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Becoming Two

Lauren Frances Evans contemplates the significance of the placenta and the creative act, examining her role as artist, mother, and person of faith.

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Monument Letdown - 2018 - dehydrated breast milk, hydrated lime, and matte medium on paper - 12" x 9"

Sphincter Law I, III, II - 2016 - collage on paper - 24" x 18" each

In her Guide to Childbirth, famed midwife Ina May Gaskin describes the process of cervical dilation through what she refers to as the Sphincter Law. Gaskin suggests that the cervix must be utterly relaxed in order to open up properly and fully, explaining that “labors that don’t result in a normal birth after a ‘reasonable’ amount of time are often slowed or stalled because of lack of privacy, fear, and stimulation of the wrong part of the laboring woman’s brain.” Her explanations are elaborate and beautiful (and quite critical of common obstetric practices). stressing that the cervix behaves like a sphincter and that “sphincters cannot be opened at will and do not respond well to commands (such as Push! Or Relax!).”

I wasn’t explicitly thinking of Gaskin’s Sphincter Law when I made these collages just shortly after the birth of my daughter. It was only when a pregnant friend asked, “Is that a cervix?” that I realized how much the pieces reminded me of this portal, of the complex and somewhat paradoxical experience of its expansion.

Becoming Two VIII, VI, IV, IX - 2018 - small sculptural studies in air-hardening clay

Before becoming a mother, I always thought of attachment and separation as psychologies experienced by the child. I didn’t realize until experiencing it firsthand that, not unlike the blood circulating through the placenta, these psychologies very much go both ways. For example, I became so accustomed to sharing the bed with my daughter as I nursed her through the night that on the rare evenings she slept peacefully in her bed without me, I yearned for her. I couldn’t sleep without her in my arms.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this entanglement and have been working it out in this new body of small sculptural studies. At times I imagine vividly that my daughter and I are still connected by this cord, the umbilicus. It’s a tug of war. At times we pull in opposite directions because we each want loose, while at other times we pull to be closer to one another. Often, I tug at the cord, longing for my independence from her, and more often than not, she tugs to bring me closer, unwilling to let me exist apart from her.