Motherhood Mondays: Sculpture

Many people probably turned off their computers for Labor Day, but I can’t help sharing a couple things! First up, isn’t this sculpture gorgeous? The sculpture, called Survival of Serena, has been installed in downtown Manhattan for the summer. It portrays a swimmer taking a break, and passersby have been wowed by its hyper-realism—so much so that one day when it rained, people didn’t know which drops were real.

But, to me, this sculpture looks strikingly similar to a woman having a home birth and laboring in a tub. (Like this photo of my friend Leigh!) The same athleticism, the same quiet concentration. It’s sort of amazing that the artist didn’t intend that!

(Photos by Jenna Fain and Andrea Swalec)

  1. I definitely saw work by the same artist at the Venice Biennale in 2007! Definitely did a double take :)

  2. I had both my girls at home. (No water birth, though). For me it was absolutely the right decision. We were comfortable, and I had very healthy easy pregnancies, plus hospitals make me very nervous. I’m so glad I did, and my older daughter was there for the birth of her sister. It was a very cool experience for all of us!

  3. I have a picture of myself very similar to this taken by my sister as I labored in a birth tub in the comfort and privacy of my bedroom. Home birth was perfect for me because I trust my body and birth. My daughter was born gently out of my body and into her father’s hands. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  4. Before reading the text I thought it was a home-birth!
    I gave birth to all 4 kids in hospitals and would do so again. No home birth for me

  5. I had my first son at a birth center. The perfect in between. Not quite a hospital, not quite at home. It was a beautiful craftsman house a block away from a hospital. They had no pain meds available so you had to be committed to a natural birth. There was lots of natural light and it didn’t have the clinical feeling of a hospital. After the birth my husband was able to crawl into bed and sleep with our new baby between us. We were able to go home as soon as we felt ready. 48 hours after the birth they sent a nurse/lactation consultant to your home. It was perfect. My second son was a hospital birth. It was not the same, but still full of joy.

  6. I have a family history of pretty complication-free pregnancy and births so when I became pregnant I felt really confidant for a natural medication-free birth. It wasn’t until I was 20 weeks along and toured the hospital I would have been giving birth in (St Luke’s Roosevelt) that I made the decision to switch to a midwife and a home birth. It was the right decision for me knowing what I did about my family history, my now 1 year old daughter knowing what I knew from my pregnancy with her, and my husband whom I feel like I inadvertently gave a beautiful gift to. It was just him and I for the first half of my labor and he really got to be a part of it, as the only other person there was our midwife and then eventually, her assistant. Everyone has to make their own decisions about these things based on knowledge and information and comfort, but for us, I would not have changed a thing!

  7. I was born at home, in the room that is now my father’s office. It seemed to work for my mother who had my father and the midwives at her side. My two aunts cared for my sister throughout the labor and delivery.

    There is something beautiful about coming home and feeling rooted, from my birth, to home.

  8. I’ve had a home birth 4 months ago (first baby). It was an amazing and painful experience and I wouldn’t have done it any other way. I think it’s important that a woman has the option to give birth wherever she feels comfortable.
    As for natural vs medicated, I think it’s each one’s responsibility to make informed choice :)

  9. I’m pregnant now and love the idea of a home birth, but out of respect to my boyfriend we’re going to hospital route. The idea of a home birth (especially for our first baby!) freaks him out and since I’m not totally sold on the idea yet either, I want us BOTH to feel completely comfortable with our plan.

    So, we’ve sort of met in the middle. We’re using a midwife in a hospital setting, and one that supports our birth plan to not use any medication (if possible). The hospital we’re using has tubs available to every mom, as well as hypnotherapy and aromatherapy.

    I feel like a woman’s body is able to give birth naturally and free of all of the over-medicalization that our society seems to find necessary so I’m really pleased to find providers with the same views! It feels like so many U.S. hospitals treat pregnancy like a condition instead of the natural, beautiful life experience it is.

  10. Home birth is the best!! I am a midwife and had my second child at home, the first in a freestanding birth center.

    It’s definitely not for everyone(which I think is the important point) but if you are a good candidate it’s an experience like nothing else.

