Toby Dorr: Hello and welcome to Fierce Conversations with Toby, the show where we talk about the hard things. I’m Toby Dorr. In today’s episode, we’ll learn how to find a way to move through law. Our guest today is Ali Freeman, an artist who has found a way to pull herself out of the low places and give life to the daughter she miscarried.
Toby Dorr: Hello, Ali. So glad to have you here today.
Ali Freeman: Hi, great to see you. Yeah, it’s good to see you too.
Toby Dorr: Ali and I used to be neighbors for a while. Oh gosh, like 10 years ago, I think. And I’ve been following her on Facebook, and she’s got a cool new art career going and I just wanted to bring her on and share with you, all of you, how she found a way to make something beautiful out of a tragic loss in her life. So. I like to ask all my guests a question that gives us a peek into who you are. What’s your favorite color and what does that say about you?
Ali Freeman: I’d have to say yellow is my favorite color. And I think I’m kind of cheerful. I have a cheerful soul and the creative energy that I like. Well, I found it. I finally found it. I feel like yellow represents a warm hug and I think of nature a lot. I’m in nature a lot and I just always love the sun on me and it kind of grounds me and that’s beautiful.
Toby Dorr: I think you’re my first yellow. I was waiting for you to pick turquoise because I see so much turquoise in your art. I think yellow is the perfect color for you. Yes, and that’s some of your art behind you there on your shelf, which I just love.
Ali Freeman: Here are some of mine and some little pieces up here.
Toby Dorr: Can you tell us about a crossroads in your life that pushed you in a different direction?
Ali Freeman: This was back in 2017 and I’d always wanted to be a mother. it was just something that, I think was a longing and it was something that for my husband and I, Colin and I, it was not easy. It took us a while to figure out, are we going to be able to start a family? And we were doing fertility treatment and such. And when we first started our journey and, we brought life into the world and unfortunately she, I miscarried, it was about, you know, she was 12 weeks. So it was very, it was just. Yeah. Because it was something when you long for something, and that’s getting away from you. I think it was at that moment where, you know, there’s no, there’s no more heartbeat. Wait, how is the person supposed to get up and keep going? And I think, you know, you have lots of that and I feel like we all have heartache and we all have struggles that we have to work through. And I feel like that moment while it was gut-wrenching, hard to get off the floor, hard to get out of bed, it happened in the summer, so I wasn’t working. I was teaching at the time, and, this new school year hadn’t started yet, so that was a blessing, where I could just be, and be in that yucky, and at the time, I think it gave me, it gave me a moment to pause, I guess you could say, and just really think about what’s most important than maybe the route I was going. Maybe that needs to change, and I didn’t know it at the time, and so that pivotal moment of losing her, fast forward a year later, I, we were able, my son, we conceived him like three months later after losing her, and it was still, yet again, to have that, I’ve always been a very positive thinker, doer, uh, But it was always in the back of my mind that like, hey, this, this might turn out this, the way it did before. But it didn’t. It was about a year, a little over a year later, and Lachlan was born. And it was just incredible, having that such loss, and then there’s this life after it and he’s just, he’s been this, a perfect addition to our family and I can keep going.
Toby Dorr: Yes. You know, I think it’s just beautiful and so many people, I think, relate to, or struggle to relate to, having a miscarriage because it’s like. well, you just go on. You just have another one, you know, it’s not a big deal, but it is a big deal. It’s a huge deal! Absolutely, because so it from the moment you feel that baby you feel a life there, and to you, it’s real, and losing a baby. I’ve never had a miscarriage, but I did lose a baby, shortly after birth and you lose this hope for the future. You lose your plans. You lose everything you thought you were building and to not be able to share it in some way, to have something to mark this loss, just makes it even more painful.
Ali Freeman: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Toby Dorr: But she’s had a beautiful way to memorialize her.
Ali Freeman: And it took me, and it was, it’s very interesting because, I, so I had my son and I had him in the summer. So I decided I was going to keep teaching that year. And that’s just my plan. I was going to be a mom and I’ve always been a teacher. And then that year of teaching with him was so difficult. I just felt like I couldn’t do both. And I think I just was able to, I think I gave me, like, I’m gonna do what’s best for me. And I think I’ve, I don’t know what it, maybe it was just like, hey, you’ve been through some stuff, and it’s okay to not be a teacher. It’s okay to step away from that. And it took me a while to get there. And that, you know, when you’re in between trying to, what should I do? Should I go right? Should I go left? And I finally said, Hey, I think I’m going to step away after 11 years. I put 11 years in the classroom and I loved it.
Toby Dorr: I know it was your life when I knew you, you were so into your students and all the things for your classroom
Ali Freeman: Yeah. And I decided to step away and I think it was, I honestly think it was like a Morrison. Then like. I think it was her week I came out for you. Yeah. Just be a mom. And that’s what I did. And it wasn’t until Renee, who my mother-in-law, we were visiting and still to this day, I’m like, man, she would always take ripped pages. She would go through magazines she got in the mail, and she would rip out pages of things that reminded her of me or things that I would love.
