Tuesday, April 24, 2012

In Mourning There Will Be Life

I am now blogging in the present, as I have finally finished uploading all my previous paintings and poems!

This painting is probably one of the most meaningful for me that I have done to date. I drew it after our second miscarriage. In total across all of our in vitro treatments, we have had 15 embryos, none of which have survived. The most likely culprits are my eggs. The rest of my body functions fine when it is pregnant and my husband has been tested and is in great shape. At the time I drew this, I wanted to capture my grief over losing my baby but also my grief over realizing that 0/15 basically equals a loss of my fertility.

I was frustrated with the drawing because my husband said the robin looked like a baby bird. I didn't want it to look like a baby bird. I wanted it to look like a mother who came home to discover that her 15 baby eggs were shattered! I let the drawing sit for months. I couldn't bring myself to work on it. Plus, it's a lot bigger than most of the paintings I've done, which made it feel more intimidating.

During the time when this painting sat stewing, we began to look into egg donation as an option for having a baby. We decided that this will be our new path and we will embark on an egg donor cycle this summer. Over the last few months, in addition to working on becoming a more mentally healthy person in general, I have worked hard to mend my heart and head after all of the losses we have suffered. In order to begin to prepare myself for our upcoming journey, my psychologist suggested doing some artwork that will help put me in a positive space. Given none of my artwork to date is very positive, this seemed so foreign to me. But I really wanted to start to do some more positively-framed pieces (in addition to my dark ones :)). Despite wanting to do this, I still had the mother robin masquerading as the baby bird with the smashed eggs lurking on my easel. I felt like I had to finish the painting before I could make a transition to a new kind of art.

So a couple of weeks ago it dawned on me. The robin is both grieving mother and baby bird. She represents both my heartache over my 15 embryos that will never be and the new possibilities that potentially will emerge from my shattered eggs. In this way, the painting represents where I have been and all that awaits me. Once I realized this, I finished the painting pretty quickly, understanding that in the mourning there will be life.

Earth Is a Place on Heaven

I made this painting for my friend when her step-mom died. Although this was particularly traumatic for my friend and her family, I was really emotional about the loss as well, despite never having met her step-mom. My friend has been one of my strongest, most loving supports through all that we have been through on our infertility journey. When her step-mom died, I felt incredibly comforted knowing that a piece of my friend, and therefore and piece of me, would now be in heaven with my babies. Come to find out, my friend's step-mom also had lost babies and was very much looking forward to being with them in heaven. So this painting is my vision of her meeting my babies and her own upon her arrival in heaven.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Let It Be

For Christmas I made this painting for my friend who had her fourth miscarriage a few months earlier. My husband and I had just been to a holiday memorial service at our church and they played John Lennon and Paul McCartney's "Let It Be." I think it's a perfect song for trying to come to grips with both the life and loss of babies. Here are the lyrics, as they are difficult to see in the painting.

When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.

And in my hour of darkness
She is standing right in front of me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.

Let it be, let it be.
Let it be, let it be.
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.

And when the broken hearted people
Living in the world agree,
There will be an answer, let it be.

For though they may be parted there is
Still a chance that they will see
There will be an answer, let it be.

Let it be, let it be.
Let it be, let it be.
Yeah there will be an answer, let it be.

Let it be, let it be.
Let it be, let it be.
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.

Let it be, let it be.
Let it be, let it be.
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.

And when the night is cloudy,
There is still a light that shines on me,
Shine on until tomorrow, let it be.

I wake up to the sound of music
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom, let it be.

Let it be, let it be.
Let it be, let it be.
There will be an answer, let it be.

Let it be, let it be,
Let it be, let it be.
There will be an answer, let it be.

Let it be, let it be,
Let it be, let it be.
Whisper words of wisdom, let it be.

