The Free Motion Quilting Project: To better days...

Thursday, February 25, 2010

To better days...

Today has been a terrible day.

I've been so angry and frustrated I really felt like throwing my computer, video camera, and sewing machine all in the trash.

Today also happens to be James's birthday. Coincidence of coincidences, today is the day my life changed forever approximately three years ago.

I'll say it straight: giving birth is never easy and post partem depression is a real b*tch.

Even three years later, today is never an easy day. It should be a happy day, but for me, it's not.

It's just another reminder of what I went through, of the sadness and depression I sunk into, and the clawing, scraping, dragging of myself back out of that deep, black hole.

Every year I get further away from that first year.

But every year I remember it in vivid clarity.

I wasn't going to post today because I feel like this is too much to share, too personal, to heavy for all of you who read looking for lighthearted inspiration and creativity every day.

But from the encouragement of a friend, I am posting, and I am sharing because as she said, this is the real Leah Day.

So allow me to share with you the quilt I made immediately after James was born:

free motion quilting | Leah Day
This quilt is called "Torn Tree" and is the closest approximation I can make to what it feels like to be torn in half by the radical life change of birth.

Three years ago today I went through something I still have trouble putting into words.

So rather than words and writing, I tried to show what I was feeling in thread, fabric, and batting.

All I've learned is this: when life gets too big, too overwhelming, and too mean, the best place you can go is where you always belong.

And for me, that place is always behind my machine, quilting.

To better days,

Leah Day


  1. *hugs* Your friend was right. The real Leah Day is much more important.

  2. That took a lot of courage - that is raw and painful straight from the heart stuff. I feel for you, and hope you find your healing. If the anger and grief continues, perhaps finding a counsellor to help you move forward would help?

    There is no blame or shame to post partum depression, indeed, any depression. You suffered through a terrible time, and you have done so well to weather it as well as you have.

    I have a severe back injury. Constant pain, wheelchair a lot of the time. Went from super active to super restricted.

    But I sit down to quilt, no pain, loss, nothing. Just creative joy, therapy. I have an amazing group of dear dear friends, we call ourselves the sisterhood of sewing, and each session, we laugh, love care, share, and get each other through life and all that goes with it - birth, death, and everything in between.

    I tell you, the women of older times, who firmed the first sewing and quilting circles, knew what they were about.

  3. Leah..Great that you shared your day, bad as it was...I can imagine how hard its been for you. Its good for you to remember, and to be able to tell of your troubles to all is a healing process in itself. Well done. Special warm wishes for you from me. Birthday wishes to James.

  4. I am glad you posted your feelings. It is vital that you get them out! Peace be with you this day.

  5. ((HUGS))
    I went through some awful PPD when my daughter was born in 2003. It sucks. Remembering it sucks too.

  6. You should 'allow' yourself to feel like this, it's ok. I feel the same about Christmas, for differnet reasons. Be gentle with you, I think sometimes we are too hard on ourselves. We are after all, only human. I hope you have a little joy in your day that sparkles through the clouds. Hugs

  7. Dear Leah,
    Thank you for your transparency. Post partum depression is indeed a real and scary experience for some of us. I am so glad you found your way out of it. It is behind you now. You are free of it.

    I'm not sure whether I have said so recently, but I sure do enjoy your generosity with your wonderful designs. They seem to flow from your fingertips. Although I am not working with the level of quilting that uses these designs at this time, I find them inspiring, nonetheless. They springboard my thoughts to "what ifs" in the type of work that I do. I am having great fun making quilts in a prayer quilt ministry. I do light to medium density quilting for those, but still lots of room for creativity. Thank you for your inspiration.

    God bless you, Leah!

  8. I love this piece.

    There's nothing wrong with acknowledging you have challenging days like the rest of us. I think many of us have been there - just given birth, eveything changing, loving your new little one, and still constantly sad or even resentful of the lovely, scwalling creature you brought home.

    I think the key is remembering how powerful you are and that you made it through. Reflect on that day three years ago and be gentle with yourself. Now you have a lovely little boy, beautiful quilts, and a place to talk to like-minded awe-filled quilters who are continually inspired by your work.