  11. Amazing sculpture!

    And I agree that each woman should choose what is best for her. BUT I do think she should be informed of all the options and the consequences and benefits of each. Unfortunately, I think many women are not informed, and scared away from alternative birth experiences.

    I have had a home birth… and a free-standing birth center birth, AND a hospital birth. Each was special because each resulted in a beautiful healthy baby! My 3 birth stories are posted on my blog if you’re interested or curious!


  12. We have three sons. Our three sons were all born in a hospital. I am not a hospital person. They terrify me, and I was so nervous for each one. But, we know without a doubt that hospital births were best for us and our children.

    When making the decision to give birth in a hospital or at home it is crucial to consider what is not only best for the mother, but also what is best for the child.

    Our second son was born with the cord wrapped so tightly around his neck, he was purple. He was rushed off to the NICU because of breathing problems. He stayed there a few hours until he was stabilized. If I had chosen a home birth, I would not have had the qualified professionals there to take care of him. The thought of us and a midwife dealing with his condition on our own, scares me much worse than giving birth in a hospital.

    I believe a good compromise would be birthing in a hospital, but using a midwife. I used a midwife for this same son’s birth and she was wonderful. And yet, when our oxygen deprived son was born, he was rushed into the hands of qualified nurses and doctors.

  13. When I first saw the thumbnail of the sculpture on my reader I assumed it was a home birth!! I’m holding my sleeping three month old and realizing that because I had such a complicated, long (37+ hours…) birth, I’ll probably never even consider a home birth. I did, however, have a midwife and think that whole experience is the bees knees.

  14. I had 2 amazing home birth experiences. they were both the most empowering times in my life. I have never felt so in control, so exhausted and so joyful.

    Some will comment that I’m “crazy” or “brave”–but the truth is, I would have been petrified to do it in the hospital. For me, that was MY nightmare.
    I felt knowledgable and didn’t have fear of the birthing process, which I believe helped aid in handling the pain.

    Whatever choice a woman makes, is up to her..but I would strongly advocate that women learn and know that they have a choice!

  15. My first birth was a hospital birth, and my second two were with midwives in a birthing center. While I think that a woman should choose for herself and be comfortable with her choice, I also believe that natural, non-epidural births are so, so much better for our bodies. A Doctor usually won’t tell us that- they make it sound like getting an epidural and having a hospital directed birth is the best thing to do. But it isn’t. Our bodies recover so much more easily and quicker from a birth where we control things without being numbed. Yes, it hurts and it’s hard. But in cases where the mother is physically able to push the baby out and doesn’t need medical intervention, it is so worth it. I wish I had not had an epidural with my firt baby.
    I didn’t use to be quite so passionate about it, but I don’t think women are being told the information that they need.
    With my last two babies I went home a few hours after their birthes. I could walk around and take care of myself without any problem. I didn’t get up two days later and mow the lawn like one of my friends, but I could have!

  16. People will probably jump on me for saying this, but really it’s irresponsible to have a home birth. I suggested it to my boyfriend and he said “could you forgive yourself if anything happened?” I thought about it for a minute, and agreed.

    I realize women have been giving birth for thousands of years yadda yadda, but they’ve also been dying giving birth for that amount of time as well. Seems silly to have a home birth when X, Y, Z can go wrong when hospitals are available.

    Personally I hate hospitals and don’t necessarily trust doctors, but I am pretty sure that the statistics would say that hospital births are safer than home births. If I were rich and could have my own private physician come out and supervise a home delivery then maybe, but I think that generally the safest thing for mom and baby is to be in a hospital. Not to mention the fact that I’d never want to do a natural birth – yes please to the epidural!

  17. As much as I’d love to try a home birth, I just don’t think I’d be comfortable. I was an emergency c-section, and when they discovered the problem, I had to be delivered within 5 minutes, or I would have died. That terrifies me to no end when I consider my own children! I do like what Elizabeth had to say about control, though. I want to be in control of the process, even if I am in a hospital.

