MOM Art Annex: Exhibition & Education Center

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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

 

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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

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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.

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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

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TRACKING THE COURSE OF MUTINY AGAINST THE TYRANNY

Op-ed, Martha Joy Rose May 13, 2019 

Despite headlines and discourse, the most unchanging thing about motherhood is how much it doesn’t change. While parenting narratives in the public arena are more visible than ever, while books on mothers and mothering are written and published at a dizzying pace (see Demeter Press among others), and while activists and bloggers do their best to articulate the realities and difficulties of mothering, the truth will make you mad. Policies ranging from healthcare to human rights in the United States have not changed much at all in the last 50 years, and if anything, they appear to be moving backward at times.

This year’s Mothers’ Day came and went with the usual fanfare of compliments, cards, and lovely acknowledgments. But, the truth of being a woman, or a woman of color in America, can be very scary. Aside from the well-known, repetitive conversation around everything from our as-of-yet still unratified ERA to maternal morbidity rates, we observed a rollback of certain state’s abortion rights, and the constant pressure mothers and caregivers experience as they try to balance unrealistic expectations with work pressures. All of this occurs in the midst of corporate greed and governmental callousness which is reflected in our lack of family-friendly policies.

‘All The Rage’ Isn’t About Moms Having It All — It’s About Moms Doing It All’

NPR: Weekend Edition, May 12, 2019

On why domestic demands on mothers actually increased in the mid-’90s

The expectations for motherhood suddenly … went through the roof. … One of the reasons that academics will cite for why this happened at the same time that [mothers’] labor force participation peaked was because there was a lot of anxiety about what was going to happen to the kids. All these moms are now in the workforce in greater numbers than ever: What’s going to happen to the children? So the standards for mothering kind of ratcheted up. [Link to ARTICLE].

Feminism & Motherhood

As a woman, I am angry. But as a mother, I’m seething. There’s a robust conversation right now about the historical and present power of female rage as a tool for social change. A number of books, articles, and social media hashtags are pointing out that women are fed up. Instead of being silenced by patriarchal ideas of women’s emotions as “hysteria,” women are embracing their anger as a social and political force to be reckoned with. That is great news for women. But what about mothers as a key subset of women? ~Kimberly Seals Allers for The Washington Post 2019: [LINK to article]

There is a lot to be angry about. Women of color in the USA, who are pregnant, have the most to be worried about. Their prenatal care, birth care, and post-birth care are all persistently worse than their white counterparts. This problematic scenario can be linked to many ongoing issues related to systemic racism, socio-economic status, and the apparent lack of willingness for medical professionals to listen to the voices of these women. [Read more here in the news at this link].

This year’s Museum of Motherhood annual conference focused on “Rewriting Trauma and Birth.” We welcomed keynote speaker Khiara M. Bridges, who is the author of Reproducing Race. Her book smartly explores the social construction of race in medical settings and helps to examine the forces that coerce women into dangerous birth scenarios.

So, whether over-burdened by maternal workloads, subject to a medical crisis of deadly proportions or managing the anger associated with outdated policies that do not support women and families, something has got to shift.

Before we can identify solutions we must notice the problems and call them out. By naming and labeling the issues we have engaged in the first line of offense. Some people will voice objections. They will list the ways in which gender mirrors biology. They will do their best to keep enduring structures of power and privilege intact. However, we just keep raising our voices and turning up the volume.

Kimberly Seals Allers proposes several steps for improving the state of families in America. Some of those include obvious changes to healthcare. Others must focus on policy shifts that recognize unpaid maternal labor, as well as the development of affordable childcare options for working mothers.

So what has been going on for the last 15 years? Below is an article that was written by Jill Brooke for the Chicago Tribune during a burst of notoriety for the Mom Rockers who had set their minds on creating change within the home as well as the world at large. While the emphasis on using art and music for social change has amped up the volume on women’s issues, many of the problems these founding artists sought to address have remained stubbornly ingrained in our institutions, including the “institution of the family.” You can read more on this subject in the book, the Music of Motherhood (Demeter Press 2018).

