Hudson and Harper Co. reached a huge milestone last week; growing to over 10,000 instagram followers. There is so much to say about this. Let me just scratch the surface.
Last March as spring was renewing and a new cycle of life was blooming, I embarked on a path of self-discovery that would ultimately change the trajectory of my life. I was still very much in the raw stages of grieving the death of my stillborn daughter Harper who passed away on May 8, 2017. She was the second child I had lost and fourth I had delivered. I found myself 35 and the mother of four children yet parenting only two. I was a bereaved mother in deep mourning but I had two lively, rambunctious little kids at home.
And they needed me; all of me. Not just some half-assed part of me. Because giving them only a portion of their weepy and damaged mother wouldn’t be nearly enough. They needed a mother who was fully present. But it was as if I was being pulled in two very polarizing directions; moving forward in to the land of the living or letting my losses define me. I knew my children were at a critical time in their development and that even the slightest disruption in their day-to-day lives could be catastrophic to a then two and four year old. How would I gather the strength I needed to dive into playdates, preschool pickups and carnivals when all I truly wanted to do was crawl into a cave of darkness and close my window to the world? I had seen and experienced the very worst AND best that life has to offer, all in a tumultuous six year journey. And I was emotionally drained.
After my first loss, I went back to work almost immediately. The work was unfulfilling and monotonous and while it was extremely painful to grieve in such a public platform as a school counselor it was also a chance to run away from the trauma that had started to define my life. And running away was something I had gotten very comfortable doing. Whether it was from family or long time friends, distancing myself from the people that mattered most had become a defense mechanism that seemed to allow me the space I needed to process my pain. It was alienating and hurtful to those I loved – but it was something I could control. And after having lost so much control in my life, it let me navigate the ship again.
This time though, after the second loss, I took a sabbatical from my school counseling position for a year and set some serious personal intentions. Grief had simply taken too much out of me. And as a counselor, I had nothing left to give. I would invest in myself. In my own self-care. Because, at the very least, I knew that if I didn’t I would never to able to be the mother my living children needed and deserved.
With all the tragedy I had endured, severe PTSD had left me numb and void of any semblance of the spirited person I used to be. So much of my adult identity had been branded around my ability to bear children. And that identity had been questioned by the ways I felt my body had failed me. I needed to reclaim myself. I needed to go on a journey of self-discovery and find myself again. And while I knew it would never be the same person I once was I had to try and see if there was any part of her left. And if I was able to find even just a piece of her, I had to bring her home.
So that’s what I did. I took the time to heal. I invested in the things that mattered most to me. The things that fed my soul and replenished my spirit. Things I’d always loved but had somehow slipped away after becoming a wife and mother. I escaped through literature. I discovered new art. I studied design. But most of all, I wanted to create and be creative. So I took sewing lessons and started making pillows. The sewing served as a space to get out of my own head. A place of quiet and calm. And I guess you could say the rest is history.
Hudson and Harper Co., was a concept born out of great pain and suffering but the company has since become a token of resiliency. It has given me the freedom to chase my dreams so fiercely and to honor the children I have lost. It represents the strength and conviction of the human spirit. A strength I believe we all possess deep down inside. Ultimately, our battles test that strength and let it surface when it’s needed most.
Through Hudson and Harper, I have been able to marry my love of art and home design with sourcing beautiful and unique textiles from artisans around the world. More simply put, I support goods that are handmade and made in small quantities. I believe handmade is better because it tells an authentic story. And I love storytelling. That’s not to say that there isn’t a purpose and need for things that are mass produced. It’s also not to say that I don’t LOVE a good find at Homegoods or Homesense. Because I do. More so, I believe in supporting creative people with massive talent and a heart full of hope; supporting the skills of people living in rural parts of the world.
I believe in craftsmanship. I believe in community and awareness. I believe in knowing where your products come from. And curating these beginning collections for you all has been such a life changing gift. As the company continues to expand and evolve, I am so excited to build a lifestyle brand that speaks to people and joins us in hope and renewal. Thank you to all of those who have followed along on this journey. It’s only just begun and I can’t wait for what’s in store. So come for the pillows and stay for the conversation. Let’s talk design, fashion, motherhood, female empowerment, love and loss. I promise it will be worth it.
“The kangaroos pouch opens horizontally on the front of the body, and the joey must climb a relatively long way to reach it. Kangaroosand wallabies allow their young to live in the well after they are physically capable of leaving, often keeping two different joeys in the pouch one tiny and one fully developed.”
