Updated: Mar 27, 2021
Creation and loss is a part of life. This may come across as a weird project. I'm actually pleased with how the work looks considering the feelings behind them.
This is a personal story but it's also connected to my art, so I feel it's relevant enough to share. It’s a tricky one, it's also a long one...maybe I’ve dragged it out a bit, however I also feel the background is relevant to this story.
Covid-19 has been hard on us all, I understand that the NHS is struggling, we are in a global pandemic after all. Early miscarriage and its impact just isn’t taken seriously enough, as I unfortunately found out.
I hope my next blog post after this will be fun, happy, quirky and colourful! I have started planning one, it involves lot's of flowers! This ones a bit deep and intense, sorry!
Again It's a long one! So feel free to just go straight to 'The work' that comes after The story section!
Birth and creation of life is amazing, I find it all incredible. Although it hasn’t been something I’ve put much thought into over the last few years as I have always been in the mind set that my daughter Deryn would be my only child. We had an unplanned home birth, as my contractions where 20 seconds apart as soon as they started and they lasted a few hours, it was all very intense so I couldn’t be moved… but I would go through it everyday for her if I had to. To me she is the greatest creation.
I’ve had a few conversations with people about why I didn’t want another child. However something changed one day, am not sure what. My age maybe or Deryns age perhaps but my brain just decided I didn’t have a choice anymore and that we needed to make our family bigger and Deryn would be an amazing older sister. I tried to fight it, (A LOT) and every now and again the feeling would go away, until it just wouldn’t anymore. Also we are in a lockdown I could spend more time working from home so the sickness would be easier to handle. I knew that I wouldn’t want to take full maternity leave so again knowing that I can work from home when needed made my decision easier. We were excited by the idea, I decided that if we were going to do it there was no point in waiting. It took a little while but I became pregnant, I knew quite fast as I felt my body make really early changes, like it did with Deryn. I had to wait a few more weeks before I could take the test. But when you know you just know, and the love is instant. The day came and it was time for a test, it was positive. I knew I was pregnant but I still couldn't believe my luck I was really happy and a little smug, I was getting impatient so to have my positive tests felt amazing.
On Tuesday the 26th of January I woke up and discovered that I was bleeding, I didn’t know it at the time but it would become the worst experience of my life. The miscarriage itself was earth shattering, but the physical pain I felt was extreme and really unexpected. I wasn’t mentally prepared for what was about to happen. When I noticed I was bleeding I panicked. I didn’t know what I was meant to do, so I rang the doctors and asked to make an appointment. I was asked some questions and told I would get a ring back in a few hours. I relaxed a bit and decided to go to work, told myself it’s probably just spotting, people get that all the time, I’m really healthy and I shouldn’t be worried. So I arrived at work, we were doing a time-lapse and I had been looking forward to this for a while. I set up and we got to work, it was good to take my mind off what was going on.
Then the pain started, It wasn’t that bad at first. Soon after this my phone started to ring, I felt like I could breathe again. I answered relieved that I could make an appointment to get everything checked out, and find out for sure what was going on with my body and my baby. I didn’t get to speak to a doctor despite when ringing for help I explained my situation a few hours before. I had a student doctor, or nurse I can’t remember that day was messy. And I get it everyone needs to learn, she was really nice too, young. She sounded just as much in over her head as I felt, she explained that I wouldn’t be able to have a scan and that a midwife or doctor wouldn’t see me as I wasn’t 6 weeks pregnant yet. Unfortunately the advice was to rest, keep an eye on my self, if the pain or bleeding gets too bad to ring back and take another test in a week to see if I was “still pregnant” I let out a nervous laugh and she apologised. I thanked her for her time and went back to work. I decided to carry on what I was doing. I was wearing a mask so that made not looking gutted easier, maybe I was in shock. I asked a co-worker for advice on how to handle the situation that I had unexpectedly found myself in with needing time off, I wanted as few people as possible to know what was going on. This helped and I felt like I could breathe enough to make some plans, because I really didn't know what I was meant to do. I finished off my work calmly and went home frustrated, sad and angry. When I got home I went to bed. By this time I knew exactly what was happening, as the pain was worse and had spread to my back, so I cried a little and fell asleep.
The days that followed got more stressful, I was not expecting the pain to get THAT bad. After my phone conversation with the very nice but slightly in over her head trainee doctor or nurse I was left feeling that it was “really early” so the pain would be over quickly and I got into the mindset that it will just be like a period and I’ll just deal with it. I can try again next month, get pregnant again fast. This didn’t help in fact I think thats why I ended up in so much discomfort, I didn’t deal with any mental of physical pain, I let myself be a bit grumpy while telling myself it was “just something that happens”. I tried to get on with my 30th birthday, tried to do some of the work I’d been hired to do by a local food company, write a blog post, play with my daughter and just get on with it, this all exhausted me.
