Intuitive Painter Zohar Hagbi Mitigates Infancy Loss Stigma With a Miscarriage Exhibit
“You should give your kid a sibling,” well-intentioned acquaintances often tell 44-year-old Israeli-Canadia, Zohar Hagbi. When she tells them that she’s suffered three miscarriages, one of them being life-threatening, they’re quick to apologize. She’s always been very open—especially on social media—about her experiences. “I wrote about my embryos in heaven and where all those embryos go when they die and who’s taking care of them,” she explains while choking up. But she worries about women who are afraid to admit that they’ve had a miscarriage because of stigma. Most women who respond to Zohar’s posts tell her about how they were going through the same thing in private. “I felt that there was a lot of shame around it, like feeling unworthy and broken, like damaged goods.”
An intuitive painter, Hagbi was impassioned to take action and mitigate the shame women feel through art. A year ago, she took to Facebook to ask her followers if anyone would be interested in participating in an art project relating to their miscarriages. In less than three hours, her email was flooded with over 50 women who were eager to contribute. So, she created a survey with 21 questions asking participants to detail how they felt during and after their dilation and curettage (D&C). She’s creating an exhibit with the responses, which she plans on traveling with internationally after she opens in Vancouver in 2020, that depicts the stream of feelings—physically and emotionally—that come with having a miscarriage. Hagbi explains her art and healing process in an interview, below.
The Miscarriage Survey
“So many women told me that they never talked about their miscarriage or shared it with anybody. The questions were about the D&C process, their feelings, things that they remembered. I was amazed by their honesty and the way that they trusted me. I felt that they were relieved. Some of them thanked me for allowing them to share their feelings because they had never shared it with anybody. For some of them, it happened 10 or 15 years ago, but they still carry the experience in their heart. I found myself in each one of them. I printed the responses out and read them. I took materials from the surveys to make the exhibition. Some of the women still wanted to remain anonymous and some of them asked me to include their name.”
A Cold Room
“One of the questions was: ‘What do you remember from the DNC room?’ Because the doctor physically prepares you for that minor surgery. They give you different medications, some of which are full anesthesia and some partial. I had them all, unfortunately. When you enter the room, you’re saying goodbye in different ways: To your dreams, to the family you could have had. After that room, you know life is not going to be the same. And you know that even if you carry a dead embryo in your body, it’s still yours. And somebody takes it from you. I was curious to know what the women remembered. All of them remembered that it was very, very cold. I wrote a post about how it didn’t matter how many blankets they covered me with, it felt like a deep chill. It’s not just the temperature, it’s something you carry with you. I’m creating a cold room that’s going to be empty so viewers will know what it feels like. And in that room, sometimes you think it’s a mistake and that you’ll hold your baby and that the doctors will see a heartbeat. You’re all alone, your spouse isn’t even allowed to enter that department. It makes it more sad and terrifying.”
“I got a messageon Facebook from someone from the U.S. who said she’s having a miscarriage right now with twins and she was watching a video created by Camille Vernet and that gave her so much strength. Women need to know that it’s more common than they think. Over time, they can share it with other people and know that it’s nothing to be ashamed of. It’s part of the global healing I hope will happen. I was very open about my experience with everybody.”
A Space Filled With Ultrasounds
“I plan on making a wall full of ultrasounds. Because for somebody who had even one miscarriage, seeing this heartbeat is the whole world. It’s a tiny teeny dot but once it pumps, you know you’re off the hook and that everything’s OK. I call it the ‘loss of my innocence’ because before I had a miscarriage life was very simple. I got pregnant, the pregnancy went well, and I had a baby. I never even considered that I’d have a miscarriage. After having one, you get really scared. Then in one or two more weeks, you need to do another ultrasound and they tell you that they can’t see any heartbeat and all of a sudden that heart is gone. I want to create that heartbeat in different shapes and sizes and then the void, that black space when they don’t see anything. I want people to know that there are real women behind these sad stories, it won’t just be art. Some of the stories were about stillbirth, too.”
A Song on Repeat
“One of the questions I asked is if there were songs related to the miscarriage that they played over and over. Because I had a few songs that I kept playing and crying. I knew most of the songs they listed but not all of them. And when I listened to them, all of a sudden I knew that it was her story. And I don’t listen to those songs in the same way anymore. When you go to a D&C, it’s very technical. But behind this technical surgery, there’s a real person with real feelings and emotions and a broken heart.”
Remembering Their Embryos in the Pain of Infancy Loss
“I asked the women if they had any kind of ritual to remember their embryos or let go of some of the grief. Some of them did but most of them said they buried it. One woman planted a tree. If the embryo was big enough, like after week 15, they asked for the embryo to bury it. But some of those women buried those feelings deep inside of them. And after asking the question, they realized it might be a good idea for them to do something to remember them. Miscarriages are an inner tattoo that will change your heart and soul forever. But we can share that grief when women connect and acknowledge what they’ve been through.”
Author Bio Bonnie is a writer based in New York with works published on Marie Claire, Harper’s Bazaar, Coveteur, Man Repeller, Pro Health and more. She loves wearing fanny packs and laying in child's pose. You can catch up with her at http://www.bontobewildblog.com/.