THE ART/IVF SHOW
ART - Assisted Reproductive Technology, IVF - In Vitro Fertilization
A multimedia event by Johanna Schwarzbeck & Egon Zippel
Johanna 917 881 7554 , Egon 917 497 7200
Take the D or B to Grand, or the F / J / M / Z to Delancy/Essex
by Johanna Schwarzbeck & Egon Zippel
After-sex exercises to keep sperm in place
ART/IVF is a first-time artistic collaboration between Egon Zippel, a conceptual artist (no pun intended), and Johanna Schwarzbeck, a figurative abstract painter. The show plays with the underlining duality of nearly everything that the artists come into contact during their relationship and the IVF experience: sex, love, and the difficulties of relating to one another. Nuances and meanings that can and are misinterpreted lead to the detriment - and later amusement - of the artists' relationship with one another, art, technology, and the baby-making effort. This multi-person, multi-media show features paintings, photographs, videos, and other materials associated with ART and the art of conception.
PREGNANCY TEST CHART, detail
.ART, acrylic on canvas, 48"x 36", 2008
After final implantation
.Dinner Party: Mandatory resting for several days after implantation (and dinner in bed afterwards)
AFTER ABORTION, color pencil on paper, 23" x 30", 1993
EXPLOITED FEMALE, fresco on masonite, 10" x 12", 1997
sacred feminine has also largely been diminished by all major
recognized religions in both the East and West (Catholicism, Judaism,
Islam and even Buddhism), as well as by the medical establishment
concerning the issue of giving birth, contraception, abortion, female
mutilation and procreation. Important health-related screenings in
which women routinely take part, such as visits to the gynecologist,
yearly recommended mammograms, etc., are all constant confrontations
that put the female at risk of exploitation, physically or emotionally.
The media also impacts women by giving us clear messages that we need to be beautiful at all costs, smart, businesslike and happy.
All of these injustices occur because we live in a male-dominated society, where the feminine principle is still feared by the male establishment. Going through the process of the IVF procedure, old feelings of exploitation came back to me and I felt motivated to bring more consciousness to the topic of collective female pain. I wish to do so by sharing some of my personal experiences from my relationship with Egon, as well through the IVF show, and my art work.
I dedicate this show to all women and men who are being birthed into a new consciousness, and who can come together to create a new history and herstory.
Movie: THE LAST HOPE
At the Salon 319 the paintings, drawings, photos, documents, videos and other materials pertaining to the topic are on display. There are also books and videos from Johannaʼs personal library relating to the subject of fertility versus infertility from the mainstream medical viewpoint to a complementary natural-health care approach...
DO YOU WANT TO HAVE A BABY ?
Fertility Conception Natural Pre-Natal Care
By Linda Rector-Page, N.D. PhD.
HAVING A BABY AFTER THIRTY
By Elisabeth Bing and Libby Colman
GENTLE BIRTH CHOICES
A Guide To Making Informed Decisions
About: Birthing Centers, Birth Attendants, Water Birth,
Home Birth, Hospital Birth.
By Barbara Harper, R.N.
Photographs By Suzanne Arms
Foreword by Robbie Davis-Floyd
An Invitation and a Guide
By Alice Gilgoff
HART & HANDS
A Midwife’s Guide to Pregnancy & birth
By Elisabeth Davis
Photographs by Suzanne Arms illustration Linda Harrison
The Role of the Professional Labor Assistant
By Paulina Perez and Cheryl Snedeker
THE VBAC COMPANION
The Expectant Mother’s Guide to Vaginal Birth After Cesarean
By Diana Karte Co-author of A Good Birth, A Safe Birth
A Handbook for relieving the Discomforts of Pragnancy
By Elaine Stillerman, LMT Illustrations by Diane Kurz
Hand Book For Loving Parents
By Vimala Schneider McClure
What You Need To Know Right Now
By Niels H. Lauersen, MD PhD and Colette Bouchez
TAKING CHARGE OF YOUR FERTILITY
By Toni Weschler. MPH
THE INFERTILITY CURE
The Ancient Chinese Wellness Program For getting Pregnant
and Having Healthy Babies
By Randine Lewis PhD
The Surprising History Of How We Are Born
By Tina Cassidy
BIRTH AS AN AMERICAN RITE OF PASSAGE
By Robbie E. Davis Floyd
A GOOD BIRTH A SAFE BIRTH
Choosing and Having the Childbirth Experience You Want
By Diana Korte and Roberta M. Scaer
PARENTING BEGINS BEFORE CONCEPTION
A Guide To Preparing Body, Mind, And Spirit
For You And Your Future Child
By Carista Luminare-Rosen, PhD
IMMACULATE DECEPTION II
MYTH, MAGIC & BIRTH
Text and Photographs by Suzanne Arms
A GUIDE TO EFFECTIVE CARE IN PRAGNANCY & CHILDBIRTH
By Murray Enkin, Marc J.N. C. Keirse
Mary Renfrew, and James Neilson
THE WHOLE PARENTING GUIDE
Strategies, Resources and Inspiring Stories For Holistic Parenting and Family Living
By Alan Reder, Phil Catalfo and Stephanie Renfrow Hamiltion
WE ARE ALL WATER BABIES
By Jessica Johnson & Michel Odent
ZEIT FUER UNS
Ein Buch ueber Schwangerschaft, Geburt und Kind
Gerlinde M. Wilberg
Dr. med. Josef Roetzer
a room we decided to build
a room just for us
where we make love and not fight
just enough space to place the cradle along side
the room it is build, all my love went inside
it is pretty and light…
the sunrays gently touch our faces
but hi, hi doesn’t kiss me…
one year later the two kissing
are hanging on the wall
painted by me.
