Sunday, March 18, 2007

Art that makes us imagine ourselves

Call me nerdy, but I enjoy museums. I love to learn new things, see new things, and if I can interact with the art or science exhibited, even better. Well, now I don't even need to leave my house to go to an interactive, informative and inspirational museum exhibit. The International Museum of Women is a "museum without walls" and last year it began an exhibit called Imagining Ourselves, A Global Generation of Women. It is the Museum’s first interactive, multi-lingual online exhibit designed to reach a global audience and it is fascinating.

So what does it have to interest the readers of Mocha Milk? Well, each month has a different theme. The theme this month is MOTHERHOOD. None of the featured stories deal specifically with breastfeeding, but several deal with birth and those of us who deal with breastfeeding know that the way we birth profoundly affects breastfeeding.

I have spent several days exploring the site when I can. There are four short films that moved me and I hope you will take the time to view: LifeWrap, Play your Part , Love, Labor, Loss: A film on obstetric fistula in Niger and Born In Brazil. There are many other films, pictures and stories to explore and many lead to information on projects being done around the world to help women suffering due to malnutrition, poor health care and low social status.

What I learned from the March 2007: Motherhood Exhibit

1. One woman dies every minute due to complications of pregnancy and childbirth. Most of these women die from things that could be avoided through better nutrition and trained midwives and medical personnel. I am so disturbed by this and I just can not be happy with my own personal birth experiences until birth is safe for all women. I understand that birth is unpredictable and complications will occur, but I also know there is much that could be done to make it safer. Not more technology, but more training and supplies to support the ancient art and SCIENCE of midwifery.

2. The c-section rate in Brazil is 65-85%. While the "average" first labor is 6-18 hours, in Brazil it is 4 hours before a c-section is done. America - this is our future if we don't get our act together.

3. Obstetric Fistula is a big and real problem that we (especially other Black women) need to get behind and deal with NOW. Women are in labor for days at a time, perhaps a week and because of true CPD from malnutrition, can not get their babies out. These women need the right nutrition (from childhood), they need proper pregnancy care (trained community midwives) and proper medical care and intervention (trained Obstetricians). That is why organizations like the International Center for Traditional Childbirth, The African Birth Collective and others are so crucial. They not only help train American midwives and help the women giving birth while they are there, they also work to train local midwives and bring in much needed supplies.

4. Postpartum depression is not just a rich woman's disease. It can strike women in any culture and needs to be dealt with globally.

5. The LifeWrap is probably the most important first aid device to be invented in years. I am convinced it should be in every midwife's kit in the world, even here in America. It could save women from the very real, very scary complication of hemorrhage, which I have seen first hand. Yes, we have medications to stop hemorrhage in the industrialized world, but sometimes, even the medications fail. Reusable, simple to use and low cost - sounds reasonable to me.

6. No matter what our birth experiences are like in America, we have it so so so much better than the majority of our sisters around the globe. Yet most of them still breastfeed. Maybe we can help them with birth issues and they can help us with breastfeeding ones.

There are many other lessons to be learned at the IMOW Motherhood exhibit. I know I will be going back to watch more films, read more stories and learn about more worthwhile organizations and projects. If you make time to "visit" the museum from your computer, come back and leave a comment and tell what you learned. Share with your friends and family what you've learned. Increase awareness. Share motherhood experiences with your sisters around the globe.

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