Helen Sargeant, Pregnancy Calculations, 2000

My first pregnancy was filled with calculations and a desperate need to try and grasp hold of and comprehend what was happening to my changing body, and self. All physical things were measured, peeing into silly small plastic tubes, standing on scales, ultrasound scans spying in, tape lapped across my expanding belly. Each antenatal appointment was greeted with a different midwife. This was central London, I was just another pregnant woman on a list of many. I remember one visit to the Whittington Hospital in Archway, in the waiting room, watching with horror as a heavily pregnant, handcuffed woman was escorted to her appointment. How demeaning it must have been for her to be chained in public, how inhumane and cruel this was.

I tried to find solace in Emma s Diary and her bountiful tokens of free baby products, but she did not fulfil my search for knowledge. I couldn’t possibly identify with the straight married couple, their cosy and secure lives in suburbia, when I was living as an unofficial tenant in short term housing accommodation in a relationship built on passion. What to expect when your expecting was equally disappointing and did not answer my expectations. I had not envisaged the burning desire and importance of nesting. The morning sickness that stretched from morning to night. The restricted feelings, the confinement. The loneliness of it, outside over there.

Obsessed with making calculations, I creating this drawing, to try to make sense of it, to find the date of conception in order to match the weeks of pregnancy to the babies growth and development, so that I knew where in the timeline the baby and I were, when the baby might be born. So much was unknown but hope and an overflowing love and wanting for my unborn child would see me through.

About Helen Sargeant

I am a visual artist, mother of two children aged 12 and 4, and co-founder of the MeWe arts collective. I intend to use this site to explore how my personal experiences as a mother informs my arts practice. To reflect upon the maternal in relationship to memory, loss, and mental health in particu…Read more


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2 Responses to “Calculations”

  1. Frances Earnshaw

    The obsessive research thing got to me as well! I used to have conversations with a midwife friend, telling her all the strange and fascinating things I now knew about the pregnant body. I intellectualised. I read. One thing I remember finding out is that where a woman has one damaged ovary (I had most of one of my ovaries surgically removed) and fails to produce an egg, the fallopian tube is able to move over and suck in the egg from the other side. Imagine! None of this knowledge, nor belly dancing, nor yoga helped during labour, which arrived as a vivid and terrifyingly unknown territory.

  2. Helen Sargeant

    Thats an incredible fact about the fallopian tube being able to move over and suck in the egg from the other side. Women’s bodies are utterly amazing are’nt they. It is only natural then that we should want to discover so much about them, become obsessed.

    I was more terrified of my second birth than my first as I knew what was to come. I found the pain to be unbearable, but I managed it, my babies were born, and I held them both so close in utter relief that we had both made it to the other side of the threshold. I often wonder if there was anything I could have done to dampen the fear I felt in birth. I think not, the fear is probably part of the birthing process, it need not be seen as a negative thing.


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