MOM Art Annex: Exhibition & Education Center

By

How Income and Insurance Can Affect Breastfeeding Support For New Mothers

By Deann Shaffner

According to the CDC among the infants born in the United States, 83.8% start to breastfeed and by 12 months the amount of breastfed babies is down to 36.2%.

“A more recent study that used costs adjusted to 2007 dollars and evaluated costs associated with additional illnesses and diseases (sudden infant death syndrome, hospitalization for lower respiratory tract infection in infancy, atopic dermatitis, childhood leukemia, childhood obesity, childhood asthma, and type 1 diabetes mellitus) found that if 90 percent of U.S. families followed guidelines to breastfeed exclusively for six months, the United States would save $13 billion annually from reduced direct medical and indirect costs and the cost of premature death. If 80 percent of U.S. families complied, $10.5 billion per year would be saved. (Economic Effects).”

There are a variety of reasons mothers stop breastfeeding by 6 months including, concerns of milk supply, baby’s weight, issues with latching, unsupportive work policies, lack of prenatal leave, cultural norms, and lack of family support. So, what is a mother to do if she desires to breastfeed? In my previous post I gave an overview of the importance of seeking an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC); because they have received thorough lactation education. IBCLCs can be found in many areas, but many of them are employed in Hospitals, WIC offices, and Private Practice.

In Hospitals where an IBCLC or a Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC) are present, a visit to assist mom with a correct latch with baby, as well as address any breastfeeding concerns, is done during the mothers’ hospital stay. As the baby grows each week after his/her birth the breastfeeding experience can continue to change; bringing new questions on how to know if you’re doing this whole breastfeeding thing correctly! Most Hospitals will assist you during the entire course of your breastfeeding journey. However, some mothers forget that they can receive help from the hospitals IBCLC or CLC staff beyond the newborn stage.

Anna Kell Artwork Nursing_Install; MOM museum online exhibit

WIC participants benefit greatly from having the ability to contact breastfeeding support during pregnancy, after birth and up to the child turning 5. Many WIC offices have IBCLC, CLCs and Breastfeeding Peer Specialists; these specialists are experienced breastfeeding mothers that have undergone some training to assist mothers. At WIC, a parent could work with these available sources with the continued visits required at WIC for nutritional help. Although WIC is income-based and not available to every parent. As well as the fact, that some mothers report it is easier to access baby formula through WIC than breastfeeding help. (Source- Breastfeeding in the Public Arena Pg. 153 MJR).

Private Practice IBCLCs may face more of a challenge with assisting clients due to a conflicting relationship with insurance companies. Insurance providers have a variety of policy plans available to their customers. It may be in your best interest to call your insurance company during your pregnancy to see what is covered with breastfeeding supplies, (like a breast pump) or lactation visits, what documentation will be required, and the time frame you may face while waiting for coverage, if you have any, with your insurance. The information provided by your insurance company based on your plan, which can easily differ from other individuals’ plans, may help give you a better understanding of what you need to prepare for. Many insurance plans require an “in-network” provider, this means the lactation consultant has an agreement with the health plan to provide services. For some private practices, this may be easier said than done. An e-mail survey of U.S. IBCLCs in March of 2011 conclusion recorded that, “IBCLCs provide key care to a vulnerable population. However, we found that these services are not consistently reimbursed. IBCLCs poorly communicate their health care activities to insurance providers, but insurance providers also inconsistently recognize and reimburse IBCLC care.”

I recently interviewed IBCLC Heather Gansky, her practice is The Tree of Life Lactation located in South Carolina. She has also been a La Leche League Leader since August of 2016.

Question: Have you come across mothers experiencing difficulties nursing their baby and insurance companies denying coverage for Private Practice appointments with a Lactation Specialist?

Heather: Yes there are a ton of denials from insurance companies. Most moms do have to resubmit with different codes because each insurance seems to have it own way they like to do things.

Question: If a mother does not qualify for WIC, and is unable to attend La Leche League meetings, where do you suggest she go for assistance?

Heather: If I run into a parent who doesn’t have WIC or can not come to meetings I will either refer her to an IBCLC in our area, myself being one of them on a list about 3 others. Also, there are hospitals that have support groups, and some areas have baby cafés that anyone can drop into for help they need. It really depends on the situation and if she needs one on one help or peer to peer support.