the love is still here
right in this room
waiting to kiss the bride and the groom.
the baby decided not to come
so we gave up the room
now the room is for guests
and nobody knows…
that all the love we put in
was for me and for him
all the love is still here.
Opening: Friday, September 19, 2008, 6 - 9pm
Show times: Saturday, Sunday Sept. 20, 21, 6 pm - 9 pm
Due to the sensitive subject matter, children are not permitted
Comments are welcome. Complementary deviled eggs and Chinese herbal tea will be served.
I grew up in the pristine countryside of Austria, and I felt imbedded by nature and infused by its plentiful gifts. I found solace in the forests, meadows and mountains of that region. Being blessed with a slender beautiful body and a free spirit I developed a deep understanding of oneness with all creation. That realization accompanied me throughout life and has made me an artist and a practicing Zen Buddhist-to-be from the very beginning.
At the age of 11, I moved from my grandmother’s country home to Niederalm, a town on the outskirts of Salzburg, to live with my mother, four sisters, and youngest brother. Following my mother’s advice, I undertook studies in drawing and painting with a private instructor and renowned academic painter, Ms. Irma Gade.
At age 15 I began a three-year apprenticeship program in fine art restoration and gilding (the craft of applying gold leaf to art objects). Upon completion of the program, I moved to Vienna, where I found work with an art conservation team under the hospices of Dr. Manfred Koller. I continued to work and study for an additional two years in conservation and restoration, and subsequently graduated with a degree called “der Meisterbrief” from Innsbruck Tyrol.
During my studies I spent most of my time applying my artistic expertise in restoring period frames at the prestigious Conservation Institute of Vienna (Das Bundesdenkmalamt), as well as painting and gilding the surfaces of South Tyrolean (replicated) carved wooden statues at Peter Staffler’s gallery, Groedner Holzschnitzer, in Vienna.
In 1984 I ventured to New York City to visit friends and family. The City agreed with my thirst and enthusiasm for self-realization, and I felt instantaneously that it was the missing rhythm that I was looking for with which to manifest my art and myself.
Without any comprehensive knowledge of English, a new world revealed itself to me. I immediately felt infused with energy and excitement when I started to work independently as a restorer and gilder in New York City.
Some years later, I began studies in Shiatsu (massage), thereby adding a new skill, and an important element to my existing knowledge as not merely a visual artist, but someone well- versed in the healing arts as well.
Currently, I provide service to my long-standing massage clientele while also following my passion to paint. The unification of the art of caring in Shiatsu/massage therapy and the art of being in Zen Buddhist meditation with my experiences on canvas is a continuation in the circle of practicing living mindfully in my daily life activities.
I feel that the combination of being a Buddhist, practicing massage therapy, and painting provides me with the opportunity to be mindful, caring, and present in the moment to manifest myself artistically.
Zippel was born in 1960, in Timisoara, Rumania (his parents were part
of the German minority living in Rumania), and moved to Heidelberg,
Germany early in his childhood. Upon completing school (humanistic
studies, Latin, and ancient Greek), Zippel joined the German military
for two years, serving as a drill sergeant. His chief responsibility
was the running of a radio unit connecting American and German forces
in the CENTAG (Central Army Group) of NATO. Around this time he became
a compulsive motor-biker (Moto Guzzi!).
