“On the Horizon” 11×14, oil on canvas $150.00 Buy Now SOLD
I met Laura in high school, and, to be honest, other than her huge belly, she’s not changed much.
She’s pregnant, of course.
But it wasn’t an easy road, and she’s struggled more than most. You can read her blog to hear her story first hand. She started writing long before she was pregnant so it’s authentic, honest, heartfelt. It’s hard to read some of her earlier posts knowing the happy ending she doesn’t in the moment she writes it.
I’ll remember the first time I read her blog. Ezra was weeks old, and I was nursing him in a glider I’d just purchased. I’d just mastered simultaneous nursing and iphone holding. I saw a link on her facebook page and clicked to the blog. I knew ectopic pregnancies happened but I’d never heard of one happening to someone else. I thought I was the only one. I e-mailed her immediately. I don’t know what I wrote but the main idea was ME TOO.
I’ve been following Laura ever since and now, two years later, she’s expecting her first child in a matter of days.
I wanted stories for September, but, like I said in my last pst, people aren’t exactly filling up my inbox everyday: Tell me something vulnerable, and I’ll publish it! If that doesn’t get you going, I don’t know what will.
But the most amazing thing happened. When I reached out to people whose stories I’d followed, when I asked them to contribute to my project, they gladly, eagerly acquiesced. Laura was one of them.
She describes her pivotal moment as crying in a bathroom at a New Year’s Eve party. She’d just looked at facebook. Facebook. That wonderful place where we parade our joys, triumphs, outrages, but rarely our struggles. I suppose that is as it should be, but there is something untrue about all of it.
She’d seen a picture of her friend with her three daughters. Three. How big a number that is to someone to whom one would be a miracle.
“I wanted my two children who passed away inside of me. I wanted them here, with me. It made me so sad to think that we would probably never have kids. At that point, we had been trying for almost four years and every day that passed made it harder and harder to believe that I would ever be a mom.”
Her husband found her in that bathroom, crying:
“…the look on his face was so defeated. It broke my heart for him to see me like that, at a time when we should have been celebrating all the good that has happened to us.”
Later they argued, made up. Pregnancy loss and infertility hurt men too, but somehow, although the hurt isn’t necessarily less, it does seem to be fundamentally different.
Laura found out she was pregnant two weeks later, ie, she had been pregnant during the whole new year’s episode.
“And I promised myself after that day to never forget my husband. To never forget that what I go through, he goes through. And our marriage has never been better. Sure, being pregnant helps, but that is not why we are better than ever. I truly believe it’s because I never again want to see my husband so sad. I never again want him to think that he doesn’t make me happy. This entire journey has taught me… that we are both strong, but that we are each other’s weakness. And we need to protect that. We need to protect our marriage first, at all times… This journey that will never be over. We will have good days and bad days but as long as we protect and stay open to each other, everything will be okay…Sometimes, you really need to let go of the control that you foolishly think you have and just let things happen. I wish I would’ve never reacted the way I did when I saw my friend’s picture. I wish that my husband and I could have had a nice, celebratory holiday. He certainly deserved it. Every time I think about that night and the look on his face when he found me crying, it makes me so sad. Because he was hurting too. He was just better at not showing it.”
Anyone who has struggled with pregnancy loss or infertility or God forbid both, know the feeling of helplessness, the control we “foolishly think we have.” What amazes me most about Laura is the way she handled her struggle. She didn’t hide it, ignore it, rage against it. She did what I did not, or at least not right away. She confronted it and in doing so gave birth to hope in the women with whom she shared it.
So once again, I found myself with a beautiful story and no painting. I was hesitant to do a maternity painting mostly because maternity images seem to say nothing about the struggle, the hopelessness, the powerlessness, the defeat. Laura’s and my story are vastly different, but I think hers resonates with me because of that overwhelmingly powerlessness against a backdrop of facebook pregnancy statuses and smiling toddlers– what is so normal is so impossible.
Funny that I would scan her facebook photos for maternity shots. She had some beautiful ones taken by a talented local photographer (also a high school comrade) Heather Burbrink. Heather gave me permission to use one of her photos for inspiration. You can see Heather’s work here.
I chose the maternity image because it speaks so much of potential, of mystery, of waiting. I painted it as loosely as I could muster. Laura is ridiculously beautiful– the kind of girl who gets told that so much I wonder if its lost all its meaning. This paintings not just about her beauty though. I hope it’s about the journey, the struggle, the helpless resignation that oftentimes leads to outright joy.
Yesterday, a friend e-mailed me a story I’m eager to use this month and she referenced Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, so I guess Hurston was on my brain. Toward the end of the painting, the opening passage of that novel kept coming to mind so I wrote a few lines into the painting:
“Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board. For some they come in with the tide. For others they sail forever on the horizon, never out of sight, never landing until the Watcher turns his eyes away in resignation, his dreams mocked to death by Time. That is the life of men. Now, women forget all those things they don’t want to remember, and remember everything they don’t want to forget. The dream is the truth. Then they act and do things accordingly.”