Guest series 2012: I asked fellow bloggers, makers and creators to write on their creativity and focus their essay on one of four topics: creativity and health, creativity and business, creativity and parenting or creativity and process. I am very excited to have a wonderful lot of fellow creative folk guest posting here at whipup.net over the next couple of months. Please welcome…
Leisl, who lives in Melbourne, Australia, can be found blogging at jorth. Check out her stories on sewing, cooking, green living and knitting — go for the craft, and stay for the laughs!
I have always been a crafter. Ever since I was a little girl I was always happiest with busy hands, creating away. You name it I tried it – sewing, knitting, embroidery, paper making, jewellery making – life was good when I was creating! I used to spend many happy hours dreaming of an adult life filled with the joy of making things, and there were always the bright smiling faces of my children in these day dreams.
You can imagine my delight, therefore, when I found out that I was pregnant in the spring of 2003. And with a little girl, to boot! I couldn’t wait to meet my new buddy, and spent many happy hours making things to welcome our daughter into the world, from her cot sheets to soft knitted toys.
So the plan was to go into labour, head to the hospital, push for a bit and then bring home our lovely daughter, and then after a suitable amount of time start planning for the next one. Oh, and live happily ever after. That’s everybody’s plan, right? Unfortunately for us, though, the script was altered at the last minute. Unbeknownst to myself, my husband or the hospital staff, I was suffering from a condition called placenta accreta. Wikipedia defines it as a severe obstetric complication, and they sure didn’t get that wrong. Basically, it means that the placenta becomes embedded in the uterine wall. Nobody realised that this was the case for me, and when the placenta was removed after birthing my daughter, a huge piece of the uterine wall came with it. Uh oh.
I’ll spare you all the gory details (and trust me, there are plenty) but the short story is that I nearly bled to death, and the only thing that saved me was emergency surgery for 5 hours, culminating in a post-partum hysterectomy. Oh, and 19 blood transfusions. So much for my visions of a nice relaxed birth, with the pop of a champagne bottle afterwards. Physically and emotionally I was a mess, and had a very long road of recovery ahead, plus a new born baby to contend with.
My body slowly mended, but my mind took a bit longer. There was so much to process – the trauma of what I had been through, the constant thought that only by the grace of God I was there to watch my daughter grow up, the grieving for the family of 5 children that we had hoped for but would now never have, and the vulnerability that comes with the knowledge that your safe little world can crumble in an instant.
That, for me, was the hardest thing to deal with – knowing that I had so little control over what might happen. Life could change in an instant, and that first-hand experience left me feeling like I had no control over anything. I put on a brave face, and slapped on a smile and said I was fine whenever anybody asked, but it was a pretty rough time – one that I wouldn’t wish upon anybody.
So there I was – wombless, mentally scarred and scared to death by the fragility of life. This was probably the point where most people would have called in an army of psychologists, but I instead turned to craft. Life, I knew, I had very little control over, but a crafting project I did. Every day when my daughter went down for a sleep, I turned to whatever project I had on the go, and worked at it until she woke. And even if I only got to sew a couple of seams, or knit a few rows, the very act of creating on my own terms began to heal me.
The sense of accomplishment I felt whenever I actually finished a project was dizzying. It was almost like a belligerent cry out to the universe: “I am still here! Look at what I made! You can’t take this away from me!”
So stitch by stitch, I got better. Less scared, more confident. I was still alive, and was still capable. The feeling of living in a body that could let me down at any moment began to fade away, and my mind turned instead to looking after my girl the best I could. Soon my favourite things to make were clothes for her. Somehow, just knowing that I could keep her warm in things made by my own two hands made me feel better.
They say that time heals all wounds. It does, in a fashion. Part of me will always be quietly grieving for the children we can no longer have, but it is a small part now – one that fits into the jigsaw of the person I am, rather than overwhelming me as it did in the beginning. And crafting helped me come to that place. It gave me a sense of confidence in myself, and sometimes just the feel of the fabric or yarn was enough to convince me that all was ok in my world, as long as I could sit quietly to make something.
Before I knew it, my daughter – who is the light of my life – was part of my crafting process, whether it was making something for her or just sitting down and making a good old crafty mess together. Soon I started a blog to document these precious memories, and before I knew it I had internet friends, some of which have become wonderful friends in real life. My blog has lead to jobs, to writing, to the finessing of my skills and I have crafting to thank for all of it.
By the way – I did get my happily ever after. It was a different sort from the one I was expecting, but the hard won version is always so much better.