All of It: Jen

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.
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Mayan Abdominal Massage

Elsa Gonzalez Ayala is a traditional midwife in the small town of Chunhuhub in Quintana Roo, Mexico. She performs monthly prenatal massages for her patients, delivers babies in hammocks, and massages women in the weeks following birth to help their uteri contract. She recently adopted a baby, Juan Diego, who was born at seven months to a substance-abusing woman who disappeared soon afterward.

Although she practices traditional Mayan medicine, Doña Elsa is a devout Catholic who brought her son to be baptized, and she visits the local clinic for Western medicine. She showed the students from CASA Midwifery School how to perform abdominal massages, using this pregnant photographer as a demonstration model.

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CASA Midwifery Students Intercultural Midwifery Exchange

After their presentations at the Universidad Intercultural Maya, the midwifery students went to study in Mayan villages. Ema, Angie, Carmen Susana, Abi, Lupita and Elisa stayed with traditional midwife Doña Elsa in the small town of Chunhuhub. These students range in age from 17 to 36, and come from varied backgrounds: a performance artist, a small-town high school graduate, a nurse, an artisan who spent years traveling through Latin America.

Doña Elsa practices several kinds of alternative medicine, including herbal baths, ceremonies, chiropractic adjustments, and emotional and spiritual counseling, as well as referring patients to the local health center at times. The students stayed in her medical facility, watching her attend patients with fevers, depression and high blood pressure. Meanwhile, they offered prenatal visits at the health center, gave talks on contraception, and showed traditional midwives how to use analog thermometers, plastic umbilical cord clamps, and other equipment in a kit provided by the school.

Next post: traditional Mayan abdominal massage.

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CASA Midwifery School in Mexico

Here are some photos from my most recent trip for my Birth and Culture project.

In this first post, students from CASA, Mexico’s only government-accredited midwifery training program, prepared for a trip to rural villages where they studied with Mayan traditional midwives. At their school in San Miguel de Allende, they practiced giving presentations on women’s health and responding to birth emergencies. And in CASA’s hospital, a local traditional midwife delivered a woman’s fifth baby.

Next post: the journey.

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