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.
I photographed anthropology professor Carla Bellamy and her daughters Dessa and Margo for the New York Times Sunday Review recently. Alissa Quart wrote about the high cost of child care and the middle class moms who are struggling to afford it. Says Bellamy:
“It’s not a tragic story, but is tiring and tiresome. I have a career, I work really hard, and yet I get no break.”
I am so pleased to share that the New York Times Sunday Review published an excerpt of my Birth Culture project along with an op-ed I wrote.
You can see more photographs from the project here.
Here is one last group of photos from my New York Times piece about maternity care in Tuba City, AZ. I took these pictures in March of 2010, in and around the Tuba City Regional Health Care Corporation’s Women’s Clinic and OB ward.
After Monica Kahe gave birth to her fourth child at the Tuba City Regional Health Care Corporation, she kept him indoors, away from the sun, for three weeks. Monica is a teacher on the Hopi reservation, and her husband Preston works at the hospital. On the morning of the last day, his relatives came over before the sun rose, bringing corn pudding, mutton stew, and blue corn meal to exchange as gifts.
They dabbed blue corn meal on Monica’s face, washed mother and baby’s hair, and waited for sunrise. When the night started to fade, the baby’s mother, aunt and grandmother brought him outside to meet the sun, and his grandmother read the long list of names that his paternal female relatives had given him. He would be called Uutsi’yma.
Afterward, the guests laughed and talked while eating mutton stew, corn pudding and cherry pie for breakfast. I was grateful that Monica had invited me to photograph the ceremony, and happy to have met her warm family.
These photographs were first published in the New York Times.
I recently traveled to Tuba City, AZ on assignment for the New York Times. I went to photograph a story that I had found: a hospital in a small, dusty reservation town had remarkably low Cesarean rates, provided midwives at all deliveries, and allowed women with previous C-sections to deliver vaginally (VBAC). Here are the resulting article and the audio slide show.
This is a small story within the larger story.
Elsie Elthie is a lactation consultant at the Tuba City Regional Health Care Corporation. She visits nursing mothers in the hospital and at home to teach them how to successfully breastfeed their babies. Though it may sound straightforward, nursing can be complicated and painful, and informed advice can mean the difference between breast milk and formula.