Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Quilts that heal

Recently I was very moved by this powerful creation, a piece called "Caesarean Quilt" made by a mother in the United States called Renee Hoffman who gave birth and experienced a traumatic caesarean in 2010.

Cesarean Quilt by Renee Hoffman, USA

I cried a lot after he was born, partially due to hormones, but mostly due to the events surrounding his birth. At follow up appointments with my certified nurse midwife, I felt like I was told the same thing over and over, as though she was quoting from a script: "Just be thankful you and the baby are healthy, that's all that matters." Never was my emotional damage or turmoil addressed.

I decided to wait a year to heal mentally and physically before doing in-depth research into cesareans and vaginal births after cesareans (VBACs). I met with a certified professional midwife--the very midwife that had delivered my twin brother and I nearly 27 years before--about having a homebirth. She was wonderfully encouraging and supportive. She encouraged my husband and I to find a way that would help us release and express our emotions from our son's birth. One night as I was falling asleep I came up with an image of a woman releasing red waves of pain and emotions into the wind. I had been planning on making a Ticker Tape quilt for a while, and knew the method would work well to turn the image into a quilt.

I wanted to include single words that expressed all the emotions and thoughts I had had since having the cesarean, and wanted to get my husband involved too. We both made a list of words separately then we discussed our lists, adding even more words. As I started quilting the words onto the quilt, I thought of new words and soon there were 70 words! It took nearly a month to complete, and now hangs above our bed. About two weeks after it's completion I became pregnant, and am currently expecting our second child, via home VBAC, in March 2012.

Renee Hoffman, interview on the International Museum of Women's website

You can read more from Renee about her quilt and see several stunning photos here on the International Museum of Women's website and in this post on Renee's own blog.

I was so touched to see how Renee and her husband used quiltmaking to help them on their journey of healing. Sending them many blessings for the upcoming birth of their second baby!

There are two very special women I know who have touched the lives of many people dear to me. Both are wild women, community-minded, creative, passionate and living in the same area (although I don't think they know each other). They too are on the journey of their lives, both on a journey with cancer. I was moved to make them something that reminds them that there are many people who are holding them in their hearts right now. Inspired by Renee's creation, I made two small wall quilts for them.

I created a sandwich of backing, thick double-sided fusible interfacing, batting and a base fabric. Appliqueing small pieces using Vlisofix, I free-motion quilted them down, as well as quilting words of meaning.

I chose to use Laurel Burch's Celestial Dreams fabrics, which I featured in a previous quilt for a dear friend. Laurel was a prolific artist who lived with the bone disease osteopetrosis. Laurel's website describes the motivation behind her art:

In our fast-paced, changing world,” she said, “we need symbols that are a reminder of the ongoing world of the spirit.” On some level, her work was always about bringing different cultures together, and about our connection with the earth and all living things, ideas that have only increased in relevance today.

The universe of her imagination was fertile, burgeoning, uplifting, egalitarian, a place where every flower and dragonfly was transformed into something...magical and beautiful.

For obvious reasons, the subject of healing was always close to her heart. “Being physically vulnerable is, in a lot of ways, a tremendous advantage in terms of human wisdom. My bone disease was my gift,” she said.

Wrapped with love...

Healing energy and positivity is in every stitch of these gifts. Sending both these women much love and support on their journeys.


  1. Oh Melissa! These quilts are infused with love, care, beauty, celebration of life, and healing blessings!!!!! So moved seeing what you have done; and so moved by your beautiful heart.

  2. It really amazes me the healing power that comes through making a quilt... Every quilt I've ever made is me working through my own pain and anxieties one little scrap of fabric at a time... And yet the finished whole is beautiful, useful, and keeps someone I love warm.

  3. You are a very talented and loving woman. I'm glad to know you. xx

  4. Hey, That's my cesarean quilt!!! Came across your blog while on an google image search for "birth quilt", as I'm in the process of making a small quilt as I enter my 39th week of pregnancy. I'm honored you found my quilt so inspiring! Your quilts are beautiful, I'm sure they will be treasured by your friends.

    1. Thank you Renee, I'm thrilled by your reply! You've made my day. :-) I was very moved by your piece. Wishing you an empowered, joyous journey in meeting your babe very soon!