Have you ever felt like you should call a pre-natal baby a fetus or an embryo, or maybe even a zygote, because if you called him or her a baby, that might just be too controversial? It’s as though talking about what happens in the womb is somehow off limits, because it makes pre-natal children too real. And no one would support abortion if they thought they were aborting a real child.
Well British artist Damien Hirst became fascinated with the process of childbirth after having children of his own. So when he was commissioned by the country of Qatar to create an art instillation, he showed them his drawings of fetal development; drawings he always imagined would be made into monumental sculptures. Which is exactly what happened.
Outside of Sidra Medicine Hospital, a high-tech women’s and children’s hospital in Doha, Qatar, Hirst created 14 gigantic sculptures depicting stages of development from conception to birth. These sculptures include a fertilized egg, a twin pregnancy, a breech birth, and ultimately culminate in an infant baby boy. They range in height from 16 to 46 feet, weigh a total of 216 tons, and can be seen in progression as you drive down the road.
“Everyone talks about our life’s journey,” Hirst said, “but we have a whole journey before you’re born.” His sculptures, called ‘The Miraculous Journey’. show in detail what our lives are like for the first nine months each of us is alive in the womb. “Ultimately, the journey a baby goes through before birth is bigger than anything it will experience in its human life,” he said.
Reporting for the Guardian, Hannah Clugston responds to the idea that the sculptures of pre-natal development could be controversial by saying, “I can’t think of anything less controversial. Every single person on the planet has been born.” Every single person was also an unborn baby, and started life at conception – and that often controversial truth is now displayed in a more prominent way than ever before.”
So if you find yourself hesitating for just the briefest of moments about whether you should call a person a baby or a fetus, keep in mind that Qatar is a Muslim country where women still wear face coverings, and images are routinely censored. If illustrating in monumental detail the life of a pre-natal child isn’t too controversial for the Qatar Museums Authority, then it shouldn’t be too controversial for us, a culture that prides ourselves on speaking the truth boldly, on censoring very little, and on honoring everyone’s journey.
This is a journey that we all share; each one of us was a baby in the womb, and this incredible art gives us a glimpse into how amazing that reality is. “I hope the sculpture will instill in the viewer a sense of awe and wonder at this extraordinary human process,” said the artist, a process that is happening “every second all across the globe.”