As an artist, lockdown was strangely fruitful for me. It signalled the end of my reproductive period (trying to be a mother for the best part of a decade, now with two IVF miracles), and the beginning of my productive one. I feel I emerged as an artist. I felt more “seen” than ever before, albeit from behind my computer screen
It seems to us that the children are safe until we begin to peer into the forest behind them. And, unfortunately, none of us is able to protect them from reality. Especially – post-imaginary reality, where they were locked at home, left without help in solving psychological and physiological problems.
I am from Malta, a tiny island in the Mediterranean that is dotted with temples of an ancient Neolithic Goddess cult. As a child I marvelled at temples and statues of fertility goddesses with enormous hips and breasts. Yet it was a patriarchal society in which women are objectified, our bodies deemed suspect, childbirth feared and breastfeeding hidden.
When you worry about prioritising your own needs above your children’s, or feel like doing something just for yourself is really selfish, remember: You are a role model. If you can’t prioritise yourself for your own sake then do it for your children, how will they learn to take care of their own needs, hopes and dreams if they don’t see you doing it? It’s a catch 22 that I hear myself saying to mothers I meet, all the mothers, all the different mothers, when they talk about guilt. And everytime I say it, I’m saying it to myself too, because like all good advice it’s easy to say but harder to do.
Whilst many of us might like to erase 2020, can we really go back to life as if it never happened? Time passed, life happened, people died, babies were born and hence so too were mothers. The ‘With Child’ project tells the stories of these births; women’s experience of pregnancy, labour and the transition into motherhood during a pandemic, events which have changed their lives forever.
I lay in bed weary and worn after two days of post Covid vaccine flu. I stare at the postcard of The Virgin and child with three angels (school of Piero Della Francesca) (1) Before motherhood I never understood the solemn and still glance of this renaissance mother, how could this figure head not be basking in the joy of the child she had born. It is only with a postnatal understanding that I realise these mothers are bearing the weight of endurance and responsibility. Motherhood does not manifest as the nappy advertising rhetoric of wholesome fresh-faced laughing mothers and their giggling children. There are those moments of joy and overpowering love, but like the Della Francesca mother there are frequent times where you hold your child exhausted and ragged, poised in apparent patience, when internally everything in you is frayed.
In the utopia of my head…there is gender balance, no distinction between the sexes, equal pay, equal chores, equal value, equal voice.
Imagination is the force that drives everything..be it art, science, music…imagination is the source.
What are your hopes, dreams and desires for making art in this post-pandemic world? What are your fears, concerns and anxieties? Do you think that there will be change for the better in society and that women’s labour and care work will become more valued? Do you think the work of artists will become more valued? Can you imagine a better future for women artists and artists who are mothers ?
On December 23rd, 2019, I received a call from my doctor that irrevocably changed the course of my life: we had lost our third child at 16 weeks gestation. On December 27th, our baby had passed and we experienced the unbearable grief of losing a child. At the same time, media outlets were already covering the story of a novel virus that had originated from Wuhan, China and it appeared to be spreading quickly around the globe. Too consumed with my own recovery and grief, I barely gave the virus any thought.
It is 8:45 pm and towards the end of a dreadfully dark and wet fall day. I have been sick for 3 days now, probably some random virus my body is fighting. But because it has become nearly impossible to go about the business of being sick without considering it is Covid, I went earlier today to have the swab from hell stuck into my nose as far as my eyeball. Who knew a 10 second swab test could be such torture? But that’s the least of my discomforts at the moment.