As I’ve mentioned before, a lot of my work is a form of self-analysis and way to reflect on events in my life. ‘The Fear, (below) was one of the pieces that I really needed to make in order to evaluate my feelings. It was made in response to the complete and utter dread that I felt whilst taking a pregnancy test. Before making the piece, I already knew exactly what I wanted it to look like, right down to the backdrop and the colours of the confetti. This happens occasionally with my work, although this doesn’t automatically mean that I’ll be completely satisfied with it.
For ‘The Fear’, I wanted to take the focus away from the fact that the main object was a pregnancy test, and the potentially serious implications of a positive result. I felt that the glitter and love hearts almost gave it a child-like, innocent feel. You’ll notice that some of the pieces of confetti are scrunched up, this wasn’t deliberate on my part. However on further reflection, I can see that it could be interpreted that I intentionally scrunched up some of the confetti to represent how a pregnancy can potentially destroy or strengthen a relationship, and can result in some mothers being left completely on their own.
Pregnancy, birth and motherhood are themes that have been explored a lot in art, but one of the pieces that had the biggest impact on me was ‘Birth’ (below) by Louise Bourgeois. I’ve already used Bourgeois as an example in one of my earlier posts, but seeing as she’s my favourite artist ever, it’s hard for me to not reference her work, particularly when it’s so relevant! I recently saw ‘Birth’ in person at ‘Louise Bourgeois: Works On Paper’ at Tate Modern a few months ago, and strangely, it gave me complete closure on my feelings about having to take a pregnancy test.
Although this piece doesn’t relate directly to a pregnancy test, it’s an obvious depiction of pregnancy and birth, and it’s the piece of work through which I discovered Louise Bourgeois, so it will always be special to me. Here, Bourgeois documents birth, a natural, everyday event, but transforms it from being supposedly beautiful to slightly grotesque, due to the abstract style. In the work, there’s a sense of reluctance to let go from the mother, evident in the fact that the two beings are entwined by her hair.
Louise Bourgeois was a mother, meaning that she had experienced all the feelings associated with pregnancy, birth and raising a child. Along with this, Bourgeois had to deal with the death of her mother in 1932, which caused her to have a fear of abandonment. Perhaps this fear is explored in ‘The Birth’ (below.) It’s almost as if the work is depicting the abandonment of a child from the womb, similarly to ‘Birth’. The supposedly unbreakable bond is now broken, as the reality of caring for a child post-pregnancy can be a lot to cope with, both physically and mentally. It may also reference the difficulty of wanting to do the best for your child, but also needing to give them their own space to develop.
Taking a pregnancy test is probably one of the most nerve-racking experiences that I’ve ever had to undertake. I’d already told my mum that I’d had unprotected sex because I really didn’t know who else to speak to, and I couldn’t try and forget about it and live with what felt like a grey cloud hanging over me. I didn’t feel able to talk to any of my friends about it, I didn’t want any of them to judge me for it, I felt ashamed and embarrassed. At the time, I couldn’t believe that I’d been stupid enough to have unprotected sex, as it’d been something that I’d been so set on making sure I didn’t do, especially not when it was my first time.
The process of taking my pregnancy test was very weird and a tiny bit clinical. It was just me and my mum in the bathroom, sat there in silence for what felt like the longest three minutes of my life. It’s strange now to think about how different the implications of a positive or negative result would have been for me. I genuinely felt like the fate of my life was in the hands of this little plastic stick. I know that had the result been positive, I would have had an abortion.
Still now, only my mum and four of my friends know that I had unprotected sex and therefore had to take a pregnancy test. My dad doesn’t know, my closest family members and some of the people I consider to be my closest friends don’t know either, and that’s down to the fact that I felt ashamed. Now that I’ve had around four months to reflect on it, I’m not ashamed that I had to take a pregnancy test, and really, I don’t care about people’s opinions on it. I just feel really lucky that I had someone there to go through the experience with me, as a lot of women have to take pregnancy tests or the morning after pill and cope with the stress and worry on their own, afraid that their parents, carers or partners might find out.
In society, there’s a hell of a lot of stigmas surrounding teenage pregnancy. For some reason, teenage mothers are automatically assumed to be ‘bad parents’ and unable to care for a child due to their young age. I’ve actually witnessed more commitment, love and dedication from teenage mothers towards their children, particularly when they’re single parents, than I have from a lot of long term or married couples.
In the UK, a lot of single parents, particularly teenage mothers, are all assumed to be living off benefits (mainly by people who believe the rubbish that’s written in newspapers that are made up of lies and exaggerations, e.g. The Daily Mail.) Yes, there might be single mothers or teenage families that have to rely on benefits in order to support their children and themselves, but this is not an accurate representation of single mothers, or teenage families as a whole. Neither does it mean that all teenage mothers, single mothers or young families are ‘scroungers’ sitting around on their arses all day at home. It’s blatantly obvious that it’s a far safer option to rely on benefits until a time when you feel that you might be able to start working again, than let yourself and your child/children worry about where their next meal is going to come from, how you’re going to heat your home or how you’re going to pay for bills. Or am I missing something here?
That’s a basic human right. And for those who try and claim “they didn’t plan the pregnancy, it’s their own fault” or “they shouldn’t have had unprotected sex, they got themselves in this situation, they shouldn’t get help from the state for their own mistakes”, for once in your life, just try and put yourself in their position. Imagine if this was you, or your sister, your mother, your cousin, your friend, would you be so quick to criticise? No, you wouldn’t. You can try and pretend that you’d still be of the same stern opinion, but you really wouldn’t be. All too often people are caught up in their own little bubble and are unable to see beyond it, therefore limiting their ability to empathise with those who are in a far less comfortable and secure situation than they are.