My assigned nurse from the birthing unit even hand crafted a few keepsakes for us to bring home, which included a beautiful poster with a lovely butterfly sticker, a blue monarch. On my way home, I could not stop looking at that sticker, which led me to research the meaning of the butterfly and found that it symbolizes rebirth, souls of departed loved ones, and the fragility of life because of its short life span.
As an artist, it felt natural for me to create art in order to process all my emotions. A few days after my return home, I sat down and painted the same blue monarch. While painting this butterfly, my mind was calm, and I somehow still felt close to my baby. This feeling inspired me to make it a daily practice. I set 100 days because the last week of my 100 days would also coincide with my baby's original due date. I called it The Ajisai Project, Ajisai being my artist name. The ajisai is a beautiful Japanese hydrangea that changes colour depending on its soil. I have some in my garden (planted recently) and it's also the name of one of my favourite inks (Pilot's iroshizuku brand).
I posted everyday on Instagram to see my progress over time, but I was also hoping that maybe someone somewhere might relate or understand the meaning behind my portraits. Time in my studio varied from 5 mins to 6 hours daily. It wasn't always easy to find the motivation to create, since some days I was quite overwhelmed and emotional. Although, I always felt so much better after doing so. In fact, I would say that my sketchbook is my diary, and that every sketch was an entry of sorts. I want to add that my husband encouraged and took care of me throughout my entire journey, and that I couldn't have completed this "challenge" without his support.
One thing that surprised me was that I wasn't inspired by the same thing anymore. All of a sudden, all I drew were portraits and butterflies, nothing else. I guess that makes sense though, since I don't think I'm the same person as I was before. My entire process was also really therapeutic, often starting as an overly saturated abstract ink wash (my favourite colours) and then becoming a more technical portrait drawing made with coloured pencils. These two levels of complexity kept me engaged. Through these portraits, my aim was to echo my emotions.
Art is helping me heal. I get to spend time thinking about my blue butterfly and I still feel like I'm still creating memories with him. I truly believe in art therapy, and I hope my experience can inspire other loss moms to take on a similar journey. You don't have to be an artist and you don't need expensive material. All you really have to do is set a time everyday or even every week (even just as little as 5 minutes), ideally somewhere without too many distractions and create something with media that appeals to you. This can range from collage work, painting, drawing, mixed media, playing an instrument, etc. In my case it was coloured pencils and ink on paper, while listening to music. The point isn't to have a collection of finished/frame-worthy pieces of art, but rather it's the process that counts. Noticing what feelings come up is key and letting yourself go through these emotions is important as well (all emotions are valid). At the beginning, it was a lot of pain and sadness for me, these days it's resilience.
Here are some of my favourite pieces.