  18. I had a beautiful home birth in June for my first baby. I was a little nervous that something could go wrong and that I had no idea what to expect, but it was truly amazing and something I’ll always remember. I’ll definitely plan a home birth again for no.2. I wasn’t always quite as composed as the lady in the sculpture though, especially when labouring on the toilet. x

  19. As much as I would love to have a home birth one day… I’m pregnant with our first, and I’m just too nervous to do it. I have no clue how my body responds to labor, and I just want to be somewhere with professionals in case anything should happen. At least with my first.

  20. I feel so lucky to live now in the Netherlands, where homebirth is built seamlessly into the healthcare system — it’s been really fascinating to observe the difference in perception and incidence here and the States.

  21. Regarding Elizabeth’s post, please go take a look at
    The doctor there makes great argumented points towards some number twitching and basic fact manipulation the home birth advocates can make.
    I am, pro home birth choice, I just think that the information given is maybe often a bit misleading.

    My father is a doctor and knows from experience that a birth can go array is a second and in some cases the hospital is just too far away… Personally, i’d never take the risk as i’d never forgive myself if something went wrong.

    People put their kids all strapped in car seats, screech when we see a kid eating sausage hot dogs and use only organic stuff but don’t want modern medecine to be there to help monitor and save a potentially much more dangerous situation… come on…

  22. The sculpture is nice close up I touched it very realistic. Anywhoo I don’t want to have kids lol but if heaven forbids hospital it is. I’d rather adopt or maybe not lol

  23. I thought it was a birthing mama sculpture at first too! Amazing.

    I had my first two babies in a birth center and my last at home. I loved my home birth even though it was my lonwest by 10 hours. It was pretty cool knowing my other sons were sleeping soundly in their beds down the hall and that I got to climb into my own bed (and stay there!) with my new baby in my arms as soon as he was born.

    Not that money should be an issue in a woman’s birthing decision, but I saved $10,000 in facility fee by having a home birth. Bonus!

  24. A homebirthing mama was the first thing I thought of when I saw this sculpture. It’s so lovely.

    I had 2 homebirths, and I just can not say enough about how amazing that experience is.
    My husband now talks to dads who are skeptical about the process.

  25. I’ve had two hospital births and three homebirths. Both can be good, and both can have annoying parts :). I encourage women to chose what they’ll feel most comfortable with ad through the guilt/second guessing out the window!

  26. I have a friend that had a home birth and it did not go well at all. I’m sure in most instances it is fine but there is that one chance in a million something goes wrong. As a result she and her husband are now divorced, he is caring for their retarded daughter and my former friend took off to Europe.
    Just in case something stresses the baby or the mom, I always wanted a hospital and doctors around because of this incident.

  27. I’m a nurse-midwifery student and have been to lots and lots of homebirths as an assistant. I absolutely love them and think they can be perfectly safe if you have a good care provider. I had my first 3 months ago and while we tried for a home birth I ended up at the hospital because I somehow got an infection and while in labor. We lucked out and got a great nurse in the hospital who let my midwife continue to provide me care until the doctor showed up at the last minute. I will say that without my midwife, I would have 100 percent had a c-section. Almost no doctor would have let me labor for two days and push for four hours (even though baby was doing great the whole time)!

  28. What a great blog. This is Carole Feuerman, the artist. I love what the sculpture means to you. That’s the purpose of the fragment. I want the viewer to complete the story, to touch and feel touched.i am so happy for you. Thank you.

  29. I had a wonderful home birth experience. I so loved not having to go out in the cold, leave my home, or be concerned with driving my newborn babe home. I highly recommend, if mother’s are healthy. Otherwise, it can be risky. For us, it was the best choice! :) Naturally, the sculpture reminded me of a home birth too!

  30. Two births in hospital ended in Caesarean for me. In hindsight (and armed with more knowledge and info) I felt they were both unecessary. Third time around I had a homebirth… A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. I wish I had been more clued up the first time. Still…. either way I still ended up with three beautiful children!

  31. She has the prettiest fingers!! No, really… she does, don’t you think?

  32. I would just like a water birth :) seems very relaxing and I love the water

  33. So many comments about judgement, and I wonder if it’s by women who haven’t had babies? I had a home birth, and I would never, ever ‘judge’ a woman who chose a different path. The only thing that bothers me is how serene and easy most photos depict home births. Mine was HARD, like every labor is HARD!!!!! I was not quietly leaning against the side of the tub with my eyes closed. I was leaning on my husband and screaming!