In 1984 Zippel was awarded a Fulbright scholarship which brought him to the University of Texas and New York, where he studied computer graphics at the New York Institute of Technology and worked in an advertising agency. In 1986 he returned to Europe, where he finished his studies in communication design, and spent the next decade living in an abandoned chocolate factory in Heidelberg, Germany (with a two year interruption to explore Milan, Italy). He also studied at the Staedel Frankfurt Art Academy (Institute for New Media: post-graduate studies with Peter Weibel, 1993 – 94).
In 1996 Zippel settled again in New York, where he worked for Nan Goldin for several years. He continues to pursue a diverse career that integrates visual arts, graphics, trend research, journalism and production.
THE ART/IVF SHOW
ART - Assisted Reproductive Technology, IVF - In Vitro Fertilization
Our IVF doctor: Dr. Vincent Brandeis [http://www.newyorkfertility.com]
- 2004-2006: sex
- November 2005-February
- 2006: Johanna begins detox program to cleanse her body called Chelation therapy. It is the administration of chelating agents to remove heavy metals from the body.
- Feb. 2006: Johanna starts to take fertility tests [fallopian tubes etc...]
- April 2007: IVF procedure
EGON’S COMMENTS OF JOHANNA’S TEXT IN UPPERCASE AND RED INSERTED HERE
EGON: UNTIL AGE 45, I NAVIGATED AROUND THE CLIFFS OF ‘HAVING CHILDREN’ SUCCESSFULLY (BY AVOIDING IN GENERAL THIS TOPIC IN MY EARLIER RELATIONSHIPS], AND NEVER HAD THE DESIRE TO HAVE A CHILD WITH SOMEONE, BUT WITH JOHANNA I WANTED TO GIVE IT A TRY.
I LIKE CHILDREN, AND I GET ALONG VERY WELL WITH THEM, SO I WAS NOT AFRAID OF THE CHILD, BUT OF THE [OF ANY] MOTHER, BECAUSE MOTHER-ANIMALS [AND FOR ME HUMANS ARE JUST PART OF THE ANIMAL KINGDOM] ARE FIERCE/FEISTY BEASTS, AND I DON’T NECESSARILY WANT TO DEAL WITH THEM ALL THE TIME. BUT, BUT, BUT THEN I ALSO THOUGHT THAT EVERYTHING MIGHT GO VERY PLEASANTLY... SO I WANTED TO GIVE IT A TRY. MANY PEOPLE TOLD ME THAT I AM CRAZY TO MAKE SUCH A ‘LAISSEZ-FAIRE’, ‘NONCHALANT’ DECISION, BUT ON THE OTHER HAND: HOW MANY DECISIONS ARE BASED UPON LOVE, ETERNAL COMMITMENT, WHATEVER, AND THEN END UP IN DISASTER? SO IN MY OPINION, IT MIGHT AS WELL GO IN THE OTHER DIRECTION!
THE REST OF MY COMMENTS IN TEXT BELOW, SO YOU SEE THEM IN THEIR CONTEXT.
Clinic name doctor name how long it took how many visits to dr. office.
I WAS JUST HAPPY THAT I DIDN’T HAVE TO DO ALL THOSE DOCTOR VISITS... IN THE BRONX ETC... BUT I TOOK THE OPPORTUNITY TO MAKE – BESIDES SEMEN TESTS - ALL KINDS OF OTHER TESTS, LIKE BLOOD, NUTRITION, STRESS TESTS, ETC... My preparation time to evaluate my health and reason for not getting pregnant, after 1.5 years of trying, prognosis?
Egon’s sperm evaluations at different laboratories’ sperm tests and the differing results, the incoherency of tests and what it all means…??? YES, VERY CONFUSING, ESPECIALLY WHEN ONE HAS NEVER DEALT WITH THAT BEFORE. I ALSO NEVER GOT ANY OF MY GIRLFRIENDS PREGNANT, I THOUGHT BECAUSE I/WE WERE ALWAYS VERY DILIGENT ABOUT THAT, BUT IT NEVER OCCURRED TO ME THAT I MIGHT HAVE SOME PROBLEMS WITH MY SEMEN – WHICH I STILL DON’T KNOW IF I IN FACT HAVE A INFERTILITY ISSUE... REDUCED MOTILITY AND ABOVE AVERAGE ANAMORPHIC SPERM [HERE I HAVE TO LOOK UP THE CORRECT TERMINOLOGY] STILL MEANS THAT THERE ARE MILLIONS OF ‘GOOD GUYS’ AROUND TO DO THE JOB. BUT THEN AGAIN, I NEVER TRIED TO HAVE A CHILD WITH ANYBODY, SO I JUST DON’T KNOW.