By Sunday the pain had got to bad to pretend it wasn’t there anymore, I couldn't keep telling people I was fine because I wasn't. I don’t really know how to describe it. A pressure pushing down on my body, squeezing around my stomach and a burning in my back that throbbed with every movement. I also couldn’t eat anything, I just wasn’t hungry. On Monday morning it was time for me to retake the test to see if I was “still pregnant” it was negative. I wasn’t pregant anymore. This was also when I realised how much I wanted the baby, this was also the day I had planned to go back to work, that didn’t happen. The people I work with who knew why I needed time off where amazing so that helped.
I decided to go for a slow walk with a friend this helped, I was in pain still but I also needed to get out of my house we laughed a lot, this did take my mind off it all but it also hurt. The expression “laughing till your sides split” This is how It felt. I thought this can’t be normal, I wasn’t pregnant enough for my body to be acting like this. So on Monday afternoon a week since it started I decided to ring the doctors again, because I was concerned with how long it was all lasting. I really just wanted a check up. I was told that what I was describing was normal for a miscarriage to rest and ring back in a few days if I was still in pain. Still frustrated and exhausted I took more pain killers, my friend that I had gone on a walk with had also kindly put together a care package for me filled with goodies to help me relax. I was so lucky to have such great friends.
I felt slightly better the next day, and it had been just over a week now. So I decided I would go back to work. meaning I would sit at my dinning room table on my laptop, but this really did help, for a few hours. The days where much easier than the nights, The next day came around my back still hurt so I rang for a THIRD time. Again I was told that I needed to rest and the healing process can take a few weeks, and yet again “see how It goes”. I just wanted a check up and a blood test. Know one had actually confirmed that It was a miscarriage in person, by this point I was so tired of the pain and my head was in over drive with different scenarios. My imagination had always run wild, but mixed with hormones, random google articles and stress I started to second guess everything that had happened.
Had I really had a miscarriage? Because people can bleed in pregnancy...The pain could be something else? Maybe I’m just ill? I’m not a doctor I could have got this all wrong, maybe I just over reacted to spotting and cramps? Have I got my dates wrong? Could I be further along than I thought, because this feels wrong? My last period could have definitely been spotting right? I could have done the last test wrong, tests have never been my strong point… I was driving myself crazy. This was also when I realised I wasn’t handling this as well as I thought, but my back still hurt and I still felt pregnant, I still had some of the really early symptoms I had started to feel the weeks leading up to the positive tests.
Of course I still wasn’t pregnant...
I'm not used to that level of emotions all at once. I felt like I had been pulled under water by sadness, drowning in my own self pity. I felt guilty for making a fuss, and sad for the people I chose to share the early news with. I felt like I was being an inconvenience to my work colleagues, needing time off and dragging them into my personal problems. I told my friends how I felt, they told me it was grief, but I felt like I didn’t deserve to grieve because I wasn’t pregnant for that long, as if my grief was unjustified, overdramatic and selfish. This was just a mixture of hormones, shock and frustration, I know that now.
This all physically lasted over two weeks, It was painful, stressful and could of been handled so much better. If I was given an appointment as soon as I realised I was bleeding like all the information online tells you you’re meant too, I could have started my own healing process and dealt with the situation. I felt let down, I felt like my pregnancy was too short to have mattered, like the baby I had already envisioned, the future kicks I had already thought about and scan photos I would never get to look at just didn’t matter.
All pregnancies matter, and it shouldn't matter how short the pregnancy is, we should be taken more seriously when we ask for help. While on the phone with the doctors I wasn't asked questions like was I eating or was I on my own but I was asked if I was planning to try again soon as I would be really fertile now. This really upset me, the miscarriage hadn't stopped yet and I remember thinking after the phone call 'but I want this baby, why won't you help me now'. How can It be possible to simply just try again when this is what happens when it goes wrong. It was very clear that what was a baby to me was just cells to other people, which isn't right it was still the start of a life.
I started this project because I wanted to paint myself pregnant, documenting the changes to my body while I waited to meet my new baby. It was coinciding with another project that I had started called "Growth" which is inspired by my feelings and growth as an artist and person. I started it excited and positive, I took the first image a few days before my first positive test because I had the idea I knew I was pregnant and couldn't wait any longer. But then in a such a short amount of time I wasn’t pregnant anymore. These photos are taken about 3/4 weeks apart, the black paint was to symbolise the baby and the red paint is to symbolise how that got taken away from me when the miscarriage happened. The last one I took is the black and white image, this symbolise what followed the event. I didn't match the lighting up great so they are not as consistent as I would have liked, the second one wasn't really very fun to do and looks a bit rushed. But I couldn't leave it unfinished. They are what they are, I might go back and do a re-edit at some point if I get prints done.
Being pregnant and then having a miscarriage even really early on felt like being given something really special that you want to hold onto and protect. Like an amazing gift that you have been waiting for, It feels like you’re holding onto it so intensely. Your grip feels tight, strong, then all of a sudden you feel a pull, the pull gets more aggressive so you try and tighten your grip, desperately holding onto whats in your hands, you’re not ready to let go of it, and it’s yours. Eventually the pull just gets to much and your hands are open and empty.
