The months October through December are a busy time for me as far as portrait work goes. I’m usually working on multiple portraits at once as well as the common hustle and bustle during this time. I was busy drawing portraits of babies, children, and dogs when an email stopped me in my tracks.
In the past, I have been asked to restore pictures (artistically) that have been destroyed and have taken multiple images and combined them into one portrait, but I have never had this particular request. A mother asked if it were possible to draw a portrait of her baby. Sadly, he had passed away at just five weeks old. The only pictures they had of him his lower face was mostly covered in tubes and tape. She was hoping I could artistically remove those parts of the photo so they could have a clear image of him. I was determined that I was going to figure out a way to do this.
She sent me several photos of Maddox and I used them all to get a good idea about how he looked, the curves of his mouth, the arch of his eyes, the shape of his ears. Babies are beautiful little creatures and this little one was no exception, he was just precious. And as I always do, I found myself smiling as I shaded in his hair and drew in his tiny fingernails. I was proud of the end product and she was happy as well. I reached out to her later and asked her permission to use her story and her portrait as part of my blog. She graciously obliged stating that it is important to talk about, support and spread awareness about infant loss and miscarriage. I wholeheartedly agree.
“The main thing that has helped me is sharing my story and talking about Maddox. Also, when other people talk about him and remember him and call him by name.” ~ Maddox’s Mom
After completing this portrait I started to think about other ways I could use my ability to help honor these little lives. I have seen paintings of sonogram/ultrasound pictures in the past and always thought they would make a great baby shower gift or nursery décor. But sometimes, these images are all some families have as well. I thought, I can do that! So I dug out the sonograms of my girls to try some practice pieces but almost as I started to lay ink to paper the name of a dear friend popped into my head, Katie.
Katie and I had had a chance to catch up over the summer and talk about her Cullen that she lost when she was 23 weeks pregnant. The thing about that conversation that stood out to me was that she said she loves to talk about him. The story is tragic but the life is beautiful and he was hers. And his story and their love for him is what is left.
Honestly, I think most mothers find it therapeutic to talk about their lost child. I never shy away if someone wants to hear about him. I just don’t like making others sad or uncomfortable.” ~Katie
So I reached out to her and asked if I could do a portrait of Cullen’s sonogram and she graciously obliged.
My loss was during the first trimester when the majority of miscarriages occur and I still remember my doctor delivering the news to us, she probably had uttered those same words to hundreds of other women and her demeanor was as such. I remember hearing, it’s nothing you did, it happens all the time, here are your options. It didn’t make it hurt any less. I was o.k. though, I had an odd sense of calm about it, probably because of how early it was and also I just lost my grandmother and days later found out my mother had breast cancer.
My due date was February 18th. By the time that date rolled around, I was already pregnant for what would be our rainbow baby. For me, that was the hardest part of it all, those early months I was pregnant for Joanna, waiting and hoping this would be a healthy pregnancy. Joanna is in every sense of the word a rainbow. She has brought light and laughter like no other, her life healed us in ways we didn’t know possible. A true rainbow baby. (You’ll be happy to know, Katie also has a beautiful rainbow baby too!)
One in four women will experience miscarriage, still born or infant loss. Some are unfortunate enough to experience a combination of the three. The topic can seem taboo at times, I think that often people don’t know what to say to someone who has experienced loss and often times it just gets ignored in conversation.
Motherhood is a mixture of all types of emotions and they all begin the day you see that positive pregnancy test. Some of us have happy endings and some are more heartbreaking. Some women choose not to talk about their loss and others do. No one is wrong. However there is so much beauty in the love and support I see in the community of women that have gone through this type of loss. I think that is the most important part about awareness, knowing there are others out there that have felt your pain can make it feel less lonely. Where ever you may find yourself in this journey just know there are so many women who have experienced something similar and most are more than willing to lend and ear and even a shoulder to cry on.
Below are some resources to check out. The book has parts that talk about the fathers’ mourning and helping older children cope. The other is a link to a list of tips for talking to families that have experienced loss.