The Art of Infertility: Finding Healing Through Art, Writing & Stories

 

Today R2M wants to invite you to explore the world of Art. Art can be a great emotional outlet and a way to express your own infertility journey through music, photography, painting, poetry and other forms. The ART of Infertility is an infertility artwork, oral history and portraiture project and traveling exhibit. I am excited to say they will be traveling to two locations near and dear to my heart. They will be in Houston, TX April 5th-8th and at Advocacy Day in Washington D.C. on May 11th. I love that this exhibit gives women a creative outlet and support through their infertility journey. I hope you find inspiration through Elizabeth’s and Maria’s stories and plan to attend one of these great events. For more information about the Art of Infertility click here. Hopefully I will be able to share my own art piece with all of you in the near future here on the blog!- Traci  

A message from Elizabeth and Maria:

A couple of months ago, Elizabeth and I were being interviewed about ART of Infertility. Towards the end of the interview, we were both asked: What makes you hopeful?

As I thought about the question, I thought about my own infertility journey. At the age of 24, I was adjusting to being a newlywed, living in a new state, and coming to terms with my infertility diagnosis. I was confused, angry, and depressed. I didn’t know where to go, who to talk to, or what next steps my husband and I should take. In need of releasing emotion, I turned to writing. As an English major in college, I discovered that words were not just for communication – words were for healing.

And so, I wrote.

The House

I sit right now in the room that was to be the baby’s. We bought a cozy, two-bedroom two-story house with the intention for the blue room to be ours. The mauve colored room we would repaint and would be for the baby. The blue room was slightly larger than the mauve. We intentionally selected this room with the rationale that a bassinet could comfortably be set up next to our bed. The mauve colored room was smaller but had a walk-in closet able to host the baby’s port-a-bed, bouncer and a long lasting diaper supply.

Next to the bed in the mauve colored room is a desk where I sit and write and work. Books are stacked on the desk. Not in any order. Just placed on the desk. Where the desk and bed are is where we planned to put the crib. Now we fill that area with what we think may be our new life. A life filled with professional promise and a life where a guest bedroom will always be needed. We will be the future aunt and uncle that can provide a retreat for a niece, nephew, or even sister or brother.

Coming home to this house I sometimes remember the thoughts I had when we purchased it. The room downstairs that now has bookshelves and dog toys scattered about was to be the baby’s playroom. It attached to the kitchen and would have let me prep dinner and play with the baby as we waited for you to come home from work. I imagined hearing you pull into the driveway. I would give the stew in the crockpot a quick stir and then pick up baby Henry or baby Sophia from the play mat in the other room, anchoring the baby to my hip and having my free hand raise the baby’s hand as to wave to you from the backdoor.

Now, that image appears more like an illusion than a premonition. The house symbolizes something different now than what it did when we first purchased it. The very terms of making and sharing a home together have changed. We first purchased it as a symbol of family extension and growth. Today we sit in the rooms of our house trying to make sense of the symbol it now represents.

As I began writing, I found myself becoming more open about the stigma and isolation that I was experiencing with infertility. Today, I continue this work by writing a dissertation that explores rhetorics of infertility through art and storytelling and participating as a collaborative partner with Elizabeth and The ART of Infertility. This work involves the sharing of not just my story, but connecting with others who have faced infertility and sharing their stories in order to combat these stigmas and advocate for better infertility representation and legislation.

As I think back once more on the question “What makes you hopeful?”, I realize it may not be obvious. I do not have a child. I have not completed my infertility journey. I still in many ways am living in this state of unknown and limbo. But I realize now that I am hopeful. I have found so much healing – in words and in stories. I encourage you all to share your own story, to participate in your own making, and to find your own healing.


 

rosesRoses. Mixed Media by Elizabeth Walker.

In July of 2012, I was on a 3 week medical leave, recovering from the exploratory laparoscopic surgery which confirmed that endometriosis was likely contributing to my infertility. I was restless, yet unable to do much due to my post-surgery restrictions. My husband and I had been trying to add to our family by having a baby for over 3 years. We’d endured testing, five rounds of Clomid and timed intercourse, and four hybrid cycles of intrauterine insemination. My diagnosis was profoundly affecting me and I felt like I needed some physical representation of it. Something tangible that would mark this time in my life, a historical record. I pulled out my art supplies and started ripping up paper, creating mixed media collages. I found the process of creating art around my infertility experience to be a great outlet. So, I continued.

It turned out that I wasn’t the only one in my circle who was creating art while dealing with infertility. I thought that using art might be a great way to explain the experience of infertility to the public and reached out to the Ella Sharp Museum in my hometown of Jackson, MI about allowing me to curate an exhibit that would tell the story of infertility through the artwork and interviews of those with the disease. That exhibit, The ART of IF: Navigating the Journey of Infertility, opened in March of 2014.

The response to the exhibit was incredible and went above what I could ever had imagined. Not only for the impact it had on those who were learning about infertility for the first time, but for the sense of community it created for those living with the disease. I wanted to continue the project and take it to other cities, hoping to give more people with infertility an opportunity to come together through art. That’s when ART of Infertility was born. Since then, Maria and I have been traveling the country, collecting and displaying the artwork and stories of those with infertility, and those who need assisted reproductive technology to build their families. We also hold art and writing workshops to give others the kind of outlet that we have found so helpful.


We invite you to share your stories with us and with the project. The ART of Infertility is always interested in collecting stories and pieces of art – not just for the infertility community but as ways to advocate for better infertility legislation and patient-provider practices. (Note: Both “The House” and “Roses” are pieces included in the exhibit.)

We will be in Houston, TX April 5 – 8th and at Advocacy Day in Washington D.C. on May 11th. Please let us know if you’d like to contribute a story and/or artwork to the project. We also welcome guest blog posts and frequently feature these on our blog and social media pages. To find out more about the ART of Infertility, please visit www.artofinfertility.org or you can follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Letting GoLetting Go. Mixed Media by Denise Callen.
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