  9. Hey Leah,
    13 years ago I went through the same thing... and believe me, it gets better. Hang in there...

  10. You are a gifted artist and generous to boot. No one shares like you do and is so articulate and helpful. Everyone has bumps in the road like you are having today. Just know that there are many of us out here who you do not know..whose lives you touch in a wonderful way. Hang in there:)

  11. To better days, Leah. I cannot imagine how terrible that time must have been for you (I have never had a child regrettably) but I have just read a book (fiction) about postnatal depression. You are right to seek refuge and comfort 'where you belong' and in time the day may lessen the power of its memories. Thank you for telling us, it was brave of you and I hope tomorrow brings a better day. Be kind to yourself and have a 'me' day.

  12. Do NOT throw your camera, computer or machine in the trash. You are going to change the quilting world. I can feel it. And, you're going to need those tools to do it. And, I'm going to say "I knew her when.... And I learned this from her." Lane

  13. I've never gone through what you went through because I've never given birth. But I can feel the palpitation of that trauma still resonates through you.
    You don't owe it to us to be "on" -today or any other day. Just BE. Today's is a good day to be in a safe place.

  14. My heart was rent in two as I watched my daughter slip into a full blown post-partum psychosis less than a week after her daughter was born. She didn't have much support from her husband, and it was a struggle, especially with a premature. My heart goes out to you having to deal with this. I hope you have a support system to strengthen you. Happy Birthday to James.

  15. I think the quilt is lovely, a reminder of what you went through. NO one else's experience will ever be the same. The blessing is in the new life that makes it all worth while. (I am assuming your child survived) I would suggest each year you celebrate the strength you had to do what you needed to do for both of you. Add a leaf of rememberance or of accomplishment and watch your former dead tree come back to life. For one that has lost a child I can see this as being very symbolic of the feelings of loss of life, hope and dreams. Again I would suggest adding leaves of memories or tributes. I am sorry for your pain, I am glad that sewing is an escape. hang in there- cw

  16. Leah,
    My heart aches for you and what you have been through. I am so sorry for your pain! I am glad that you took a chance to post "the real" you. All of us will still love you and be cheering you on. You will be in my thoughts and prayers today. I just wanted you to know I admire you for being YOU!

  17. Just sending hugs your way.
    You are a gifted, generous and brave young woman. I've been learning a lot from you.

  18. Dear Leah,
    I'm sending you a BIG HUG and hope each year gets sweeter and sweeter for you. I know it has been a rough day for you.

    How about something happy? Like me after viewing your DVD #1! It is great. I had all but given up on free motion, even after reading several books, taking a short class and watching another teacher's DVD. Your blog inspired me to try it again. Today after watching DVD #1 I did the project with the lines and curvy lines - GREAT SUCCESS. The way you hold your hands and work in the triangle just clicked with me! I had such a fun time today, which is rare for me when free motion quilting.

    KEEP UP THE GREAT WORK. You are such an inspiration.

  19. Leah,

    I had the same son had a very traumatic birth and normally being a very happy person, I fell into the worst depression and I couldn't get out. After trying a lot of different medications and no one understanding, I finally gave up on those. I would love to tell you that I came through it quickly, but it was a journey...and I think I've finally made it...long story short, the birth was so traumatic I can never have anymore children and this was my first. But I am happy now and my son and husband bring such joy into my life. Don't give up...and don't be too hard on yourself. I'm also finding there are a lot of us out there! :)

  20. Thank You for posting this. I suffered with post partum depression with all three of my children. It took me years to be able to look at those first hospital pictures and not have all of that come flooding back. There are still times when I hear the cry of a newborn and feel the weight of depression looming over me. You are very brave.

    "You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.' You must do the thing you think you cannot do."--Eleanor Roosevelt

  21. Leah, I don't know what moves me more, your frank expression of your painful feelings or the beautiful support from your readers. Motherhood is one of the most wonderful/painful experiences for a woman--all at the same time. I'm sorry you had such a hard time. We all care about you. You are so amazing and we are so lucky to have you in our online community.

  22. I am glad you felt able to share at this point. I am also a survivor of post-partum depression. Your description of it is totally accurate. I was there, only mine began in February of 1998. It gets easier to separate the feelings from the birthday. I try to remind myself that this was a blessing in that I learned to cling more strongly to my faith. My first hurdle was to understand that I had such mixed feelings. I loved my son so amazingly, but it seemed that he was part of my darkness.

    Glad those days have passed. Life is good. Glad you are recovering!

