Baltimore Activists Seek to Raise 'Cesarean Voices' to New Level

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The Baltimore chapter of the International Cesarean Awareness Network (ICAN) is planning a novel approach to educating the public about the potential negative physical and emotional consequences of cesarean sections for women and their loved ones.

Funded by a grant from Lamaze International, ICAN of Baltimore is accepting submissions for original artwork that translates to the public the experience of having a cesarean, either through the artist’s or someone else’s eyes, to be shown in an ongoing installation. The exhibit, called “Cesarean Voices,” will be held in Baltimore before being made available for other organizations nationwide to use as an educational tool.

Co-leader of the ICAN of Baltimore chapter, Barbara Stratton, hopes the exhibit will reach women before they have a primary cesarean section and give them a different perspective than they would receive in a typical hospital prenatal visit or childbirth education class.

“Everyone who attends our exhibit will immediately be greeted by a poster sized blow up of the Maryland hospital cesarean rates, which will be quite an eye opener for most of them,” said Stratton.

The ICAN of Baltimore chapter will invite the local medical community to view the exhibit to show the impact that cesareans have on families.

“I remember reading a comment by an OB once that all of his cesarean patients are ‘fully functioning’ within 72 hours of their surgery,” said Stratton.  “I personally suffered from a year and a half of daily pain after my own surgery and never went back to my OB to tell her about it.”

Locating a venue for the future exhibit proved difficult for organizers, who were met with confusion, suggestions to contact local hospital galleries and rejection. Stratton was told by the director of one major art museum in Baltimore the topic is “too narrow of a focus, like doing an exhibit for people who have had tonsillectomies.” 

Elena Varipatis Baker of the ICAN of Baltimore chapter feels that art can substitute for words that some women have trouble saying. “For women whose births were difficult or traumatic, words may not be adequate to express to herself and others what she went through,” said Varipatis Baker. “Our hope is that this exhibit will give these women a voice.”  

Artists must submit their artwork before April 7, 2010. Additional information is available on the ICAN web site.