I’m Not Sick I’m Pregnant, 2009
Yasmin Hernandez Art
Digital Montage on watercolor paper
18" x 12"
I am posting this as a reflection on health, illness, pregnancy and home birth and how these tie into today’s pandemic. I've told this story over and over again because it continues to be relevant.
I created this work to assert my decision to pursue a home birth for my first son (who thankfully turns 11 this week). As an independent artist who also consulted/ freelanced as a museum educator at the time, I was #uninsured . My husband, also a consultant at the time, was uninsured. He tried purchasing health insurance, but my pregnancy was a “preexisting condition”. When we visited the hospital where my doctor worked, we received a list indicating that an emergency C-section could run about $30,000. We decided to move to a birthing center. There they tried to persuade me to apply for Medicaid but said in order to do so I would have to lie and say the baby’s father wasn’t in the picture. I was uncomfortable with lying and having to keep him out of the process. He wanted to be at my appointments. So four months in, I came across the decision to birth at home. To affirm this further, at six months pregnant, my brother underwent a stem cell transplant as part of his cancer treatment. To visit him at the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit at Memorial Sloan Kettering we had to wear gowns, masks and gloves. The hospital was where he battled cancer. Birthing in a hospital seemed too triggering.
The home birth decision was controversial among our family & friends. My mother especially was worried since it was my first birth. One day, in defense of my decision, I said these words to her: "I am not sick, I'm pregnant!" My home birth happened in our living room with my husband, midwife and doula. It was the most empowering thing I have done in my life. At dawn my mother arrived to meet the baby, and later my brother who was in remission because of the stem cell transplant. Unfortunately his cancer returned a month later and we lost him after my son’s first birthday.
The pattern in the background of this image is from the dress I wore to his funeral. I had purchased it from a street vendor on the way to Sloan Kettering one day. He died at Elmhurst hospital (highlighted in the news as the virus overtook NYC). I sat by his bed the whole night playing music for him. He died the following morning with my mother by his side. This month marks ten years since his transition.
Reflecting on the pandemic and people’s refusal to wear masks and gloves, their taking advantage of health, putting others with underlying conditions at risk is heartbreaking. But what most hurts my soul is how so many are dying alone, unaccompanied and also mothers are laboring alone in hospitals without a loved one to accompany them. Many babies are also being separated from their mothers at birth.
This is a reaffirmation of home birth as a beautiful safe choice when a mother is healthy, has no underlying health conditions and is assisted by a trained midwife. Today I pray for all souls and for a peaceful, arrival and departure to and from this planet, accompanied, held and celebrated by our loved ones.