Painting Through Pain
Miscarriage and infertility often cause a woman to rediscover and redefine her womanhood. From the time we are little girls we give bottles to crying baby dolls, we play house and “Mother May I?”. We learn that a large part of being a woman is being a mother. So what happens when a woman is not able to fulfill that role? Frida Kahlo's piece “My Birth” gives us a glimpse into the depths of her emotions as she struggled to come to terms with her miscarriage, medical abortion, and overall inability to bare children. This painting illustrates her journey from hopelessness and despair to self discovery and acceptance.
*Due to the graphic nature of this painting, it's image cannot be posted on this website. However, it can be referenced easily by doing a Google image search.
When asked about the nature of "My Birth," Frida remarked that this is how she envisioned her entrance into the world. The symbolism contained in this piece certainly gives that statement a multifaceted meaning. Her statement can be read as being prophetic, reflective or sarcastic, or a combination of all three. Here, Frida paints not only her entrance into the material world, but also her metaphorical rebirth that came as a result of her struggle to become a mother.
In spite of the graphic scene, the colors she used for this painting evoke peaceful and tranquil emotions. The lavender walls, sky blue sheets, the deep walnut bed frame, the warm tans of the subjects skin and the oak flooring are spa like. The room is clean, crisp and open. Perhaps the setting reflects a peace Frida felt; a peace that comes from acceptance.
In this birth story, we find the mother alone with her baby, and a picture of a mother or a grandmother witnessing overhead. The linearity of these three women suggest that Frida felt as though her lineage ended with her. The mother in this painting symbolizes a few concepts. She is Frida giving birth to one of her miscarried children. She is Frida's mother, who had passed on at the time of the painting, re-birthing Frida. She is also the concept of motherhood in general re-birthing Frida into a new life as a woman without children. The mother's face is covered with a sheet, suggesting she did not survive the birth. This sheet over her face also symbolizes Frida's feelings of shame that she could not bare children. It further portrays the death of her dreams of motherhood.
The half-born, beautiful baby, who is imbued with Frida's infamous uni-brow, lays lifeless with a peaceful expression on it's face. The facial expression of the baby is so peaceful the baby could be assumed to be sleeping instead of dead. This baby represents Frida's miscarried children, as well as herself. The baby being half-born also symbolizes Frida's pregnancies, as she was close to achieving her dream of motherhood, but the pregnancies never completed their term. When viewing the baby as being Frida, one could say that even though she was re-birthed by this experience, she was not complete; a part of her stuck in the confines of her own womb.
In “My Birth,” Frida warmly paints harsh reality. This painting ingeniously captures the depths of her sadness, disappointment and loneliness, as well as her acceptance. Much like the baby in this picture, through dark constricting halls filled with pain and anticipation, she was able to find light and peace at the end of the tunnel.
For more information on pregnancy loss and miscarriage click here.
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