Saturday, May 22, 2010

Two years ago, early in the morning...

Two years ago today, early in the morning my sweet baby Ilo was born.

My third pregnancy with Ilo was long: I was over it almost as soon as it started. My first pregnancy was exhilarating. The second was during grad school and went by beautifully but I didn't have time to dwell. The third time around though I missed running, hated thinking about getting my body "back" into good form again, and just wanted to get to the most amazing part: the baby.

Ilo was our second planned home birth. My oldest son was born in a hospital attended by a Certified Nurse Midwife. Although my labor and birth went relatively well and I felt ecstatic after he arrived, I knew the hospital was not the proper place for a low-risk pregnancy. It wasn't until I experienced the pleasures of a home birth that I realized how absolutely amazing and different this experience could be.

During most of the day on May 21, 2008, I labored in the home I shared with my husband and two young boys. Later in the day my husband and I walked to a nearby park where we sat in the grass and I continued to labor. I remember the New Mexican sky was more brilliant than I had ever experienced. All of my senses were crystal clear as endorphins soothed my body and heightened my experience. Back at the house I labored longer into the night and slowly but surely I turned inward, morphing into the birthing queen of my universe. As my contractions grew stronger and stronger I grew stronger and stronger. I labored in and out of the birth pool in our bedroom and walked around the house as I pleased.

A mix of Iron and Wine, and Dirty Three played over and over, an amazing soundtrack to an amazing birth. Candle light filled the house and when I was hungry or thirsty I drank red raspberry leaf tea and ate what I craved. I was in control of this birth and it came naturally, needing no script.

Although I desired the ease of birthing my baby into the water, as I had with my second child, I ended up on our bed on my hands and knees. I pushed Ilo into the world, and into my hands, no one elses.

During my labor and Ilo's birth, thunderstorms rolled past our house. Two weeks later, we finally felt we knew him well enough and named him Ilo. The name is Nigerian and means where the world begins. He truly is where my world begins.

My birth was strong and changed me forever; it was more spiritual than words could ever explain.

Happy birthday to my sweet baby Ilo.

At home between contraction.

I think more women would choose midwife attended home births if they knew the numbers. I think more men/women would insist that their wives/partners choose home births as well. These stats aren't coming from left field either, they're coming from the U.S. Center for Disease Control, the World Health Organization and from the British Journal of Medicine, to name a few:

Healthy childbirth is a natural, normal process, which can be safely attended at home by a trained professional. By having your baby at home with a midwife you are 90% more likely to avoid an intervention in your birth, you are 88% more likely to have a successful breastfeeding relationship with your baby and you are much less likely to receive a caesarean section.
But don't take our word for it. A study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, another published in the British Medical Journal and a statement issued by the World Health Organization all concur. Click on the titles to read more.
A two-year study conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control indicates that a planned home birth with an experienced attendant is safer than a hospital birth. The results of the study showed that the infant death rate in hospitals was 12 per 1,000 live births, whereas the death rate for planned, attended home births was 4 per 1,000 live births. *Center for Disease Control, "Live births by place of delivery and race of mother, 1992", section 1, Natality, page 246
A study published in the British Medical Journal in 2005 concluded that planned home births for low-risk women was associated with less intervention, no additional neonatal risk than that of hospital births, and a much higher degree of satisfaction by the birthing women.
In 1990, the World Health Organization stated that using midwife care during pregnancy and childbirth led to more favorable outcomes for mothers and babies and urged all countries to offer midwifery education, confident that the increased availability of midwives would improve birth outcomes throughout the world.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A heartfelt connection to my subject.

On the drive to the store two days ago, I discovered a deer that had been hit on the overpass of a busy highway interchange. I don't know how the deer managed to make its way up on this overpass, but it never made it to the other side. I imagine it was confused and afraid when finally it was hit and killed. The deer was near a guardrail close to the edge of a thirty or forty foot drop.  Since I am creating death portraits of deer, I often carry or go back to the scene of an accident to photograph the remains.

There are times though, that I miss the chance to photograph a deer since the road commission makes it there before I do. For instance, I still kick myself for procrastinating and not going back to shoot the deer that was killed just moments down the road, where a catholic church has been erected at a price tag of $12,000,000 and brought along with it, an influx of traffic to the area. I had stumbled upon it in the morning light on my drive in to work one day. The sun reflected off the faux copper steeple in the background while the deer basically lay at the footsteps of the church. When I went back a couple of days later with my camera, the shot no longer existed. (sigh)

SO last night when I left the house I grabbed my camera. Unfortunately, the deer on the overpass had been removed. Further down a busy "country" road, I found what turned out to be the most beautiful deer I've ever seen. In the back of my head, I could hear my husband's voice asking me not to stop since it was so close to when our kids bedtime, but I pulled over anyway and rushed through a few quick shots.

While I was there a woman stopped and asked if the deer was fresh. I told her no, she was cold. Upon stating this, I realized I had missed the fact that the deer had swollen nipples. Upon further inspection I realized the deer was pregnant.  The woman further explained she was looking to save the meat for food. After a quick conversation, the woman left me to continue shooting.

After she left I quickly welled up with tears as the emotion of what I was face to face with filled my body. My connection to these animals goes back as far as I can remember. I've always felt a heavy weight in my heart passing by these graceful animals on the side of the road. We have abandoned our cities expanding into their natural territories and I don't think we have the right to say THEY are the ones overpopulating. There I stood photographing a tragedy; a mother with child, hit by a car. My own pregnancies and birth experiences flooded my head. I felt that I was exploiting this awful tragedy for the sake of my art and came back to the question I always come back to: What greater contribution am I really making to society?

As I was leaving, I turned and saw a state trooper had pulled behind my van. I walked up to his window, assuming he wanted to talk, and he asked me (in a not so nice tone) if I normally drive around shooting dead deer. My response was a simple, yes. I told him the deer in front of us was pregnant and to that he wished me a safe journey.

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