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I mentioned on Friday that I had made one quilt previously. I’m very proud of that quilt. It was the first massive amount of sewing I had ever done, and it was beautiful. It had a chili pepper theme, which worked very well for a Christmas present. I started out having no idea what I was doing, and it came out marvelously.

The black fabric in the middle has red and green chili peppers on it. It was beautiful.

Our second day in the hospital, when my body was being induced into labor, Geordie and I discussed what we should do with Lauren’s things. We didn’t want to hold onto them for a second child: it didn’t seem fair to give Lauren’s things to another child, who deserved to have his own things. Nor could we just throw them away, which would feel too much like throwing away Lauren too. These things were hers, they had belonged to her, were intended only for her. We wanted to do something with them that both respected and memorialized our lost daughter.

During the day, I labored. At night, I turned to the internet, seeking some sort of understanding of my situation. I was shocked at what I found. I had never heard of anyone having a stillbirth, but there, hidden in dark recesses, were hundreds of people who had suffered as I was suffering. And if these were the only visible ones, how many more hidden? I wondered at how large this community could be, this secret society of the babylost.

On one site (which I have subsequently lost the link to), I found a list of suggestions for how to memorialize a child who has been lost. One was “create a memory quilt.” I immediately thought, I can do that. This was followed quickly by, I WANT to do that. I discussed it with Geordie, and he agreed with me. It was definitely something we would look into doing once we got back to the States.

A bit of background: I have made exactly one quilt. And I didn’t do it alone. I made it under the supervision and with the helpful guidance of my best friend and her mother (who is a fantastic quilter).  I made this quilt as a Christmas present for Someone Who Shall Go Unnamed (because Geordie will get jealous). It was a great quilt, and I had a lot of fun doing it. The next year, I had wanted to make one for my brother, but I ended up moving to Japan instead.

Because of my limited experience with quilting, I wanted to consult with Heather’s mother again and see what she thought would the best way to go about it. Finally, after all the busy holiday stuff, I got a chance to meet with her last weekend and get her suggestions on what to do with the quilt and all.

Instead of one quilt, there will be two quilts. I have a lot of clothes for Lauren that have largish patches on them. Like this:

Geordie's pick. I can't stay I tried to deter him.

So, these pieces are going to be combined into one quilt, just a block patchwork. The backing for it will be a group of receiving blankets Mom gave me.

The second quilt is a bit more involved. The clothes with smaller patches or all-over patterns are going to be cut into various sizes of hearts.

Lots more where these came from!

I've got about five more of these little patches too.

I’ll attach them to the group of colorful receiving blankets Geordie’s mom gave us. The backing will be the set of adorable receiving blankets I got from my cousin and his wife.

I’m currently in the first phase, which is just washing and cutting. Heather helped me get things started, and we got maybe a third of the way through. So, there’s a lot of work to be done, but I’m up for it. This is something I’ve been wanting to get started on for a while, something that will keep me busy but will also keep me connected to Lauren.

I can’t really describe how it felt to lay all of Lauren’s things out on Heather’s dining room table. Nobody outside of the family had seen Lauren’s things (seeing as how Heather is as close as a sister to me, maybe that is still the case), and it’s been a couple months since Mom packed everything away for us. Seeing everything now, four months after Lauren passed, was an odd experience. It’s hard enough to handle what Geordie and I picked out for her (it was so fun to shop for her, even if we were a little picky about what we bought!), but all the things our families gave us for her spread out around me. It reminds me again that we weren’t the only ones anxious to have her here with us, who were hopeful about her life and her place in ours.

I hope to have both quilts ready by September, in time for her birthday. It took me about five months to make one quilt, so I’m feeling good about this goal. If I don’t get both of them done, I’d at least like to have one finished and the other ready by Christmas. These are my gifts to Lauren, a physical manifestation of my love and longing for her. With these quilts, she will always be here with me, never forgotten. Always loved.

The creative prompt comes from a post at Faces of Loss. The project is to create a body map of yoursef portraying the relationship with the body during a period of grief. Interesting, thought-provoking, challenging. I’ve been working on my body map for about two days now. I’ve never had the best relationship with my body, and that only got worse after Lauren died. This exercise revealed a lot to me about myself and my grief.

I’m a scrapbooker, so I took the materials that I’m used to working with and made my body map with them. No way would I have the confidence to simply draw myself the way I want to express myself. So, I chose a way that would help me keep my confidence and not worry about what I was doing creatively.

So, here it is.

There are three parts to the prompt, and the first is “how you felt at the moment of trauma.”

I’ve spoken before of how I felt I had shattered into pieces when we learned of Lauren’s death. That’s reflected here in the head part of my body map, along with all the questions that crowded my brain during those five days in the hospital. My heart, likewise is broken into pieces. Removed from me entirely is my womb, which felt so heavy and unmanagable before I delivered. Overall, I tried to capture the confusion and heartbreak that filled me so completely during that week.

The second part, the “how you feel in an unsafe environment” part, was the hardest for me. Unlike a lot of women, I have had some great support and nobody has made me feel terrible about my loss. I’m the one who does that. A lot what is represented in this image came from my own dark thoughts and feelings. There are still some days when I take myself to this place and relive all the guilt, grief, fear, and anger that I felt at Lauren’s birth.

Here, my head is still in pieces, though more ragged in appearance and filled with all those dark emotions that take me over every once in a while. My heart is scratched out, a void of disappointment and grief. My womb is empty and faulty, and all I can feel is the lack of her.

The last part asks you to portray “how you feel in a safe environment.” I like this one. It’s nice to see that I can come out of the dark sometimes and empower myself. I don’t have to give in to all the darkness that threatens to consume me.

This time, I’m put together as I should be – no ragged, jagged pieces floating about. Within my head are written the sentences: “I am a mother. I have a daughter.” These surround more positive qualities that have kept me going, the desire to remember Lauren and share her, the need to forgive myself for her death and trust my body again, and the opportunity I have had to learn more about myself and what happened to me. My heart is now embracing Lauren and her memory (represented by a four-leaf clover, which I have always considered her totem). And best of all, my womb has become a symbol of hope for the future, ready to care for and nurture the rainbow baby we want to have.

As difficult as this project was for me, I’m glad I did it. I also encourage anyone who is feeling grief, despair, or other trauma to consider doing this. I don7t think this is something that could only be limited to baby loss. It’s a safe, creative way to work through your trauma and explore what makes you feel unsafe. It helped me, and I hope it can help someone else.

Sara

I am a daughter and a sister, a wife and a friend. I am a reader and a writer, a dreamer and a realist, a teacher and a learner. I am the mother of a baby born sleeping. I am on a journey of healing, walking a path paved with tears and grief and hope.

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