I worked on a piece about full-spectrum reproductive care for the New York Times Sunday Review with my frequent collaborator, writer Alissa Quart.
Buffalo Womenservices is unusual because it is a birth and abortion center in one. It is part of an effort to reframe reproductive care as a continuum — the phrase for it is “full-spectrum reproductive health” — that spans both birth and abortion. Facilities for each are typically distinct.
Combining the two in one place underlines how many women experience both birth and abortion. Three in 10 women will have an abortion in their lives; eight out of 10 will give birth. About 61 percent of women who have an abortion already have at least one child.
Kayla, the nurse pictured here, gave birth at Buffalo Womenservices before returning to work as a nurse who assists during the abortion procedures, taking breaks to pump breastmilk for her infant daughter. Like her co-workers, she believes that women’s choices around terminating pregnancy and around the way in which they give birth are related forms of essential reproductive choice. The facility’s doctor noted that all pregnancies are not the same, and women have a range of reasons for what they decide to do with them.
The women whose abortions I photographed were already mothers, and both of them took the interests of their children into account when making their decisions. The facility’s doctor expressed frustration at people’s tendency to project their own experiences onto other people’s complex lives.
But before she went back to work, Jen had to get through dropping her baby off for his first day at daycare. The morning was hectic and rushed, but everyone made it out of the house (and Jen remembered all of her breast pump supplies).
She looked forward to being around other people and using her intellect more, but she felt a strong pull toward her kids as she left them at a local daycare. Jen’s working two days a week now, but her days in the office are intense and the work tends to leak into her days at home with baby Wiley.
And then working mother Jen was back at work, running a press conference about discriminatory policing, speaking to members of the media, and pumping (and washing breast pump parts in the sink). Jen pushes herself hard at work and in her personal life.
She was glad to be back working on a cause she cares deeply about, but felt the pressure to get a long list of tasks done in the two days her baby is at daycare each week, and wondering if she could ever feel she was doing enough for her children and job.
(More photos of Jen navigating the expectations of career and motherhood here.)
Tomara used all of her sick days to supplement her short maternity leave, so she doesn’t get paid when she has to take a day off. This situation isn’t uncommon in the U.S., where 40% of workers don’t qualify for the Family Medical Leave Act’s protections.
I photographed Tomara and her wife Kamdyn as they got baby Spencer ready for the day. I’ll be photographing them as they work and live during their son’s first year.
Jen and her husband work in communications for non-profit organizations, and they are both dedicated to social justice, work and family. I recently got to photograph Jen at work and, later, giving birth at home. Her husband, friend, midwife and three-year-old daughter Olive watched as baby Wiley joined the family.
Working mothers have been in the news lately – have you noticed? We’re trying to Lean In and Have it All all over the internet and the airwaves. But working women critique these conversations, saying that Marissa Mayer’s office nursery and Sheryl Sandberg’s financial resources make their experiences out of touch with most women’s lives.
When I was pregnant, I was terrified about the ways my baby would change my work. Photography is one of the most important parts of my identity, and I didn’t know how I would integrate it into my new life. Would my finances work out? How would I schedule my unpredictable freelance needs around a child’s need for stability? Would people in my field think of me as “just a mom”?
So I started this photo project following three women who, like myself, love (and need) to work as they navigate the shifting demands of work and parenting.
I’ll be posting work from the project as I make it. This first batch follows Petrushka, the Program Manager of an arts education non-profit and mother of an eight month old girl.
(And yes, my work has changed – but I like it. More on that in another post.)