Parents

A pregnant pause: artist paints while bed rest puts her life on hold

After seven years of infertility, Kristen Somody Whalen finally has a viable pregnancy. Unfortunately, Whalen’s third trimester has been another long wait, as she struggles through over three weeks of bed rest at Stony Brook University Hospital in New York.

But instead of going stir-crazy, Whalen has channeled her hospital stay into something amazing: a pregnancy-inspired twist on her watercolor and ink series “Flowers with Legs.”

Whalen began painting flower women two years ago while working on a shoot for her fashion photography. The series has allowed her to combine her passion for fresh flowers and designer shoes.

“Nothing inspires me like fresh flowers,” Whalen explained, adding that “it was so satisfying drawing the shoes. It felt like they were mine.”

Whalen’s art has also served as her outlet in times of stress. “It’s the way I entertain myself to keep my mind off of something traumatic,” Whalen said. “It’s all just kind of therapy.”

In particular, Whalen’s paintings helped her cope with her years of difficulty conceiving, during which she said she “almost died of heartbreak.” Now, her art is carrying her through her month of bed rest due to premature rupture of membranes, a condition affects 3 percent of U.S. pregnancies annually and is the leading cause of premature birth.

“The art helps me to really stay peaceful...It’s sort of my alter ego, like, ‘Here’s what I wish I was doing right now!’” Whalen said of her latest series, which includes paintings of women water skiing and kickboxing.

In fact, Whalen has turned her hospital room into an artist’s retreat, using the downtime to make as many paintings as possible before she becomes a busy new mom.

“It’s only been three weeks, and I feel like I’ve grown so much as an artist, just because I have time,” Whalen said. “I can’t wait to put [my art] in [my son’s] baby book and say, ‘Look what Mommy made while you were in her belly in the hospital.’”

With only a week left before her doctors are willing to induce labor, Whalen is hoping to schedule her son’s birthday for June 7. That way, she’ll be able to commemorate the seven years she spent trying to bring him into the world.

Whalen is also planning to celebrate her first child’s birth by making art while in labor, although she recognizes that she “might just be throwing art supplies all over the room by the end of it.”

Ultimately, as much as she loves her artistic staycation, Whalen is looking forward to getting out of bed. “I cannot wait to be at the new house [my husband and I] just bought, and enjoy the pool, and enjoy the summer,” she said. “Floating in the pool with a margarita would be everything.”

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