Toby Dorr: I do the same thing. I rip pages out of magazines. I have a whole drawer full of them. Of like inspiration or maybe I’ll see this tomorrow or in a month and it’ll spark something.
Ali Freeman: Right. Yeah. So I was, you know, I was looking through them and I see this family portrait. Made out of rocks and they were perfectly shaped like they’ve been tumbled and they’d looked and they were just in this cream background and it was just I looked at that and Toby it like stopped me. And I had to take a breath and I said hey I think I can use all of this creek glass that I’ve collected for seven years We’ve walked the creeks and I think I can use those pieces and make family portraits in my home. And that’s when it started.
Toby Dorr: And you called that collection, Morrison Creek, after the name you were going to give your daughter. Yeah, that’s just beautiful.
Ali Freeman: Looking back, with that heartache and that, the lowest of the low, I’m just able to almost celebrate her in all those that I’ve made for other families and they’re all one of a kind and it just gives me I guess it gives me hope that her life lives on even though we lost her so soon.
Toby Dorr: Her spirit’s out there for sure. Yeah, I think that’s beautiful. What is something you would tell other mothers who are experiencing miscarriage?
Ali Freeman: And as I look back, I held a lot in, like, I don’t know, I just didn’t know, maybe I was afraid or didn’t want to talk about it because I didn’t want to re-live it. Cause it was, you know, it was hard. But looking back, I feel like just finding your tribe and it can be, I mean, I think it’s important to find other women that maybe are, have, are going through that or have gone through that. It helps you not just feel so alone in it, but I also feel like it’s just being in someone’s presence that can just lift you up. I mean, even going for a walk, even just a hug. I think we have, I mean, I feel like it’s so important to talk about those moments, the hard stuff.
Toby Dorr: It is so important.
Ali Freeman: I think it is too. But sometimes there’s just pressure to that, and I think just finding someone that you’re comfortable with, and even a group, a group of women that struggle and are going through the same things that you are, feel afraid, and it’s okay to not be okay.
Toby Dorr: Yeah. You know, after I lost my daughter, she lived for 18 and a half hours. It was like, you know, you go on in your life and you meet new people, and you don’t bring her up, because, they’re going to feel uncomfortable, like, Oh, now what do I say? So, I felt like she became a secret, which just made it hurt even worse.
Ali Freeman: Absolutely. And I feel like that. I was the same way. Like I kept it. I mean, yeah. Yeah. Anything. That’s exactly it. Toby. Yeah. Just it’s then those people become uncomfortable when you share such heavy, heavy stuff with them. So, but, so I think it’s also important to find other women.
Toby Dorr: Yes, I think it is. I feel that I think it is too. And, you know, in some ways, I think miscarriage could even be more difficult than losing a baby because at least when your baby’s born and lives for a little bit, you get to hold her for a minute. At least you have that. And when you have a miscarriage, you just have hope.
Ali Freeman: And speaking of that, we had decided to let her leave naturally. And so it was, in my bathroom. And, but it was, yeah. And then thinking back, to Lachlan, like. Yeah, speaking of her and then him, I was able to naturally deliver him and that I think I had her, and I think I was able in this mindset that like, I can do this, I can do this for her, I can do this for him, and, um. It was, it was beautiful.
Toby Dorr: I’ve learned that there is mitochondrial DNA from each one of your children that’s still in your body. So there is still DNA of Morrison’s in your body. So, in a way, she does live, and I just find that so, you know, my husband thinks it’s creepy, but it’s like, I think it’s the most reassuring thing ever. It’s just proof that she was there for however long she had, she was there. Absolutely. Yeah. I think that’s just beautiful. So I just love that the creek has become your special place to feel more intent. I mean, what more beautiful places are besides walking along a creek? Do you know? There really isn’t.
Ali Freeman: It’s like, I just feel grounded. I mean, I’ll, Toby, even go there when like. My son will even be like, Mom, you know, can we go to the creek today? Yes, buddy. Yes. Let’s go. Have our bucket of treasures and, um, It’s just so, it’s just happiness. I feel at peace. I just can leave the noise, you know?
[00:15:30] Toby Dorr: And I love he takes this little pail and he finds things for you too.
Ali Freeman: Yeah. It’s so adorable, and he’ll, and he always, this is, I don’t even know if I said it once, but it’s the cutest thing. He’ll pick up something and go, jackpot. That’s pretty funny. All right, buddy. It’s just a happy place.
Toby Dorr: Yeah, I love that. It’s a good place to be centered. And out in nature is just so healthy and wholesome. And running water. The sound of running water. There’s nothing more reassuring than that. I mean, life goes on. That’s right. Your promise is to add new life to pieces that have been left behind. And you have done that. You now have an active presence in the art community of Mid-Missouri. You found a way to make beauty out of discarded pieces that others might call trash. I can see how that does fill one’s soul. When you pick up a piece, I’m curious, does a vision come to you? Or do you just sit down and start to build something and the finished product kind of builds itself?
