“Bearing fruits” is a short biographical video-work about pregnancy, child bearing & social reproduction.
An attempt to share the experience of bearing and carrying one another non competitively.
“Let’s prefigure a way of manufacturing one another noncompetitively [...]
Where pregnancy is concerned, let every pregnancy be for everyone.”
Standing in the produce aisle, looking at all these fresh fruits and vegetables I remember these lines from Sophie Lewis’ Full Surrogacy Now and I’m thinking
How can I share this experience with you?
This is not my first time. I recall the day you were born and how easy it was to give birth to you. You came five weeks early. Six years later I lay on my side, cuddling a pregnancy pillow, holding it between my legs. It helps me sleep. You call this pillow a snail and you want to take it with you to your room. I say
No, it’s not a toy. Mama can’t sleep without it.
You are right of course, it does look like a slug. They have been eating all our strawberries this summer.
This pregnancy is harder. Physically and mentally. It is also much easier. To comfort ourselves with the illusion that we already know what comes next. What to expect when you are expecting?
Have you read it?
There is no birthing class this time. Less searching for suggestions, warnings or advice. Just a weekly notification about your current size.
A poppy seed, Orange seed, Sweet pea, Blueberry, Raspberry, Cherry, Prune, Strawberry, Lime, Lemon, Orange, Apple, Avocado, Onion, Cucumber, Mango, Sweet Potato, Banana, Red bell pepper, Grapefruit, Pomegranate, Coconut, Eggplant, Courgette, Cabbage, Broccoli, Head of lettuce, Cauliflower, Cantaloupe, Celery Root, Pineapple, Butternut Squash, Napa cabbage, Honeydew melon, Canary melon, Watermelon, Pumpkin.
The size of a fetus is often compared to food. I am currently carrying an eggplant. Once the fetus reaches thirty-one weeks, it turns into a cauliflower. At thirty-seven weeks, the pregnancy is considered full-term. A honeydew melon, canary melon, watermelon or a pumpkin can be safely delivered.
Food is something we like to share with others: it builds trust among people and creates a sense of collectivity. Now that you are here, I would like to offer you some strawberries. 4 cm, 7 grams, 10 weeks old.
It shouldn’t be hard to find a way to share our gestation with one another, we have been carrying each other for years. As poppy seeds, sometimes I carried you as a broccoli and I have been your cabbage as well.
I remember you telling me that fruits and vegetables make up about twenty-two percent of food production globally. That half of the more than one billion workers in agricultural production are in wage labour. Most of them earn wages that place them on the bottom rung of the poverty ladder. It sounded so familiar. Undervalued labor.
Did you know that today, the main resources extracted from the Global South are no longer natural resources and agricultural products, but female care work?”
Reproductive labor becomes commodified on a global scale as women from South Asia, the Caribbean, Central and Latin America migrate internationally for work in the domestic sector. A majority of these women work as nannies. Caring for me, caring for you.
When we first met I was still working as an au-pair. Making a “healthy snack,” a fruit salad for the children every day at 3PM. At that time I forgot to ask you where you kept your fruits. They kept them in their kitchen. My grandmother kept them in her pantry. It always felt so cold, even during the hottest summer days, when I went in there. I would be standing in front of the pantry cabinets covered with lace table runners cut in half, staring at all the jars she filled up with canned fruits and pickled vegetables:
Which one shall I choose? I don’t crave pickles when I carry you.
Some time ago I had my twenty weeks ultrasound. You wouldn’t remember. Sound waves were creating an image of your body. I was laying on the bed, my belly uncovered, looking at the screen, seeing you moving around. I imagined you as a very sweet potato, but you definitely looked more like a banana. Probably it was your position - the fetal position. The same position that is used to minimize injury to the neck and chest.
Standing in the produce aisle I pick up an apple - it could be Janagold, Gala, Granny Smith, Fuji… it doesn’t really matter - I think of you being fifteen weeks old. So little, so round, almost perfect, not heavy at all. A very strange sensation comes over me: I could eat you up. You, the apple of my eye. Cute aggression they say.
Do you ever feel like this?
Overwhelmed with positive emotions. Sense of loss of control. Nervous laughter, tears of joy. This crushing feeling that you want to take care of us, protect us but also want to squeeze us?
Six years ago, you were born five weeks early. You weren’t bigger than a butternut squash. When your head was almost out and the rest of your body was still inside, the OB-GYN held up a mirror, so I could see you entering this world. First the head, then your shoulders, knees and toes. Knees and toes. Head, shoulders, knees and toes. Knees and toes.
Did you notice anything from your birth?
I hope this time I can deliver you at least as a melon. I don’t dare to imagine you as a pumpkin. While a melon can survive outside the womb, the butternut squash, you, had to be placed into an incubator right after birth. I saw you transform into a napa cabbage then into a honeydew melon, a week later a canary melon, after that a watermelon and finally into a pumpkin. Around the time when you were a honeydew melon it seemed that even your eyes were turning yellow, jaundice. Phototherapy helped. The blue light. When I was in pain, you, being my unwaged nurse, told me to use red light for healing. So warm, so bright, I could see through my skin. I still don’t know whether it was the red light or your “labor of love” that healed me.
We are sitting on the couch, your laptop on your lap, typing this text. I want to show you a drawing I made. You don’t have time for it right now. According to Winnicott many mothers fear that motherhood will “turn them into vegetables, with the consequence that they never give themselves over even temporarily to a total involvement.”
The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. What about the cucumber that has to be removed from the vine with a sharp knife?
I find you;
You survive what I do to you as I come to recognize you as not-me;
I use you;
I forget you;
But you remember me;
I keep forgetting you;
I lose you;
I am sad.
This pregnancy is harder. Physically and mentally. It is also much easier. To comfort ourselves with the illusion that we already know what comes next. This time I will not mind if I turn into a vegetable.