Editor’s Note: I am featuring this article as inspiration for those of you who feel especially burdened during the holidays. Creativity through writing has been a great way for me to express myself, but there are many other ways to express creativity–This article features the efforts of Amelia Gregory, who has revamped her online magazine to feature other artists’ work to help her heal after two miscarriages and secondary infertility. I am not being paid for this post (or any post! This is purely MY creative outlet!), and Amelia’s Kickstarter has closed, but she has wonderful information on her Kickstarter page, so I have linked to it in several places. The author, Hannah Bullivant, also maintains a website, where she and Davina Drummond, her co-blogger, write about pregnancy and parenting, crafting, celebrating, adventures, and things she and Davina love.
I will also accept your original artwork for this website! Contact me if you would like more information on how to submit.
By Hannah Bullivant
Amelia’s magazine, cult online creative treasure trove, is returning to print for its 10 year anniversary, with an issue called That Which We Do Not Understand. It sounds like it’s going to be a treat. Is there anyone who isn’t interested in things we don’t understand? The things at the periphery, the things science can’t quite explain? The brief is brilliant but what sets this apart from other creative projects are the motivations and personal experiences behind it. Amelia, the brains behind the mag, suffered two late miscarriages, things that ultimately shaped her desire to create this unique book. Below, Amelia explains more about the brief, her heartbreaking experiences, how she coped, and the wonderful project that has emerged as a result.
Hannah: You have recently suffered from two miscarriages and secondary infertility- things that have inspired your latest project; That Which We Do Not Understand. Would you mind sharing your story so far? How have these rather horrid sounding experiences affected you?
Amelia: We started trying for another child in the autumn of 2013. I was 40 years old and thought I might have some trouble getting pregnant but it happened very fast. Unfortunately I lost that baby just as I was due for my three month scan. We subsequently discovered that it had died at 9.5 weeks so I was pretty devastated to realise I had been carrying my dead child for some time.
I opted to have the miscarriage at home with no intervention, and started to miscarry whilst at a music class with my toddler. I struggled home and was soon paralysed by crippling pains on the kitchen floor. I never went into labour when I had my first child (despite my plans for a natural birth I ended up with an emergency caesarean) so it is with some irony that my closest experience to a drug free labour was losing a child.
My toddler was too young to understand what was going on so I had to make his supper and get him into bed whilst dealing with waves of absolute agony. I miscarried the gestational sac the next day.
We tried a second time and again I got pregnant quite rapidly. Everything seemed to be going well until I went for my three month scan, when, like a bad dream, I discovered the foetus had died a few days earlier. This time I was not given the option of miscarriage at home due to the lateness and likelihood of heavy blood loss, so I checked into hospital for my first night away from my toddler.
I was given lots of drugs and miscarried my baby into the toilet in the middle of the night. The nurse on duty was brilliantly unsympathetic but I retrieved him and held him in the palm of my hand before handing him over for analysis.
In my ensuing grief I made an appointment with a specialist called Dr. Shehata, who organised a battery of tests at great expense. I was diagnosed with elevated Natural Killer cells and prescribed a huge number of drugs to combat this, but after much research I decided I was unhappy about taking these on the off chance they might help, as some have really horrible potential side effects. I subsequently learnt that my second baby had Downs, which often accounts for late first trimester loss and is obviously a relatively common problem at my age.
Having read widely about natural ways to improve my chances of providing a safe environment for my baby I then changed my diet and started taking loads of herbal supplements and vitamins. We decided to take a break before trying again, but recently found out that I am pregnant once more. I am very nervous and feel quite sanguine about my chances of holding on to this one, but I am trying to be positive.
Hannah: Why do you think that miscarriage is such a secretive matter, and what you think the impact of this is?
Amelia: You’re right, miscarriage is such a taboo subject! I think it might be something to do with the it being the ultimate failure of the body – to be able to create life but not enable it to thrive is a very difficult idea to cope with. It is also very easy to blame oneself and so it is very natural to end up soul searching.
One of the things that hit me the most was the fact that life and death can be so closely intertwined – it really does cause you to question your place in the universe – where did this soul come from and where did it go? One of the only ways I can process what happened to me is to believe that this was meant to be.
I was relatively open about my first miscarriage but when it happened a second time I decided to make an announcement on social media, because it is such a massive thing and I wanted to publicly acknowledge what I had been through. The results were quite staggering – two other women contacted me to say they were going though a miscarriage at exactly the same time as me, and I lost count of the number of women (and men) who contacted me to tell me about their experiences of miscarriage and other infertility issues. I think that in keeping miscarriage under wraps we fail to deal with a vital part of the human condition – fertility is by no means a given and our bodies do not always behave in ways we can predict.
Hannah: How did the book idea come about in the midst of this?
Amelia: I have been trying to rebuild my website for a year and a half, with hopes to relaunch the magazine both in print and online for my 10th birthday this year. Unfortunately I have had major problems with web developers and each time I suffered a miscarriage I was coincidentally having dreadful issues with rebuilding the website. After the second miscarriage I decided to put the relaunch on hold as I had run out of money and energy, but I couldn’t let my anniversary pass without doing something and I am very bad at not being busy. So I decided I would fund a special book on Kickstarter, which enables me to go back into print without the huge worry of going into debt – something that has been a major issue with previous publications.
Hannah: Why did you decide to focus on art and writing on the theme of That Which We Do Not Understand?
Amelia: One of the biggest things I have taken from my experience of miscarriage is that we really don’t understand how our bodies work. Even the specialist doctor was only taking an educated guess because no one can definitively diagnose the reasons for miscarriage, which is a sadly under researched aspect of infertility.
My second miscarriage probably happened because the foetus had Downs but there may well have been other factors at play… I can only speculate. I have decided to pursue a natural approach to fertility so I have spent many hours researching what combinations of vitamins and supplements might improve my chances of a full term pregnancy, and I am having regular acupuncture. These choices are guided by instinct rather than any concrete knowledge of their outcome, but right now this is the right approach for me.
I think that despite such huge advances in science and medicine, there are still many things that modern humans do not fully appreciate or understand about our world, so we still turn to alternative practices to bring clarifications into our lives. In my creative endeavours I have always been inspired by the things that are happening in my life, so I have tackled the universal concept of That Which We Do Not Understand in my book. The final publication goes to print this week and features over 90 beautiful, inspiring and thought provoking contributions from creatives around the world.
Hannah: I think lot of people are interested in things they don’t understand-why? Is it OK, to not understand?
Amelia: I think it is human nature to query things that don’t make sense to us, and these questions about the unknown fuel our quest to create and connect. Ultimately we create the world around us to suit our need for understanding, but of course it’s okay not to understand! I think that’s the beauty of our universe – we will never fully understand everything about life… or death. No matter how much we quantify and analyse there will ultimately always be unknowns. We just need to embrace them.
Hannah: What message would you like people to take away with them about this project?
Amelia: That it is okay to talk about issues and feelings that might not always be easy to address. That when we reach out and connect and share our ideas through creative endeavours we are all much stronger. I very much hope that people enjoy the book and art prints I have put together, and for them to be treasured items in the home that can be returned to again and again.
The brief for Amelia’s book will explore the many ways in which humans seek to understand the things that they don’t understand in their lives: think Mysticism, Spirituality, Alchemy, Paganism, Witchcraft, Herbalism, Astrology, Animal Spirits, Paranormal activities, the Moon and much more. The book will feature at least 72 pages of exclusive artworks interspersed with short stories, flash fiction and poetry. It will be beautiful and inspiring, full of thought provoking contributions that question and celebrate the miraculousness of life.