MOTHERING On-Line Magazine: interest in incarcerated pregnant women grows!

I love how the conversation about incarcerated pregnant women and mothering in a prison nursery keeps spreading. Thanks to writer, Sheramy Tsai for doing such a thorough write-up.

This mother told me the story about getting her tattoo at a point in her life where she had hit rock bottom. Shortly afterwards, she learned she was not only pregnant but sentenced to prison. She explained, "After the birth of my daughter, I now know I have everything to lose." The prison nursery program has helped her discover another side of her self involving the love and care of her child.

This mother told me the story about getting her tattoo at a point in her life where she had hit rock bottom. Shortly afterwards, she learned she was not only pregnant but sentenced to prison. She explained, "After the birth of my daughter, I now know I have everything to lose." The prison nursery program has helped her discover another side of her self involving the love and care of her child.

Moms Loving Babies

I always have a good time being surrounded by beautiful and well-cared for babies and toddlers. I get to witness their mothers learning new parenting skills at a time in life when a child's neurological development is rapid and significant. 

Heidi and Aalyiah (4 months old)

Heidi and Aalyiah (4 months old)

Heidi says one of Aalyiah's favorite things to do is to play on her play mat.

Heidi says one of Aalyiah's favorite things to do is to play on her play mat.

Heidi delighting in her infant.

Heidi delighting in her infant.

Conversations with Prison Nursery Moms

About Addictions

"I’m in treatment and I’m so glad that I did it. I’m realizing the things that brought me to my addiction and a lot of it stems from my rape by my uncle when I was sixteen. Going to counseling has been a struggle. It’s bringing up some feelings that I’ve kept hidden. I’m trying to realize that it happened and I’ll never forget it but I need to start getting over it because I haven’t. I will probably never really get over it, but I dwell on it a lot so I’m trying not to.

"I let it consume me and I need to stop. That’s one thing I need to work on. I’m doing IOP (Intensive Out-Patient) now and when I get out, I’ll do both counseling with my counselor and outpatient treatment.

"My counselor did an assignment on triggers – and a lot of my triggers are when I think about that. So, I when I think about it, I try to numb the pain. We watched a video on meth the other day. I learned that meth doesn’t numb the pain. I thought I was numbing it but I was just making the issue worse by getting high. It’s crazy. I’m in prison for possession of meth." 

Bulletin Boards in the Prison Nursery

I photographed two women and their babies living at the prison today. One was the pregnant woman in an earlier blog. She has a beautiful, healthy, 13-day old son now. The other is a woman who has three children, the third being a smiling, active 18 month old toddler. Towards the end of the photo session, I glanced at the bulletin board in their room. The mom talked to me about her chosen items: a sketched composite portrait of her children, another drawing of a heart with a dagger, and a paper chain with numbers on it.

Bulletin boards in the prison rooms tell stories. Each mom has one that she is able to decorate as she wants, lending a personalized slant to an institutional setting. The composite portrait was sketched by an inmate who only discovered her artistic abilities while incarcerated. The second drawing shows a tearful mother behind bars with the calligraphed names of the children she left behind. And the paper chain numbers are the woman's countdown months until she is released. The mom told me that she made a gift for her nine year old daughter out of a formula can wrapped in construction paper and decorated in "girly fashion". Inside the can was a similar paper chain. She made this for her daughter so that every month, her daughter can cut off a circle of paper. This will let her know when her mother is coming home.

I am always impressed by the depth of creativity that I see when I go into the prison.