  23. Hi Leah,
    Thank you for honesty and bravery in sharing your experience. It is hard to know how to encourage you whom I have never met, but know that hearing part of your story helps me remember my friends with depression, or difficult experiences of motherhood. I aim to encourage and support them in their situations instead.

  24. Hi Leah, Thanks for sharing your "real" personal thoughts. This is a good group to share them with. After my first son was born (my husbands mother died 4 days later) it was a very challenging time. I don't know whether or not it was post partum depression ( 33 years ago) but it was a hard time. I still remember! But time does make it better.
    I so enjoy your blog and thoughts that you share. There are days I feel like throwing the computer, camera etc.... but the next day is better.
    Quilting and sewing does bring peace and joy to me. I'm so glad I found your blog! Happy Birthday to James.
    Laura T

  25. Leah,

    You have come a long way from that dark quilt to My cup runnith over.

  26. It DOES get better. When I recovered from postpartum depression just as a friend started hers, I felt so unable to help her. I could only tell her it will get better. It will get better.
    And it will, for you too.

  27. I hear you and I understand. I hope this pain lessons one day. Child birth does forever change us and it is hard in many ways! That hormonal roller coaster ride hits some of us a bit faster than others, sounds like you got nailed real good and right away. I'm sorry this happened to you. Talking about this is good, healing even and absolutely okay.

  28. how strong you are to share your self with the world... I hope that someday you will be able to celebrate your son's birthday with gladness.
    Beth in Dallas

  29. Leah, first big hugs. Next, take it from an "old lady" life has many lows and highs. I don't have magic dust to make the bad times go away. Nor do I have magic words. I guess the best I can share is that there are more people that care about you, and are willing to be there to lend a shoulder and help, than you probably realize. And, it is ok to call upon friends (and new friends) in times like this. You've gone thru a lot...and you are a very talented and remarkable woman. And I'm proud of you, and particularly proud that you can share the good & the bad. As woman,a I do believe we need to share the good & the bad to know how to help others and build stronger relationships & support. Again, please know there are others who care....including ME...

    Hugs, many hugs.


  30. You are so not alone. We, well, alot of us, have had this lovely feeling after the change of life - having a baby...... I am so glad you found a way to get out of that place. It's not an easy road, but you did it. Remember that. You found a creative way to express yourself-and you still do.
    this is a day of celebration. For you and your son, for him becausei it's his birthday!!! And you, to know how far you have come, how hard it was to get here and to celebrate YOU!!!
    I have not known you very long, through this blog, but what I have seen, read and learned is you have alot of creativity in you. You are a very sharing person. And what you 'see' is so wounderful!!!! Your godess'!! You look at a fish aquarium and are inspired. I love to come and see what you have done next, and I love to learn from you. Have your day 'off' and tomorrow, shake off the old feeling and awake, renewed and fresh!!! that is the past. gone. forever. Leave it there. Visit rarely , if at all. And keep looking forward - to the next new adventure. And know, you are loved.

  31. Sweet Leah,
    It was because of you, and your magic white gloves that I got the courage to free motion, machine quilt a queen size quilt. I will post the pictures soon on my blog. I also have something else I tried. Thanks to you, I finally got the courage to try this and it was a success. Thank you
    I am sorry for your sadness. I have never experienced PPD, thankfully and have had 6 children, so I can't say that I understand, but I have sympathy for that pain.
    thanks again, sweet lady.

  32. Leah - your friend was so right to suggest and push you to sharing you current feelings - we all have times of trouble and stain - some life changing some a niggling pain in the proverbial, that can be fleeting or lingering, but all have a lingering 'taste' - you have found a method of release which carries you through for most of the time but remember to celebrate the gifts you have in your life - your family and your 'art' skills they make you the person you are now who is appreciated by all, certainly here who visit through cyberspace and I'm sure all at home to.
    Hugs and blessings - tomorrow is a new day, just turn the page, give James a big hug and embrace it.

  33. Leah, this granny has hit bottom several times in her life. My second husband was emotionally and verbally abusive. It was escalating into physical abuse when we finally parted ways. After he left, I was so depressed that I was suicidal. A good friend and many prayers got me through, but it took a couple of years to get back to a semblance of normal.

    My ex really hated my quilting. I don't know why. But he gave me so much grief about it that I couldn't even think about sewing after he left. It just brought back too many bad memories. I gave my fabric stash to my daughter.

