As an artist, I am constantly trying to challenge myself. I want my work to continue to evolve but stay true to my mission of making pregnant women feel beautiful about their bodies and their experience. In 2004, I wanted to explore working with several women over the entire forty weeks of their pregnancy. I thought that it would be inspiring to discuss with them what they were going through mentally, emotionally and physically and then go into the studio and document it using movement, fabric, focusing techniques and film.
I met Janet Ko in 2004. She answered our call for pregnant women to document for forty weeks. After interviewing what seemed like hundreds of moms, she stood out in the crowd. She was 44, had a small child, and had had some medical complications during her first pregnancy. She was completely present during our initial interview, honest, emotionally available and articulate about her experiences. She was also a former modern dancer. I knew she would be the perfect woman to work with, who could clearly communicate her experiences during the previous four months well enough for me to make some photographs.
My intention for this section “Our Mother’s Stories” has been to do an interview and then write a brief essay. But I was reading through Janet’s journals that she kept for me during the forty weeks and I felt it was best to post her own words. The photos that accompany this essay were taken during the early stages of her pregnancy.
September 16, 2004 – 11 weeks pregnant, Seattle
“I am 44 years old and I am having another baby!!! How do I feel? Excited, scared, nauseous, uncomfortable, like I just cannot eat any more food in a day, and some how very complete.
Mark, my husband, and I had gone through so many challenges with our first child, Kai. I had heart conditions that showed up while I was four months pregnant that landed me in Massachusetts General Hospital’s Cardiac Unit for eight days with a floor full of senior citizens. Then Kai, presently four years old, have terrible eczema from 8-18 months and presently has severe food and pollen allergies. And finally, we had a sleepless child (Kai) for three and a half years. I has been a long four years!
The baby was planned. Mark and I thought we would try for nine months and see if we both had recovered enough from our exhaustion to even get pregnant. If we got pregnant, wonderful, if we didn’t than one of us must be so drained that it wasn’t meant to be. I had felt this little spirit hovering waiting to come in for a while, but I was just a bit reluctant since both of us were still sleep deprived. Deep inside I really wanted this baby. The moment I knew I was pregnant, it felt like our family and the energetic field around our family was complete.
I realize that there are many risks and challenges. First, my heart condition could return. Then, because of my age, there is a higher risk of Down’s. The child could also end up with severe allergies like Kai. I could lose myself again if this baby had some other challenges. And lastly, the wisdom of age doesn’t always win over the energy of youth.
Body Image? I had gone through so much around body image with my first pregnancy. Being a modern dancer in my 20s, I was surrounded by eating disorders. I knew I had a great deal of malnutrition still lingering in my body. Before each pregnancy I began to work with a wonderful scientifically and psychically based nutritionist. That was the one piece with both pregnancies that I felt allowed me to get pregnant as quickly as I did.
I also worked with a psychotherapist knowing that there would be a great deal I would need to deal with the external visual of my body and the internal sensations of pregnancy.
With my first, I only gained 30 pounds, and after birth lost 40 pounds. After nursing for eighteen months and being deprived of dairy, eggs, beef and peanuts, because of Kai’s allergies, I ate one pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream every night for a year to make up for the 18 months of deprivation. I had definitely gotten over the concern about weight at that point.
My body is changing so much with this pregnancy. They say your body knows just what to do with the second so the changes happen faster. This is very true! So far at ten weeks I have gained three to four pounds and yet my body feels like it did when I was four months pregnant with Kai.
Now, it’s a nice change to inhabit my body in a different way. I am enjoying the changes, just not the nausea. I get to test out a new body from inside, not caring what anyone else thinks on the outside. To not care about what judgments are being made on my appearance, I feel like I am wearing my pregnancy like a badge you earn in the Girl Scouts. You wear them with pride and love to show them off!
Tonight, however, is one of those nights where I am so tired, yet cannot sleep because I am so uncomfortable. Though I can feel the gentle ebb and flow of my blood rushing through my body, I also feel the gentle sipping of the baby on the rich nourishment from my belly. When I check my second chakra, the emotional center of the body, my energy and emotions feel quite stable and vibrant. My body feels “well used” from creative a baby.
My friend, Kaiopa, once said “ You are only the host…” That feels true tonight. Who knows what or who is really growing in my belly. I have a strong feeling of the personality of the baby, yet who knows until they are born. Tonight I feel tired and weak from the long day and the baby feels clear, decisive, determined and focused. How exciting to be able to borrow some else’s being for a while. But not tonight, maybe tomorrow. “