Recently I started blogging again, using Tumblr, to post about my changing body via this creature growing inside me. Tumblr felt like a place that I didn’t have a history with like the memories here, it didn’t have the surveillant eyes that this place has grown to have. It’s a confusing contradiction to want to keep this hidden but also available for consumption. Will this be too much? Will I never get tenure? Will my family find it? But this is me. This is part of the work that I do. My daily life is informed by feminism, my research and my art practice, and this pregnancy now informs my feminism and academic and artistic practice. How could I pretend otherwise given the questions of intimacy I grapple with in my work? So, whatever; I have decided that I will also post most of the stuff here and re-post my older Tumblr entries, because I miss it. I miss the enclosed space, the particular audience, and the ease with which to find posts and comments. I hope you stay. I hope you say hello again. Most of older entries are back dated and can be viewed now.
Last weekend was the last moment of summer when the sun brought back 28 degrees in time for a Sunday of lovers.
Even though I have lived in Montreal for over four years now, I have never taken J to Parc La Fontaine. Time sinks between us and so it has taken this long.
Last weekend despite my deadlines, I insisted we pack a tote of snacks (which was not enough and I nearly fainted) and go before it is too cold and too uncomfortable for me to take strolls around the city. J wanted to relax in the sun while I insisted on photos at every turn. Not that taking photos is a new phenomenon, but I am obsessed with the visual culture of my pregnancy knowing that everything changes from one day to the next, changes in visible ways, in ways that my day to day never considered before. And so my solipsistic exhaustion endures. Although is it solipsistic if I’m now of two? Is my body now living two durational instants? There is the time of the baby, the time of me, and I guess also the time of us together—and the visual representation of not two, but three, durations? The holding still of these moments.
I read that having a child changes your conception of time and your drive to get shit done. For now, I want to hold onto all the durational instants of my pregnancy, even the uncertainties that come with pain. I want to move through all the Bergsonian philosophy of matter and memory as I live the Kristevian chora.
I am 26 weeks today. I was 25 weeks when those photos above were taken. I am a week away from the third trimester. The third trimester is your final trimester; it is the time to prepare for the birth of the matter that is making sense of itself inside of you. I can feel the third trimester coming, the joy and love of my body is shifting to make sense of sleepless nights and pains and gains I haven’t had yet—pains that wake me up at night, pains that wonder where my organs have gone, a scale that reads well above the “appropriate” weight gain for this time, pains that force me to take time. Time. How quantified is my pregnant body by the medical system, by the history of modern child birth? From the “you might miscarry at any turn” time of keeping pregnancy a secret in the first trimester, to the time of joy and energy in your second, to the painful and enduring time of the third? How convenient. How normative. How explicit with anticipation of how our body is supposed to respond to prescriptive time. Considering I almost exclusively refer to myself as the amount of weeks pregnant I am, it would be disingenuous to suggest I’m not part of that quantified discourse too, despite the ambivalent efforts to distance myself from it.
I have fully become my pregnant body. Everything is my growing abdomen. Everything I do is Pregnant Magda —where and how I sit, what I eat, how much I eat, my internet usage, the placement of our furniture because I trip over everything, strangers and acquaintances desperate to guess the gender of the baby against my wishes, what clothes I can still try to fit in, how I sleep, where I go. I want to go deeper. I want there to be nothing else but pregnancy. Except I want that as/for myself; I don’t want others to force me to perform it.
