After Los Angeles went into lockdown in early 2020, I began following four midwives as they navigated entirely new protocols caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. By photographing the midwives, I explored what it means to bear life in a time of sorrow and grief. The midwives’ phones rang endlessly with calls from terrified women hoping to deliver safely in their own homes. With hospitals flooded with sick patients and many banning partners from the delivery room, the possibility of going through childbirth without a mask and in a familiar setting seemed, to these women, like the only option.
I was struck by the courage of every woman I witnessed: the calmness and resolve of the midwives and the power of the women in the throes of labor who pushed through all of the agony. I witnessed pain and was unable to do anything but document in order to tell these women’s stories. Midwives provide guidance and guardianship rooted in generational wisdom, but mothers ultimately still must experience the extremes of birth on their own, just as death also must be reckoned with as an individual. In the middle of a time of global suffering, there is a comfort in seeing each mother holding her new baby to her breast. Two humans touching for the first time, when touch is so severely restricted.
At a time marked by separation and death, these stories of connection, care, and birth feel especially healing. Childbearing and the work of midwives is not well documented; the realities of childbirth are still taboo. This project presents individuals’ labor stories in a real and unflinching way. At a time when a difficult process is made even harder, the need to be honest about childbirth and our own bodies seems even more important. Each one of these stories is unique and it is crucial to this project to present a diversity of mothers and birth workers. This pandemic has disproportionately affected women, and this project illuminates some of the burdens they must bear.