This is my first time participating in the Blogger's Quilt Festival, yay! I made this quilt two years ago, but still love to share it with as many people as possible because of the response I get from women that have also gone through a traumatic birth. I'll list the stats first and then dive into the process since I'm sure a lot of people are not going to read through all of this!
Size: 38" x 65"
Ticker tape/raw edge applique
Quilted by me, Renee Hoffman
Category: Art quilt
Now here's the story of this quilt:
The birth of my first was a typical cascade of interventions, that I was led to believe were the only good options. I have since done a lot of research and realize that I was lied to, scared into agreeing to things (induction, c/s, etc), and the staff was vastly under educated/experienced in natural birthing. And that hospital has a 50% c/s rate (compared to the national 30% rate and the 10-15% recommended by the World Health Organization).
|Drawing the outline (you can see some blue marks on the left).|
I was able to have an amazing home birth with my second with no interventions, despite the labor also being slow and my daughter being in an unfavorable position. But my midwife was amazingly knowledgeable and experienced, and there was never any fear or worry.
|First I tried pins to hold them in place (terrible), then I read to use a glue stick--genius.|
I created this quilt as a way to work through my emotions from the cesarean section (c/s). I was mentally and emotionally devastated by the c/s, and every time I tried to discuss it with my then-midwife she would brush it off and tell me I should focus on the fact that I was healthy and my son was healthy. That happens to a lot of woman after a traumatic birth experience, as though being told that will magically make their mental and emotional pain go away. Telling a woman that just makes them feel worse, and completely invalidates their very real emotions. The goal of a good birth should be the physical AND mental health of both baby and mother (and father, my husband was fairly traumatized by the c/s as well).
|At first I used my walking foot to sew them on, rotating the quilt around every corner. Then I got out my free motion foot and things went way, way faster.|
When I started preparing myself for a vaginal birth after the cesarean (VBAC), I found a new home birth midwife (the same one that delivered me, my twin brother, and younger sister!). She suggested I work through my emotions from the c/s by writing them down on papers and then burning them, or saying how I felt out loud and dropping flower petals in the river.
One night after talking with her I fell asleep designing this quilt as a woman releasing her pain to the wind. Letting them go. I had been wanting to make a ticker tape quilt for a while, and the method was perfect what I wanted. A fractured mosaic of a woman, with a million pieces of herself and her raw emotions.
|I worked in small, maybe square-foot sections: cutting fabric to fit, glueing and then sewing it down.|
As I worked on the quilt, I put together a list of words that I associated with my c/s. Then I asked my husband to do the same. Then we talked about all of them together. It was a really good way for us to both open up about what we went through and our lingering feelings. We had some overlap, but also some that were unique. I found it very interesting to see that I had chosen some negative words that were exact opposites of some of his positive words (such as ungrateful vs grateful).
|I should point out that is not supposed to be blood! Red is a powerful color, and it carries a lot of meaning for me.|
I chose to quilt the words onto the red pieces using my free motion foot...which required relearning some long forgotten cursive! There are more than a few "typos"! I put the darkest, most raw words in the dark red pieces, closest to the woman, with the more hopeful, happy, light words on the light red pieces. I wanted the words to change, to evolve from pain to hope.
|Quilting on the white space.|
As I quilted in the words, I thought of more and more. I think in the end there are over 70. For the first time I am sharing a photo of all of them, since I know so many other woman can relate:
|The words read: raw, pain, drugged, disconnected, scared, induced, overwhelmed, disappointed, numb, dread|
|exhaustion, induced (again? oops), sadness, anger, weak, frustrating, regret, fear, powerless|
|powerless, taken, worry, damage, guilt, failure, shellshocked|
|scar, wonder, sight (uh, what?), love, drained, separated, invalidated|
|ungrateful, unnecessary, relieved, nauseated, blame|
|sterile, boy, apprehensive, happy, vulnerable|
|grow, amazement, grateful, healthy, VBAC|
|forgiveness, courage (it's hiding!), feminine, safe, warmth|
|strength, warmth, feminine, active, trust, Renee Hoffman 2011|
|knowledge, support, closeness, opening|
|birth, fulfillment, natural, experience, fertile, whole|
|excitement, nervous, communication, joy, healing, alive|
I'm glad I am finally revisiting this quilt and able to share it with more people. When I first made it, I felt protective of it, it was so raw and personal. But now I just want to share it, to let other woman know that it's okay to feel unsatisfied with your birth experience. It's okay to be sad, angry, hurt or disappointed. It doesn't make you a bad person or a bad mother. You are entitled to your emotions, and you should find an outlet for them--honor them!