The day-to-day experience of the concept of pregnancy is different than carrying a growing child inside me. Being pregnant has become an obsession, a marker—it is now me as if nothing else of me has ever existed. As if this is it, the moment, the time of time. It is only at particular moments, when the baby kicks or rolls around I’m reminded that I’m not just pregnant, that there is a living creature inside of me making all of this happen. Even then, when I touch my moving belly, it is the belly and its growth I fixate on, not the baby inside me. Before I got pregnant I read many things about women, especially women artists, that developed intuitive connections with the world during their pregnancy, and that they were able to sense the baby, get to know them, be with them in these ways that read like myths. I thought I would get that too. I thought I would transform into an enlightened goddess that speaks to her baby every night and imagines it as part of her and her life and transforms the representative ways (because all there is is representations: medical diagrams and ultrasound images) into a feminine imaginary because she’s read Cixous enough to know the power of a woman. But I don’t do this, I don’t feel connected in the ways that I have read other women connect to their babies. I can’t imagine what it looks like, what tone of skin it has, or how it will be. Earlier on I used to hum deeply to get it to move, but now it moves regularly and usually on schedule so I don’t. How can a full absorption into a pregnant body also produce such detachment?
I do, however, listen to Sade every day (she is a Capricorn too) and hope the baby feels and hears her feminine powers.
So far, the only things I have prepared for the ‘nursery’ which will be in my home office are two Louise Bourgeois prints, a photo of Clarice Lispector at her typewriter, a Mira Calix limited release record commissioned for the Ada (Lovelace) Project, and the A is For Activist children’s alphabet book. But other than a sheepskin rug, being surrounded by books, records, and feminist art on the walls, I’m uncertain of what else a baby needs in a separate nursery, especially given that we will be co-sleeping.
All of this is most likely a result of the “I’m growing a life inside me and feel the best I have ever felt in my life” second trimester elation, but I get to decide my fantasies and this one fits me now.
Sometimes it hurts in ways that are very scary and confusing and you’ve already called your midwife’s pager too many times and then it’s like, right, right, there’s a growing body inside your body and that is very scary and confusing because for 30+ years you were just your own body, or at least acted/endured as if you and your body were one reciprocal entity.
Kara‘s comment “really?! that is fascinating.” to the above led me to the circumstances of when I had initially said it to myself and how it still holds meaning while I expose my pregnancy online.
I had only been pregnant once before, as a teenager, and a few weeks after I found out I had an abortion. There was never any consideration what carrying a baby means. I was on birth control for most of my life after that—always ready for sex and hostile to procreation. I wanted children, many children, but not in my 20s. When I got pregnant again this spring—willfully—it happened quickly, immediately, easily. Anything too easy is suspicious. So, in my hypochondria, when I followed along with the daily miscarriage rate graph, I was sure it would be me one of those days. Even 2% is a possibility. The uncomfortable ‘don’t reveal’ period of the first trimester is a consequence of these high miscarriage rates. Some women reveal immediately, like some from the birth club forums/groups I joined. But many of them also had stories of revealing “too early”. That is, revealing and then not having a “viable” pregnancy. (I put all these damn words in quotations because they are horrible and perpetuate a stigmatized and pathologized pregnancy).
Any form of artistic expression would “reveal” my pregnancy and I didn’t want to reveal “too early” to a public that knew I had wanted a baby. It would be embarrassing, awkward, intimate. If anything happened, they would be privy to my body’s processes. As if a miscarriage is your body exposed to whoever knows it happened. A body out of control. I didn’t want that exposure. Mostly, I didn’t want to jinx this baby. I thought (and still do think) if I reveal to too many people it won’t come true. Something will go wrong. Consequently, when the first trimester was over and the sanctioned time to reveal pregnancy arrived I was so taut with these internalized beliefs I only mentioned it on a very strict case-by-case basis. I insisted that J and I confirm with each other if we were going to reveal to anyone. I told my mom at about 6 weeks (over g-chat to make it as distanced as possible) because I was having pains and she’s familiar with pre-natal health issues and immediately had her swear on my life not to tell anyone without confirming with me first. She agreed, “Of course, Of course.”
“Because if you do I will cut you off from this pregnancy and not tell you anything else.”
“I know, you can trust me.”
These were lies as I found out some of her best friends knew. I can only assume the rest of our family in Poland knows too. Why do people take up other people’s pregnancies as if it also belongs to them? A month ago she says to me dryly, “I respect that you want this to be a complete secret and hide them [the baby] as if they don’t exist.” My riposte, as always, “It’s my pregnancy, no one else’s.”
