Angela Jane Lavender
Water Mixable Oils on Canvas
40" x 33"
The first time I laid eyes on my son, Henry, he was in an incubator, and I fainted.
He was born via emergency cesarean at 33 weeks because he had stoped moving and lost most of his blood due to a very rare Feto-Maternal Hemorrhage.
He was whisked away as soon as he was excavated from my womb. My husband, Jeremy, saw him and he was completely white. Drained of blood.
I remember feeling relieved that I heard Henry cry. Grateful that he was in fact still alive.
By the time I was allowed to see him, he was on CPAP for his breathing, hooked up to a monitor for his SATS and an IV directly into his stomach for nutrition. He had a diaper that was impossibly small and he was completely still. He was surrounded by plastic in a warm, unfamiliar incubator.
I stared at him.
He felt like a stranger. So different from the little kicker I had come to know and love.
The doctors filled us in on his status. They talked a lot, but I don’t recall a single word they said. I interrupted them and asked if I could see him. If I could touch him.
When I did, he curled away from my touch and cried.
“He’s stressed by touch right now” is what they told me.
Okay, then I won’t touch him, I thought as a tear rolled down my cheek.
I backed away and I started to feel really hot. I tried to peel away my clothes. I went to sit in a chair. Suddenly I was sitting, surrounded by the team of doctors, my husband and my mom. I was being asked if I had eaten anything. Was I diabetic? Had I ever fainted before?
“What? I fainted?”
I didn’t even know it happened. I thought I had just sat down.
“Really? I fainted?”
I didn’t realize that I would carry this trauma with me for three years. I didn’t even realize it was traumatic. I didn’t realize that I would eventually paint a series of images depicting motherhood; the strength and bond of mamas and their children. I didn’t realize that it was a subconscious attempt at coping with my own experiences of having a traumatic first birth. I didn’t realize that every painting, no matter who I was painting, was also a self portrait. That every painting had a piece of myself, and a piece of my children with each stroke of my paintbrush.
I didn’t realize that I was healing.
I am so grateful to KGH, BGH and PECM hospitals and staff for the tremendous care and comfort they offered my family during Henry’s first year of life.
This painting is for anyone who holds the NICU near and dear to their heart.
-Featuring Jennifer and Declan-