    She saved it for me. When she was pregnant with baby #2, she wanted me to make a quilt for him. I agreed to do it, and she gave me my fabric stash back. But I couldn't do it. For months I couldn't even bring myself to look at the sewing machine, much less get out the fabric.

    Finally the baby was due in less than a month. I couldn't put it off any longer. And when I finally sat down at the sewing machine, I had to deal with the demons. It was hard, but I finished that little quilt. And it was the beginning of the road back for me.

    Now I'm married to the most wonderful man imaginable. I'm convinced that the Lord brought us together so that we could both heal.

    I'm sorry this is so long, but I want you to know that you will heal. We all walk through dark places in our lives that we think we will never make it through.

    But you will. Your son is a blessing for you, and you are also blessed with a wonderful, supportive husband. You have a wonderful, amazing talent, and you WILL come out of the shadows and walk in the light again.

  34. I am new on the scene here. Found your site about 1 month ago. You have taught me much, and inspired me even more than that! I read "To better days" and my heart goes out to you. Then I read Wed's post, and how you are working on "My Cup Runneth Over". My 2cents worth of advice... focus on how you came up with the name of that quilt. It will get you through the low, dark times. Hang in there girl. You are a ray of sunshine.. this cloud will pass and you'll be back to SHINING again. May each of us here be sunshine to you when you need it the most. God bless.

  35. It's just been recently that I've learned that sharing the hard times lightens the load.
    We bloggers can lend you a shoulder and listen.
    Then we all blog on ! ! !

  36. We are all benefiting from your therapy. Choosing a positive therapy has help you and has also helped soooo many others. I love your work. I love your sharing. I look forward to reading your posts.

  37. Thank you for posting, and sharing your artwork. Sometimes words can't express what art can. I think your quilt is beautiful and revealing. We are all glad you were able to overcome those feelings, and none of us expects you to be happy all the time. Thank you so much again for sharing.

  38. Leah: Nobody thinks any less of you for honesty. Truth be told, many of us go through the same thing...I certainly do. Anniversaries of certain events often bring up feelings that are difficult to handle. You are not alone. Thanks for being you. Quilting is a life saver. We are blessed to have it...and you do it so well!!! Hugs to you.

  39. It takes me back to my PPD after having my first child. It was awful and came as a complete surprise. I never thought I'd crawl out of it. Thank God I did.

    Thank you for posting this.

  40. Bravo to you, girl, for your honesty. I know it was hard for you to open up and share, but please know you have a sisterhood of cyber friends who feel you pain, your frustration, and your angst, and we're right here sending positive thoughts your way. Hang in there. Better days are ahead.

  41. Hugs to you Leah. It is good to take refuge in the sewing, it has helped me get thru the rough patches as well. A few years ago, I was told I had a brain tumor, surgery required. I came straight home and started sewing! One year later to the day, the first big seizure! Back to my machine!
    2008, Hubby dx with renal failure, when I wasn't at hospital, I was at the machine (didn't sleep much in those days).
    The point I am making is that no matter what works for you during a 'dark time' use what works, even sewing something a little dark will help to purge. BTW, I love the little dark quilted tree.
    As I have said before, I love reading your blog, as many of us do. You are insightful and precise in your directions and suggestions.
    Happy Birthday to your little man.

  42. I called it the dreads. It was terrible and I feel terrible about thinking the way I did.

    Were are only human and I have to say it gets better with the next child. I only felt I little funny for a day or two with my second child.

    Hang in there your a great inspiration

  43. Hello, Leah - hugs from me too. I hope you feel all the support you have - all willing to listen and care.

  44. Hi Leah, you may not even get to read this as the post is old now but I just wanted to say I too am a survivor. PPD is just the worst thing ever but I got through it somehow. My bundle of joy is now 23! I marvel at her and how beautiful she is.

  45. Leah, I follow your blog regularly and have been catching up on your posts since I returned from a month long vacation. I was interested in your comments about post partum depression as well as how you feel when you quilt. A friend of mine - also a quilter - just finished a book which talks about the connection between how we feel and doing things with our hands etc. It struck a cord with me when I read your posting. If interested the book is: Lifting Depression: A Neuroscientist's Hands-On Approach to Activating Your Brain's Healing Power by Kelly Lambert

  46. Hi the real Leah Day,

    So pleased to meet you indeed. We all have our "Other" side. Timelady and all the others put is all so well, and it seems to fall into perspective when you know you have some very good friends.

    I hope your day is better today!


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