I took this the day It all started, my head was a all over the place. It's really not my best work but looking back this is exactly how I felt. Everything felt wrong, upside down and confusing I didn't know what I was meant to do. Art and photography shouldn't just be about good lighting, editing and technique yes these are all important but it's also about the process, feelings and the reason for the work.
I used images of trees that I took for these edits, the bark makes a good skin effect. The first image is actually a old photo, I took it a while ago but I've reedited and added it because this is how my body felt. And now I feel that it's relevant to this experience, as an artist I feel really connected to my work. Like they are now extensions of my emotions, future and past and I don't think i'm alone in this feeling. The second two are recent, these are inspired by pain. When I rang the doctors again to explain my symptoms for the third time I was getting really concerned. I was told it was my body getting back to normal that what I was describing was my uterus shrinking, and my back should ease up in a few more days. This really confused me because I don't feel that my body had changed that much, I could of got my dates wrong, it's a possibility I will never know.
I took this about two weeks after it had all ended, I started exploring levitation photography before we started planning for the baby. It's physically a bit difficult I would never attempt it while pregnant, so now there's also a bit of irony attached to this image for me. It's a weird feeling when you can feel yourself falling, you know eventually you will be able to catch yourself. But the fall can feel so long and dragged out, with many ups and downs.
This image is all about letting people really see you, it's scary and It was just a weird time! Everything made trying to still be myself exhausting. I don't like feeling vulnerable I like to feel in control of myself and my artwork. Opening up to people and letting them into your mind when you're not feeling like yourself is uncomfortable. Long term I know I've got this, and i'm feeling more 'me'. It's done now so people knowing isn't a concern anymore, and i'm still learning to open up more when I need too it's a learning process, I'll keep working at it!
Sleep often plays a part in my work. Or lack of sleep... My dreams became even more hostile during this time, my nightmares when I could sleep where extreme I've never felt so tired. I also spent a lot of time in silence and darkness wishing for morning to hurry up so I could get on with my day.
I love this technique, sometimes this is just how I feel! The editing isn't amazing but I like the image! I got back to things faster than I should've maybe, I still can't decide on that one... Working from home is hard and my dyslexia plays up when i'm stressed. I genuinely really like my day job and just wanted to get back to it, but I didn't anticipate how much headspace everything would take up. In a normal world in a normal time, I would of handled this completely different. I managed to have a couple of walks with friends but human contact outside of my family has been difficult like it has been for everyone. I mostly work from my dinning room table, and have conversation via messenger or zoom. Which i'm learning isn't as bad as I thought, after a on off year I'm getting used to it. So despite the not getting to physically talk about how i've been feeling much at least there are messaging apps! However if this had happened a year or so in the past I would have been surrounded by my friends and replaced my bad memories with new ones. I can not wait to get back to work in a more normal way.
Unfortunately life events like this happen. They makes us take a step back, forcing us to reassess what are priorities and plans are. We have all grieved in one way or another for our loss and plans that didn’t work out this past year. It's been a really hard year for all! Eventually we have to move on, take a deep breath always remember but look forward, but its hard. There will always be step backs, because thats just life. I found the pandemic really difficult, I found all the alone time with my head difficult my over thinking and the constant rush of ideas which can quite often feel intrusive and intense started to exhaust me. I'm rolling with the ups and down of the 'new normal' whatever that means I'm working it out one day at a time but I'm learning to be more patient with myself and look after my mental health.
If you made it down this far thanks for reading! I realise that the images don't really flow or follow a patten! But they tell some kind of story. It's always weird sharing my feelings like this, there's a big part of me that doesn't like it at all, but the openness of my art pushes me to share the meaning and thoughts behind what I do. It was a long one! It really wasn't the project I was planning or wanted, but it was the project I ended up with. Self expression is a great from of therapy for many people, we all deal with life in different ways! It's imperative to remember that there is no right or wrong way to deal with any kind of loss, however when I look back I know I should of done some parts very different but I tried to deal with it the best I could, talking about it can really help, if this blog post helps one person feel less alone or inspired then the sharing was worth it.
This experience has taught me that I already have so much to be grateful for. That some people can be really kind, caring and it’s ok to take a bit of time for yourself. My sisters, friends and work where amazing, the level of support I've had I will never forget. I'm also so lucky to already have such an amazing little family!
Helpfully link for miscarriage information Tommy's
This was the same week my studio had a really bad leak, in fact it started a few days before the miscarriage. Bad timing right! I was unable to sort out the damage and clean the area for this reason, talk about feeling helpless. I’m very lucky to have such a great husband who has been working hard to sort it out so I haven’t had to worry about it. But my art is not defined by my studio or my equipment. I was planning on leaving the studio after the summer and making new plans but now I will not be staying in the studio any longer than I have too, I will still offer family sessions so don’t worry if you have booked for the future. I just need to rethink my options!
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