“Mommy, do you have a baby in your belly?” my daughter innocently asks as I’m washing dishes after dinner.
I look out the window. The sun is setting and another day has found its way home. I take a deep, long breath in and prepare for the waterfall of tears that will wet my pillow as I fall asleep later that night.
“No, Rosebud, I don’t have a baby in my belly,” I explain in the most calm and perfectly composed voice I can muster.
I don’t engage it; nevertheless she persists.
“Well why do you always look like you have a baby in your belly?” Her curious eyes look down at my pouch.
It’s a topic that has come up on more than one occasion with both of my living children. They are in that “baby-obsessed” phase where all they want to talk about is babies and I’m always reluctant to go down that road. But it’s like the “No Outlet” signs you keep hitting as you drive through an uncharted neighborhood, circling the endless maze of streets until you can find your way out. This road’s always led me to a dead end. And now, I have to face it and find an escape.
For a mother who has gone through pregnancy and childbirth the pouch is a subtle yet persevering reminder of the life you grew inside you–a token of these perfect little people us mamas have brought into the world. But for the bereaved mother, the pouch’s significance is multifaceted. It is so much more than a recollection. It is the sights, sounds and smells of the hospital room where you were told that your baby had passed away. It is the echo of an arduous journey embroidered with such deep physical and emotional pain.
Motherhood for mamas in the baby loss community is an endless cycle of grief and it is constantly evolving. It takes on new dimensions as different triggers in the outside world bring you back to that dichotomy of life and death. And as much as you try to move forward, those triggers always exist. I’ve been cut open, torn apart and broken through in every imaginable way–both literally and metaphorically. So for me, the pouch harbors a deep impenetrable wall.
And the most innocent of questions reopens wounds that have never healed.
The pouch is a battlefield; the aftermath of war that has waged a fiery path of destruction in its wake. It is the debris that remain of the havoc wreaked on my body. I’ve had one natural childbirth and three cesarean sections. And these scars that have marked my body in a line of demarcation have created a beautiful, yet painful reminder of both the life I brought into this world and also, unfortunately, the death I had to bear. And so for me, the pouch will always represent loss. Not just the children I have lost but the part of me that died with them on those two fateful days.
What I want to tell my daughter is simply the truth– but the truth isn’t so pretty. Yes, Emerson, I did have a baby in my belly. I’ve actually had four. But it’s empty now; it’s no one’s home anymore. I want to tell her that when you go through four pregnancies and a miscarriage in less than six years, the body does not bounce back. That the physical and emotional trauma my body has endured is profound and has changed me in every possible way. I want to tell my daughter that by the age of thirty five I had delivered four babies and only two had survived; That I would suffer losing my firstborn son after laboring for over 21 hours and spending close to three hours pushing him out of me. That I would go home, childless, and watch the milk leak out of my breasts for days desperate to feed my child. That I would go on to deliver her second brother prematurely at 33 weeks in a highly anticipated and dramatic birth after learning that he had a birth anomaly that would require surgery at 22 hours old. I want to tell her that I would spend every day of the first month of my son’s life in the NICU and fear losing him every single day. That after welcoming her into the world, I would go on to feel the elation and hope of a new life growing inside me; only that joy would be short-lived and I would go on to have to deliver a stillborn daughter after being told I lost her at 34 weeks.
I guess the trauma my body has suffered is simply too apparent to go unnoticed. And she notices.
I want to tell her that the pouch she asks about generates flashbacks of the cold dirt I had to watch my family shovel as my babies were put in boxes and buried in the earth.
But I can’t tell her that now. I can’t tell her that a woman approached me the other day at a Home Depot and congratulated me on my pregnancy and how it broke me apart all over again. One day, maybe when she’s a grown woman of her own, I will share my story with her. The real story in all its raw, unfiltered and ugly truth. So she can understand the path I’ve traveled. But I hope that day is a long way away. A day that exists only after she, hopefully, experiences the miracle of a live childbirth of her own. So that she can gush in excitement when she takes that first positive pregnancy test and jumps up and down on her bed at the wonder that lies ahead rather than the sorrow that could be waiting on the other side.
But until then, I simply smile and tell her, “No honey, there’s no baby in mama’s belly right now. This little pouch is left over from you and your brother. And isn’t it so beautiful?”