Question: From your experience, how often do you think mothers seek breastfeeding help? Where is the best source for them to turn to address breastfeeding concerns? (Newborn stage, 3 months, 6 months, 12 months, 2 +years.)

Heather: I find mothers sometimes wait too long to seek help for breastfeeding issues. It’s only until they are able to throw in the towel due to pain or poor weight gain in their baby that they actually seek help, and sometimes that’s much too late. Generally, we see babies in the newborn stage-1 month; then again around 3 months when babies really need to be good and suckling and using their tongues and mouths correctly to actively get milk out. If we didn’t see a baby in the early days but see them in the 3-month range it is typically due to mouth abnormalities which went undiagnosed either due to moms oversupply/ overactive letdown and the baby was riding the huge letdown portion of the feeding session.

Question: Do you think insurance companies are helpful to mothers seeking breastfeeding help? Or does the process of waiting for approval leave moms in a position of crisis where they turn to formula feeding, even though breastfeeding was their first choice in how they wanted their baby fed?

Heather: Some insurance companies have staff on hand to help with common issues/questions over the phone. There are some IBCLCs that are in-network for some insurance companies, but most work in offices and don’t do home visits. Most parents need help right away and aren’t waiting for insurance approval. In the case where parents don’t have money to pay for a consultation out of pocket they sometimes can go back to the hospital they delivered at however they are put back in the same situation with the same providers who are time-constrained and didn’t help them, to begin with. Many parents just don’t want to go back to those providers.

Question: Do you think that if health insurance companies were more supportive on coverage for visits with a lactation specialist that there could be a possible increase in breastfeeding rates?

Heather: Oh I’m sure of it. Most families are living paycheck to paycheck. They can’t afford a lactation visit… especially when one or both parents are out of work for the birth of the baby.

Question: Do you think families would benefit from visiting with an IBCLC before baby is born?

Heather: Yes. Education before birth is one of the key factors in initiation as well as the duration of breastfeeding.

The cost of breastmilk itself can be free. However, breastfeeding may have some additional costs. A mother could get around not having a breast pump and could choose to hand express, but meeting with an IBCLC or other lactation specialists may be more beneficial in helping you reach your breastfeeding goals. A visit with a consultant may range in price from $100.00-$300.00 depending on your location, but this is still a very low cost compared to a months’ worth of formula which can cost up to $243.00 per month, or you can use this Formula cost calculator to determine costs. If you plan to breastfeed, and during pregnancy you read the books, attend the breastfeeding classes, you may still want to be prepared to visit with a lactation specialist after the birth of your baby. Requesting funds as a baby shower gift, holiday or birthday, to visit with a lactation consultant would be an amazing gift to receive if you feel you may need help with affording the cost to visit with a consultant. You may be lucky enough to even be reimbursed by your insurance company after these visits, but it is best to save up on your own for a visit to avoid a feeding crisis, then waiting for the insurance to get everything in order. Either way, if you want to breastfeed, that is your choice. Income and Insurance coverage should not be left to chance.

More on education:

Please see the Free Webinars offered through the United States Breastfeeding Committee. The next 11/20 Session: Building Relationships: a Key to the Rise of our Indigenous Breastfeeding Communities
will be presented by Amber Kapuamakamaeokalani Wong Granite, Breastfeeding Hawai’i Coalition.

O ke kahua ma mua ma hope ke kūkulu: First the foundation, then the structure can be built.
This Hawaiian proverb teaches us the importance of building relationships in order to ensure the rise of our people.

