MOM Art Annex: Exhibition & Education Center

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Annual Academic MOM Conference, NYC 2019: Rewriting Trauma

REWRITING TRAUMA & VISIBILITY

Motherwork, Pregnancy, and Birth

Manhattan College
Bronx, NY
APRIL 5-6 2019

Calling all sociologists, women’s, sexuality, and gender scholars, masculinity studies scholars, birth-workers, doctors, maternal psychologists, motherhood and fatherhood scholars, artists, performers: This conference call for papers focuses on uncovering, naming and rewriting traumas of motherwork, pregnancy and birth. We especially aim to make visible those topics related to (dis)abilities and other marginalized positionalities, relying on Patricia Hill Collins’ conceptualization of motherwork as mothering that is designed for the survival and success of the next generation in the context of oppression. We recognize traumas in multiple forms, originating before, during, and after pregnancy and birth and throughout motherhood, contextualized by the intersectional identities of those traumatized. We encourage presenters to unpack the sociocultural domain and the medicalized environment within which traumas often occur, embracing and analyzing meaning-making, as Barbara Katz Rothman and others would have us do, in the areas of maternal health and well-being.

We intend the conference to serve as a site of resistance as we reframe and reconstruct the landscape of embodied trauma within motherwork, pregnancy and birth and the ongoing labor of mothers and caregivers everywhere. We recognize the scale, variance, and duration of trauma and hope to support and empower those who most need it.

Topics of interest include but are not limited to:

Intersectional identities as the context of motherwork, pregnancy and birth traumas

Motherwork, pregnancy and birthing with (dis-)abilities, illness, and children with special needs

Biomedical and cultural discourses of motherwork, pregnancy, and birth, including issues related to marginalized identities, fertility treatment, gender, and intersex identities
Normative constructions of gender in motherwork, pregnancy and birthing

Child and maternal psychology interventions, alternative therapies, and results

Breastfeeding ambivalences, obstacles, and outcomes

Future wombs, including transplants, artificial constructions, cloning, and surrogacy

Art as healing and activism as visible resistance
Embodied resistance to socially constructed proscriptions and conventions about motherwork, pregnancy, and birth, especially as contextualized within marginalized positionalities

Narratives surrounding:

  • High-risk pregnancies, pregnancy-related illnesses, and birthing complications
  • Cesarean Section, Episiotomy and other Obstetric Violence
  • Stillbirths or Therapeutic Terminations
  • Pregnancy loss, Alternative Therapies, and Healing

Individuals conducting research, making art, working in hospital or alternative birth settings, and presentations by mothers, family members, and students as well as auto-ethnographic perspectives are welcome

All submissions for this conference should be considered for submission to the Journal of Mother Studies (JourMS), an academic, peer-reviewed journal devoted to Mother Studies. You may also submit for the conference only if you wish. Abstracts must include a title and 50-150 words for individual papers, panels, and other submission types (e.g. performance, media, music). Go to MOMmuseum.org and look for the “Conference Submissions” tab or submit a word doc. to info@MOMmuseum.org by Dec. 1

The international MOM Conference is an annual event that features research, scholarship, and creative collaboration in the area of Mother Studies. Each year, the academic committee organizes university experiences that are interdisciplinary and highlight scholarship in the area of reproductive justice, maternal health, feminist theory, gender studies, literature, and the arts. The conference is organized through the Museum Of Motherhood (M.O.M.) and has partnered with multiple institutions throughout the years (2005-present), including Manhattan College, USF Tampa, Marymount Manhattan College, Columbia, ProCreate Project, Mamapalooza, and ARM now renamed MIRCI to name a few.

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M.A.M.A. ~ Birth & SONOGRAM (Art); [LINK]

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 aboutupdated initiatives. #JoinMAMA  @ProcreateProj  @MOMmuseum @TheMomEgg @TheMotherMag

PicsArt_1469570239975

Birth, 2016
by, Megan Wynne

My three year old daughter and I collaborated to reenact her birth, while standing in the foyer of my parent’s house. I grew up in that house, and I am also raising my daughter there. She is being born into the complex and conflicted legacy of motherhood that I inherited and which is embodied in that house. As I give birth to my daughter I pass it on to her, and through her it will continue, from generation to generation. In this ritualistic exercise we act out our intertwined and mirrored identities. We symbiotically define each other, and the line between us is blurred. The flipped image depicts a parallel inverse experience of the same act. My daughter grows up and out of me, as she gives birth to me as a mother. She grows from me and I become her roots, always attached to her, never erased from her identity.