Our fun and frustration regarding the issue…
All the different natural methods we used in conjunction: acupuncture, Chinese herbs, western herbs to strengthen the uterus ovaries and semen prior to the procedure of IVF. JEEZEZ! BUT I THINK IT ALL WAS TOO SHORT-TERM, OUT OF THE ‘NECESSITY’ TO PRODUCE A RESULT [= BABY] NOW. ALSO, I HAVE A BACKGROUND OF DRINKING, NOT EXCESSIVELY, BUT REGULARLY. OKAY, I WAS ALSO RIDING BIKES WITH HARD SADDLES FOR YEARS, AND WORE IN MY TEENS/YOUNG ADULTHOOD TIGHT JEANS [MY FATHER ALWAYS WARNED ME!], SO MAYBE THIS HAD AN EFFECT ON MY ‘REPRODUCTIVE ORGANS’. BUT COUNTLESS OTHER FATHERS DRINK ALCHOHOL, RIDE BIKES AND WEAR TIGHT JEANS, DON’T THEY?
The experience of the tests - the pain, the time involved, traveling to the Bronx Hospital Jacobi Health Center…all of this I undertook for almost a year to have tests done on me, the invasiveness, the fear… YES, SEEMS TO BE VERY UNPLEASANT [CRINGE!]
the cost of doctors fees for IVF, how to pay for it, insurance or no insurance, public assistance programs, the help of other women or friends who have done it, internet chat rooms about it A HUGE FIELD TO EXPLORE, I DID A LOT BUT I FOUND IT VERY DIFFICULT TO GET ANY INFORMATION REGARDING THE RESULTS OF SPECIFIC DOCTORS, finding Dr. Brandies difficult to communicate with IMPOSSIBLE TO HAVE A NORMAL PHONE CONVERSATION WITH HIM, HE SPOKE ALWAYS IN A HUSH, HUSH TONE, VERY ANNOYING the fun around that.
Finally signing up to have the procedure done. Going ahead and feeling the relief of taking action, and having the technology and resources to do something to help me to reproduce.
Feeling the hope to enjoy a baby, this late in life. Is it too late? One doctor is asking me why I waited so long. Did I wait too long? Why? Am I healthy? I’m not old. I have my period regularly I did not have the right man before in other relationships. I asked many times and most men did not want to have a child. They were too scared, and didn’t want to commit. YES, SHE WAITED [AND ALSO HAD 2 ABORTIONS], AND THE PRESSURE IS ON ME NOW!
I wanted to keep my independence in my 20’s. SO DID/DO I, THAT’S WHY WE SIGNED OUR ‘BABY CONTRACT’, THE CONCEPT OF A TIGHT 2 PERSON PARTNERSHIP WITH ALL THOSE PROMISES IS NOT FOR ME, BUT MAYBE I HAVE TO OVERCOME MY ANGST? I needed to find myself when I was younger. At age 30 I got married and wanted a child. This would have been a good age for me to have a child, but we got divorced soon after marriage, and then I didn’t get into any serious relationships for 5 years after that experience, meeting men who were too young…
The NEXT new man was too old for me, and I did not want to stay too long with him [I stayed 2 years].
Then I met Egon, who was nice but it was the same scenario for two years - no commitment no baby, before he changed his mind and agreed to the idea of having a baby.
Did not think about freezing my eggs, nor did I have the money. No questions for a long time about Egon. Maybe he cannot reproduce, maybe something is off with his sperm. Finally I approached Egon, and he was hesitant to do anything. I asked him for long time before he agreed to do a test. SEE ABOVE Many months passed by, and lots of valuable time. My time, our time. YES MY F****** INDECISIVENESS!!!! OR SHOULD IT BE CALLED MY ‘DEVOTION TO FATE” OR MY TENDENCY TOWARDS WU-WEI [VERY GOOD ARTICLE >>> HTTP://EN.WIKIPEDIA.ORG/WIKI/WU_WEI OR LAZINESS OR AVOIDING COMMITMENTS, ETC... I AM CONFUSED.
