You will find extracts from “From Maiden to Mother: a transmutation in process. Part I – Gestation” by Moss Moth below an introductory reflection on the role of pregnancy within creativity by Freya Marshall Payne. All accompanying artwork is part of Moss Moth’s creative output and zine.
Pregnancy is a time of gestation, and not just of the fetus: it is a time of transformation and growth for baby and mother in ways that transcend physical growth. Pregnancy is a time of creative growth, too, and artist Moth Moss has been exploring this through her words and her painting, reproduced below.
Artwork by mothers during their pregnancies has a radical tradition of celebrating their own power in the face of societal beliefs handed down to us generation to generation which tell us that women cannot move between too many identities and that motherhood is at odds with creative production – and even the eventual success of mothers’ work lives.
Pregnant women’s creativity is strong in its dissent from the hierarchies which try to maintain the status quo, preserving power for the entrenched and traditional power-holders. Women face uncomfortable questions around how many identities can co-exist within us – mother, worker, creative… can we be all three? Can we be more than these fragmented identities, harnessing the power of life-giving to battle patriarchy?
There’s a tradition of women reclaiming their bodies in pregnancy painting themselves into which I see Moss Moth’s artwork fitting beautifully. It’s Ilka Gedo pregnant and gazing out a window painting and Paula Moderson-Becker imagining her pregnant body before it even happened.
There are also images which (although not the artistic output of parents themselves) show mothers celebrating their ability to work while nurturing – for example, artist Hein Koh breastfeeding while typing and Beyonce’s art-referencing photoshoot celebrating her twin pregnancy alongside her young daughter.
And yet… this is a tradition which needs to be celebrated and raised high for all to see. The ethos of making potential mothers doubt how creative they can truly be persists. Worryingly in some cases it is even reinforced by artists themselves claiming children hamper women’s art, as Marina Abramovik has said. Being childless is of course the right choice for Marina herself who feels “free” with no dependants but I worry that on some level her words may play into the messages that are already out there against motherhood. These messages say that pregnancy, childbirth and those new people in your life must necessarily hamper creativity and imprison the mother in a static role which allows her no personal life or freedom.
The framework of thought into which the image of a static mother fits is all about keeping non-men down. Anyone who chooses to give birth should be allowed to do so with no sense that they are either 1) fitting into the necessary role demanded of them as a “woman” or 2) transgressing because they want to keep on nurturing their career while nurturing a child, because they are non-binary, because they are trans, because they want to create artwork, or for any other judgemental and invasive reason which society might give.
I want to emphasise that it is perfectly OK if you don’t want children, and it’s OK to feel like Marina Abramovik that they will stop you being free. It’s absolutely OK if you aren’t someone who can have children. It’s absolutely OK if you do want children. And it’s absolutely OK to live your pregnancy and post-childbirth life working and / or creating.
To be very clear, I’m absolutely not saying that artist-parents are better artists than non-parents, but I am saying that there should be no stigma to an artist going through pregnancy and that I think Moss Moth’s artistic record of her pregnancy falls into a beautiful tradition of celebrating transformation in pregnancy.
Moss Moth recently gave birth. During her pregnancy she started a very special and ongoing zine project which tackles the transformations which come with pregnancy and new life. In her writing she honestly and bravely tackles worries, excitement, fear of change, hope for what is to come – and above all writes of a deep compassion for people going through pregnancy.
It is a great pleasure to show her artwork and extracts from her zine here.
Extracts from “From Maiden to Mother: a transmutation in process. Part I – Gestation” by Moss Moth
The reason and inspiration behind this zine is my own pregnancy. I wanted— or perhaps needed— a space where I can share my story and my truth in the midst of this momentous crossroad in my life. I hope that through my sharing I can also provide support and empowerment to anyone who resonates with elements from this very personal creation. If you are going through your first pregnancy, you need all the support and strength you can get.
I have, for many years, appreciated and enjoyed this platform for creative expression; for getting ideas, thoughts, and feelings, out there. Through the years I have collected many zines, as well as made a few simple ones here and there. However, this is my first in depth sharing and, to be real, I feel rather vulnerable about it. Despite everything, I trust this little leaflet will find itself in the right set of hands.