Bodily Forgiveness

After going through IVF a second time and having another miscarriage, I started needing to work on my issues with my body. I had become so angry at it for letting me down in so many ways. My therapist gave me an assignment to "get mad at my body" so that I could begin to make peace with it. I started out by writing it a letter, but the right words just wouldn't come to me. So I decided to paint a picture instead. I started out with the idea of putting my naked body in the corner wearing a dunce hat. My original idea was to have the hands shoving all the let downs at the body as if to say, "Look at everything you've done to me!" But when I drew the hands, they didn't look angry at all. They looked welcoming, empathic, loving, and most importantly, forgiving. So instead of putting the let downs in the hands, I had the idea to put them on the chalkboard, as if the body was writing out it's punishment for all it has done to us. I added the flag, not only to add to the classroom feel, but because of the freedom I felt as a result of going through the process of making this painting.

I'm sorry...1. Our eggs are bad. 2. Our fallopian tube was taken without our permission. 3. We had to wear a patch that burned our skin. 4. That we've had our baby scraped out of us. 5. That we grow cysts. 6. That we don't ovulate. 7. That we have irregular periods. 8. That we have to be so skinny instead of big and fat. 9. So many people have seen us naked. 10. We feel so afraid of functioning correctly even though it's the thing we want the most. 11. We fear we might never give birth. 12. We are infertile. 13. We have to bear so many of our friends' pregnancies and births. 14. We cost so much money. 15. We have scars. 16. Our 15 embryos could not stay. 17. We have to answer when people ask if we have kids. 18. That people have stopped talking to us. 19. That we might never have a baby. 20. That our babies are dead.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

My Angel

Before embarking on our second round of IVF, I made this painting of our first baby and me to remind me I was never alone.

Rabbit Hole Card

I made this card for my dear friend's baby boy's birthday/anniversary of his death. She turned me on to the movie The Rabbit Hole, which is a movie featuring Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart. Their characters are grieving the loss of their son. The movie is absolutely brilliant, as it captures honestly the pain of losing a child. I took a conversation between Nicole Kidman's character, Becca, and her mom, Nat (played by Dianne Wiest), from the movie to make the card. Nat lost an older son years ago and in the scene Becca asks Nat's advice.

Birthing Grief

This poem and painting were inspired by making it through our first baby's birth date.

When your body left mine
An impostor entered in and implanted deeply

With each passing week I sickened from its gripping growth
I tired from its developing digits
My heart bought stock in broken and despair 

The spring of D-day arrived
After a long fought winter

I begged it to stay
I pleaded for it to go
It ripped me
It drained me

But after countless hours
I birthed it
For you.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Our Heart's Desire

Given our first miscarriage was the result of trisomy 15 (the baby had an extra #15 chromosome), for our second round of IVF we decided to do preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), which is a screening process that tests embryos' genetic make-up before being transferred. We had three "genetically normal" embryos, all of whom were boys. Since I got the call earlier than we were expecting, this is the painting I did to tell my husband the news. In case you aren't sure what embryos look like, the three blue things are them!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Human Reproduction

Over the last four years, my body and mind have endured numerous treatments. I was on Clomid three times to no avail. I participated in a clinical study for a HCG patch that was supposed to make me ovulate. All it did was severely burn my skin to the point of having welts all over my arms and stomach. I've had a laparoscopy to remove a para-ovarian cyst and woken up to find that my fallopian tube also had been removed. I've endured three IVF cycles (doing PGD involves doing two), including hundreds of injections being stabbed into my stomach, legs, and butt. I've had a baby scraped out of me for a D&C. And the list goes on. When I did these drawings, I was having a difficult time seeing myself as anything but infertile. I refer to them as "reproductive system me(s)." They represent different stages of my infertility journey and the emotions I felt during those times.


White Sheets

This poem is inspired by the artist Frida Kahlo and her painting "The Flying Bed". Frida and her painting both inspired me to want to do my own birth art.

I had always wanted white sheets. One day my husband and I decided that it was time to go for the glory of their clean crispness. Not any white wonders would do of course. No. We opted for an extremely over-priced pair from Restoration Hardware. The immaculate bed display featuring layers upon layers of perfectly placed pure ivory heaven whispered our names.