Intercourse timing for the best possible time before the IVF over two years, different methods to find best day, temperature method, feet over head exercise [to keep sperm inside, does it really work????], then my pressure on him because ‘sex has to happen now’, WHY DID I GO THROUGH ALL OF THIS? anger fits LOTS OF DESTROYED DISHES upsets in relationship, then IVF procedure, me sick one day very ill, high fever [did it kill egg implants?? Doctor said no, but I don’t believe him], worry, Egon cares very sweetly for me when I was ill/high fever, bonding love the day of the procedure, the excitement, the fear, the wine [are we crazy or what to drink wine on that day??] after the egg implantation [follicles??] the cab ride home from Queens [we told the cab driver to drive very carefully].
My birthday, April 4th, at the French Culinary Institute, being with the IVF, the caution, the time in bed not moving, him catering to me, helping like I am already pregnant, follow up visit, coming home, waiting for result, waiting, waiting, stress, FRUSTRATION, I THOUGHT, “THE DOCTOR DOES NOT HANDLE COMMUNICATION WELL” tears, anger, lost all that money, the time, the effort, too late, it’s over, not pregnant….what is next? TO ME IT WAS LIKE A DREAM, A FOG THAT CAME, TOUCHED US AND THEN WENT AWAY...VERY DISTANT NOW.
The injections, the hormones - what are the doing to me? Is it safe? Can my body tolerate it [another time]? Do we have the money? Why are there not more studies and research on male fertility? It feels one-sided. THERE ARE A LOT OF STUDIES, BUT IT WOULD TAKE AGES TO REALLY READ ALL THAT STUFF AND FORM ONE’S OWN OPINION.
Pain comes up, old pain that goes far back to all the issues concerning the ill treatment of women in general, and specifically, during pregnancy and labor, sex, etc. The collective pain body, as Eckhard Tolle calls it. I am alert, I am informed, but what about the women who are not? They think that the doctors know everything and are working in their best interest. Not always true!!! Money is a big factor! I SOMETIMES JOKE ABOUT ‘TOO MUCH FEMINISM’, BUT I HAVE TO ADMIT, EVEN IN OUR SOCIETIES IT IS FAR FROM ‘JUST’ OR ‘EVEN’ ETC... BUT THAT TAKES TIME, AND RIGHT NOW THE PENDULUM IS SWINGING TOWARDS ‘EQUALITY’ IN OUR WESTERN SOCIETY... AT LEAST DO I HAVE THE FEELING THAT IT IS SO.
Emotions of mine and Egon’s (which I don’t know so well, what goes on with him). I AM WORKING TO FIND OUT WHAT’S GOING ON IN ME!!! The baby contract before we do the IVF, photos from contract, and of the notary who signed our commitment [in disbelief], what about Down Syndrome, twins etc.? We agree to not keep the baby alive if it has complications. My life is to be saved over the baby’s. Financial responsibilities shared and how? Art and our lives as artists, how do we integrate the child and stay somewhat fair to each other? Our time input to be almost equal if that is possible.
And then, after all, the result is negative.
What about doing it again? How much more money, can’t afford it, too much stress. We just wait and then I decide to let it go. Egon doesn’t want to adopt, so that option is not an option.
END OF BRAINSTORMING
HERE STARTS THE MORE COHERENT TEXT:
“SEX MUST HAPPEN NOW”
It all started with the female urge to procreate…a long, long time ago. My first memory of thinking about having a child and talking about it is vivid. It took place when I was around seven or eight years old.
My girlfriend and I sat in the backyard and we both thought about when the best time would be to get married and have a baby, and how many children we would possibly want.
So I decided right there and then that one or two children would be nice and I would like to start around thirty-ish, and planned to make that a reality on my thirtieth birthday. I remembered that conversation and really went about to find the right man to marry.
All went as planned, until my husband did not comply with my wishes to go ahead with what was agreed upon before the wedding, to have a family and move from a small, one-bedroom apartment to a larger one, a more accommodating home. I understood that it’s a difficult thing to achieve in Manhattan, where space is limited and expensive. To move from his rent-controlled, bachelor flat in the prestigious Soho-bordering neighborhood [today NOLITA] to a bigger flat, did not suit his fancy.
I did not want to let go of my dream and so therefore, I let go of the newly wed husband of mine. It was not a decision made with ease, and there were other reasons involved.
Living by myself outside the city with my sister and her children in the same building, had been the right decision to be able to slowly overcome the pain of not having what I thought was so desirable - a family.