The opinions and viewpoints shared in this booklet are not fixed, they are subject to change as I am continuously evolving.
My journey to motherhood has been profoundly magical as well as challenging. It is nothing short of intense, and perhaps, also complex, yet —at the same time— it is curiously and effortlessly simple and ordinary. I’m still surprised that women have been doing this for as long as human existence. It really is incredible.
There is a feeling of connection with my ancestors, a sort of communion with all the women that have come before me since the beginning of time. Still though, it is a solitary experience, no matter how much external support you may or may not have. Little did I know, pregnancy would feel like a nine months solo pilgrimage into the Underworld. It is a serious undertaking and requires more courage, fearlessness, determination, fortitude, and trust than I could have ever previously imagined (or summoned).
For the majority of the pregnancy I did not want to talk about my struggles, fearing being misunderstood or judged because somehow I had it strongly ingrained in my mind that pregnancy is supposed to be a wonderfully blissful experience. I did not want to seem weak, but worst of all, to prove myself unfit to become a mother, especially by openly showing my internal conflicts. Yes, I stumbled naively into pregnancy, full of ideals and romanticism, as well as fears and incertitude. There is no roadmap for the passage to the Underworld.
For me, the Underworld symbolizes the world beneath the surface, the Westward realms. Its exploration means delving into, confronting, and becoming aware of aspects of oneself that is not easy to look at, to accept, or deal with. The gathering of baby-appropriate materials is the least important aspect of preparing for their arrival, at least in my humble opinion (especially, I am not one to support consumerism— but that is another topic altogether). The most impactful preparation lies in your consciousness.
Certainly, there is a death of the old self. There are sacrifices that are made and many Earthly desires and attachments are meant to be let go. No, it is not easy, and what I have learned is to honour the difficulty of this process by allowing myself space to mourn the perceived losses in order to be able to embrace what is to come. Life is a flux and changes often happen before we feel we are ready— but we are ready. Of course there will be times when we will falter, we will fall and get back up. We will make mistakes as we accustom ourselves to the new terrain, but we will also learn and expand like never before. There is much to be gained. Trust and surrender, my sisters. I am learning this.
My vessel expands,
In spirit and in flesh,
Testing my depth,
As skin stretch…
I want to remind my sisters, as I am trying to remind myself every day, to be kind and gentle to ourselves. Treat yourself like a dearly loved old friend.
Instead of getting lost in the Underworld, wandering aimlessly, miserably and hopelessly with our demons, we can utilize what they reveals to us — our weaknesses — and address them productively. I believe this is part of the expansion. We are not the victims in our lives. My friend kindly reminded me some months ago when I was going through a very hard time and feeling victimized by my life’s circumstances, ‘’life works with us, not against us’’. We can, at any time, claim our power and retrieve from the fertile grounds of our inner resources everything we need to bring ourselves to a better place. We can focus on what we can do as opposed to what we cannot. I truly believe that
each one of us has a set of unique talents and gifts and that there is always something we can do to make life a little easier for us. There absolutely will be things outside of our control but there are also countless things within our control. Two powerful tools are our Perception and our Focus.
Some examples of affirmations that have helped me are:
• I trust in the innate wisdom of my body. It knows how to
nourish and grow my baby
• My pregnancy body is beautiful. I welcome the changes and
• I am confident in my ability to take care of myself and my
baby through this pregnancy
• I choose to see beauty in this whole process of bringing new life into this world. I am consciously enjoying this unique experience
• I am strong, determined and resilient
• I conceived this baby in love, I am delivering this baby in love,
I am raising this baby in love
• I am committed to consciously raising this child. All the unconscious
generational negativity stops with me!
• I am calm and confident
• My body and baby are healthy and strong
Note: The Corrugated Wave has only reproduced extracts of “Gestation”. We have tried our best to keep her words in context and give the reader a sense of the issues she tackles. Please do contact Moss to read her full zine and follow the project’s progression into further zines via her website http://mossmothcreations.com/
Moss Moth is an artist and maker. She wants her work to transmit posivity, love and something relating to the ephemeral nature and transpersonal aspects of life. Her creations and blog can be found at http://mossmothcreations.com/