  34. You need to watch Jim Gaffigan’s Mr. Universe skit (especially the home birthing part), it’s HILARIOUS!!

  35. JW says...

    I actually did have a homebirth and it was everything I could have wanted. We had a birthing pool in the living room which worked out great. I was comfortable, surrounded by my midwives, my husband and my mother for extra support. Labour and delivery was short, which I attribute to being home and feeling comfortable. Afterward while my baby slept, I got to relax and sleep in my own bed, didn’t have to worry about clean up or staying in the hospital ( i hate hospitals.) It was just awesome, and for any uncomplicated, or normal pregnancy, I totally recommend it.

  36. i wanted a home birth but my midwife only delivered in the hospital, which was also a birthing center. to me, it did not matter if it was at home or at the hospital. i had a natural birth with a midwife who was confident and experienced. she had the best reviews in the east bay region as far as midwives go. at my first meeting with her i knew that i would be in the best care.

    at the hospital (birthing center) i was also able to walk outside while in labor… to the garden, rooftop with a view of downtown san francisco! etc. it was very nice and i needed that distraction… so it was a great choice for me.

    she also had full privileges at hospital. that in itself made a huge difference!

  37. you and that leigh girl have almost identical blogs! weird! i don’t know if that is just a weird coincidence or if she subconsciously copied yours but either way, that’s kind of funny.

  38. I’ve had 3 children and I would not have a home birth. It sounds wonderful as long as everything goes well but when things go wrong they go wrong fast and I want an MD and a hospital, I wouldn’t take that chance. But I do like a natural birth, which I had in a nice birthing room.

  39. That is amazing! It totally looks like a woman in labour… I had a home birth, it was planned but I wasn’t sure if it would happen. I’m so lucky that it did, it was the most intense expereience ever, but being at home was so comfortable and relaxed. I would definitely recommend home birth, so lovely to have your own stuff around you, bathroom, bed and everything. Thanks for the post Joanna! X

  40. That is amazing! It totally looks like a woman in labour… I had a home birth, it was planned but I wasn’t sure if it would happen. I’m so lucky that it did, it was the most intense expereience ever, but being at home was so comfortable and relaxed. I would definitely recommend home birth, so lovely to have your own stuff around you, bathroom, bed and everything. Thanks for the post Joanna! X

  41. That sculpture is amazing.

    My first was born in water in a lovely, very homey birth center.
    I really wanted a home birth with my second but the nearest HB midwife is more than an hour away and my first labor was so short we didn’t think we should chance it. The birth center is less than 30 minutes away, so #2 was born there as well. I would have loved a home birth, but in the end I was glad to have been at the birth center. He was born with an omphalociel and had to be transferred to a children’s hospital. If we’d been at home and called an ambulance we would have been taken to our small local hospital, which isn’t equipped to deal with that. The birth center was able to arrange transport right to the right hospital.

  42. I loved my two home births… peaceful, relaxed environment, warm pool, no strangers, got to climb into my own bed afterwards. I’m a very private person, so it was wonderful for me to be in my own space without interruptions. I loved being able to set up ahead of time and visualize what I would want to have around me.

    I think mothers need to be where they will be most relaxed when they are birthing. If a woman would be stressed the whole time at home because she is worried about safety, noise, or some other factor, then a home birth is likely not the best choice for her.

    More than WHERE the birth happens, I think that HOW the mother feels (relaxed? respected? supported?) is the most important part of a healthy birth (barring unavoidable complications, of course).

  43. Baby number one was a hospital birth. It was not a good experience for me and I just kept saying “everything would be better if I was at home”. I had baby number two at home. Now that im expecting baby number three, we are planing another home birth!

  44. Wow, that is neat!

    I think the dichotomy between home and hospital births is greater in the United States than in Europe. I’ll be having a hospital birth (in Germany), but I can choose between water birth or traditional, and it’s all handled by a midwife, with the Dr called only if something goes wrong.

