Healing Hearts

My doctor told me it is time to pick the hospital where I will deliver, so I dutifully scheduled a couple of birthing center tours this last week. One of them was back at the hospital where I delivered (and lost) Michael. I admit to having some trepidation about returning through those doors — my visit to the other hospital in the area had left me feeling anxious and keyed up, and several loss families I’ve met both through the web and in person had cautioned me: returning to the same place is very emotional, often carrying negative associations.

Needless to say, as I parked my car on Friday morning, I didn’t really know what to expect.

It turned out to be a beautiful surprise. It was so emotional, but in a manner I was not expecting. It was healing. Heartwarming. Comforting.

The nurse who came out to give me the tour was the one who took care of me post-partum. As soon as she saw me, she asked where we’d met before… and when I told her, she wrapped me up in a hug and we walked arm-in-arm through the facility. It was like visiting with an old friend.

When we got done with the tour, I asked about the sweet nurse who sat with me through my labor, and after a short call, she walked in. As soon as the brief introduction was halfway said, I was again wrapped up in a hug, and we stood there in tears for a while.

“I want you to know that not a single day has gone by where I haven’t thought about you, your husband, or your son, Michael, and wondered how things were going,” she whispered in my ear. She thought about Michael on his birthday. She had gone back through the files and reports and charts several times to make certain she’d done everything possible that day. She had wanted to do so much for us in the days and months after, but didn’t want to make it any harder.

And I finally got the chance to say how appreciative I was of everything she and the other fine ladies had done for us. How I saw all the little things, the commitment, the caring, and how I didn’t — and would never — forget. All the things I wanted to say, all the letters I wanted to write but was never gutsy enough to actually pen… I got to tell them in person.

And I got to say Thank You.

My heart grows full again just thinking about it.

If you have found yourself in similar shoes to mine, I recommend getting back in touch with the medical staff who shared your experience. Don’t do it right away, give yourself time to process, to heal a bit… but when you can, if you can, do it. All too often, I think we view medical professionals as merely providers of a service, and we forget that they are human, too. And they care about their patients just as much as we do. In an experience as traumatic and emotional as a loss, they are right there with you, invested in it 150%. They understand in a way the average passersby doesn’t. It was such a release to be able to talk openly and freely about that day, and to be able to validate the experience. It was touching and humbling and affirming on a deeply personal level. My soul feels moved great distances. <3

And that’s a beautiful, helpful thing. :-)

Conversational Acuity

If there’s one, achievable thing I’d wish for in the months since Michael’s death, it’s that. The ability to explain what happened — concisely! — and have people understand the full weight and tragedy of our loss… and that we’re healing. The ability to not get drawn in by prying questions and end up telling total strangers more than I’m comfortable with. The ability to speak these words in a manner that circumvents the stupid comments (“That doesn’t happen”), the insensitive questions (“Well, didn’t you DO anything?”), the too-much-information statements (“I knew a lady who died during childbirth, after losing several children herself…”).

The ability to acknowledge that I had a son — a full-term, perfectly formed, red-headed, beautiful little boy — and that he’s no longer with us, instead of just brushing his all-too-short existence under the rug as if he never happened.

My least favorite question at the moment is “Is this your first?”

No matter how I answer, no matter how delicately or bluntly I phrase it, this interaction with an innocent stranger always ends up terribly awkward… for both of us. They either A) turn red-faced and guilty and embarrassed, or B) begin the interrogation process. And I can’t help clamming up and feeling guilty over it. I flounder in a sea of words, where none is the right choice: gentle, firm, final.

Lately, I’ve tried halting the interaction as soon as it begins: “I’d rather not talk about it,” or “It’s personal.”

Strangers don’t understand that, either, and I’m awarded with looks of confusion, irritation, annoyance, and once, even outrage. Not only is my ever-pregnant belly on full display, but it is expected that a mother-to-be bare every aspect of her inner thoughts about her pregnancy at the slightest prodding. And when she doesn’t, or dares to ask for privacy… Well, there must be something wrong with her.

I asked for privacy once with a vague deflection and clear body language, and the lady asked me (in a snide, belittling tone) if I was going to get rid of the baby, put it up for adoption.

I almost cried. My only defense was to tell her everything, all the horrible, ugly, uncomfortable details I didn’t want to get into with her snooty, low-class self, because this is a small town and I’ll not have my reputation slandered. Let there be No Mistake: I love this baby, I want this baby more than anything, but I am plainly terrified, where every day is a tightrope walk and every night is a battle against my worst nightmares. And it is My Right if I choose to share or Not. (As soon as she learned the truth, she backtracked fast, but the damage was already done.)

How does one learn to walk this path? How does one learn the art of discussion with difficult subjects? Diplomacy? Tactful conversation?

I can only hope it will be easier when (I pray) I have a child IN my arms…

1490s Venetian “mockado” gown, part II

(Catch part I here)

Step three: build the gown utilizing “mockado” fabric.

But wait — what IS “mockado”?

The term “mockado” is used to indicate a substitute fabric for a more expensive material; in period, it was used most often to indicate a substitute for velvet. Velvet (much as it is today!) is a very expensive fabric — in the Renaissance, it would have only been available to the wealthy nobles… but fashion is fashion, and the middle class (lesser nobles, wealthy merchants, etc) did what they could to keep up appearances.

In this case, they would substitute a fabric they could afford that would approximate the look of the more expensive velvet — most often fine wale corduroy.

