My story of trauma healing with art

In between consciously-parenting two toddlers (and healing my own inner child), in Oxfordshire, UK, I paint handmade pregnancy, birth and postpartum education materials and art for doulas, midwives, antenatal and hypnobirthing teachers to print and share with clients - as well as original watercolour holistic art and gifts. After a traumatic emergency birth and NICU stay following my first planned home birth, I started Womb to World Art when pregnant with my second baby, and expressing myself through art became a big part of preparing for a spiritual, healing birth. I love growing my range of hand-painted birth education printouts and pregnancy gifts, and hope to inspire others: whether that is in their pregnancy journey or spiritual rebirth.

A difficult beginning

As early as I can remember as a child, I felt insufficient, unwanted and out of place in the world. The only thing that I seemed to be ‘good’ at – and felt able to lose myself in – was my art. But over the years, being told how I ‘should’ create, having rules and limits placed on my self-expression, and being conditioned to feel my instincts and inspirations weren’t the ‘right’ way – I lost the joy in my art and the intrinsic motivation to create. Once I finished school, I stopped painting, drawing and crafting – apart from when I felt I had a worthy ‘reason’ to do so – like a birthday card or a Christmas gift. And on some level I could always tell that there was a void in my life where my creativity wasn’t being expressed.

Inspired by my pregnancy journey

When I was blessed to become pregnant with my eldest daughter, I had a wonderful time discovering that birth didn’t have to be the awful, painful, medical event like I’d seen on TV – and on maternity leave I spent lots of time watching YouTube watercolour tutorials and painting myself birth affirmations. It felt beautiful to return to painting after so long, and for such a hopeful, loving reason. It occurred to me then that perhaps one day I could make my own arty business selling painted birth affirmations – and I’d call it ‘Womb to World’. But I wasn’t at a place in my healing journey where such a new, brave, expressive venture seemed like a feasible reality for someone like me.
We planned and prepared for a healthy home birth as best we could, but the Universe had other plans, and after an emergency transfer my daughter was born with forceps and taken away to NICU with Meconium Aspiration Syndrome. Looking back now, I can see how I didn't allow my birth to progress because I didn't feel worthy, safe, empowered in my life - and we birth how we live. I couldn’t hold my baby for three days, or feed her for five. After 10 days, we were finally able to bring her home, and I then added healing birth trauma onto my existing to-do list from childhood trauma – and my art was forgotten once again.

Motherhood was my rebirth

Becoming a mother, and learning about the kind of conscious parent I wanted to be, was the key to discovering the root of (and beginning to heal) my life-long battle with depression, anxiety and self-destruction. When we became pregnant with my second daughter 18 months later, I felt called to start working with a Sacred Intimacy Mentor (www.talktantratome.com) after listening to her podcast about healing sexual shame, and it was largely the work I did with her which began my spiritual awakening and led to the start of Womb to World Art.
Our sessions together initially focussed on learning about the chakras – the seven main energy centres within our body – and developing practices to help heal, open and balance them. This had quite a dramatic effect on my holistic healing, and I started to see big changes in my life: finding it easier to set boundaries with wounded family members, starting to dress vibrantly and feel safe to take up space, finally connecting with my wounded inner child, beginning to see signs that I was feeling fundamentally more held by our Earth and loved by our Universe – and one morning I realised there was nothing stopping me starting an art shop straight away. All the reasons I’d told myself in the past for why I couldn’t do it ‘yet’ suddenly didn’t mean anything! I realised I didn’t need a business plan and a mapped-out product range, and competitor research and branding – I could just paint a picture, put it on my Etsy shop, if someone liked it they could buy it – and if not, I had a nice time painting it!
At first I painted affirmations: for birth, then chakra healing, and then for whatever I felt I needed to heal that day – and it became a big part of my pregnancy journey. It was like painting the words my inner child needed to hear – and then to publish them to the world – became the ultimate manifestation tool. Painting gave me opportunity to practise being conscious of my conditioned limiting beliefs around being perfect, and seeing value in something without others’ approval. I progressed onto making paintings that expressed my awakening spirituality, and how I wanted to bring that belief in security and support from the Earth, and guidance from the Universe, into my upcoming birth.

From birth art to birth education

Despite everything we’d learnt in antenatal classes and hypnobirthing with my first daughter, I didn’t fully understand birth (particularly what was going on in the womb and what surges were all about), so I made myself drawings of the ‘up’ and ‘down’ stages to help myself feel safer with the sensations. Our doula thought they were great and said she thought others would find them useful too, so (feeling dubious anyone would want to pay for a scan of what I saw as a fairly ‘amateurish’ drawing) I added the diagrams to my Etsy shop (hidden at the bottom though!).

A divinely-guided story

My plans for a spiritual, healing home birth with our second didn’t go as I hoped, as despite my extensive efforts to heal from childhood and birth trauma, I couldn’t feel safe to surrender to my surges. Thanks to amazing Divine guidance, we did end up with the safe, unmedicated birth that I wanted – but in a very surprising, unexpected way! I struggled emotionally after birth, and felt like a light had gone out in me after the expansiveness and radiance of pregnancy. I didn’t paint anything for months, and I didn’t realise how much I missed it (and needed it) until I was led to start again.
I hadn’t intended to make any more downloads, until one day I had three people buy my birth diagrams (thanks for the nudge Universe!). When I shared on social media that I’d received the orders, I got two more! The fact that I had just made money without ‘doing anything’ felt miraculous (and deeply uncomfortable!) so I thought – I had better make some more of these! I may not have achieved either of the home births I wished – but nothing has dented my belief in physiological birth. I am honoured that my handmade birth education materials are contributing to the community of birth workers across the world who are working so hard to educate and support women to take back control of their births, and re-learn to trust their bodies and their babies.

Balancing my art and mothering

The weekends are my main time to create – and I spend a lot of time up in our office planning, painting, doing admin and marketing while I have the chance – all the while feeling guilty about missing my little ones. But I know how important it is that I have this creative outlet for me. I also spent a fair amount of time painting with one arm round a sleeping baby, or in the carrier on my back! I know that ultimately it benefits my children for me to spend time on something that fills my cup and brings me joy and satisfaction. It can be hard to accept that my time to create is so limited when I have so many ideas, but I know my children won’t always be so little and things will change, and I do my best to find a balance for everyone.
When I made my own website I underestimated how much my admin would increase and how it would take time away from the arty stuff! Coming from a background of digital marketing and customer experience optimisation, I find it hard to let things go and feel constantly driven to ‘optimise’ everything and keep growing. My main challenge recently has been trying to do too much, and not giving myself enough time to just enjoy painting for the joy of painting, so I am aspiring to paint more – and work less.

Growing my range of birthy goodies

I’ve recently been getting excited about putting my artwork onto products such as doula tote bags, greetings cards, notebooks, badges, stickers, T-shirts and mouse mats, and although this does mean more time packing orders and doing admin – it’s wonderful to have more products to reach pregnant women directly with my positive birth messages. I hope to keep growing this range of gifts and accessories for pregnancy and birth workers, and also branch out into more mediums (I recently got a sewing machine for free motion embroidery, and acrylics and canvases).

A dream come true

With every painting, I have practised the belief that what I create is worthy, and soothed the voice in my head from childhood telling me ‘you’re not a real artist’. I have learnt to see that what I make really does have inherent value – and actually, it is the birth education materials with my cute ‘childish’ drawings that I now love the most. Because they are the ones that come authentically from my inner child. I feel blessed that I can call myself a mother, an artist, and now a birth worker too.