When I was pregnant with my second child, I received a small book of handwritten birth affirmations from a friend. I greedily opened the book and read powerful words that connected me with the universality of birth: “I birth my baby like billions of women before me.” “I know how to birth my baby.” I breathed in the natural wisdom and beautiful vision contained within that collection. Each day of my pregnancy, I read the words and absorbed them as my own, adding new affirmations as they occurred to me.
The births of all three of my children went smoothly, but the last two, at home, were particularly empowering and wonderful, partially because of the use of these affirmations. The one that resonated most deeply for me was “The pain is my power. It opens me up like a flower in bloom, making room for my baby’s entry into the world.” When I labored the first time, my Pitocin-induced labor became too much, and I chose to have meds to get through transition. For my second and third births, I chose to perceive the “pain” as the most intense feeling I’d ever experienced and to picture each contraction as my body’s way of opening my cervix so my babies could enter the world. These images helped me remain calm and work with the contractions rather than tensing in fear of them. I moved confidently and powerfully through these births and felt completely empowered after birthing my 9 pound, 11 ounce daughter at home and unmedicated. “I am woman, hear me roar!”
Over the next years, whenever I learned a friend was pregnant, I created a handmade book of affirmations for her and gave it to her in hopes that it would offer her as much support as it did me. In the back of my mind played the thought that I should make one of these and get it published so more people could have access to the support. Fast forward a few years… I was a divorced mother of three young children who needed to find something to do with my time when the children were with their father. Happily I turned to creativity to fill my longing for my children. I began to draw, and some of the very first drawings I created were images of myself when I was pregnant. I felt so happy figuring out how to create the form of my beautiful, fecund belly and round breasts with simple graphite and paper. I began to photograph friends of mine when they were pregnant and gave them the pictures as a gift. They generously allowed me to draw them. My first art show was a series of these drawings.
Another 20 years passed – my children grew up and moved out of the house. I continued to occasionally give people affirmations books and to think about making one to sell. I worked on many other series of drawings and paintings. I wrote a book called 365 Creativity Prompts and was getting to the point where I needed to send it to a publisher. One weekend I went on a Silent Retreat where I got a leading that I needed to write, illustrate, and design the Birth Affirmations book first because it was a smaller project and would teach me what I need to know to be able to do the Creativity book afterwards.
I came home ready to follow that leading. I began to use watercolor to paint pretty pages for the book and pens to fill it with Zentangles. Then came the Eureka! moment: I realized I could combine my drawings of pregnant nudes and babies with the affirmations! I feel silly that it didn’t occur to me before, but it just goes to show that things happen when the time is right.
I immediately gathered all my remaining drawings and started designing the book. I took two classes in Adobe Creative Suite so I could learn InDesign so I could design the book myself. I sent the idea to two publishers, but it wasn’t accepted there, so I determined to publish it myself. It was a very exciting process to create the book out of thin air and to ultimately hold it in my hands, ready to let it go into the world on its own – it was very much like pregnancy, labor, and birth!
I was blessed to have help along the way – Thérèse Hak-Kuhn, founder and CEO of toLabor, Patience Salgado, Kindness Girl, and Nancy Giglio, my fabulous midwife, were kind enough to write blurbs for me. Tina Ennulat, a friend who was with me through all these years, edited the book and gave excellent feedback. My Adobe teacher Cindy Martin taught me the skills I needed to design the book. Noah Scalin, author of several books including Skull-A-Day, gave me design advice and straightforward critique when I needed it most. Many women offered me pictures of themselves and their babies to draw when I needed more images. The printer, Worth Higgins, located here in Richmond, VA (it was very important to me to use local resources rather than outsource it to China, despite the cost differential), was fabulous, guiding me through the process of preparing a book for print with kindness and grace. Everything aligned, and in July 7, 2015, after an exciting and not-too-tumultuous labor, Birth Affirmations was born!