Guest post by Roopam Lunia
Tending Mother, 2017. Roopam Lunia.
“Tending Mother” (2017) is a painting that emerged in the months after I miscarried (who was to be) our firstborn son at 23 weeks on Oct 1st, 2016.
In the maelstrom of emotions that followed: guilt, rage, shame, fear, profound sadness and even some relief (as it was a very difficult pregnancy during a very difficult set of life circumstances), and in the days immediately after, I used my brushes, paint, and canvas as vessels to hold it all together and let it all go at the same time. What emerged was a painting about him, about my womb, about time and an attempt to make some kind of meaning out of it all.
But I did not paint about being a mother myself. For without a living child, I could not tap into that experience. Not even in conversation with our doula, with my husband and friends and family, in journaling, in prayer. In fact, the only time I felt like a mom was when my breasts engorged and leaked all over my not-yet-maternity clothes. I remember running to my own mother asking her what to do.
You need a bra, she said.
I need my baby, I said.
After, I picked up the brush again. This time with the theme of Mother in all of its incantations, including the Great Mother herself who holds the threads of lineages. Here, she cradles my own mother who in turn, cradles me as a baby. Behind us are the decorated skulls of our ancestry deeply rooted in Indian soil and before me, my flower of fertility minus one precious petal.
In this painting, there is grounding. Not only grounding but a shift in perception where in visualizing myself as baby I tap into my own Self as both Mother and Mothered. And not just by the woman who came before me, but by the generations of women whose DNA persisted in spite of a culture where odds were far too often stacked against them.
In this painting, I birthed a preliminary understanding of what it means to be Mother without a child. A deeper understanding of my own mother as first and foremost, even through the years of trials and tears, a woman who loved and tended me as best she could. A reverent understanding of the Great Mother as the keeper of the thread, lineage and indeed the needle and stitches.
In this painting, there is the surrender that only those who have trudged this path understand is needed to move forward in the journey. It’s not easy, but it can, will, and (for me) did happen. And for that, I remain in gratitude.
Christy is a doula and Birthing From Within childbirth mentor committed to strengthening families and communities through storytelling/storylistening, meaningful celebration, mindfulness, and reflective work.