The Measurement Project & Pregnant With Meaning
The ProCreate Project, the Museum of Motherhood and the Mom Egg Review are pleased to announce the 10th edition of thisscholarly discourse intersects with the artistic to explore the wonder and the challenges of motherhood. Using words and art to connect new pathways between the academic,the para-academic, the digital, and the real, as well as the everyday: wherever you live, work, and play, the Art of Motherhood is made manifest. #JoinMAMA
Each day of pregnancy, the artist Sarah Irvin measured her stomach at navel height with a piece of yarn. The Measurement Project is the accumulation of this daily ritual.More about the artist:
Current project-based series is entitled A Bringing Forth, derived from the Latin root of the term post-partum. The work is enabled by and exists within the context of motherhood. In the struggle to reconcile the notion of parenting to my practice, the artist decided that it was the nature of the practice that needed to adapt, not the nature of parenthood.
Sarah established mechanisms to capture the physical actions of parenting as a mark on a page. For instance, the area rugs in the nursery created transfer drawings as she walked across them, the glider rocker created drawings as she and the baby rocked, and the stroller created drawings while strolling. These works were enabled by the activities of the daily routine and captured the kinetic energy and labor involved in the care and nurturing of an infant. During the second and third months of her daughter’s life, she created a series of watercolors exclusively while she slept, with each set considered complete when she awoke, allowing my circumstances to dictate aspects of my creative output. While breastfeeding, Sarah made drawings on paper created from bed sheets. Looping marks in the drawings corresponded to individual suck and swallow motions of nursing and provided real-time read of the experience. Other iterations of this series include Sarah’s daughter’s nursery as camera obscura; cyanotypes created with her blankets, toys and clothing; silverpoint drawings tracing her early movements made with jewelry from her grandmother; and paintings made with a baby bottle and formula. [More at Procreate Project]
PREGNANT WITH MEANING
by Anelie Crighton
Pregnancy, as experienced, is not a metaphor, but a challenge: those solid thumps to the ribcage are reminders that much as you might like to think of yourself as a brain on a stick, an intellect tethered to the complex technology that is the body, you are in fact a placental mammal. You need to work? No, you need to nap. You want to stride along like you always did, long straight steps, fast and confident? By week 30 it will be all you can do not to waddle.
My walking mantra is, ‘There is nothing wrong with your legs. There is nothing wrong with your legs.’ This is strictly true. There is, however, something wrong with my feet (swollen), pelvis (slowly disconnecting), lower back (hurting), stomach muscles (stretched), blood pressure (low) and brain (sorry?). My horizons have gradually contracted. My slow pace and ready fatigue make the ten minute tram ride into the centre of town seem the equal of a day-long trek. At home I must intersperse activity with rest, reaching for another glass of iced water while I prop up my comically puffy feet. I feel hot all the time, and am immensely fond of very cold drinks and ice cream. Very cold ice cream drinks are also acceptable.
The tenant has been excellent company. Once his movements were detectable at 22 weeks, his wriggles and stretches and somersaults were delightful. While he still had the room he moved rapidly and erratically, brief flutterings and jabs like the strangest indigestion you’ve ever had. As he’s grown, his reachings have slowed, become more definite, more obviously in response to changes in his environment. Any time I lean forward, a small foot firmly reminds me that he does not appreciate cramped lodgings. I have pointed out that at 5’10” I offer quite spacious accommodation, but the kicks continue.
One day my husband caught a glimpse of me dressing and said in wonder, ‘You look beautiful.’ I found this astonishing; I look like a woman who’s swallowed a basketball, perhaps to distract attention from her thick ankles and dry hair. I have had a protruding belly for months yet still misjudge my movements, my round new boundary regularly encountering table edges and door frames. Numerous sleepless nights have hung a crescent under each eye. The fit of my voluminous maternity pants gets a little more snug each week. There is beauty here?
Observed and observing, one’s progress is constantly at issue – are you gaining weight, feeling worse, sleeping less? Is the baby growing longer and fattening up, does it move ten times an hour twice a day? Once you’ve exhausted the present, the future beckons: that unpredictable day (early? late?) when the contractions begin, and the x hours thereafter when you’ll breathe and relax and finally make up your mind about an epidural. The days to follow with the fragile and confused newborn, the nights of crying and feedings. And just wait ‘til they’re a year old! Or 18 months! Or two years! The early months will feel like years, they say, when they’re not saying it will all go by so fast. Parenting is asynchrony.
What a rude shock this is, this memento corporis, this foregrounding of flesh-and-blood. Our social selves are fundamentally intellectual, personas sprung from the mind which connect through the invisible media of speech and sight. We are our words, our views, our status updates – until pregnancy, when the body reasserts itself. It has a formidable arsenal to bring you down: faintness, fatigue, pain, squeezed lungs: all of these are more than equal to your conviction that you can carry on as though your ballooning midriff is a minor inconvenience. Sure, march up that staircase – just don’t expect to get to the top without puffing like a steam train and feeling dizzy. Keep working or studying, but be ready to embrace synonyms and dead-ends, distraction and sudden blanks. A new patience with yourself is required, a temporary accommodation. Because the fact is, you’re extremely busy. Under the surface you’re assembling genes and cells, connecting neurons and testing muscles. Science-fiction factories of precision parts could only dream of replicating with your efficiency. Pregnancy has evolved from being an accessible miracle, a blessed mystery bestowed upon us by a benevolent creator, to seeming the supreme technological achievement, an inbuilt instruction set of vast complexity which draws millions of parts into just the relation required to produce a new thinking, feeling person. The terminology might have changed, but our awe is the same.
And so the due date looms, and I am working my way through the last chores and warily witnessing what new discomforts my body devises. The pivot-point of birth separates the weeks before, which are trapped beneath a net of plans and appointments and checklists and advice; and the weeks after, nothing but a huge blank, a cute stranger with incoherent needs, a new life for him, for my husband, and for me. A challenge, indeed, which will forever re-balance the relationship between mind and body.
Author Bio: Anelie Crighton is an Australian Arts grad raising her little blonde bundle of energy in Germany who ekes out snippets of time to write between loads of laundry and rounds of raucous baby giggling. anelie.wordpress.com