SONOGRAM
by, Susan Vespoli

When my daughter was a toddler
she stroked my cheek like it was the silk
edge of a blanket and pressed
the nipple-ends of soft balloons
into the plastic mouths of dolls

and when she grew breasts
boys flocked around her
like birds to our backyard
come to pluck seeds
from the center of a sunflower
and then her hands gained skill
to text friends, flick cigarettes
from the back porch, play Bad Fish
on guitar strings, and flip her middle
finger into the air like a slim bomb

until it finally folded back up, resting
in the cupped palm of the woman
who smiles at me from an exam table
with her eyes as bright as a camera flash
at the blip, blip, blip of a lit star that will be Molly.

(Originally published in Mom Egg Review Vol. 14 “Change”).

Susan Vespoli lives in Phoenix where she teaches English at a downtown community college, rides her bike along the canals, and walks her 3-legged dog Jack. Her poetry and prose have been published online and in various print anthologies and journals.

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Mother Studies Summer Accelerated Class: A Student’s Reflections

As posted on the website, we are underway with the seven-week intensive course offered through the museum, “Introduction to Mother Studies.” The course explores key questions related to motherhood, feminism, and the family – issues that the museum seeks to bring awareness to as an institution of thought. We are happy to share a glimpse into week one of the course, which has delved into the rich foundational text, Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution by Adrienne Rich, as well as a quick introduction to Sociology and a couple of short films about birth.

In Of Woman Born, Rich gives an in-depth historical, social, and economic context to motherhood.

Patriarchy would seem to require, not only that women shall assume the major burden of pain and self-denial for the furtherance of the species, but that a majority of the species – women – shall remain essentially unquestioning and unenlightened. On this “underemployment” of female consciousness depend the morality and the emotional life of the human family. Like his predecessors of fifty and a hundred and more years ago, [theorist] Hampshire sees society as threatened when women begin to choose the terms of their lives. Patriarchy could not survive without motherhood and heterosexuality in their institutional forms; therefore, they have to be treated as axioms, as “nature” itself, not open to question except where, from time to time, and place to place, “alternative life-styles” for certain individuals are tolerated (Rich 1986).

Below is a response paper to the reading/viewing assignments from week.

“Repossession by women of our bodies will bring far more essential change to human society than the seizing of the means of production by workers” (Rich 1986). Though succinct, Rich has loaded this quote with key points of her thesis in Of Woman Born: Motherhood as Experience and Institution. Embedded in it is Rich’s plea for women to reclaim consciousness and agency over their bodies, with special respect given to the institution of motherhood. The reference to Marx is intentional, as theory has pointed at capitalism as the root cause of the domestication of motherhood. However, as has been the primary feminist complaint of the father of socialism, Marx has overwhelmingly failed to account for gender in his observations of the proletariat – and this applies in the family, too. Though perhaps the reason for women’s reign over the domestic sphere, the subversion of women’s bodies occurs much deeper than in economics and cannot seek absolution from economics, as Engels would suggest. In Of Woman Born Rich maps the subjugation of women by the patriarchy and shows how this has extended to motherhood and the family.

If we understand sociology to be “the scientific study of human society – its institutions and people’s social behavior”, then borrowing Rich’s wisdom we will most certainly see patriarchal influences at work within medical institutions. The more egregious manifestations of this, of course, are in birthing practices that treat labor as an ailment in Western cultures, which she explores in the chapter, Alienated Labor (again, a nod to Marx). However, the less insidious assertions of male dominance in the medical field (but perhaps the most devastating) are in medical language itself. Anthropologist Emily Martin has devoted several publications to analyzing the use of masculine language when framing processes within human sexual reproduction. In the short medical video, Fertilization,” we hear phrases describing the life-cycle of the sperm as “a perilous journey against incredible odds,” “strength,” and “swimming harder and faster” amid a backdrop of language that describes the female reproductive system as an “acidic environment” (Nucleus Medical Media 2013). Presumably, Rich would attribute this what she sees as men’s fear of women’s ability to bear new life and of “her apparent power to affect the male genitals.” So of course, in a routine video describing the fertilization of an egg, the women’s system would a hostile, acidic environment designed to hinder the powerful sperm facing incredible odds.

Adrienne Rich

Adrienne Rich

Rich says that with this intrinsic fear of women’s bodies came men’s decided action to shackle the divine worship of women’s power. Women’s bodies, once revered and worshipped as an aspect of the hunt – a matter of survival for Neolithic cultures – were later looked at as forces to be controlled. However, where Rich’s argument falls short for me is in its ability to situate the rise of patriarchal dominance across all the diverse cultures she mentions. In one instance, she talks about the devaluing of goddesses in ancient Greece and credits another theorist’s explanation for this:

He theorizes that this fear of maternal woman derived from the sexual politics of fifth-century Greece, where women were ill-educated, were sold into marriage, and had no role except as producers of children, the sexual interest of men was homoerotic, and for intellectual friendships a man sought out hetaeras…or other men. He assumes the mother to have been filled with resentment and envy of her sons, and in frustration, excessively controlling of her male children in their earliest years. Her feelings would have been experienced by her sons as a potentially destructive hostility which is later embodied in mythology and classical drama.

