastfeeding. She jokes about breastfeeding in public, telling her husband that she loves her baby more than him and getting locked outside her house with a vibrator in one hand and her baby in the other.
Clifford is an actress and writer and teaches creative writing at the Gotham Writing Workshop. She said she'd always been interested in telling women's stories and exploring her own sexuality.
"As an actor, I did a lot of plays by women," Clifford said. "And some of them were about sexuality. My writing has frequently been about sex and family — though not combined!"
That is, until "Baby Love." While Clifford's play aims to diffuse the anxiety many mothers have about their sexuality, she also drops some heavy controversial bombs, namely her arousal during breastfeeding.
"When I became a mother, I was shocked at how my relationship to my body changed — it wasn't mine anymore, it was a shared space," she said. "I was upset and surprised by this. No one had told me about that. This in addition to my changing relationship with my husband — he suddenly wasn't the most important person in my intimate life — affected my sexuality hugely."
Troubled and feeling alienated, Clifford looked for information about sexual arousal during breastfeeding but found little on the topic apart from a sentence or two in "What to Expect when You're Expecting" advising women who found themselves getting turned on breastfeeding their babies to seek professional help. When Clifford later met other new mothers in a yoga class, she learned that she wasn't the only one experiencing such feelings. By producing her play, she hopes to build an awareness among mothers and husbands and help people better cope with the hormonal changes.
"One woman wrote to me that she'd seen it ["Baby Love"] twice and then brought her husband and that they stayed up all night talking about things they'd been unable to discuss, that by laughing about it at my show they found a way to talk about parenthood and sexuality in their own lives," she said. "I felt like I was doing good in the world!"
Clifford is further exploring taboos with her third play, "(What I Know About) My Parents' Sex Life," which premiered at the soloNova festival in June. She hopes to produce it again once she receives funding. Meanwhile, she is pregnant with her second child and working on a memoir.
When asked if she had any advice for expecting mothers and fathers, she replied, "After the birth, pour witch hazel on maxi pads and put them in the freezer for some postpartum perineal care for the mother. Talk to each other about the most uncomfortable and gross and horrible stuff — then find a way to laugh about it."
IF YOU GO:
Baby Love — Part of the "Pillowfight — Hot Chicks of Substance" theater festival
When: Wednesdays 1 p.m. & Sundays 3 p.m. through July 27
Where: The Green Room, 45 Bleecker St., Manhattan
©2008 Community Newspaper Group
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