While it is still Cesarean Awareness Month, I wanted to make sure to write a quick blog post about a special series of custom sculptures I made recently for a special VBAC-hopeful mama. Earlier this year I was contacted via Facebook by a mother who shared a little bit of her story with me and who has given me permission to share it here as well. She experienced a traumatic cesarean following a birth-center-labor turned emergency transfer. Her baby almost died and she is still struggling to reconcile her feelings and her grief about his birth. She was very appreciative of the care from her birth center midwives and asked me if I would make a set of custom sculptures for them as a gift. While I previously only made sculptures for myself or for my friends, her story touched me and I agreed to make the figures. The picture I took of them ended up becoming the “famous” cake-pan lid photo that launched me into selling a whole lot of birth art sculptures over the last two months and opening up my little etsy shop. After receiving the sculptures, she requested I make another special set of sculptures, this time for her. Her request was to have a figure that was “wearing her scar proudly” and that would help her heal from the trauma and disempowerment of her emergency cesarean as well as prepare for a hopeful future VBAC. I was intimidated by the idea of making something to help someone else heal. I mean, wow! What a privilege and responsibility. There felt like a real risk in interpreting another woman’s experience artistically and I worried about disappointing her or not getting it. Around the same time as this request, I talked to a real-life friend about her experience with ovarian surgery during pregnancy and her feelings about her scar. After talking to her, I kept thinking, “her courage is written on her body” and I knew I wanted to include words as part of the scar. For my friend, the result was this figure:
For the VBAC mama, I wanted to create a figure that showed her joy in the birth of her healthy baby, the link between scar and baby, and the fact that her body has been marked by this experience in a profound way. You can’t really see in the picture, but written in the middle of the scar is the word, “love,” because she acted with great love.For the next figure, the one representing her future, planned pregnancy, I included the word “hope” written into the scar, as well as her now-toddler by her side:
In her scar is the word, “courage.” For these figures, I am pleased with how the scar feels like an integrated part of them. They hold that experience, they wear it, their courage, love, and hope has been permanently written upon their bodies. It is there, loud and clear, and yet new experiences are too. To me, these figures felt unifying and whole. I hope the recipient also felt that message 🙂
After writing this post and scheduling it, I read a deeply touching story by a mother who had cesarean births: Being a C-Section Mama In the Birth Goddess Club
But, there was a moment after my section with Louise where I got out of bed for the first time and walked to the shower. Everything was quiet. My baby girl was sleeping. My husband, Kurt, was holding my hands and trying to help me. It hurt so bad that I was nauseated and started dry heaving. The straining of my torn and abused stomach muscles put me over the edge into a universe of suffering and pain. I thought I couldn’t, it was too far, but I made it across the room and into the shower. I stood there, gray-faced and trembling and sobbed and sobbed while the water ran over my defeated, mutilated body. I couldn’t bend down to wash myself. My head was spinning. I focused all of my concentration on fending off the nausea. My husband got onto his hands and knees and crawled onto the floor of the shower. He knelt at my feet, fully clothed and getting soaked by the warm water. He washed my feet and my legs and my incision, also my deflated and sagging stomach. He looked up at me and he was crying. He wrapped his arms around my thighs and held on to me tight. He cried and said, “Thank you.”
I will never know what it’s like to triumph in birthing a baby, but I feel like I became a warrior and a goddess in my own, lopsided way.
I almost forgot to include it, but the first cesarean birth art piece I created was actually not about VBAC at all, but was about the birth of triplets. The mother wanted a set of sculptures acknowledging her triplet birth journey, which included a cesarean birth and also not being able to breastfeed the babies. I felt anxious about making the “right” kind of cesarean piece and went with something that I felt conveyed the sense of the mother’s body “flowering” open to release her babies. I also set a jewel at her heart to indicate the love with which she opened her body to let her babies enter the world.
“I became a mama goddess, too. I became a wonder of fertility, of softness, of late nights and warm beds; a body capable of unimaginable things. I labored and tore open, too.”
–Amanda King (in Being a C-Section Mama In the Birth Goddess Club)