Whether we seek to influence fellow learners, patients, or customers, we must get to know them before we can ask them to make a change. Once we seek and understand where they come from, what is truly important to them, and then help them unpack their stories, the real work can truly begin. During this session, we will hear an oli, Nā ʻAumakua. This oli acknowledges our ancestors, our land, and our nation. It invites strength, knowledge, and power into our space. MOM founder and director, Martha Joy Rose has participated in these and found them educational and helpful. (See the certificate at the bottom of the page)

Sources:

https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/index.htm

https://mommuseum.org/2019/10/31/breastfeeding-education-might-not-be-what-you-think-it-is/

http://www.babycafeusa.org/

https://www.treelifelactation.com/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK52687/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23962773

https://kellymom.com/pregnancy/bf-prep/bfcostbenefits/

https://www.fns.usda.gov/wic/wic-eligibility-requirements

New Maternalisms, “Breastfeeding in the Public Arena”, Martha Joy Rose (Demeter Press 2016)

Deann’s Other Blogs at MOM: 

Breastfeeding Education Might Not Be What You Think It Is

Gender Disappointment

 

By

CFP (MOM Conference 2020) Embedded in SEWSA, USF St Pete

(USF) Women and Gender Studies is pleased to host the 2020 SEWSA Annual Conference in Tampa Bay, Florida, St. Petersburg Campus Location. The Annual MOM Conference Panels will be embedded within this conference.

Call For Papers on the subject of Mother Studies within the topic of “Embodying Disobedience, Crafting Affinities” please go to the application link and direct your inquiry to Michelle Hughes Miller who will be facilitating the organization of MOM Conference panels.

This year’s theme—figures embodiment and diverse lived experiences as the lifeblood of resistant politics and the livelihood of building alliances across our many differences. The theme echoes the broader mission of the interdisciplinary field of Women’s and Gender Studies (WGS). With its distinctive blend of research, programming, teaching, and advocacy, WGS questions conventional wisdom, challenges the status quo, critiques intersecting gendered, sexual, and racialized inequities and injustices, and strives to create social change for more equitable, ethical, and just futures.

Our theme takes special inspiration from the work of feminists of color and their allies— including early abolitionists like Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman, civil rights activists such as Fannie Lou Hamer, Septima Clark, and Rosa Parks, groups such as the Combahee River Collective, writers and teachers like Audre Lorde, June Jordan, Mitsuye Yamada, Cherrie Moraga, and Gloria Anzaldua, The Movement for Black Lives, founded by Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi, the #sayhername campaign, the reproductive justice movement, and the work of researchers and theorists such as bell hooks, Angela Davis, Kimberle Crenshaw, Lila Abu-Lughod, Emma Perez, Saidiya Hartman, Gayatri Spivak, Dean Spade, Jasbir Puar, Fred Moten, C. Riley Snorton, and the late Saba Mahmood, among many, many others. The work of these scholar-activists is a source of critical insight into the workings of what the Combahee River Collective called interlocking systems of oppression, and a reminder that disobeying unjust state logics and challenging administrative and other forms of violence is literally a matter of life and death, more so for some populations than for others. For this reason, so too do these trailblazing and cutting-edge activists and scholars prompt us to recall the imperatives of self-reflexivity, critical positionality, and situated knowledges in confronting inequality and injustice from a variety of intersectional and transnational perspectives.

In these ways and others, our theme invites a wide range of interdisciplinary critical engagements with the body politics of disobedience. How, for instance, do different forms and modes of racialized and gendered embodiment inform strategies of disobedience to state regulation, the criminalization and dispossession of multiply- marginalized populations, and the ongoing upward redistribution of wealth and resources under neoliberalism? At the same time, the theme invites consideration of how to better craft stronger and more capacious affinities between counterhegemonic projects, for example, between The Movement for Black Lives, disability justice activism, struggles for indigenous decolonization, trans and intersex rights, prison abolition, and intersectional feminist, queer, and anti-racist research and activism. “Embodying Disobedience, Crafting Affinities,” then, seeks to emphasize the continuing import of multi-issue politics in efforts to move beyond commodified notions of allyship towards relations of radical solidarity and mutual interdependence.