Ali Freeman: Um, it’s a little bit of both. So when I do pick up pieces, I feel this, like, this warmth. I just feel like she is one with the water. I feel like she’s there, she’s present. And when I do make a piece, then it’s, it’s just these like broken, I mean, I have some pieces in. Yeah. Hold from there.
Toby Dorr: Oh, there you go. Oh yeah. A bottle.
Ali Freeman: It says Columbia MO on it. And they’re just raw. I mean, I have like a Clorox. That’s so big. Oh wow.
Toby Dorr: That’s cool. Can you see it? Yeah. I can. Uh huh? The Clorox bottle.
Ali Freeman: That’s cool. Yeah. So they’re just. These pieces are just broken. They’re broken. They’re
Toby Dorr: Raw, discarded. Nobody else wants them.
Ali Freeman: Yeah. And then when I put them together, it’s so interesting when I’m out here in the studio and sometimes I’ll like be making something and I’ll just reach and find the perfect piece that fits in the perfect way with what I’m creating.
Ali Freeman: And I don’t know, I think it’s her way of just being present and, um, It’s pretty wonderful.
Toby Dorr: I think that’s beautiful. So what’s one question you wish I’d asked you? Is there something you’d like to add that we haven’t talked about?
Ali Freeman: Toby putting me on the spot. Um, um, I guess, um, I don’t know if I have anything.
Toby Dorr: Yeah, I love your art. I look at your website all the time. And, oh, let me show you something, uh, back here. So, Chris and I, we used to collect pottery. And we had this vase, which was our pride and joy. And it fell off the shelf and broke. And I have all these pieces. And I think, well, I’m going to be an Ali. I’m going to do something with these pieces. You know, Chris was like, let’s throw them in the trash. And I said, no, this, you know, this was our pride and joy. This vase, it was a Rookwood base. And I just loved it. So I’m going to, yeah, do something with it. You’ve inspired me.
Ali Freeman: Yeah. That’s right. Everyone, I think, just like, this is just like a turning point, I think, for me, where I was, it was hard, like, I had my, I had my first gallery show, and it was something that, you know, I had made, you know, I still make, like, small pieces. Um, So to this day, like little five by sevens.
Toby Dorr: I saw that one on the website.
Ali Freeman: Uh huh. Like I love making and such, but I had a friend of mine, she goes, Ali, Hey, what do you think about having your own like gallery show? And I said, like, things on the wall, like, I don’t know. And I said, well, I mean, I guess you think I can. And she was like, absolutely. I think you can. And so, um, Yeah, I made like big pieces Toby and it’s something that I like didn’t think I could do so I think it’s just believing in yourself and if something makes you feel good and makes you feel happy then do it. Don’t stop. Don’t just get started and so I did and I remember being in that show and it just, I felt like this, this little warmth yet again, the yellow. And I, there was a gal that came in and she had looked at everything and she came up to me and she, I’d never met her before. And she goes, Ali, you’re an artist. Yes, you are. And she said, you’re an artist. And I looked at her and it was like the first time where I was like, and I said it, I said, I am an artist. And it felt so like this. Yes. Mm-hmm. , you’re doing it. You’re doing something you love, you’re honoring that little life you didn’t get to meet and it was just, just full, full circle.
Toby Dorr: And yes. I think that’s beautiful.
Ali Freeman: So you make something out of those broken pieces.
Toby Dorr: Yes, I’m going to, and I’ll show you what I make too.
Ali Freeman: \ And I love, and I love that you are doing that. I have. I’ve had lots of. Lots of people have reached out and said, I broke something. Can you use that? Can you make something out of it? Can you add your glass to it? Or can you just make something out of this pottery? Cause it was very special to me and, and I loved, and I love the family portraits, my Morrison Creek portraits. It’s just, will always have my heart.
Toby Dorr: And I just love that. So, I know you’d say that each piece of cracked glass you find reminds you of Morrison, your love for her and her love for you. The jagged edges remind you of the pain and the loss of her life before you even got to meet her face to face. But when the pieces are put together with other broken pieces, a beautiful creation comes to life. These creations bring light to the darkness and become a gentle reminder of the peace that overflows into joy as the story of your family continues to unfold. What a beautiful tribute. I just love it.
Ali Freeman: Thank you.
Toby Dorr: Thanks so much for being on with us today.
Ali Freeman: Absolutely.
Toby Dorr: Remember, none of us is our worst mistake. We all have so much more to offer the world, and those so-called mistakes are our best opportunities to learn and grow. Next week, we’ll continue to bring you inspiring stories by people who’ve identified a need for change and are working to make a difference in the world.
Toby Dorr: Subscribe to our Patreon channel, Fierce Conversations, for special access and behind-the-scenes info. Go to patreon. com slash fierceconversations or click on the link in the show notes. 10% of the Patreon proceeds are used to provide workbooks for women in prison. In my memoir, Living with Conviction, I recount a conversation I had in prison, where my friend Lisa told me, In here, we can talk about all the hard things.
Toby Dorr: In fact, I think we must and so we shall. The show notes also provide a link to purchase my book, Living With Conviction, and a link to LA’s website. This is Fierce Conversations with Toby. Until next time.