Art and Infertility

Long ago, when Darcy and I were innocent and carefree and full of confidence and hope and planning our perfect wedding, we went on a trip. This is when we lived in London and RyanAir offered incredible deals: we booked a flight to Forli, a quick drive to Tuscany, for $25 a person!

We stayed in a total and complete dump of a rental in the middle of a vineyard which sounds romantic and cool but mostly involved broken-down plumbing and 10 mile drives to grocery stores.

The best day of our trip involved a drive to San Gimignano, a beautiful hilltop town with medieval skyscrapers. It was a stunning and unique city and we wandered into an art gallery. Darcy comes from a family of art collectors and one of his relatives had told us they would gift us with a painting of our choosing.

I don’t know much about art. I know what I like. Darcy and I fell in love with a painting at this gallery, by an artist named Rita Pedulla. The gallery owners didn’t tell us much about her, except that she was 35, had just had her first baby and was newly interested in women and fertility. Um…

I was so incredibly clueless at the time. While I had had intuitions that I was not super fertile, I had not spent much thought on getting pregnant.

And so, we bought this painting.

Oh, the irony.

Eventually we moved back to the states and moved into a new home. We were so excited to hang the painting in our bedroom. We thought it would inspire us and bless us. Oh, how wrong wrong we were.

During our housewarming party, a kindly friend noted the painting and said in a whisper: “It won’t be long now.”

Three years later we moved. Turns out I am as suspicious as a baseball player on an unholy streak. Once we moved into our city apartment, I banished the painting into Josh’s tiny office. It looked weird in there. But I wanted it nowhere near us and our procreation efforts. It mocked me. The painting of a round and fecund woman, glorying in her own ripeness. Oh, how I HATED it. But we had paid good money for this large piece of canvas. I had deeply loved it. I remember the lunch where we giddily consumed truffle risotto and delicious bread and discussed buying a piece of art worth more than one month’s rent! How indulgent it had seemed. How young, naive we were.

Once the twins were born, I didn’t feel so mad at the painting. My stomach had swelled. I had been that round. The painting did not fill me with longing and envy anymore. We put the painting in a place of honor, in our living room. It had endured the pain, the exclusion, the sadness of our loss of innocence, our joy at conceiving.

Then: I got pregnant naturally and miscarried. I was soured once again on the painting. But I kept it in our living room, this time.

We are changing our living room and putting our TV where the painting now hangs. There is nowhere else for it to go except our bedroom. I would rather eat dirt than hang it in there. Why?

Tonight I looked at it deeply for the first time in years. I noticed that the fertile woman has a platter in front of her and the piece of fruit on it appears to be a pomegranate. That’s quite odd.

Who knows what the artist’s true story is? Maybe she went through years of infertility and rejoiced in her sudden plumpness. Perhaps she chose the pomegranate very, very carefully. Perhaps she placed that piece of fruit very deliberately on that platter, as a symbol of hope, joy and enduring belief in faith that we can somehow achieve our vision of becoming a mother, no matter how motherhood is achieved. Maybe the painting is a metaphorical vision of women before they conceive or adopt.

That’s what I am going to choose to believe. Because art is ultimately a reflection of what both the artist intends and what the viewer interprets. I choose to believe, today, the hopeful version of the fecund woman because it makes me happy.

Has your battle with infertility made you suspicious?



Filed under Infertility

13 responses to “Art and Infertility

  1. I perfectly understand the complicated relationship that you’ve had with that painting but much of the story, like the painting itself, is wonderful.

    And superstition? I am ashamed to admit this because I spent years of my life working as a scientist, but the truth is that I have always been a little superstitious. And I’m not even sure that it’s something that I would choose to give up.

