"Performing the Maternal: Bodies, Haptic Practices and Ethics" (2019)
This project was devised by Maud Lannen, under the supervision of Professor Anna Furse, as part of a practice-research PhD at Goldsmiths. The purpose of the study was to give visibility to individuals who are involved in maternal labours but whose labours and bodies remain marginalised by society, with the aim to reformulate what the maternal is and can become in the future. My part of the collaboration was formed of various visuals and texts, documenting my own unconventional experiences of the maternal during IVF.
Part One: Maternal Body (during IVF)[
The natural maternal body…full, round and pink with pleasure.
The early maternal body…sick and torn.
The late maternal body…stretched, marked and swollen.
My body was empty, hollow and yellow.
My abdomen wasn’t filled and plump,
Bloods, x-rays, fluids, scans.
Measuring ovaries, counting follicles.
Hormones stop normal ovulation…enter menopause, hot flushes and night sweats.
Hormones pump it up again…ovaries swell, produce those eggs, well beyond what's "natural".
Inject…take tablets…everyday, several times a day.
Put everything in your body to make it maternal… get your body where it should be.
Nothing on the outside.
You’re out of your body when they remove the eggs.
Watch them grow, cells that multiply.
Put them back, wide awake, full bladder, legs up in stirrups.
Injections, tablets, pessaries.
It’s just a disease. You can’t die from it, get a grip.
Keep going body.
Part Two: Maternal Time(during IVF)
Alienated from the maternal mainstream
Planning to be a mother, but maybe only an “Other”
Taking time, time, so much time
Months, mostly years for some
A multitude of appointments
Seeing one, seeing another, through the conveyor
Tests, scans, x-rays
How does one become a mother, not an Other?
Drugs are prescribed
Administered every morning
Needle in, needle out
Must get on, need to get on,
Got a life to live, whilst making this one
No one knows you do it
It’s your secret,
Don’t do it in public,
Find a time
Take the tablets
Three times a day
Alarm goes off
Take the next one, and the next one, and the next
What about the big one – after the meal
Pessaries in – 2 or 3?
Constant interruptions into your day
A reminder of your necessary journey
Ever hopeful, every step of the way
No biggie, catch up later
I’ve got more important things to do
Take some time off,
Put your feet up, yes do,
So the blood goes to the right places, the reproductive places
Relax, what are you worried about?
You’re on their time now
Following the schedule
Wait for the right point in your cycle
Slow it down, then start it up
Forget the years before
This one may end differently
If it doesn’t work
Just start again
But give yourself some recovery time in between
To get your body back to ‘normal’
Maybe you’ll get there
Maybe you won’t
How long will you give it?
Your clock’s ticking.
Part Three: Maternal Space(during IVF)
These pieces conceive of Maternal Space through the convergence of infertility in women and infertility in our ecological environment in the 21st century, drawing on the exploitation of the production of natural resources and the exploitation of the female body in relation to (re)production.
This work reflects on the exhaustion of the natural environment and the natural female body within 21st century lifestyles, both resorting to artificial methods of reproduction to sustain themselves. The images attempt to draw visual parallels between these two infertile spaces as artificial germination of crops lie alongside IVF hormone cultivated embryos, both incubated outside their natural habitats to ensure optimum productions levels.
Part Four: Maternal Embodiment(during IVF)
This looks at maternal embodiment from an infertile perspective; considering the process of becoming a maternal subject, and a pregnant body in the first instance.
During infertility you form a very close relationship to the wanting maternal body, an empty craving maternal body. You become a sort of void, an sub-maternal; entering a never-ending process of becoming, hovering somewhere between the biological and the cultural. You exist amongst social ideas of the maternal and an individually embodied experience that is embroiled secretively in the labouring practices of making it happen through a routine of ritual and repetition. Yet you are precluded from the sphere of the conventional maternal subject and are without the embodied shapes and contours of the pregnant figure, but with all the hormones telling your body to permit it and your mind making this its sole purpose.
“As a process that occurs within a woman’s body, pregnancy is structurally located in the personal and private sphere, but it is always public property….the [sub]maternal body is constructed as a site for regulation and control through medical practices and reproductive technologies.” (Betterton). Your body is not quite your own, but without the visual of a pregnant belly to question, touch and admire, you enter an embodied state of disavowal of the maternal, a negation of its usual properties, whilst actually being fully engaged in every step of the inaugurate process. You endure an sub-maternal existence.
You either continue in private with nothing for others to see and therefore know, or you engage them in knowledge of the process, sharing your intimate embodiment of emptiness. Many use a platitude to keep you hopeful, or make you feel better in eventual acceptance of the sub-maternal embodied state from which you may never recover. There is never quite the right response to the feelings of loss of something that has never been, and the platitudes remain banal and monotonous in their own embodied emptiness.