How, when, in what way to announce a pregnancy? Announcing a pregnancy involves an enunciation that tests the desire to be a mother, which implies going through the disturbing confrontation of the mother with her desire. To a woman, announcing a pregnancy implies passing through the semblances of the desire for motherhood. A pregnancy can be desired, but it still has to pass through a test: Do you want what you desire? Demand is one thing, desire is another. In this very human drama, where does the person of the couple stand? Is he or she in the role of father or in the role of mother? What will be the reaction of the Other?
Asking a woman to identify herself as a mother, to make her desire for a child a longing, implies going through consent. This was one of the reasons that led Christiane Alberti to reason out why she chose Botticelli’s well-known painting of the Annunciation to illustrate the cover of the last issue of Ornicar?  devoted to the theme of consent. This Annunciation places in front of the viewer a scene concerning a critical decision, the moment of an implacable confrontation with desire.
We know that the drama presented by Botticelli depicts the mystery known as the Angelic Colloquy which illustrates a crisis and the concomitant affect in Mary. In Painting and Experience in fifteenth-century Italy  Michael Baxandall teaches us that most of the themes that painters dealt with were traced by preachers to explain the meaning of the events and thus guide their listeners in the feelings of piety that corresponded to each of them. The preachers’ sermons constituted an emotional category of stories closely linked to the embodiment of the mysteries. The preacher and the painter were the repetiteur for each other. Thus, for example, in a sermon by Brother Roberto on the Annunciation he distinguishes three main mysteries: 1) the Angelic Mission, 2) the Angelic Greeting, and 3) the Angelic Colloquy. Brother Roberto analyses Luke’s account (I, 26-38) and sets out a series of five spiritual and mental conditions attributable to Mary. The third mystery of the Annunciation comprises five conditions:
- Conturbatio – Concern
- Cogitatio – Reflection
- Interrogatio – Interrogation
- Humiliatio – Submission
- Meritatio – Merit
The first condition, the so-called Conturbatio, corresponds to the moment when the Virgin, after hearing the Angel’s greeting, “was disturbed”. We know that the preachers instructed the public on the repertoire of the painters and they responded within the emotional categorisations of the episode. Baxandall points out that most fifteenth-century Annunciations are identifiably Annunciations of Restlessness or Submission, but it was Botticelli who had a special affinity with Conturbatio. Leonardo da Vinci did much to change this fashion by showing his displeasure when he writes: “…a few days ago I saw the painting of an angel who, in formulating the Annunciation, seemed to be driving Mary out of her room, with movements showing the kind of attack one would make on a hated enemy and Mary, as if in despair, who seemed to be trying to throw herself out of the window. Don’t fall into mistakes like these.” 
There are different ways of passing the announcement of a pregnancy to the unconscious. For example, the restlessness that Freud speaks of in the second chapter of the Psychopathology of Everyday Life when dealing with the “forgetting of foreign words”. At the end of what Freud calls an “a speech of impassioned fervour” against the anti-Semitic atmosphere, a young Jewish university student wanted to conclude “with Virgil’s famous verse, in which the wretched Dido commends to posterity her revenge on Aeneas: “Exoriar(e) aliquis ex nostris ossibus ultor!” but he was unable to remember the word aliquis and asked Freud to help him complete the sentence and also to ask him what such forgetfulness could mean. At the end of a series of associations the subject ends up evoking, not without reluctance, his fear of receiving from a lady a piece of news as unpleasant for her as for him. His associations were eloquent enough to allow his interlocutor to guess that it was a delay of the rule, and Freud gives this forgetfulness the significance of an “unconscious contradiction” which he summarises in these terms: “Have you really so keen a wish for descendants? That is not so. How embarrassed you would be if you were to get the news just now that you were to expect descendants from the quarter you know of. No: no descendants – however much we need them for vengeance.” 
We know that the aporias of desire can be such that efforts to bring demand and desire into agreement become overwhelming. What we also know is that a desire for offspring can be perfectly accompanied by a desire for death and that, paradoxically, an aborted child may be no less desired than a child to whom it is given birth.
Saying yes to pregnancy
The unconscious obstacles to pregnancy can arise at the moment when it becomes physiologically very difficult or impossible. The semblance of pregnancy can then become a test of the desire of the Other. This is illustrated, proverbially, by a case presented by Caherine Vacher , where a pseudo-pregnancy syndrome persisted after a cycle of stimulation, a fact which was not acceptable to her husband, who did not accept this physical misfortune on the part of his wife. Later, her symptomatology disappeared and the patient timidly asked if she could not resume the treatment, to which Dr. Vacher gave her consent. After eight months, she telephones to announce that she is pregnant and shortly afterwards gives birth to a baby girl. In this case, the pseudo-pregnancy is a proof of the partner’s desire, a test of the partner’s desire: before proceeding to the actual pregnancy, she undergoes a semblance of pregnancy that tests her husband’s desire.
In the course of the Bordeaux Conversation, Jacques-Alain Miller proposed a construction of the case on the basis that “the semblance of pregnancy – which is a complacency of the body – in fact expressed a refusal that opposed the demand of the Other – the Other sustained, beyond the husband, by the environment, by the norm imposed on women – in favour of the desire of the Other. Through her no, she aims at this desire of the Other. Before creating the child, she wants to be sure of her husband’s desire for her. Thanks to the pseudo-pregnancy, the husband comes to say to her: I am interested in you as a woman. In the refusal to become pregnant there is: I refuse to give you what you demand of me because it is not what you desire. Once the husband has made his desire explicit – his desire for her, for the shape of her body – she can say yes to pregnancy” .
Translation: Linda Clarke
Proofreading: Belén Vigil Mendoza
Photography: ©Caruel Ursula : www.ursulacaruel.com
 Alberti, Christiane, “Liminaire”, Ornicar? 54, Navarin Editeur, Paris, October 2020, pp.9-10.
 Baxandall. M., Painting and experience in fifteenth-century Italy. A primer in the social history of pictorial style, Oxford University Press, 1988 (second edition), pp. 51-56.
 Baxandall, M. op cit. p. 56.
 Freud, S., Psychopathology of Everyday Life, in: Obras Completas, vol 1, Biblioteca Nueva, Madrid 1967, p.635.
 Vacher, C., “Quedar embarazada” in: Miller, J.-A., Los enredos del cuerpo, Pomaire, Caracas, 2012, pp. 47-50.
 Miller, J.-A., Los enredos del cuerpo, op.cit. p. 138.