1490Venetian 006

My first real issue with building this gown was the fact that I had to alter a critical piece of the pattern: the front part of the bodice. For all that this Simplicity pattern does right, it does do a couple things wrong, namely adding darts for shaping over the bust. Unfortunately, darts are pretty much a modern invention; in the Renaissance, tailors relied on the drape and cut of the fabric for fitting. I did a simple Google search for “drafting out darts,” traced a copy of my pattern piece onto a hunk of butcher paper, and followed the directions.

1490Venetian 007Drafting out the dart changed the line of the bodice; at this point I’m not certain it’s enough of a change for the right fit, but since I’m going to be modifying the construction by adding lacing to allow for breastfeeding (crossing my fingers!), I’m not terribly concerned at the moment.

1490Venetian 008Per historical custom, I lined the bodice with a canvas for stiffening. The inside of the dress will be lined entirely with a shiny taffeta that matches the mockado corduroy.

1490Venetian 009Next step, on to the skirt and assembly!

1490s Venetian “mockado” gown, part I

As if I didn’t already have enough going on ( ;-) ), I’ve been doing a lot of reading and researching of garb.

You’d think that after playing in the SCA for almost a full three years, that I’d have my persona set — especially after achieving the rank of Artisan in the Order of the Courtier, which requires persona development and research.

Um, no. :P

WeinhardPics 004AWhile I am fascinated by fashion and clothing styles from the mid 1200s through the end of the Elizabethan Age, I keep coming back to the late 1400s in Italy. They’re just… flattering. Elegant. Comfortable!

I made a 1480s Venetian-style gown for myself from a Simplicity pattern (#8735) about a year into our SCA hobby, and I keep coming back to it. Yeah, J and I are supposed to portray Tudor England. Yeah, I bought a bunch of lovely, luxurious fabrics a couple months ago with the full intention of doing a complete Tudor ensemble for myself… but I just can’t stop oogling 1475-1510s Venice.

Hi, my name is Lady Emma, and I’m addicted to the Italian Renaissance…

10606518_760792700652750_7589438622220889638_nNow, I love that Simplicity pattern #8735. It is actually quite close to what it needs to be for historical accuracy… but in my learning process, I can look at my first attempt at this style and see room for improvement. Here’s how I’m building this outfit from the base up, with an eye toward a more accurate representation:

Step one, begin with embellishing a simple snood with pearls. Embellished snoods (beaded with jewels and other pretty/precious materials) were all the rage for wealthier women. Anything to showcase a woman’s “crowning glory” (her hair). Beading my snood was incredibly time-consuming, so I interspersed them across the weave. If I find I want/need more on there, I can always stitch some more at a later date.

And the finished product:

1490Venetian 005Step two, sew a chemise.

Now, I had a rather voluminous houppelande (minimum 10 yards of fabric) sitting in my closet that I wore a couple of times, but was not satisfied with for various reasons (the huge sleeves made it very difficult to do anything around camp, plus, it really pre-dated the time I’m fascinated with). So I decided that rather than waste such lovely material (royal blue taffeta lined with sheer white muslin), that I would repurpose it. And there was plenty.  J helped me out by taking out all the seams, and then, modifying a blouse pattern from a Butterick “wench’s” outfit (#P413), I cut out the muslin.

Modifications included lengthening the shirt by almost a full 24 inches, adding two triangular gores in the sides for extra space (pregnant bellies insist on prime real estate…), and pleating rather than gathering. Per historical custom, I pleated the neckline and shoulders into a narrow band, choosing to pleat more over the shoulders to assist in the “poufy” look. Since I’m also a bard and require minimum interference at the wrist, I chose to also gather the sleeves into a narrow, fitted cuff (so the fabric doesn’t mute the strings of my instrument).

Step three: cutting out the “mockado” fabric… Stay tuned!


Like most girls who turn into women, I spent the greater part of my life listening and learning how to hate my body. Not how to respect it. Not how to be comfortable in it. I learned to Hate it. I learned to look in the mirror and be ashamed. I learned how to silently compare myself to others and pick out the ways I was lacking. So much so that compliments my husband so kindly gave me fell on deaf ears.

Then, one day, I found myself pregnant, and oh, what the surprise that was… :-) I was amazed, every day, by the miracle of what God made my body capable of. I began to love the parts of myself I used to loathe. I began to see beauty where none had existed. And then, we lost our baby and all those hopes and dreams with him, and my confidence — what little of it I had managed to gather — suffered the biggest blow it ever had.

I am still recovering. I am still terribly vulnerable. I’m still self-conscious and prone to moments of insecurity and anxiety. But I had an epiphany this week, and that was how I am often more critical of myself than anyone else. I realized today it all started with that first moment I was taught to despise myself.

So today? Today I did something I NEVER thought I’d ever do.

I bought a bikini.

Yeah, I’m 8 months pregnant. And, I’m pretty positive my mother will roll in her grave when she gets there (she’s probably gasping in apoplexy right now at the scandalousness of this!).

But walking out of the store with that swimsuit in my possession? Driving home and thinking of the look on my husband’s face when I told him (and showed him!) what I did for myself? Putting it on in front of the mirror, pregnant belly and ALL, and feeling satisfied. Being able to smile at myself and see that I’m okay! I’m worth it! That my body — and indeed, the all rest of me — is deserving of my appreciation, naysayers be damned.

I felt so GOOD.

bikiniAnd this little bit of rebellion is even in my favorite colors. :-)