Years went by and two more relationships came and went, both not yielding to the ever-stronger physical and mental desire of having a child.
Perhaps I have been too traditional in my European upbringing, feeling that love will find me… instead of looking directly for it and going on a dating web site to meet somebody who wanted to share the same dream.
I met Egon without internet help, but contacted him for that very reason, as one of his occupations is that of a computer tutor. His other passion in life is art.
I remained in my newly found, exciting relationship, but was not getting a commitment or even a willingness to make any commitment whatsoever.
The energy I sent out must have not been in harmony with my desires, according to Esther and Jerry Hicks, [The Teachings of Abraham]. I must have sabotaged. The law of attraction: “Ask and it is given.”
All the self-help books I read did not help me there and I became frustrated, sad and bitchy [also because he spent too much time with the computers instead with me, so one day I smashed the damn thing]. CAN YOU IMAGINE? I DONT KNOW WHY I LET HER GO THROUGH WITH IT!
Knowing that one can not change anybody except oneself, I decided to change myself. I thought that he would love me more by my being the perfect women and therefore fulfill my longing to have, at last: the baby, the marriage, the loving husband, the house in the suburbs.
One day it did happen that Egon told me he was open to have a child with me. I was thrilled! Now, finally, nothing stood in the way…or so I thought.
One and a half years later we were still not pregnant, so I started to get worried. Why am I not getting pregnant? I realized I needed to take things into my own hands and get tested to see if I had a fertility problem, and so the journey began.
I called my girlfriends and talked to them first, feeling like this is the real “Sex and the City,” a favorite show of mine.
Being an artist and living, in my case, according to the stereotypical artist “in the moment,” I did not have a health insurance plan, like many Manhattanites, so that was the first hindrance to overcome. So I went online, to find the right insurance, but everything turned out to be really expensive. Fortunately, one day I spotted on Grand Street, “The Health Plus” bus. I filled out all the necessary papers, with the help of a very nice assistant, and mailed my application. Soon after I was accepted and I received Medicaid without co-payment.
At first I looked for a female doctor in my neighborhood and found a really sympathetic young doctor from Russia. She also had a degree as a Naturopath and practiced both in conjunction. Under her guidance, I did 10 weeks of chelation therapy to detoxify my body of any metals that could be carcinogenic to my system. I also took infrared saunas, as she suggested, to help cleanse the body, while regularly taking urine tests to check the status of my health. There were some metals found in my system to be somewhat higher than they should be, most likely due to my previous occupation as a “Fine Art Restorer” that encompasses working with solvents and toxic materials.
I wanted to prepare my body in the best possible way, both physically and mentally for the conception of a new life to enter me. WHEN PEOPLE ASK ME WHAT I HAVE BEEN DOING IN THE LAST YEARS I HALF JOKINGLY SAY: ‘I HAVE BEEN IN A RE-EDUCATION CAMP’!!!
I stopped drinking coffee, reduced sugar intake and started jogging, exercising and doing yoga regularly, got massages, etc…Several years prior to the IVF experience, I had became a Licensed Massage Therapist. I like to live life in harmony with the planet and myself.
My interest in the topic around birth and delivery first for my own sake and then later in general, brought me to join the “Metropolitan Doula Group” that met regularly at the “Elisabeth Cetin Birthing Center”, Ilana Stein ran the group at that time and soon I went to study the in and outs of becoming a “Labor Support Person” or a so called “Doula” in Latin [being with the Mother] [ACTUALLY: ETYMOLOGY: MODERN GREEK, FEMALE HELPER, MAIDSERVANT, FROM GREEK DOULĒ FEMALE SLAVE] I attended the second conference, “The Art of Birthing” held at the New York Open Center and also went the following year to the third conference.
I completed the sixth mandatory birth attendance, to qualify as a certified Doula, with the Association of Labor and Child Birth Educators, A.L.A.C.E. The sixth birth I attended was a scheduled homebirth with the Midwife …………who starred in Ricky Lacks Film “Birth as a Business” that film will be shown, or for sale at the……[Title of show].
So I have submersed myself in the topic of labor and childbirth options and education, as well as in the history of birth, and feel that this work is my contribution to the feminist movement. As an Artist and as a women myself, it feels only natural to embrace this ongoing, evolving and changing mystery of giving birth and being a women in this society. I therefore feel that art and information can be linked and brought to the public, to us [women and men], the people, so that we, as women, are treated fairly and respectfully.
