Maternity Care Coalition
Designing Motherhood
Narrative Portraits 

The future of motherhood is communal and is strengthened by sharing and listening to each other's stories. The Narrative Portrait partnership between Designing Motherhood and Maternity Care Coalition embraces an equity centered and community design approach to advocate for a future where caregivers can birth with dignity, parent with autonomy, and raise babies who are healthy, growing, and thriving.

For the last year, MCC staffers and DM curators Zoë Greggs and Gabriella Nelson have visited with the direct service staff--doulas, lactation consultants, early childhood and culturally-appropriate care experts--who are the beating heart and soul of Maternity Care Coalition’s daily work to protect the lives and health of birthing people and their infants. 

Their hope was to shine a light on the hard and usually hidden work direct service staff do to care for people on a daily basis. To do that, they listened to their stories.

The project takes inspiration from legendary specultive Afrofuturist, Octavia E. Butler, particularly The Parable of the Sower (1983), and the images in the episodes come, in the main, from MCC’s archives stretching back to the early 1980s. The series includes three episodes which will be released gradually in the winter of 2021-22.

This is work that is underpaid and under-appreciated (if you’re a carer, too, you know). It deserves attention--and concrete support. Care work is some of the most important work done in society and all of us benefit from it in our own lives in one way or another.

Directed by: Zoë Greggs and Gabriella Nelson

Featuring storytellers: Rachel Blanchfeld, Adrianne Edwards, Tekara Gainey, Porsche Holland, Shayron Jarmon, Julia Lewis, April McNeal, Jamiylah Miller, Gabriella Nelson, Rasheedah Phillips, Karen Pollack, Marissa Regii, Sabrina Taylor
Images: From the Maternity Care Coalition archives held at the University of Pennsylvania Kislak Library; and other licensed images
Edited by: Austin Fisher
Music: Austin Fisher
Oral History Practices Research: Romy St. Hilaire

Rights to these stories are held by the storytellers themselves.

The storytellers are direct service staff at MCC and they shared their experiences as a way to highlight labor that often goes unseen and underpaid. Each storyteller was in control of how their narrative was presented here, but future audiences for their narratives may be far wider than we or they ever imagined. When you listen to their experiences, consider your own relationship to what they shared, and how you value their labor and how you participate in the social systems that determine how we care for those who do care work.

We invite you to watch, and then act: talk about the value of care work in public, with your family, and with your elected representatives (especially if you are a carer, because people need to hear your stories!). Bringing care work to greater attention wil hopefully help shift the needle towards (much) better support for care workers.

Some resources that might be helpful include MCC’s donation page, how to Get Involved with the National Domestic Workers Alliance, the resources that Paid Leave US has gathered, and the work of the Afiya Center and Indigenous Women Rising.

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© Designing Motherhood 2021