Over the past 12 months I have been exploring feelings through textiles. This includes not only the feelings we have towards our textiles but the feelings we express through textiles. I have done a few projects that encapsulate different emotional states but they have largely been general emotional states I am feeling at the time I pick up the work to create. This got me thinking it is about time I focus on specific emotional states and start expressing them through my craft.
My first motivation was towards all the positive feelings. How do I convey enthusiasm, elation or even desire but I realized as I have been thinking about emotions I am constantly setting asside my more negative emotions so I decided I should consider focusing on that instead. I asked myself what negative or difficult emotions I have dealt with over the past year and wheather I want to deal with the general feeling of a specific emotion or if I want to focus on the specific experience of an emotion. As I thought about this I kept on coming back to my pregnancy and subsequent miscarriage last year.
On October 4th, which happens to be my moms birthday, my partner and I became pregant. I believe we might have actually tried to visit my parents in West Vancovuer that night for a birthday dinner but turned home after over an hour in traffic on Georgia street. Of course we we wouldn’t find out about the pregnancy until weeks later. The first sign something was different was the onset of painful cramps for a week leading up to my period and ongoing once my period was a few days late. I don’t usually experience much in the way of cramps so this was strange. I decided it would be prudent to take a pregnancy test ‘just incase’ as we had ‘not-not’ been trying to get pregnant. I thought it was impossible I would be pregnant so quickly and couldn’t believe my eyes when both lines lit up blue immediately!
Over the next 11 weeks I experienced the most excruciating cramps, insomnia which led to weeks of no more than 45 minutes of sleep a night, and escalating depression. I had never been pregnant before and reached out to friends who had as well as medical professionals. Most people said, “ya pregnancy is tough, the first part is the worst and you just get through it.” I didn’t know if there was something wrong with me that I just couldn’t handle pregnancy, if this is how it always is, or if there was something seriously wrong.
I took a genetic test at week 8 but wouldn’t receive the results for weeks. Finally during week 10 I experienced some bleeding. I immediately called my midwives who booked me in for an ultrasound and a few days later I got the results of the genetic test back saying we had a one in two chance the baby had Monosomy X which means the baby only having one chromosome. This happens when the sperm doesn’t develop, just the egg. Some babies make it to term and, from everything I read, have very difficult and short lived lives with a lot of medical interevention. My partner and I were struck hard with this news.
Early on I had taken a blood test which showed I had excessivly elevated levels of hormones in my system. This could be due to one of 3 things: I had been pregnant longer than I thought, we were having twins, or our baby had a genetic disorder. As time went on I sort of forgot about this finding though now it was abundantly clear what the cause had been. Though I can’t be sure, I think the excessive levels of hormones were responsible for my declining mental health and as I got closer to week 9 I began to contemplate the worst thoughts. I cried more and more and became desperate for help. I reached out to counsellors but no one could do anything for me. I weighted the impacts of of SSRI’s on my unborn child against the stress my emotional toll was taking but in week 11, at my final ultrasound, everything became clear.
My final ultrasound took place at the womens hospital on Oak, an amazing facility wiht incredibly caring staff. There I found out that the baby had died in week 9, the same week my emotional state was at its worst. After describing my symptoms to the doctor she said she had never heard of someone having horrible cramps their full first trimester and that it sounded like I had been in, “chronic physical and emotional pain for nearly 3 months.” As horrible as all this news was it felt so relieving to have a doctor confirm that what I was going through was not a normal pregncy and that I had no failing as a woman being unable to tolerate pregnancy. No one could have known what was going on in my body until that genetic test revealed its results.
The whole experience put such a strain and toll on my relationship it’s a wonder it ever survived. My partner is such a strong person to have been with me through that experience. I am constantly sad for the loss of the dream we were building with that little bundle of cells but knowing it is only a part of the story of our lives and not the whole picture I can put it into prospective.
To embody the emotions I felt during my first pregnancy and miscarriage I realized that one doesn’t experience just one single emotion but an array of different feelings that, like a paint palet, create unique colors and shapes to form a whole new picture and thus new experience of the individual elements. My pregnancy wasn’t just pain, depression and suffering but it was also full of endurance, pursivearance and optimism.
As I thought about these emotions I was also thinking about the blackberry bushes that surround my parents house in West Van. The long reaching tentacles of cellulose and thorns seemed to be something that could be useful in textiles but I wasn’t sure how until the idea entered my head to weave them into a basket. I began to reaserac to see if anyone else had done this and if it could work. Most of what I found online were instructions which included removing the thorns and splitting the canes down the center a few times until one had long, thin pieces of the plant. I wanted to keep the canes intact and I wanted the thorns to remain on them too.
As the basket came together in my head it began to mesh with my memory of my miscarriage which I think about in regards to my thesis all the time, especially since I experienced it all during the first semester of my masters. It became so obvious. The basket represented the womb to me. To weave the basket of thorns was my creation of a new life inseprabable from the pain caused by it’s very creation. It would be a basket that would be hard to hold in my hands, one I could not push against my skin. The thorns felt like the stabbing sensation of cramps in my lower abdomen over the nearly 3 months. And in spite of the pain of creating the basket, in the end all I would be left with is stillness. The basket does not move. I have not given it life, in fact life has been taken away where the branches were cut. My cuts will heal and I will be left with the memory. But unlike my unborn wild rice, I’ll still have the basket.
Above is images of inspiration for my woven basket.
On a sunny Sunday, it was time to tackle my basket. I had to do it before the fall rains hit and the blackberries started to turn for the season. I cut 6 long canes to begin with not knowing how many I would need though in total I ended up working with roughly 16. Once I sat down to start the base, 6 lengths I would use for my frame. I found them too stiff and sturdy to keep together so I tied them with a red piece of yarn intending to cut away the yarn once the basket has lived in its shape for a while.
Using two more pieces of blackberry I began to weave in alternating pattern between the support legs of the frame. Although I was wearing gloves the thorns poked through the thick fabric and scratched up my exposed wrists. They occasionally caught on my pant legs digging into my thighs. Although this wasn’t intended to be a practice in masochism, I welcomed some of the pain to bring me the reminder of my intended expression.
The thorns actually weren’t just a hinderince but helped to hold parts in place as they grabbed onto eachother like hooks. Where the canes were thickest I had to nearly snap them in half, though they did not break apart, to wind them around in a curved shape. I was delighted with how well the weaving worked and how much faster it went than I had expected. My first thought was, “lets do this again!” As I have been told before I have a print makers mind, and love to iterate and witness my improvement but ultimately felt the point would be lost if I began to do this right away. Perhaps down the road I will weave more thorned baskets but for now this would be my one, my miscarriage, the physical embodiment of my wild rice.
It now sits on my dining room table waiting, holding it’s shape. I hope it will stay as it started. And I wonder if I am ready to move on from experessing this experience with my textiles or when it will come up again. At least I feel I have freed up space to work with one of my more welcome memories for now.