I got used to the idea that this was my experience and that revealing pregnancy carried with it so much baggage and superstition that I wanted to keep it to/for myself, not to let anyone else in. As if my experience would be taken away from me. I struggled with this when my belly kept growing and summer clothing was not cooperating. And partially my experience has been taken away by other women—guessing my month, asking about first trimester issues, guessing the gender of the baby after I explicitly tell them we don’t want to find out, and so on. The above is a pregnancy culture I don’t want to participate in. I erroneously(?) assumed if I started posting about my own pregnancy I would be complicit in this overbearing culture because I would be pushing my pregnancy on others; that I would be revealing my body’s intimate ways when I want to keep them hidden from view. Except my work deals with exposing the intimate and vulnerable and it’s impossible this be that different. So now, in all of my contradictions, I’m trying to figure out how to keep this mine and allow an audience, an audience I wanted from the beginning.
I love being pregnant because when it’s great it’s really really really great. I can feel the baby dance around to Squarepusher’s Papalon inside me, I have energy to work on the final edits of my dissertation proposal, and bury myself in the specificities of badass feminist art for the Feminist Perspectives on Culture course I will be teaching until my 36th week. It is also the time I am most in love with J and the most patient and understanding. After we first found out I was pregnant I was like this too—calm, loving, understanding. Consequently, we became happy and careful like when we first met because we didn’t know what was coming next and wanted to respect the encounter. We were also naive. In the equivalent of pregnancy time, this phase of love lasted the same amount of time as it did for us after we found out a baby was forming inside me. Long enough to keep us together but not long enough to keep bad habits from forming.
Sometime around 7-8 weeks until about 15 weeks, the inability to do or care about most things like getting out of bed or throwing out the take-out containers kicked in and I hated my life. Because the gross protestant ethic of ~work till you pass out~ is so internalized inside me, being unable to work was not only a foregrounded frustration, I was demoralized. All I had was tired excuses for everyone around me because telling people I was pregnant would mean letting people into me and I couldn’t. I was anxious to let anyone at work know I was pregnant until a few days ago because I was sure they would judge me, “how dare you do something to get in the way of your studies!”; “but you have your documentary to finish”; “don’t you have a career to build.” None of this has happened so far. My supervisor, overjoyed, gave me a high five: “With so many of you with babies and babies on the way I think I need to set up a daycare so us old folks can be part of it too.” My GPD told me he will support me in any way I need. What an idiot, Magda! I work with feminists, but even that couldn’t convince me to think people would be happy for me and want to help. What enculturation.
Keeping a personal journal is a definitive way to anxiety about time passing. I see the last entry above twenty days ago and wonder how it is possible that almost three weeks went by without posting? How my belly is huge and most of the time now people immediately move out of their seats on the metro to let me sit. Except teenagers. They always look me up and down and hesitate before I have to forcefully ask. I’m 21 weeks today and that means it is over half way. Earlier this week I had my second ultrasound and the baby is developing well and on schedule. My body, however, is less than cooperative. I have a low lying placenta, approximately 2 cm above the cervix. The technician also wasn’t completely certain at its position so it could be a bit more or less. It is very likely that it will move. If it doesn’t move she told us that I would have to have a c-section. I read about it online and even at 2cm if the midwife allows it, a vaginal birth can happen—with a lot of blood. My next ultrasound is at 32 weeks on my birthday. In 2001 on my birthday I ended up in the hospital because I fainted in my Women’s Literature class. I was pregnant. I knew this already but didn’t know much else. My boyfriend at the time presented me with a small diamond necklace that I still wear —the baby that never was. I contemplated removing it when I found out I was pregnant this time, as a sort of ridding of old energies, but I don’t understand that kind of thing, so I left it because it’s been an extension of my body for almost fifteen years.
Before this happened I was sure it would become an art project. Now, the more visible the pregnancy has become the more I want to hide it.