A powerful new photo series is celebrating women’s strength by sharing their negative birth experiences.
The “Exposing The Silence Project” is the brainchild of women’s childbirth advocate Cristen Pascucci and doula and photographer Lindsay Askins. The pair created the series to document birth trauma and honour the strength of American women, which came about through Cristen’s work at Birth Monopoly, a community she founded.
Cristen is also the vice-president of a national maternal advocacy organisation called Improving Birth, where Lindsay had been volunteering and the pace where the pair initially met. The project has been supported by both organisations and is largely how they gained the knowledge and motivation to see it through to completion.
Their journey initially began in May when Cristen and Lindsay drove from San Francisco to New York, photographing women and recording their birth trauma along the way. They asked the women they met three simple questions: What was traumatic about your baby’s birth, what happened if you tried to tell people about it, and how are you taking your power back?
The mothers spoke about unnecessary medical intervention, humiliation and disrespect at the hands of hospital staff.
A woman named Brittany, from West Virginia's Wheeling, said, "Being a nurse myself, I trusted the doctor and her opinions on what needed done. Within an hour of my arrival at the hospital, she turned my calm and beautiful labour into a chaotic disaster because of her unnecessary interventions. She later boasted that she ruined my birth but at least my incision was pretty."
But while the answers are definitely confronting, they also help to raise awareness of a difficult topic that’s often ignored. In fact, research shows that one third of American women would describe their births as “traumatic”.
Lindsay told The Huffington Post, “Most women are very hesitant to speak about what they've been through because it is met with dismissive comments or invalidation…'At least you have a healthy baby' or 'stop complaining' is often the common response, and the result is these mothers second-guess what they are truly feeling and fall into a place of isolation and depression.”
Speaking to The Motherish, Cristen said, "This project is more important now than ever in the context of a maternity care system that is dysfunctional on so many levels--it's been called a 'crisis' by Amnesty International, and numerous health, advocacy, and government organisations have called for big changes in U.S. maternity care."
"So, it's important to understand that big picture when you're reading these women's stories--these are the kinds of experiences women are having in the only developed country with a rising maternal mortality rate, where 1 in 3 births is by surgery, and women are reporting (and research is just beginning to emerge) that coercion and disrespect and abuse are common," she continued.
Cristen added, "I know that our system is mirrored in Australia, and that makes me feel sorry for Australian women--who I also talk to regularly--who are experiencing much of the same."
Bravo - because the more women speak out about this painful issue, the better. For all of us.
Did you experience a traumatic birth?
TAP on the image below and scroll through the gallery to see more photos from the Exposing The Silence series…