  2. This is a lovely post. I’m glad you have found a new way to view the painting!

  3. looks like avocado to me… with its big pit
    I also had my theories… there were so many things going wrong in the beginning of the year, that I actually took my friends advice and went around the perimeter of the whole house with a candle in my hand (I had to go counterclockwise, holding the candle in my right hand… or the other way around… it had to be very particular). I have never done anything like that in my life. But this time I figured: it won’t hurt, now will it?
    And soon afterwards I got pregnant, got a new job that I love, and things just generally fell into place…

  4. I was very suspicious during my last two pregnancies, but I really feel like the last loss knocked most of that out of me in regard to pregnancy. In the rest of my life, I’m still pretty suspicious. But it’s exhausting! So I like how you’ve come to peace with the painting…I think that’s the way to go. 🙂

  5. I really really like this painting. But I would not have been able to have it out if I were still in family-building mode, for the mocking factor you mention.

    I am not suspicious, but wary, perhaps. I do not take things for granted the way I did back when I still had my fertility innocence. One of the most common phrases used while we were in the Middle East (where we underwent treatment) was “Insh’allah,” loosely translated as “God willing.” Or “I don’t take anything for granted.”

    Lovely post.

  6. Your relationship with the painting is very interesting. I find myself feeling very different about mother/baby-related things I had around the house since this all started as well. At one point I purged the toys and things I was collecting and either hid them in the garage or gave them to Goodwill just so I didn’t have to look at them. Then I hid the photos of other people’s babies and other reminders.

    When I look at the painting now I definitely see a representation of fertility and motherhood. I used to love images like this of robust and nurturing women. I think my attraction at the time was more out of a desire to feel mothered than to be a mother. Now I can’t help but think about the latter.

    Another reason I liked this image and ones like it is totally unrelated and has more to do with body image and my “girl-power” side. It feels very “pro-woman” as it depicts an image of beauty that contrasts with the mainstream media image of pin thin models and actresses.

  7. I also saw an avocado first.. but it can very well be a plate with some other fruit on it. I understand why you feel for that painting. It’s very powerful. Glad you have come to peace with it. Interesting and understandable story.

  8. What an interesting history you have had with that painting! I’m not exactly more suspicious now, but when I was a child I would stay with my great-grandmother when not in school, and she subscribed to Good Housekeeping, Ladies’ Home Journal, etc. I was fascinated even then with stories on multiple births, and most of the ones profiled were from ART. From an early age I understood IUI, IVI, ZIFT, GIFT, etc. When I started to suspect I had endo at age 21, I thought back to those stories and shrugged, thinking “there are options.” Not a big deal, right? Well, knowing what I know now and what we had to go through, I wonder about that early fascination with ART. I don’t think they caused it or anything; maybe it was someone’s way of yelling “Pay attention!”

  9. Port of Indecision

    Well, she *is* green, so maybe she was an infertile after all.

  10. Esperanza

    My struggle with TTC and loss have definitely made me superstitious. When I was pregnant I was sure that doing anything like buying clothes for the baby or setting up the nursery would “jinx” it and I’d be left with empty arms and piles of tiny clothes or a completed nursery and no baby to sleep in it. I was so worried about all of that stuff.

    I’m glad you found a way to accept the picture, despite your sordid history with it. It’s so nice, I’m glad it has a place in your home again.

  11. I think that is a beautiful observation. I try to remember this when I find myself jealous of a pregnant woman or see a mother with her young child. I try to imagine the possibility that she had been where I am. Xo

  12. Lut C.

    I would have had a problem with that painting as well.

    Superstition, yep. The idea planted itself in my head that there was a narrow window of opportunity for me to get PG. The window closed whenever someone I knew well got PG. Which was the case just about all the time.

  13. K

    Beautiful story…I definitely relate. IF had absolutely made me suspicious. It’s made me so suspicious that I can simultaneously be suspicious of opposite things. During the 2ww I’m suspicious of being hopeful for fear of the letdown and/or jinxing myself, but I’m also suspicious of being too negative and somehow causing negative things to happen with my thoughts. It’s terrible 😦

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