  45. That sculpture is UNBELIEVABLE. Wish I could see it in person.

  46. This is so beautiful and moving – I love the dual meaning, whether intended or not. Thanks for sharing!

  47. Ah, one of my favorite topics!

    I hope to one become a midwife, as well as a mother, and homebirth is something that’s very close to my heart. It’s funny because everyone in my family has had hospital births, so I’m not quite sure where I got this passion- I LOVE reading birth stories and when bloggers keep track of their pregnancies month by month so I can live vicariously through them until it’s my turn :)

    Leigh’s stories are such a joy and a privilege to read- SO MUCH bravery, both in the home birth experience (of course, in ANY birth experience. I don’t at all mean to imply that women who choose hospital births are any less brave) and the willingness to share that online.

    So glad more and more people are considering homebirths!

  48. When I saw ‘Motherhood Mondays’ and the photo of the sculpture (together), I thought this is a woman having a home birth and laboring in a tub, too.
    And this sculpture is gorgeous!!

  49. I loved my hospital birthing experience. Everyone was so caring and sincerely wanted what was best for me. I never felt pressured into anything, and I am thankful for that. I also felt very safe and protected.

    During my stay I sort of felt like a princess with every need being taken care of – like I was on vacation with a beautiful baby to take home!

    Of course, when i got the bill I wished I asked for even more!!

  50. I would definitely consider a home birth (assuming all was going well with me and baby). I was only in the hospital for an hour and 43 minutes before my first was born, and the hours spent laboring at home were MUCH more pleasant. Granted, by the time we made it to the hospital I was in the most intense part of labor, but still. Alas, we live in Alabama, where midwives are not legally permitted to attend a delivery, so the hospital it is, for now. Maybe one day!

  51. Beautiful post! I am a mother of two boys. For the second I considered seriously a home birth… but I didn´t go forward with it because would be expensive for me, so I have opted for the hospital birth. Happily the birth was so good… I was very present, everything went so well…(very different from my first experience)… but I have no doubt that would be much more amazing if was in home. If I have another child… homebirth no doubt!

  52. Wow. That sculpture is striking.

    My husband and I are planning on having children soon. He is a chiropractor and I am an acupuncturist and people just assume that we are going to have an at home birth right. However, my mother had a lot of complications with my birth (and my brother’s) so I have always envisioned my birth being in a hospital. However, I do plan on having a midwife with me through all of the steps, and will plan for a natural birth (no pain medications).
    I really like the article that you shared. Thanks!

  53. personally, I am sort of exhausted by the “home vs hospital” and “natural vs medical” conversation as a whole. even these otherwise warm, supportive and seemingly neutral “do what is best for you and your baby” public missives still echo either guilt or righteousness, imo. the constant judgement we place on one another as women and mothers is just exhausting…

  54. beautiful. thanks for sharing Elizabeth’s post too… as a new pregnant mum, its shocking to me how pushy people can be about what is “right”.

  55. One of my aunts had one hospital birth and FOUR at home births after that.

    I think it would be such an incredible experience, but I just don’t know if I could do it. I mean, I’m sure I could… if I put my mind to it… but I don’t know if it’s something I’d really want to do.

    For me, I just feel more comfortable in a hospital… and of course, with the Epi… lol.

    I’ve only had one baby… so I suppose I’m open to try another route with the future ones. But I think you’re right. There is no one size fits all for child birth… EVERYONE will have a totally different experience… and we should be respectful of however they choose to do it :)

  56. I wanted to do a home birth but found out I was prego with twins. My doctor told me that most women have to have a c-section with twins so I opted to go to deliver my babies in the hospital. Of course, I didn’t have to have a C-section and delivered both babies vaginally within 4 hrs after arriving at the hospital with only the last hour having an epidural! The irony!

  57. Thats amazing!

  58. Wow – intense! Having never witnessed or experienced a home birth, it didn’t cross mind until you mentioned it. Two of my friends had home births and, after hearing their stories, I was inspired to consider it if I ever have a baby. For me, the most astonishing part about their stories was hearing how active their husbands were throughout the birth, to the extent that if you get them (the husbands) talking about it they won’t shut up. You can see in their faces how alive and vivid that memory still is for them.

  59. My parents friends had a version of this Feuerman sculpture when I was growing up. It always amazed us to see how realistic it was. Amazing!