Inconceivable Conceptions: Psychological Aspects of Infertility and Reproductive Technology

By Jane Haynes; Juliet Miller | Go to book overview

Chapter 6

Mourning the never born and the loss of the Angel

Juliet Miller

Juliet Miller is a Jungian psychoanalyst.

To see the Annunciation, a fresco by Fra Angelico in San Marco in Florence, you approach the painting from below. It is on the wall at the top of a steep flight of steps that lead up to the monks' cells. Along the bottom of the fresco is an inscription: 'Virginia intacte cum veneris ante figuram pretereundo cave ne sileature ave.' 'When you come before the image of the Ever-Virgin, take heed that you do not neglect to say an Ave.' This injunction was made to all who entered the north dormitory, which was the place where the lay brothers and important male visitors slept. The Virgin and the Immaculate Conception are to be acknowledged, she and the Angel must not be ignored. This fresco moves me, not because of its obvious devotional aspect, but because the Virgin seems touchingly self-protective as she listens to the Angel's message. Mary has her hands crossed over her stomach in an acknowledgement of the Angel Gabriel's presence, and this gesture is mirrored by Gabriel. Despite the depiction of a miraculous event, the delicacy and lack of artifice of Angelico's painting suggest an ordinariness and humanness about Mary as she accepts her part as intermediary and vessel. As well as joy there is a sadness and a sense of ambivalence. God will be made Man through Mary and as a result as a man he will die. Birth will also bring forth death. The Angel brings a message of both.

The relationship of the birth process to transience and death as well as joy is an existential problem, which we struggle with continuously as part of the experience of being alive. A beginning cannot be meaningful without an end. Birth and death are inextricably linked together and inform each other. This tension and paradox is also true of the creative act. Our ambivalence and conflict about bringing into being was well understood by Rilke who explored in his poetry the complexity of our creative drives. He understood these not as miraculous events through which we attempt to become Godlike, but as our small attempts to make statements about our transient aliveness. In The Duino Elegies he struggles with why, as humans, we both need and resist creativity:

Praise this world to the Angel, not the untellable: you can't impress him with the splendour you've felt; in the cosmos

-47-

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Inconceivable Conceptions: Psychological Aspects of Infertility and Reproductive Technology
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Acknowledgements x
  • Introduction 1
  • Chapter 1 - Introduction 3
  • Chapter 2 - Assisted Reproductive Technology and the Fertility Clinic 11
  • Experiencing Infertility 17
  • Chapter 3 - Clinical Waste 19
  • Chapter 4 - One Man's Story 27
  • Psychological Aspects 31
  • Chapter 5 - Eros and Art 33
  • Notes 45
  • Chapter 6 - Mourning the Never Born and the Loss of the Angel 47
  • Chapter 7 - The Battle with Mortality and the Urge to Procreate 60
  • Bibliography 72
  • Chapter 8 - Myths and Reality in Male Infertility 73
  • Bibliography 84
  • Chapter 9 - Love, Hate and the Generative Couple 86
  • Changing Patterns of Kinship 103
  • Chapter 10 - The Story of Seth's Egg 105
  • Chapter 11 - Seth 109
  • Chapter 12 - Gifts of Life in Absentia 120
  • Chapter 13 - Women's Work 143
  • Bibliography 165
  • Chapter 14 - Egg Donation 166
  • The Shadow 179
  • Chapter 15 - Dark Reflections 181
  • Afterword 205
  • Chapter 16 - Afterword 207
  • Appendix 217
  • Glossary of Terms Used in Art (Assisted Reproductive Technology) 219
  • Index 227
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