In the current historical moment we are witnessing unprecedented interest in feminism and a resurgence of activism in the same space as increasing white nationalist, anti-trans, anti-immigrant, and anti-choice rhetoric, policy, and legislation. In such a climate, this year’s SEWSA takes the opportunity to draw insight and inspiration from the past and chart a course toward different, hopefully more just—and perhaps also more queer— futures. As 2020 marks the 59th quadrennial presidential election, the centennial of the 19th Amendment, and the fiftieth anniversary of the first women’s studies program, we want to remember the ways in which women’s studies has linked theory to practice, not only to transform the present but also to know the past differently and to imagine and create a world beyond it. Women’s studies, from its inception, ranged across the disciplines, found resources where it could in the name of survival and resilience, and insisted on forms of interdisciplinary inquiry that today demand questions of gender, race, and sexuality to disrupt the naturalized status quo. Women’s and Gender Studies, at its best, embodies disobedience—to the disciplines, reigning ideas of sex and gender, the nation, racial capitalism, and single-issue politics—while simultaneously fighting to craft political and intellectual affinities that will make a difference in the world.

We invite proposals that envision and examine diverse ways of embodying disobedience and crafting affinities across a wide range of theories, practices, and contexts. All disciplines, methodologies, and styles of presentation are welcome, and from students and scholars at all levels.

Possible presentation topics might include (but are not limited to):

  • The history, current state, and future of feminist, LGBTQ+, and anti-racist activisms
  • Political participation and movement building leading up to the 2020 U.S. election
  • Linkages between Black Lives Matter, disability justice activism, immigrant rights, and trans and intersex mobilization for self-determination and bodily integrity
  • The uses of anger (in Audre Lorde and beyond)
  • Politics and affect (outrage, repugnance, disgust, humor, pride, envy, loss)
  • Scholar-activist coalitions
  • Settler colonialism and decolonial feminist resistance, especially within
    Caribbean and diasporic feminisms
  • Increasing women, POC, and LGBTQ+ political representation
  • Possibilities and limitations of the #MeToo movement
  • Challenges to Title IX under the Trump Administration
  • Humanitarianism and neoliberalism
  • Digital media and activism
  • Interdisciplinary public scholarship in the era of “fake news”
  • Feminist and queer performance studies as disobedience
  • Afro-Latina identities and politics
  • Black feminist leadership and social movements
  • Disability studies: pedagogies and politics
  • Fat studies, embodiment, and activism
  • Trans and intersex studies and public policy

Session Types and Instructions:

Individual presentation proposals: 200-word proposal

Panel presentation proposals: 3-4 presenters, 600-word proposal (We strongly
encourage panel proposals from graduate and undergraduate students.)

Roundtable proposals: 6-8 presenters, 8-10-minutes each; can include works-in-
progress/slow science (600-word proposal)

Proposal submission deadline is December 6, 2019 and proposals should be submitted to: SEWSA SUBMISSIONS LINK. If you have a proposal idea that is not listed above, such as a performance piece or art submission, email conference staff at sewsa@usf.edu to discuss options. Any additional questions can be forwarded to INFO@MOMmuseum.org

By

Breastfeeding Education Might Not Be What You Think It Is

By Deann Shaffner

As a mother and La Leche League leader, I often hear stories from other mothers about their breastfeeding experience. The experiences they relay are often from their first few weeks after giving birth. Though every mother’s story is different, I have noticed an underlying issue many seem to face. I realize that many mothers, after leaving the hospital, are unsure of where to turn when they have difficulties with nursing.

The health care staff surrounding a mother during birth are extraordinary in their job. They care deeply about the well being of mommy and baby. But what happens when mom is about to nurse the baby and the newborn needs assistance? Each position of a health care provider during the mom’s transition from pregnancy to motherhood has an important role in assessing the overall health of the mother and the infant. Professionals are trained to prepare mothers for the birth process. However, when it comes to breastfeeding education, oftentimes things are left to chance. Why does this additional education matter? How do parents access information? These concerns usually surface once a mother is searching for help and she may receive a mix of confusing information; or sometimes, even though the mother is determined to breastfeed, she is given formula and told to use it to feed the baby.

Every breastfeeding experience is individualized and can be so very different. If breastfeeding is not working, a family can be forced to decide what is best for them and their child in the midst of a feeding crisis. There are many examples involving a new mother who is having nursing difficulties receiving conflicting information from a variety of well-intended sources. If her go-to people are the health-care providers she used for pregnancy and birth, and the information she needs to keep breastfeeding is not forthcoming, then she might not question the use of sample formula that was given to her upon her hospital release.

