Thanks for Task 29 – A High-Frequency Ritual, in which you invite me to interrogate the question of the ultrasound of our baby in relation to my body’s knowledge of the pregnancy. I’m excited about this task, it has fired up thoughts and reflections and I feel an urge to share my experience of pregnancy. Growing another human being is a mind-blowing experience, physically, politically and socially.
Your task astutely enquires into the relationship of what can be seen on an ultrasound scan – and therefore makes the pregnancy real to the surroundings – and my inner sense of ‘knowing’ the pregnancy that only I have access to. On the inside of my body and mind everything changed from day 1 as an intimate and visceral experience. The reality of the privilege of pregnancy is not romantic or pretty, it is full of heartburn, nausea, greasy skin, shortness of breath and vaginal infections (as seen in header image explaining the symptoms you are likely to experience in the beginning of 2nd trimester, about 4 months into the pregnancy).
Pregnancy is a paradox: I want to shout out every single symptom, to let the world know what my body/mind is going through (and perhaps get some sympathy) but also share my joy of every little flutter of life inside me. I also want to hide my blooming body away to give myself peace to deal with the changes that are happening. This paradox extends to the social conventions of pregnancy: it is a private matter to be pregnant it also makes my body the property of society. It was not many weeks into my pregnancy that my belly and breasts started to swell and soon enough comments were made by yoga students on my ‘circumstances’.
Below is an image of the mark making I did as a response to your task. I took the printouts of the scan that we were given by the sonographer and tried to think about the positive/negative space of the images and the representation of the foetus, placenta and uterus that it gives. I used colours to track the ‘whites’ on several of the images that give the outline of baby’s body and more. When I turned by attention away from trying to replicate the scan images I found myself compelled to tie the separate images together into one continuous drawing where the colours overlapped, merged and created new relationships.
Here is a little poetic meditation that I spoke while moving around on the floor after making the drawings:
Not my body
I’ve given it away
I've given it to you
I have no control anymore
I get angry my hormones are all over the place my skin breaks out I need to sleep at odd times I can’t eat big meals I can’t fit into my trousers anymore zip undone
My legs don’t work up the stairs as fast as they did I can’t decide to accelerate up the hill on my bike I take the lift to the fourth floor because I can’t face the stairs acid and cramp
You occupy my entire body pushing your way up to my throat and my mouth when I can'’t digest my food
You push yourself into my legs when I can’t cycle up the hill
You force yourself into the world when people comment on your presence in my body
You push yourself into my gut as a little orange weighing into my pelvic floor weighing me down
They say on the scan that you move around, you wave and arch your back but I can’t feel it as more than occasional flutters
I mostly feel quite alien to your presence
I like to let my hands slide over my belly and push into the lower part where I know the uterus is poking up below the pubic bone
I feel like I can touch you and hold your hand and stroke you head so you know that I love you and I’ll take care of you
The flatness I experience looking at the images and the screen at the ultrasound is in contrast to what I’m feeling
To me you are three-dimensional
I feel you as weight and gravity in my body
I feel the connection between what is changing and everything around it
Pumping faster to keep us both going
What my body knows is a feeling of entanglement; a non-separation of what the ultrasound can see, what I imagine the foetus to be doing and what my body feels is changing. Normality (as you rightly put in inverted commas in your task) becomes a strange negotiation between what the sonographer expressed as ‘appearing to look normal’ and a drawing that looks and feels more like a bird with a beak. Normality is feeling dizzy and getting headaches and nosebleeds but is it also to feel alienated and detached from myself?