Despite my dreams of snuggling up on creamy heavenry, I hated the sheets from the beginning. As soon as I washed them, they were a wrinkled, wadded-up mess. Apparently, $300 will get you a feeling of hoit and toit, but not a wrinkle-free thread count. Plus, white sheets don't stay white. No matter how often you wash them, sleeping bodies make for yellowing sheets. Disgusting.

This poem highlights my equivocation with the sheets after a spot of blood got on them following my D&C.

We bought white sheets
In hopes that their crisp stiffness
Would cradle our bodies 
In the dreamland only money can buy.

But snickering below us
They yellowed and wrinkled.
In their expensive sarcasm
They uglied and haunted.
I wanted to bleach out their badness.

But after you were snapped from inside
Your soul leaked
Your heart poured out onto 
Our sullied-looking sheets.

I again felt betrayed by them
As they got to swaddle 
Your only remains.

But as your stain fades like a bruise
From dark to yellow
I must beg the sheets not to fade
Back to white.

Father's Day Card

I made this card for my husband for Father's Day. The idea came from this poem, which I wrote one day because I was so sad that we have everything we could ever need and want--except for a baby. I also was feeling like a zombie; I felt like every time I looked around babies were everywhere--being strolled around the neighborhood, haunting me on Facebook, declaring themselves in my text messages, and cooing at me at the grocery store.

The three of us sit staring
Holding hands over mounds of our gold-rimmed treasures
We are zombies
Confused by the multiplicity of what appears to be happening outside our window--
Cherubs by the thousands
Being pushed around by their smug-dipped masters.
We look to one another for comfort
Arms still horizontal
Though we can't stop hoping
One will see us through the two-way mirror.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


The year after losing our first baby, four of my best friends got pregnant. The rejection I feel as a result of not getting to be a part of their (and the countless others who have given birth since we began our infertility journey) group never really gets easier to bear.

This poem is a bit gross but given how much I absolutely abhor scab picking, it helped me capture the feeling of finding out over and over again that another one was leaving me behind.

Step right up and take your turns
Nibble at my scab
Pick at its unsettled borders
Make my bloody center incurably deep.

Rip it off slowly
For the smooth of my skin
Is growing impatient.

This one captures my longing for a body unlike my own.

Her body ebbs and flows
Liquid with round anticipation.
Her middle gushing and mushing
To the sound of unyielding dub dips.

My body bristles and clanks 
Solidified with flat disappointment.
My middle begging and pleading 

To the sound of silence.

This painting was my attempt to capture this poem. This was my second painting and I had not yet figured out how to make flesh color or how to paint faces! When I completely ruined the painting with their heads, I decided to cut them off. I love my friends despite their ability to get pregnant so I don't mean for their headlessness to imply any type of symbolic violence! Although my husband encouraged me to repaint it because the original drawing's heads were pretty good, I decided to leave it. This way the focus is more on the bellies in comparison to my own.


When I wrote this poem, I was having a horrible time. I was in the very darkest depths of my grieving the loss of our first baby. The poem captures my anger with someone who hurt me deeply during this time.

You smacked your shit
Across my face
Despite the gaping wound
That oozed across my soul

And now you want to stand
Ready with your gauze
Prepared for additional seepage

When all I want to do is
Make you
Smell my cheek.


After my first miscarriage, I began writing poetry to capture my heartache, but I really felt like I couldn't express everything I felt with words. So this is when I realized I wanted to paint. As a kid I always enjoyed art, but after high school I never did anything with it. I think I thought that since I was never a brilliant artist that it wasn't worth doing. I have since learned through my grieving process that art isn't something brilliant I have to make, but rather it is something brilliant that can make me.

What's funny is that last Christmas I was at my parent's house looking through old school things from when I was young. I came across a list I made right before graduating from 6th grade. We were to write down what occupations we thought our classmates would have as adults. The occupation I listed for myself: Artist.

This is my first painting that started my new love affair with art. This poem got me going.

You are the sound of sweet water filling my glass
When my center has gone dry
And my head has gone weak.
But you drip
Out of my heart
Before I've had the chance
To press you to my lips.