So, who has access to breastfeeding education? How much education is required? Why does it matter? Well, let’s start with OBGYNS and Midwives; I tried looking for an overall amount of hours in the breastfeeding education required during certification. I came across some articles that mentioned only a few hours of breastfeeding education were required. The basics are taught to assist the mother with the first latch. This education varies from state to state. Of course, as a patient, with breastfeeding-related questions, you can ask during your appointments with an OBGYN or Midwife, and they may direct you to a specialist in the field of lactation. After the birth of your baby, labor and delivery staff may also assist a mother with that first latch. Labor and delivery nurses are superheroes; however, they are not required to have any breastfeeding education when hired. Labor and delivery staff are encouraged to follow along certified lactation staff to gain more knowledge in helping mothers, and some hospitals provide basic breastfeeding education classes, twice a year to their employees, and also makes sure that staff watches the same breastfeeding videos they provide patients with.

If you notice your nurse is not able to address your needs with breastfeeding concerns, do not panic, they are doing their best to help you. You may also request a visit from a lactation consultant to get more in-depth information. Pediatricians, who see most of you and your baby, tend to get a lot of parents voicing breastfeeding concerns they also receive only a few hours of breastfeeding education. Again, they want what is best for your baby’s health, but it is your interest to find a lactation consultant to address potential nursing concerns.

A Certified Lactation Consultant has the most lactation education and a wealth of knowledge when it comes to breastfeeding. Getting help with breastfeeding, from a lactation consultant matters, since they have so many hours invested to become certified. From the International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) website, here is a list of 3 different pathways a person can take to become eligible to take the exam: “IBLCE provides 3 ways that candidates, health care professionals or non-health professionals, can obtain the required clinical practice in lactation and breastfeeding care:

Pathway 1 – Completing a minimum of 1000 hours of lactation specific clinical practice in an appropriate supervised setting within the 5 years immediately prior to examination application.

OR

Pathway 2 – Completing an accredited lactation academic program that includes at least 300 hours of directly supervised lactation specific clinical practice within the 5 years immediately prior to examination application.

OR

Pathway 3 – Completing an IBLCE-verified Pathway 3 Plan of at least 500 hours of directly supervised lactation specific clinical practice with an IBCLC as described in the Pathway 3 Plan Guide and obtained within the 5 years immediately prior to examination application.

Please note that personal experience breastfeeding your own children and experience helping family members and friends cannot be used to qualify for the IBCLC examination.” (1)

Another position in assisting a mother with breastfeeding is a Certified Lactation Counselor. This position allows one to receive an abundance of lactation education, but it is not as extensive as the IBCLC exam. To become a Certified Lactation Counselor, one must attend a 5-day course, more information on the curriculum is here: https://centerforbreastfeeding.org/wp-content/uploads/HCP_Spring_2020_Flyer.pdf

Other positions that include breastfeeding education and personal experience are Breastfeeding Peer Counselors and volunteering La Leche League Leaders, some areas also have support groups or local meetups for breastfeeding moms.

All the health care providers that assist a mother during pregnancy, birth and after birth want the best for mom and baby when it comes to health if you are not sure where to ask for help after having baby, speak up! A lot happens in a hospital setting after your birth, it is understandable to forget information, once you are home with baby, You can call the hospital you delivered at, a WIC office, insurance company, or see if a local moms group can help direct you towards a professional that may be able to assist you. Some websites such as this https://www.ilca.org/why-ibclc/falc may help you find a lactation consultant in your area.

Breastfeeding can be hard, but with the support of other mothers, and receiving assistance from a person who has had extensive education with lactation, there may be a better chance for you to reach your breastfeeding goals.

WANT MORE?

See one of MOM’s USF intern’s mosts on breastfeeding last semester with additional resources here.

Also, Kimberly Seals Allers, author of The Big Letdown which cites the economic and political influences of big business and breastfeeding in America, penned an OpEd citing multiple activists in the field including Museum of Motherhood founder, Martha Joy Rose in the  Washington Post – Read it here.

Image result for The Big Letdown

(1) Source: https://iblce.org/faqs-for-initial-candidates/

See Deann’s last blog on Gender Disappointment here.

By

GENDER DISAPPOINTMENT: What it is, how it feels, how to handle it (LINK)

MEET OUR NEW INTERN! Dee Shaffner (Merritt) is a first-time college student at Cayuga Community College in Fulton New York. Dee is currently workings towards her Associates’s Degree in Liberal Arts with a concentration in Psychology. She is a single mother to 3 wonderful (and extra silly) little boys, Lucas, Logan, and Liam. In addition to being a mother and a student, Dee also works at Mother Earth Baby and is a La Leche League volunteer.

We are thrilled to welcome Dee for a remote internship in blogging over the course of several weeks. She will be researching and writing on topics related to motherhood, gender, pregnancy, and breastfeeding. She hopes to gain additional insight from her research and share that knowledge. Her desire to support other mothers stems from her personal motherhood struggles as well as from questions and concerns, friends, mothers, even strangers have approached her about through the years, She will share some of her perspectives as part of her internship for MOM.

GENDER DISAPPOINTMENT: What it is, how it feels, how to handle it.

The day of the gender reveal during pregnancy can be an exciting one! When I went in for mine, I was so confident I was going to have a girl. The ultrasound technician concentrated on my belly as I lay under the thin cotton blanket on the table. Then, suddenly, pointing to the grainy image on the ultrasound screen, the tech announced in an excited voice that we were having a boy. My heart sank. This was not anything I was prepared for, no one ever mentioned to me that I could feel devastated about the gender of my baby, I felt so ashamed. All I could think of was how I was told in classes, and from other mothers, that all the effort and pain from pregnancy and labor goes away and nothing else matters when you hold your baby in your arms for the first time. But, I could not imagine holding a baby boy. I felt shattered.

Lying on the table, hearing the technician’s words, I squeezed my partner’s hand and forced out a smile. After I got dressed and left the room, I convinced myself there could be a mistake. The images were so blurry. There was still a chance my baby would come out a girl. Months later, during the labor and then as my baby was delivered, I heard excited voices announcing, “Congratulations. You have a baby boy!”

I felt a wave of disappointment and a surge of shame. These were the same feelings of shame I felt the first time I was told I was having a boy. I didn’t dare say anything out loud. I forced a smile.

This happened to me 3 times. Yes, I am the mother of 3 boys. Over the years I hoped the desire for a daughter would disappear. I love my children and this is not something I need to defend, but my heart still aches for other possibilities. Gender disappointment by definition is when an expectant parent experiences depression or anxiety when the sex of a baby does not match their preference. As I find myself continuing to struggle with my emotions, I have since learned many mothers and fathers also have gender disappointment. Though the journey is different for everyone, complex feelings, sadness, and feelings of longing are all part of this syndrome.

Admitting to gender disappointment can be hard for anyone. A person may feel hesitant to say much about it because they do not want to be judged by others and be seen as ungrateful or neglectful parents. For myself, feeling ashamed was a heavy weight on my shoulders, I love all my boys, but the love did not come at first sight. I had to learn how to love them. Since exploring this topic over the years, I have come to find out that my experiences were not unique. While expressions of gender-fluid behavior are prevalent in contemporary culture, and a mother can still teach her son to sew and a father can teach his daughter how to hunt, some parents continue to experience a lack of connection. They worry that they will never be able to fully bond with their child.

Social pressure on expecting parents can add even more depressive weight. Hearing from a stranger in the grocery store who says things such as “you already have 3 boys, so you should just give up on trying to have a daughter,” makes my blood boil. I have come to assume that these people, in an attempt to make small conversation, just do not really know what to say and they just repeat what has been said in the past, to them.

Other examples, of perhaps well-intentioned individuals wanting to insert themselves into an individual family narrative, can ultimately be unhelpful or even hurtful. A few of these are:

(You do not have any children.) “Oh, when are you going to have children?!”

(You have 1 child.) “Oh, when are you going to have number two?!”

(You have 2 same-gender children.) “Oh, well your next one will be the opposite gender!”

(You have 3 children.) “You are going to have to even those children out!”

(You have 4 or more children.) “Oh goodness! Your hands are full, you should stop having children!”

The comments can hurt. I would always get so bothered when people would tell me, I am a “boy-mom,” no, I am not just a boy-mom, I am fully capable of being a mother to girls too, I am just not one, yet. And, I may never be, but whether I am, or I am not, the deeply personal decision to have a child or not have a child is not something that is up for public scrutiny, nor are the complex feelings many parents grapple with.

Thankfully over the years, there is more support and literature for parents struggling with gender disappointment. We all love and care for our children intensely. But for those of us going through this experience, these emotions might not ever go away. As a mother of boys, I focus on finding ways to bond with my children even if I am not a big fan of dirt, trucks or farts. I also recognize that as humans develop the nuances of sex and gender do not necessarily follow a binary path. I seek moments of abiding joy and acknowledge the importance of seeing every child for who they are, apart from their gendered behavior.

For me, seeking professional help was also very beneficial, Facebook has supporting group pages, there are articles on a variety of websites that share personal experiences. The book Altered Dreams…Living With Gender Disappointment, written by Katherine Asbery, was a source that had helped me at a time when Google had “no related search.” I have come to realize that it is okay to feel gender disappointment, even if it does not feel right to feel that way. Finding others to talk to about these emotions, cultivating a sense of humor, and reaching out for additional resources are all ways to navigate the complicated terrain of motherhood. It is important to not feel alone on this journey. That is why I am sharing my very personal story here.

By

MAMA: Issue 38 – Casey Jenkins & Amy Watkins

Issue 38 – October Casey Jenkins – sMother [Performance]

sMother psychological-endurance artwork. Gendered assumptions, judgments and advice – whether meant to protect or to control – bind and confine those perceived to be ‘women of childbearing age’, paralyzing us with fear and shame. Our identities are subdued and mummified in forced acquiescence by community expectations that preserve absurd gender roles.

At nearly 38 and after two miscarriages in the previous year, Casey performed sMother, the final in a trilogy of performances exploring the restrictive nature of gendered expectations on those perceived to be ‘women of child-bearing age’.

Casey knitted daily over the course of a week with yarn drawn from their vagina, linking two common but somewhat conflicting indicators of femininity; the vulva associated with women’s sexuality and reproduction, and knitting associated with elderly asexual women. As Casey knitted, audience members were invited to activate a four-channel, 28 track soundscape of advice and commentary regarding ‘women of child-bearing age’, reflecting the judgments of diverse commentators from lounge-room analysts to Donald Trump. By activating the sound montages, the audience was complicit in mirroring and perpetuating the cacophony of gendered judgments that strengthen patriarchal control.

Casey absorbed the relentless barrage while creating a knitted length that grew over the course of days into a rope that bound and distorted their body – travelling from the popular ‘serene pregnant woman’ fable to something more representative of the lived experience of those perceived to be ‘women of childbearing age’, involving discomfort, fear, frustration and claustrophobia. Each stitch may be seen as a mark of acquiescence to the absurdity of gender expectations – an acquiescence that at first may comfort and shield, but soon distorts, binds and restricts.

Artist Biography: Casey Jenkins (b. 1979, Melbourne, Australia) is currently a Master of Contemporary Art student at the Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne. Jenkins is an installation and durational/community-engagement performance artist. Combining tactility with technology, craft with performance, her work ranges from minimalist solo durational performances to pieces that deliberately toy with (and aim to redefine) power structures via street art and experimental group performance. Recent works have been shown at the Venice International Performance Art Week,  London Science Gallery, and SomoS Art House, Berlin.

_

The Mom Egg Review

LEARNING THE HARD WAY

By Amy Watkins

I feel for the door-to-door evangelists,

the Jehovah’s Witnesses, women in long skirts

and blue-gray sweaters, and the pairs

of handsome, clean-cut Mormon boys,

one always more shy than the other, holding

a stack of books and a bicycle helmet

under one arm. They are eager and

lovely, and even I don’t invite them in.

My mother did when I was a child, because

she too felt called to witness. The seventh-day.

The second coming. Everything that made us

strange. She took out her Bible, its leather cover

worn as a pair of work gloves, and listened

to them expound their faith in the kind of earnest voices

movie actors reserve for speeches like, Please believe

me: an asteroid is on a collision course

with Earth. Her response was apologetic,

almost embarrassed; for every verse they quoted,

she knew two. I recognized the doubt soaking in,

the frustration. Still, they squared their shoulders.

No one wants to fall for the smooth sales pitch,

the telemarketer’s call, the good news of the pamphlet

the glassy-eyed woman’s hand. Whatever truth

there is, we want to find it for ourselves

like the ultimate rummage sale bargain.

Believe me, you can’t tell us anything.

Bio: Although she was born in a landlocked state, Amy Watkins grew up in Florida, where one is never more than 70 miles from saltwater. Her poems have appeared in the Apalachee Review, Bayou Magazine and The Glass Coin. She is co-editor and host of the weekly poetry podcast Red Lion Sq.

TWITTER: @AmyWatkinsThe Museum of Motherhood, the ProCreate Project, the Mom Egg Review, and the Mother Magazine are pleased to announce the launch of a bi-monthly international exchange of ideas and art. M.A.M.A. will celebrate the notion of being “pregnant with ideas” in new ways. This scholarly discourse intersects with the artistic to explore the wonder and the challenges of motherhood. Using words and art to connect new pathways between the creative, the academic, the para-academic, the digital, and the real, as well as the everyday: wherever you live, work, and play, the Art of Motherhood is made manifest. Download the Press Release here or read about updated initiatives#JoinMAMA  @ProcreateProj  @MOMmuseum @TheMomEgg

By

Sociology Opens Our Eyes to New Ways of Seeing the World!

This summer, extreme weather rocks America and pundits debate while August arrives all too quickly. Since July 1st, accounting majors, economics majors, and students of literature have been increasing their knowledge and vocabulary about important issues that affect us all by studying sociology. These students are hard at work exploring theoretical assertions about race, class, and gender in an online summer intensive Introduction to Sociology course, specifically framed around the Sociology of Family.

Using texts that explore gestation, birth, and caregiving, authors Barbara Katz Rothman, Phyllis Chesler, Patricia Hill Collins, and Keisha Goode (to name a few), explore women’s experiences, racial disparities, and gendered labor. This week, we read the latest media stories on wombs, trans-birth, uterus transplants, and self-identified men as mothers. We have all been scrambling for new definitions and fresh ways of thinking about gestation as well as parenting.

As part of a service-learning portion of an Intro to Sociology class, students were asked to take a piece of construction paper or plain white paper and mark in bold words a minimum of 5 words that best describe “mother” and “father”. We have been complicating those basic notions ever since.

Thinking about the authors we are studying assert about biology and gender, coupled with recent medical and policy developments, motherhood is more complicated than ever! The students were invited to revisit their original posters and articulate some of the information that has influenced their perspective in recent weeks. Some of their notes are below:

Words Added:

–       Gender Neutral:

·      The readings from this week highlighted the problems associated with gendered parenting

·       Mothers struggle with work because of the perception that they are obligated to care for their home and children

·       Men do not feel obligated to do any parenting work but feel an overwhelming obligation to provide economically for their families

·      Both genders are equally capable of parenting in the form of motherhood and fatherhood

·      everyone including children would be better off if parental duties were split equally

·      All other words on the poster represent things my mother, grandparents, and stepfather did and that I wish my father had participated in

·      Not parenting is a personal choice not a gendered choice

–       Parent:

·      Added for reasons listed above

·      Parent should imply the same duties regardless of the parent’s gender

       Present:

·      Being present is an essential part of parenthood that I did not think about until I watched “Glen Henry got his Superpowers Through Fatherhood”

–       Care:

·      “Mothering is most likely done by a female due to our society’s definition of the word ‘mother.’ The action of mothering however is simply caring for another.” [Castaneda and Oware]

–       Guide

–       Educate

·      Guide and educate were both terms I did not think to put until I though in the context of parenthood rather than motherhood

·      Gendered expectations affect us all and are very pervasive

Assertion Statement:

Replace motherhood and fatherhood with parenthood

Father
• Tenderhearted
• Empathetic
• Compassionate
• Honest
• Supportive
• Sacrificing
• Wise
“A healthier masculinity can only be achieved if we acknowledge that “Tough” and “Strong” aren’t the only 2 characteristics men can be.”