Friday, October 27, 2006

Rocky Mountain "Hi"

At the Denver Art Museum I was struck by two artists and their work. The first, by Paris-born sculptor Louise Bourgeois, reminded me of the famous midwife of the same name who, centuries ago, used "mock mothers," dummies, that she fashioned out of wicker and leather to teach other midwives about the mechanics of birth. Some man-midwives (men attending birth) around the same time, were experimenting on real mothers, often prostitutes or destitute women who gave over their bodies for study in order to receive free maternity care. Bourgeois, the (still living) sculptor, created a giant bronze eviscerated carcass, hanging from its haunches from the ceiling. The grotesque figure stopped me dead in my tracks. Obviously, I connected all the dots in my head, and thought of how the man-midwives saw these poor mothers as nothing more than a lump of meat to feast on.
Another artist portrayed the Mona Lisa as obviously pregnant -- that is why she is coyly smiling, afterall -- exposing the fetus in a cutout of her belly. I felt like birth was following me everywhere. Indeed, it followed me all the way to the Tattered Cover's newest bookstore on Colfax, in what used to be a theater. After my talk, the questions focused on cesareans, and why so many women are having them. A labor and delivery nurse/doula who works in a rural hospital (that does not have 24-hour anesthesia coverage) said that her facility had banned VBACs, or vaginal births after cesarean. Of course, such bans are the real reason why the c-section rate is rising so dramatically, to 33 percent. But her story brought home how women, simply by virtue of where they live, are limited in their birthing options. It's a shame.
Next stop: Seattle, on Nov. 1, 7:30, Third Place Books in Ravenna.

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