Course development and educational programming that break the barrier on women’s (and gender) studies in the university and beyond are an important step in disrupting repetitive patterns that keep individuals trapped in hegemonic discourses and force the idealization of parenting roles. Here at MOM, we are striking back by pushing back. Giving a nod to the work of Guerrilla Girl Donna Kaz, we encourage those of you who are seeking some strategies for change to utilize her work to create activist platforms. LINK

” I have heard many people express their own powerlessness as they face threats to their rights and the rights of those they support on a daily basis. Perhaps you agree there is a need to understand how to organize and see results, on a local level. Maybe you search for activist knowledge and are hungry for something to guide you through the steps of creatively supporting a cause. PUSH/PUSHBACK will fill that need.”

The band Housewives On Prozac was championing pushback through music in the late nineties through 2008. Their song “Eat Your Damn Spaghetti” was a rallying cry for overwhelmed and frustrated mothers. You can watch the video below. Meanwhile, the MaMaPaLooZa Festival, which is ongoing in New York City and Sydney, Australia aims to create dynamic change through empowerment, education, and large-scale community events. Other super-important and amazing organizations (to name a very few), include MomsRising, SisterSong, and The Center for Reproductive Rights.

TRACKING THE COURSE OF MUTINY AGAINST THE TYRANNY OF PARENTAL EXPECTATIONS

December 21, 2004,|By Jill Brooke, Special to the Tribune

“I tried to be the perfect mom but then buckled. It’s time for a little liberation, and I want to give moms permission to nourish a piece of themselves and then go back to wiping the kids’ noses, cooking dinner and carpooling.”

And what better way to launch a rebellion than rock ‘n’ roll? Link to ARTICLE.

Finally, let us ask the question: Why does America have the least-friendly family policies? The U.S. is the only country in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) not to offer paid leave on a national basis.

“People think motherhood is inherently overwhelming because we’ve made that idea seem natural,” said Virginia Rutter, a professor of sociology at Framingham State University in Massachusetts and author of “Families as They Really Are.” “We normalize the hardships of motherhood. … This is now what’s familiar.”

LINK to article

We must continue to work together for the kinds of change that will benefit all American families and not just a few. The best way to do this is to advocate for intersectional, interdisciplinary education and activism that affects attitudes, policy, and the private/public sector in ways that support women and men and make the world an easier place for caregivers to navigate.

*Mamava is a company that hopes to normalize breastfeeding and support nursing mothers. One of their lactation spaces in JFK airport is the featured photo on this post. #Mamava #Mothers #MOM #JoinMama

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M.A.M.A. 37- Clipping the Church and a Measure of Grace

Art by Tereza Buskova – ‘Clipping the Church’

In many cultures, even today, new mothers and their infants are subject to a period of physical seclusion or confinement from the rest of the world. During this time, the support of relatives and the local community plays a vital role in sustaining the family by caring for the older children, providing food and completing chores typically carried out by the mother herself. It is hard to imagine now that things were not so different for the generation of our own great-grandmothers.

No longer restricted by this custom, women today enjoy the benefits of improved healthcare, education and childcare options, which grant them greater freedom than ever before. Yet the stigma and judgment that come with pregnancy and early motherhood linger, whereas support of the local community has all but disappeared over time. Today’s society too often adopts a patronizing, utilitarian attitude which blinds it to the particular needs of parents and families. As a consequence, many new mothers experience feelings of loneliness and isolation from their social networks, unknown to them before. Some feel actively ostracised and judged when they should be encouraged and cherished.

Clipping the Church is a project based on an old English tradition in which parishioners ‘clip’ their local place of worship with hands and bodies and sing songs of a celebratory nature. The overarching aspect of this custom is inclusiveness and Buskova married it with the representation of motherhood expressed by the act of baking and sharing baked goods with family, friends and anonymous members of the community.

