Tag Archives: c-section

Triumph – VBAC piece

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(Click image to enlarge)

Purchase options:

6×6 Digital “Mini Print”: $20

8×8 Digital print (100 in a series):  $50
12×12 Giclee Print (50 in a series):  $150

Original (12×12 inches):  N/A

For more information about the types of printing please go here.

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This piece is a collaboration with another mama to create an image she can reflect on when planning her VBAC.

I want to first put a disclaimer here that I am not trying to say that every woman who has had a cesarean should VBAC or that if you tried to VBAC and it didn’t happen that this was a failure in any way. Also this piece is very earthy in a way that the cesarean piece was not and this is not to say that women who have cesareans aren’t earthy (cesareans are just by definition sterile). Also, some women have had traumatic VBACs. This is just a picture of what an “ideal” VBAC would be for my friend.

Some people might find it odd that she is carrying a flaming sword. This was an image that I kept coming back to and stems from the Buddha Manjushri, the Buddha of Wisdom (I’ve included a pic in this album). He carries a flaming sword of truth. My friend was at first wary of this imagery but then said she really liked it because before someone else was holding the scalpel, but now she is holding that power. Also when thinking of the preparation that goes into a VBAC i know that many women are very conscientious to gather all the research and studies they can.

She is confident, grounded, and safe in her grove of redwood trees.  Redwoods are known for being strong and resistant to disease.  I chose these trees because women who VBAC often take great care as to where they choose to give birth, that that place supports practices that encourage VBAC.

Her birth attendant is off to one side, always there encouraging but not taking her power away from her. Her partner is behind her supporting her as well and everyone is trying to tune into her needs as best they can.

At the center of her belly is a koru. A koru is a Maori term for a fern unfurling. It starts at her heart and fills her belly. This symbolizes the inward journey women often go through to VBAC.

Also both the koru and the flower represent an opening and unfurling physically. Many women who have cesareans never made it to 10 cm and that is a fear for them when preparing to VBAC. So this essence of “opening” is an important element.

Her scar is a rainbow that radiates strong energy. For many women they are told the main reason they shouldn’t VBAC is because of uterine rupture, even though the chance is so so small. This is to represent the physical healing of the scar.

Koru

Manjushri

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Toni Rakestraw

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"Labor Dance" acrylic on paper

This one started out as a mere sketch in my sketch book. As it evolved, I really liked the flow and movement. I made a larger version and used acrylic paints like watercolors to paint it. To me it shows the joy of the impending birth and the energy that flows through the body during labor.

"Crowning Glory" pen, ink, and pencil

Crowning Glory started out as an ink illustration, but when I was approached to put it into the ICAN Cesarean Voices traveling exhibit, I reworked it and added the pencil shading on the mother and baby. I wanted to show the reality of the mother and child’s experience while the attendant was merely there to guide and observe.

About Toni

Toni Rakestraw is the mother of 8 children. Their births have greatly affected her life and have a big impact on her art. Toni has been a doula and childbirth educator and has studied midwifery for many years. She drew a lot of horses as a child, but then set aside her pencils until 2005, when she was driven to create again.  Mostly self-taught, Toni likes to work with pencil and acrylic paints. She loves illustration, is amazed at realistic pencil work and is inspired by the broad brushstrokes that can paint a scene.

I have always loved to draw. When I was a little girl, I drew nothing but horses. As I grew up, I developed other interests that took me away from art like music, theatre and life in general.

I married and began my family. In 2005, my husband was sweet enough to press the issue by giving me an acrylic paint kit for my birthday. I had never really painted before except sets for theatre and a sign for my aunt’s horse farm. Thus began my art career.

I still like to draw and paint animals, but my true passion is to draw and paint images of pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding. After having my first child, I studied pregnancy and childbirth. I read everything I could get my hands on, studied to be a childbirth educator, and eventually I became a doula. As my own family grew, I gave up doing doula work to care for my own growing brood. I still kept studying. I started reading midwifery texts and worked for the Ancient Art Midwifery Institute.

I currently write and edit for a living so I can be home with my kids. I run several websites: At My Breast, Instinctual Birth, Rakestraw Reads and my art page.

“Cocoon”

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(Click image to enlarge)

Purchase options:

6×6 Digital “Mini Print”: $20

8×8 Digital print (100 in a series):  $50
12×12 Giclee Print (50 in a series):  $150

Original (12×12 inches):  N/A

For more information about the types of printing please go here.

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This is a piece done for a friend of mine who had a cesarean.  The flowers around the outside are orange blossoms (which neroli aromatherapy is from) and echinacea to symbolize healing.  The poem, by Karyn Peabody who also had a cesarean, reads as follows:

A Birth Story for Asher

You were not born in the way that I had intended.

We did not meet in the way that I had hoped.

You cried with confusion and hunger.
I cried with confusion and pain.

We returned to our cocoon together.
When we emerged – transformed.

Beautiful and with delight.

For we had fallen in love in the way I had dreamed.

View how it was made!

“First Kiss”

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(Click image to enlarge)

Purchase options:

6×6 Digital “Mini Print”: $20

8×8 Digital print (100 in a series):  $50
12×12 Giclee Print (50 in a series):  $160

Original (12×12 inches):  SOLD (To Pam England, author of Birthing From Within)

For more information about the types of printing please go here.

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About the piece…
I wanted to do a piece to honor women who have given birth by cesarean.  These women are strong mothers who have given much for their children.

Imagery for this piece was very difficult because there are so many different kinds of cesarean experiences, from the traumatic to the tearfully thankful.  I asked many cesarean mamas, both friends and members of ICAN (Int’l Cesarean Awareness Network) to share their stories with me and looked for common elements.  I decided to focus on the elements of the cesarean itself instead of the reasons and experiences behind it.

I used a three-dimensional approach to have the figure floating above the base representing the strangeness of the anesthesia.  Many moms told me how they felt disconnected to their bodies by the drape, the tugging of the procedure, etc.  This is why I segmented the figure into thirds where the sterile drape and the incision would be.  The belly is exposed to show a shadow of a baby that was just there, the birth had just happened.  It is like an echo of a baby.

I set everything on top of a Chartres Labyrinth to symbolize the journey women take to arrive at this place.  At the center of the labyrinth there is the shadow of the baby, symbolizing the baby’s experience of the journey as well.  Some cesareans are planned, some are not, but every woman has a unique web of experiences and situations that bring her to this birth.  Sometimes we know the reasons, sometimes we never know.

The central imagery for this piece came from a friend of mine.  She told me about her cesarean and how after her son was born her arms were tied down and she didn’t know what to do.  “Kiss him” said the nurse and that was the first interaction she had with her son.  This is why I decided to title this piece “First Kiss.”

***Again, I want to stress that this is not *all* cesareans, just a representation of common themes.  If you’d like to process your own birth, cesarean or not, through art please contact me at amy@birthingbody.org to talk to me about commissioning a piece.

View how it was made!

Detail Shots: