Full-Spectrum Reproductive Care for the New York Times

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.

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All of It: First Day at Daycare

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.

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All of It: Back on the Job

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.)

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All of It: Kamdyn and Tomara

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.
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Lactation Consultant in Tuba City

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.

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