Ghostly Bodies

This piece takes the scan images from five out of my six pregnancies. Four of the pregnancies went to term. The images use and distort intrauterine scan images; images which are already affective, haunting, beautiful. Scan images are also standard issue for most Western pregnancies. I had sonographic images for 5 of my pregnancies as part routine developmental scan appointments. In Sheffield, when all is well (a wanted baby, the pregnancy is progressing and so on) these scan images are rewarded with souvenirs - the images of your unborn child which are mounted inside quaint little cards decorated with a cartoonish image of a stalk carrying its ‘bundle of joy’.

The Ghostly bodies images originate from one of my pregnancies which ended early. Having had a scan at 7 weeks, my 12 week scan brought the news of a loss, which was instantly shattering. We were eventually ushered out of the scan room to a ‘back room’ where we spoke with a midwife in hushed tones about our ‘options’. A common enough occurrence, but devastating nonetheless. The midwife said our baby could have 'stopped developing' days before, maybe even a week. It felt so odd to know that I had carried her and not known she'd died, that I’d housed a tiny dead body; a becoming-human, floating around as I went through my daily business. It was just as odd leaving the hospital after the news. A back door type exit; the tiny lifeless body still floating inside me. No card with a ridiculous stalk for this visit, but a memento was offered nonetheless: the scan images alone, placed in a solemn sealed brown envelop, which would only to be unsealed and revealed some months later. The rare glimpse of a tiny lifeless being that we had imagined as our baby to be born was at once so sad, pathetic and cherished.

Using the images helped me to work-through the trauma of this event. I used the time with them to think through the intrauterine space; a place that has been denied, ignored and abjected by traditional Western metaphysical thinking. I wanted to confront my inside, really connect with the awesome power to reproduce, pay attention to the unfathomable wonder of what it takes to create another human, marvel at the inescapable normal-ness of it. But, more importantly, I used the images as a way to connect me to my becoming-baby’s almost-life. There images are first and foremost concerned with what it means to carry a human and then coming to terms with what happens if that barely-there-life comes to an end.