Originally conceived several years ago the sketch for this print was created during my first visit to Tio’ta:ke (the Mowhawk name for the place in unceded Haudenosaunee and Anishinabe territories now referred to as Montreal, Canada). Revisiting the original sketch was important to me during this time of healing.
For most of my life I’ve had problems with my reproductive system. When I was 14 years old a gynecologist told me I would never be able to get pregnant because of these issues. This was a heavy message to give a young person. And as a result I internalized it as an irreversible and eternal fact.
Twenty-six years later I am walking through the sterile halls of the Kaiser building in my neighborhood when my eyes lock in on a very pregnant mother who is holding their adorable toddler’s hand. This scene, this moment, would have normally put a smile on my face but in this instance I felt crushed. You see… I was on my way to see my oncologist for the very first time. It felt like a train careened right through my chest. I ran into the bathroom to cry. It dawned on me that I so desperately wished I could be visiting an OB/GYN to discuss new life instead of seeing an oncologist to talk about how to avoid death. These feelings came as a shock to me because most of my life I believed that getting pregnant and raising the child was impossible. I’d talked about adoption quite a bit but something about being told I could never carry a child had wounded my psyche and torn apart my heart. The topic of raising children made me very uncomfortable. When added to the generations of familial trauma caused by sexual violence and abuse the idea of children in my life sank like an anchor to the bottom of the ocean.
Out of all this pain I found new hope in a non-Western perspective on health and life. In the process of dealing with my cancer diagnosis I received a consultation with an expert in Traditional Chinese Medicine. During this consultation I learned that all of the health issues that ailed me for my entire life are all part of one system in the body. My lungs, my skin and my moon cycle are all connected and can (and are being) addressed and rebalanced. It was a revelation that lifted a weight from my shoulders, that made my heart lighter. Not because there was some instantaneous physical transformation but because my heart wasn’t crushed into dust. The emotional pain I had internalized as a young teenager and carried for decades started to ease.
This piece is dedicated to the people who mother children they have given birth to, to people who mother the children they have adopted, to the people who mother children they have taken into their homes and to their hearths. This piece is for the people who mother who find it so difficult to mother, who don’t fit the mold and who love their children with their whole hearts. This is for the people who mother children who they see as the sunshine of their lives.