The ‘Womb of Emotions’ represents the vessel in which to carry my infertility and IVF journey. It is not only indicative of my physical womb, but also of the place in my heart where hope and sadness reside. In some ways it also represents a bowl of eggs and with it my fertility; it is also a sacred space where my IVF angels can reside and be part of a ritual for healing. The vessel is open – receptive to hopes, dreams and desires – but, with no protection, also to sadness, disappoint and loss.
Each emotion etched into the pebble or egg is something I have felt on both a physical and emotional level. They are all part of me – reminders not only my journey, but also lessons learnt, and a gratitude for the gifts and experiences that have shaped me into the person I am today: facing infertility, yet strong, resilient and, most of all, hopeful.
The following article was published in the IVF Friends (Monash) June 2010 Newsletter. It appears on this page with the express permission of the author and IVF Friends (Monash). The author’s name has been withheld for privacy reasons.
Pandora’s Box – A Reflection on an Art Therapy Workshop
I love the IVF friends newsletter. But if it makes sense to you, I need to be in a place of strength to read it. If I can’t find the inner strength on the day it arrives, I put the newsletter aside until I do find it. When I read it, it is from cover to cover. The section on IVF in the news is always of interest to me, but the kicker, the part that always makes me shed a few tears, is the letters from all of you – describing your personal journeys through IVF. I shed a few sad tears at the pain you go through, a few happy tears for your joy at a successful cycle, and yes, a few tears for myself and my partner and the success that has not yet found us.
I am thankful that when the February issue arrived in the mail I was in a good place and I opened it and read it that evening. The part that really stood out for me was a paragraph in the President’s Letter on an Art Therapy Workshop run by Tricia Ong. Highly recommended, it said. I must admit to being a bit on the arty side myself, and I wondered if this arts based therapy might help me through all the ups and downs and the feelings of hope and loss that come along with IVF. Straight away I sent off an email to Tricia enquiring about the availability of a place in a workshop. Lucky me, I got into the next one she was running!
On the night there were four women present, and having a small number of participants was very good. Personally I am not a chatty person but other women there were more extroverted and interested in talking and sharing, and listening to them as I worked was very informative. I learnt about Natural Killer Cells, the best place for acupuncture, that I could be far more assertive with my specialist (who by the way, I think is fantastic, but is always in a rush!) and that it is OK to say that life is not fair. I had not felt comfortable with that before because my partner and I are lucky in lots of ways – strong love, supportive families, good jobs, material comforts – just no family of our own (yet!)
We shared our personal stories (although if we were not comfortable with it, there was no need to say anything). I was a tad embarrassed at shedding a tear when telling my story – we had had a negative blood test result from our fourth cycle just two days prior. However, I felt no judgement, only support.
After introductions, Tricia spread some cards with words on them over the table and asked us to choose some that we felt we could relate to. The she asked us to spend a moment in quiet contemplation and to write down some thoughts. “Argh! I came here for art, not writing!” was the thought going through my head. I didn’t want to do it, but I complied. To be honest, it was a much better way to start than I had first imagined, and I ended up using some of those words in the artwork I produced that night. We worked in the media of our choosing, and on the different things we were feeling or the private thoughts that were in our hearts.
All the materials were provided and I chose to work with paper and I made a small concertina book that fitted into a paper mache box. The first page of my book said “Hope”. At the end of the workshop, we shared what we had produced. Although I had heard of the story of ‘Pandora’s Box’ I never really knew the full story, it was another participant at the workshop who explained that when Pandora’s Box was opened all kinds of evil things flew out into the world, so the person who opened it quickly closed the lid. But from inside the box he heard a small knock, and upon opening the lid again, Hope flew out. He realised that as with all things, we need to have hope. Beautiful … and I thank her for sharing that with me.
The four of us who attended the workshop are all in different places in our everyday lives (and our IVF lives) but I still felt a connection with them. We have attempted to meet again for coffee, but so far have not been able to arrange it. Ladies if you are reading this, I hope all is going well for you.
I am thankful for my inner strength. I am thankful to Tricia for running the workshop in the first place. I am thankful for the story of Pandora’s Box and knowing that we all need to have hope, even in the face of adversity. And hopefully one day, I will be thankful for a child.