This is one theory of the social climate in ancient Greece that caused the transformation of goddesses’ role in mythology. But what, exactly, brought about the patriarchal awakening across other cultures, in the same time period?

It would seem that if repossessing our bodies would do more to boost women’s power than the overthrow of capitalism, we should know how to dismantle the very patriarchal notions that have caused it subdominance in the first place.

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Did Someone Say Doula?

ICYMI – In a recent article, The Times reported on the growing numbers of doulas that expecting NYC moms employ to support them during their labor processes. Those this may feel like old news to some, The Times goes on to discuss doulas’ push for a greater level of recognition.

Doulas, a name derived from an ancient Greek term meaning female servant, offer birthing support to expecting moms. Doulas may help prep parents for the realities of childbirth, attend births, and/or assist post-delivery. According to The Times, there are as many as 400 active doulas in NYC who attend approximately 5600 births a year, making up 5% of all births. Despite growing in number and popularity, doulas still make up only a small part of the maternal health system. Refusal to be included in health insurance coverage and pushback from the medical community have left some doulas feeling shut out. Now, several groups are advocating for health insurance companies to offer doula services (a model that exists currently in the state of Oregon’s Medicaid program), as well as rallying for an elevated sense of purpose and credibility within the medical field. The article interviewed various medical professionals, some who praised the role of the doula, and others who rebuffed their call for a higher level of acceptance. Doulas do not go through the same credentialing process as midwives or obstetricians, so some doctors are skeptical of the success that organizing doulas will have in pushing for insurance companies to cover their services. Still, doulas – and those who believe in the value of their services – will say that they serve an important role medically, in that they prioritize laboring mothers’ health choices/plans and, according to the article, “’put the ball back in the mom’s court.’”

Perhaps we will have to wait and see where these issues go, but no doubt the increased awareness of doulas’ experience will help the movement grow.

Read much more on this topic: Human Rights in Childbirth Conference Papers

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Birth Stories Featuring Kim; Raising Awareness about HELLP Syndrome

It’s #FriendFriday!!!  This week I’m sharing a birth story from my friend Kim Meeks. She and her husband, George, have had an incredible journey with her daughter. Mary Farris was born at 25 weeks gestation, 15 full weeks premature. Kim shares her story here:

It was a normal pregnancy for the first 6 months.  My husband and I were thrilled about expecting our first (and only) child. We found out at 22 weeks that we would be having a girl.  We were unaware, however, that she would be born 3 weeks later.

13550893811764On May 25, 2008, I was diagnosed with HELLP syndrome, a rare and possibly fatal form of pre-eclampsia.  I was taken by ambulance from our local hospital to a St. Thomas Midtown. My husband was told that an emergency c-section was necessary to save not only my life, but to attempt to save the life of our unborn child.  Mary Farris was born at 25 weeks gestation, weighing only 1 lb. and  3oz.  She was born with a birth defect called choanal atresia.  She had no openings in the back part of her nose, and was unable to breathe on her own.  We were finally able to hold her at 54 days of age.  After 3 months on a ventilator, she pulled out the tube herself and began to breathe through her mouth.  After 148 days, Mary Farris was discharged from the NICU.  We hoped and prayed for the best life she could have, keeping in mind that having a “normal” child was highly unlikely.

She had to have a g-tube placed for nutrition related to her defect, as her mouth was her only airway.  Mary Farris was primarily tube fed until age 3 ½.  She required physical, occupational, speech and feeding therapy.  She attended a special education preschool where she could continue to receive some of these services during the school day.  She also had the benefit of 3 years of early intervention services.  In her first 5 years, she had 11 surgeries.

Last year, Mary Farris was transferred to a regular kindergarten class and is keeping up with her peers now in 1st grade.  She met all of her goals in physical therapy and was discharged, and they plan on meeting occupational therapy goals soon.  She is now 6 years old.  We felt after all of her days in the hospital, that she is partly their baby, too.  For this reason, we celebrate her birthday with the NICU staff every year.  Mary Farris says she wants to be a veterinarian when she grows up.

Through all of the experiences with Mary Farris, I have become very active in the g-tube community helping other parents adapt to their new “norm”.   I also was inspired by our experience in the NICU to go back to school.  I will graduate from nursing school in December.  Our story will come full circle when I begin my job as a NICU nurse.