This multi-media show created by Egon and I is a healing and closure act for both of us and a educational one for the viewer, perhaps painful to look at, but nevertheless important for a couple or woman pursuing similar treatments.
This show gives explicit information in a very personal setting in our own home, a loft space in the LES, where we have art exhibits and other functions.
It is unique and unusual to tell something that is so private, but it is that which is the art of living, the pain and emotion around those things that matter the most to us and our partners or husbands, and our loved ones. It represents the possibility to continue life on this planet in ever new ways. Family values are becoming redefined.
To me, the most desirable place to give birth is in a “Birthing Center,” in the presence of a midwife and a Doula, but as of now, in the city of Manhattan, that is not possible. They are non-existent.
The Elisabeth Cieten Birthing Center closed down in 1995 [estimate]
I finally went on search for the right doctor to help me find out why I? we? did not conceive. And in so doing I found myself in Tribeca, at a very modern womens’ clinic to be scheduled for my first hysterosonography. I was really nervous, and as it was my turn to be exposed on that table to the doctor. He told me that he couldn’t do the procedure, as I was too small to insert the catheter into my Uterus [since I never gave birth before].
So I was told to come again, and they would dilate the uterus for the procedure. I went again, ad was completely nervous since this is painful, I was told, like a period cramp. I sat in the waiting room for my turn, taking a strong pain killer on the advice of the nurse. Then my turn came, but I was told it was too close to the day of my menstruation. The doctor wouldn’t do it, by then my second time at the clinic, as it was again unsafe.
So nothing had happened so far, but time went by, as my biological clock was ticking and ticking. I thought that I should have the perspective of, “Maybe it’s meant to be this way…” but for whatever reason, I could not see it that way at that time.
As precious time went by, another doctor told me to go to a clinic in the Bronx, the “Jacobi Medical Center”.
To get there took a long time. I had to taking the C train to?? [forgot the subway station name, BUT it was weird]……. then having to walk or take the bus. There were many people and it is a large hospital, but I found my way to the women’s clinic and sat in the waiting room again, with my book and with a goal in my mind.
A woman was in charge dr. ??? She managed the station and the young doctors were in training. Everything ran really orderly and all of the staff were nice and courteous to me. All of us patients, women from India, Africa, Poland, Latin America, and me from Austria, were there, with children and sometimes boyfriends or husbands, waiting to be seen heard and perhaps helped.
The first visit only addressed the financial situation, and I was told that these procedures are not covered by the plan I had [not related to an urgent health issue]. I guess I was lucky, as she put me on the phone with a supervisor and I told him that I needed this intervention and have no other insurance, so he approved it. I received a light blue card with my next appointment day and a yellow dot on the card clearing me from any payments to make.
Nothing had happened so far but I was on my mission to find out more information and the system started to work. So I continued to travel to the Bronx to have the initial intake: my interview, the STD tests, my blood tests, the Hysterosalpinogram, my Hysterosonography, my uterine lining and fallopian tube test and last, but not least, Egon’s semen test. YES, I HAD TO GET SOME SEMEN INTO A LITTLE BOTTLE, AND THERE IT TRAVELLED WITH JOHANNA TO THE BRONX LAB. IN THE BRONX LAB THEY SAID ALL WAS PERFECTLY FINE, IN OTHER WORDS, THREE TESTS AND THREE DIFFERENT [1 CONTRADICTORY] RESULTS... AND THERE WAS A FOURTH [AND THE FIRST] FERTILITY TEST FOR MEN BOUGHT OVER THE INTERNET, WHICH STATED ALSO THAT ALL WAS OK, BUT THAT TEST DOESN’T REALLY COUNT...
All this took an ample amount of time, commitment and patience, and of course I got it done, and one day the doctor in training said ‘This is all we can do for you, the next step is an IVF or an IVF with donor eggs.” He explained everything carefully and I listened and felt that this is what I’m going to do.
Egon and I made the decision to have an IVF, using our own eggs and sperm and found Dr. Brandeis [ http://www.newyorkfertility.com ] to administer the intervention to me for a very reasonable price [out of his social engagement], compared with all the other clinics we researched. Knowing the percentage to conceive to be very slim [we were told by some doctors not higher than 5 %] we went ahead and sat in the waiting room once more, this time together.
