Confession: I’d never heard of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo until I saw the 2002 movie starring Salma Hayek. I do think that I’d seen images of the bushy-eyebrowed painter in the past, but I didn’t know her identity.
The movie introduced me to a talented creative consumed by love for another Mexican treasure. Stereotypical but true. For Frida, the honest-to-God love of her life was another Mexican artist, Diego Rivera.Because of the film, and a little bit of research, I knew that Frida never had children and was distraught over that fact for many years. Her childless reality impacted her art — how could it not?
Frida died in 1954 at 47, an age when many by-chance NotMoms are working toward acceptance of their reality. Now, researchers say they understand why for her, motherhood was impossible.
Before finding True Love, Frida had several abortions, and with Diego, she experienced several miscarriages.
Nope. That’s not it.
Just 18 years old in 1925, Frida was riding on a bus that was hit by a trolley car. Her injuries left her in a full body cast for months with a broken spinal column and other bones. After 35 surgeries, she suffered from extreme pain on and off for the rest of her life.
A surgical pathologist at the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles believes it was that accident that caused her inability to bear children. Frida’s abdomen was punctured with an iron handrail during the crash, and Dr Fernando Antelo says that’s the injury that severely damaged her uterine lining and caused the formation of scar tissue. It’s officially called Asherman’s syndrome,
“She kept attempting to have children with a uterus that wasn’t in any condition to do that,’ Dr Antelo said. Repeated pregnancies may have made the situation worse, but nobody knew that then. Today, Asherman’s syndrome is relatively simple to diagnose and treat. Too late for Frida.
Aren’t you wondering why, 59 years after her death, someone would undertake research to figure out why she never had a baby? Out of all the things one might investigate about this talented artist, why infertility?
Dr. Antelo explained that it was a viewing of a Kahlo painting completed soon after yet another spinal surgery when she was 37. It’s called The Broken Column. It shows her crying, locked in a body brace with missing flesh exposing a shattered column where her spine should be. Her face and body are pierced with nails.
“I see her as a patient wanting to tell me about her symptoms, and at the same time I see her advanced knowledge, her ability to tell me about it as another physician would,” Dr. Antelo said. “Seeing that painting made me want to ask more questions.”