These are the days where winter and spring are literally jousting. Each day is a Russian roulette of whether a dreary or even frosty morning will thaw out to a day of a breeze-blessed open house, or, a day where I need two dressing gowns and a hat just to sit and check my emails. But cast like a promise upon the gardenscape is a sea of bobbing yellow heads, defiant daffodils marking the onset of Easter regardless of whether our British climate agrees. And there in my belly, my own spring chick’s growth bulges like a bicep, like a Mexican wave of snakes shimmying my midriff from one side to the other.
In these blog posts I describe what is only a common universal experience, that of pregnancy; and yet its extraordinary, alien experience cannot be extolled enough – it is beyond language, it needs a new language, for the blending of sexuality and tenderness is so unlike what we are used to being able to describe. Perhaps why our culture struggles with reconciling the mother figure to the maiden, and birth to sex. Sex, birth and motherhood are really a continuum, containing the same power and female essence if we only tap beneath the divisive facade that culture has forged.
Photo by Alex Cameron at 29w
I have talked of overcoming fears like ‘whack-a-mole’, and I’ve lately had new moles to whack. Because of experiencing a loss, there is denial in this pregnancy. There is confidence, but there are also days where in creeps frustrating, involuntary denial that there is a healthy baby at the end of this; almost like I am not pregnant at all. Lulls in movement around 30 weeks caused lows of worrying, but each emerged into a new plateau of movement where her body felt fuller than ever, which by 34 weeks was turning my insides like a concrete mixer. Newly cynical of the ‘kick count’ advice given by health officials, I resolved to trust my baby as long as I felt her every day.
She is now so big I feel her constantly. Lost in a headspace of gratitude and glee, I glide my palms across my bulging, flattened umbilicus to meet with mystery angles of baby’s body pushing up the skin of my abdomen like an octopus under a tablecloth. Sometimes delicate, sometimes demanding, all of them delighting me. Since that time deep in dark Iceland when I first felt her cryptic little fleeting taps with my impatient pressing hand, I can now spy – with eyes alone – her movements in the mirror from the other side of the room. I am literally playing with her already, her jingle-jangle of limbs responding to my morning greeting through to my nightly raspberry leaf tea. The audacious pokes, breathtaking twists and a recently new feeling of my insides literally straining at each side, all having me move around with slow caution and regularly use Matthew’s arm as a kind of robust post to pull myself up on. Him and I, living almost every moment of our working and private life together, on a journey to meet our rainbow.
That journey is on its last exciting leg. We recently finished up our last photography events in readiness for retreat. One was a grand finale photoshoot, a very special one at the incredible Belvoir Castle, with just a small team and our own brief. One concept planned by Matthew, the other by me. Weeks of moodboarding, prop-hunting and harassing our dressmaker mannequin with reels of fabric till it would almost fall on the inquisitive cat, finally led to the big day driving up three hours to the beautiful, and supposedly ‘very haunted’ stately home in Leicestershire where our styling team and models awaited.
Matt’s look involved masses of curtain fabric for a dress, and piles of red hair, in a room gleaming with gilt where fashion had never been shot before. My look involved a ice-white blonde, boy’s military bloomers hand-selected from a movie costumier’s, and hair reaching as tall as the oversized four-poster bed we’d waited a month for permission to shoot on. Add in a vintage fishing rod inspired by a dream Matt had (that always seems to be the way; his naps are ‘research’), miles of white tulle, and a giant house of cards, plus, most importantly of course, a wholesome slap-up country pub meal enjoyed before and immediately after. The words ‘baby needs feeding’ coming from my lips directly connects me in empathy to my own mum’s anxiety all these years to see me eat.
The shoot marks both an end and a beginning. It is the last of our shooting before baby is born, and we resume in the late summer. But the shoot is also a beginning, the way we’d like to work increasingly. Self-assigned and self-designed, put together by our own desires, fuelled by confidence built over years, hinging upon the conviction of producing quality fine-art production. Our own baby but of a photographic kind, to add to the list of many fine shoots and adventures we are lucky to share our life enjoying.
A few days later we were at the The Photography Show, with me speaking for Nikon twice over the weekend. It was always in my diary that I’d be 35 weeks at this point, and my protruding bump won a sporting chance for public display, coming out from months of winter wear into the comfortable indoor environment of the NEC. I was proud as a peacock to be stared at. I wore a dress I’d said my final goodbye to Evan in, a dress now filled with the new life of his sister, a dress now connected to both my children. Amongst the amusing moments was a waitress’s comment, when she exclaimed at my size and questioned exactly how many babies I’m carrying. What would have been rude to many women, was a milestone for me, and another great whack over the head of my small-bump paranoia.
There is something challenging about being pregnant whilst working, though not because my stiff and aching pelvis has had any physical obligation missed by the help of our assistants. It’s more the mental attention the task at hand demands, projecting my brain outwards as if on stalks, calling my attention externally. Baby is fine, as long as I am fed, as long as I rest, and attach a bottle of water permanently to my mouth – but there is undeniably an awareness (I hesitate to say ‘guilt’) during those busy times that I want to give baby more attention. To wrap my hands around her cosy capsule, rub and speak to her, slow my breathing to an inactive state of reflective musing. Relief sets in once I’m home and can do all that and more, emphasising my priority of turning the mind inwards weeks ahead of labour’s ancient brain trance, and steeling myself for the precious privilege of being revisited by its somewhat intimidating power. Our midwife palpates my spreading ‘peach’ of a belly and emanates as much excitement as us, talking of who will catch baby. Bed, blanket or bathtub, our plan for the birth is the same as ever which is, without reasonable cause for anything otherwise, to revere nature’s majestically designed hormones like religious icons in a place of worship.
A stack of baby items grows higher in the back room, which includes 3 storybooks we’ve already opened after being inspired by Evan’s life to seize the perfect ‘now’ moment of life, as well as to invest in her familiarity to our voices. We continue our orchard walks, round those same fields whose old expiring trees were symbolically pulled down right at the time when we learnt we were to lose Evan. Now, the fields re-ploughed and sown, sprout new life and promise. In the adjoining forest, we saw a white stork over the trees, another fitting sign that it hovers just ‘round the corner’… A reminder that we are nearly there, and she is nearly here.