On an average day in the United States, two women die from childbirth-related causes. Another 139 suffer serious, near-fatal conditions after giving birth. While in other developed nations this rate is falling, in the U.S. our maternal mortality and morbidity rates are rising. (There are 141 paper dolls on this piece, one for every women who dies or nearly dies every day in the U.S.)
The causes of this trend are complicated. Lack of access to overall healthcare and specifically prenatal care contribute, especially for women living in poverty. Racism contributes: black mothers die at three to four times the rate of white mothers. The growing numbers of Caesarian births contributes to complications in childbirth. The lack of effective, standardized medical protocols in some facilities contributes.
Regardless of the cause, behind every one of these deaths or incidents of morbidity is a family. The tangible and intangible costs to each of those families is extreme.
These statistics didn’t really get through to me until I talked to my mother a few weeks ago, describing this piece. She said, “That’s what happened to me when Kris was born.” I remembered that she’d told me she’d been sick after my youngest sister was born in 1963, but the details were sketchy. What I learned was that to treat her postpartum hemorrhage, she was given blood transfusions and told to go home and rest. She ended up in the ER, where she finally – and thankfully – received proper treatment. Contemplating what a loss that would have been for all of us, I felt numb. When she told me her story, all those statistics became real: my two sisters and I could have grown up without our mother.
After World War I, red poppies – the seeds of which germinate in disturbed soil – bloomed all over the battlefields of Belgium, inspiring the poem In Flanders Fields. The red poppy became the symbol for Remembrance Day, celebrated in Europe and Canada.
I think red poppies also make a powerful symbol for remembering the mothers who died and the ones who nearly died, like my mother.
This piece was part of the exhibit, Ultraviolet: Textile art revealing women’s issues and has an ultraviolet message screened on the blue ‘sky’ section. It reads, “For the lost mothers and the ones who nearly died.”
33″ h x 34″ w, unframed, but comes with framing instructions