I was diagnosed infertile, somewhat too old to conceive even with IVF, nevertheless we had hope and embraced this promising procedure. BTW: THE DIAGNOSIS ABOVE WAS MADE BY THE BRONX LAB/HOSPITAL, AND IT IS DONE AUTOMATICALLY AFTER NOT CONCEIVING FOR 1.5 YEARS.
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Finding health information in New York City can be maddening — documentation and assistance are scarce and scattered. Compound that with language barriers and workers’ time constraints, and it’s easy to be lost in an alienating system. One artist is aiming to share her experience of trying to have a baby with the assistance of the New York health system — and all the ensuing consequences.
I met Johanna Schwarzbeck over green tea at her and her partner’s Egon Zippel Grand Street loft in Chinatown.
“I grew up in the pristine countryside of Austria, surrounded by forests, meadows and mountains … it was so calm,” she told me, as diesel trucks coughed and taxi cabs honked below. The loft is filled with abstract oil paintings and ballpoint sketches, a cat and two doves.
Schwarzbeck started painting at the age of 11, and studied art restoration and gilding (applying gold leaf to art objects). After moving to New York, she worked as an art restorer and now paints and practices Shiatsu massage. In her mid- 40s, Schwarzbeck has been living on Grand Street for tfive years with her partner, Egon Zippel. As part of a self-described quest “to be art,” she will open their home to exhibit their recent experience with in-vitro fertilization, titled the ART/IVF Show (Assisted Reproductive Technology/ In-Vitro Fertilization).
“I realized, after the age of 40, that my biological clock is running out and therefore we decided to do an IVF treatment” she explains. Like many New Yorkers, Schwarzbeck has no health insurance, so she began fertility treatment by standing in line at the Health Plus community buses in Chinatown to ask for advice. Eventually, she was granted a free health card, found the support of other women via chat rooms, and made an appoint-ment with a well known doctor, who offers affordable fertility care because of his social engagement (Dr. Brandeis, www. www.newyorkfertility.com)."
After months of preparation with Chinese herbs to cleanse her body of toxins (built up from chemicals she used while doing art restoration), Schwarzbeck was ready to start the IVF process.
“All in all it took about a year and a half. Lots of fertility testing had to be done, there was one month of hormone injections and vaginal pills, and five days of absolute bed rest. In total, I made eight to ten trips to Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx.”
Although the process didn’t produce a baby, it was a catalyst for an artistic installation in Schwarzbeck’s home gallery and on her blog, theivfshow.com — both rare insights into a couple’s normally private life.
Schwarzbeck saved the dozens of boxes containing leftover syringes and enormous white pills, and she and Zippel documented their experience with videos, pictures, paintings and diaries.
“It doesn’t necessarily take an astronomical amount of money — we got a good deal for about $5,000 — but with some determination I found that I had a lot of choices,” she said. “This art of technology, IVF, has revolutionized identities, culture and communities.”
Indeed, IVF technology has produced some impressive options. A child can require contributions from up to five parents: one woman to donate an egg, a man to donate sperm, a gestational mother to carry out the pregnancy and a recipient mother and father to raise the baby. And the child someone raises may not necessarily share the parent’s ethnic background.
“People are all different, of course,” said Schwarzbeck, a practicing Zen Buddhist. “That’s the beauty of it. But when it comes to a biological yearning, we seem to do anything to fulfill this desire.”
This installation, directed towards all women and their partners, is an exploration of relationships to biology, technology and partners in planning for and creating a child in the 21st century.
“What was most striking to me were the communication differences between myself and Egon,” says Schwarzbeck, “We would see the same thing, and have completely different interpretations of its meaning. Much of my artwork explores the different perspectives and experiences that are possible in this situation.”
On a more basic level, IVF is complex and expensive, which can add to a couple’s stress when trying to conceive. On her blog, Schwarzbeck writes, “The ethical/moral issues surrounding IVF almost inevitably become topics of discussion (and therefore debate) among family and friends.”
The repression of women is a recurring theme in Schwarzbeck’s paintings, as it is in this show. “Women’s choices are being constantly redefined, classified and legislated based upon the politics and ideology of social, religious and government officials,” Schwarzbeck says. “This exhibit may be personal but it chips at a variety of relationships and at communication barriers, including the relationship between biology and technology. [Moreover] our relationship with technology affects our relationship with our partners. Artificial Reproductive Technology merits real attention.”
The ART/IVF Show will be on view Sept. 19-21, 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at 319 Grand Street (at Orchard Street), Apartment 4. Deviled eggs and Chinese herbal tea will be served.