Dressed in traditional Czech outfits, ornate with sensuous red ribbons and elaborate baked accessories, two women lead a procession via Erdington’s High Street. Their white skirts are decorated with flowery patterns and bunched around their hips, emphasizing the connection with nature and its fertility.  The work subtly harks back to the history of Erdington, which remained a rural area until recent times. Accompanied by two young girls and followed by a simple wooden frame made of celestial crust (sugary pastries based on an old Czech recipe) topped by a small figurine of Virgin Mary and carried on men’s shoulders, the procession was joined by a multinational crowd, old and young. All precincts vanished for the duration of the performance and the lively chatting was underscored by accompanying cello music performed by Bela Emerson, resulting in a festive atmosphere that resonated within the surroundings.

One of the most moving and symbolically saturated moments of the procession took place upon its arrival at St Barnabas Church’s gate. There, Frieda Evans, the parish priest and the artist invited the crowd to ‘clip’ the church. Despite its overarching religious connotations, the act of forming a circle around the church added a universal dimension to this Christian custom. The church, decorated all the way around with sourdough bread in elaborate shapes hanging on red ribbons from the building’s façade, echoed the human bonds created around the church. Prepared by Buskova and the community members, this simple bake became a gesture of kindness and generosity. With the act of sharing and consuming the celestial crust, ‘Clipping the Church’ was finalized. The custom was reinvented, becoming not English, not Czech, but an inclusive community act.

Image credits: 

Erdingtonia Series, Tereza Buskova 2016
Image Size 21×15 cm
Archival inkjet print with gold screenprint overlays
Edition number 20 + 4AP’s

More about the artists: 

Tereza Buskova (b.1978, Prague) completed her Fine Art Printmaking MA at the Royal College of Art in 2007. Her intuitive practices capture and renew Czech folk traditions through a combination of film making, screen printing and performance. Buskova’s work has been exhibited at Rituals, David Roberts Art Foundation, London (2008);  A Tradition I Do Not Mean To Break, Zabludowicz Collection, London (2009);  Rituals Are Tellers Of Us, Newlyn Art Gallery, UK ( 2013); and Reality Czech: the Czech Avant-Garde, Whitechapel Gallery, London, 2015. She has exhibited, performed and lectured in a broad range of different spaces including Lincoln’s Chambers Farm Wood (2010), Kunstnernes Hus, Oslo (2014), and Erdington High Street, UK (2016).

The Mom Egg Review – Words
Measure of Grace
by Caitlin Grace McDonnell

The longest person’s eyelashes were ten inches,
or maybe six. I think 8. She lived in China,
my daughter tells me, who is nine, like the youngest soccer coach, in Barcelona, which,
she says, is the best. The length of your integrity
is directly correlated to your forearm in prayer.
If you want to be seen as a woman, wear a string
of pearls. If you want to be seen as everything,
make yourself scarce. Math is comforting, my
daughter says, because the answers are clear.
Meanwhile, the length of time between school
shootings decreases at a rate comparable
to the disappearance of the words “climate change”
from government documents. Or the disappearance
of ice in the Arctic sea, or honeybees from warm
habitats. Yesterday, Sudan, the last Northern White
Rhino was put down in Kenya. The buds that bloom
beneath my daughter’s breasts are harder than
I remember on my own body, my own breasts,
whose alveoli no longer make milk. If you squint
at two women, they can almost be one.

Caitlin Grace McDonnell was a New York Times Poetry Fellow at NYU, where she received her MFA. She has published a chapbook, Dreaming the Tree (belladonna books, 2003) and a book, Looking for Small Animals (Nauset Press, 2012). Her poems, essays and book reviews have appeared in numerous print and online publications, including Salon, Washington Square, Chronogram and more. She teaches writing in Brooklyn, NY, where she lives with daughter, Kaya Hope.

MAMA_Logo_2015

The 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