You simply must read “The Prison System Welcomes My Newborn Niece to This World” by Maya Schenwar in Truthout.
Here’s how it went: At 4:30 a.m. Tuesday, my sister was called out of bed in the state prison where she’s incarcerated with the news that she’d be heading to the hospital. Her water hadn’t broken, and she hadn’t started contractions. But this was the time slot in which she was scheduled to give birth. The labor would be induced.
During and after the birth, my sister was allowed no family or friends at her bedside, or even in the hospital. She endured labor alone, except for medical personnel and two prison guards, who rotated shifts, watching her at all times.
After 26 hours, my niece finally pushed her way out – 7 pounds, 5 ounces, and crying like crazy. (Wouldn’t you?)
Following the birth, a guard immediately shackled my sister’s ankles to the bedpost. “It made it hard to pick up the baby from the basket next to the bed,” she told us afterward. “I was afraid I was going to drop her.”
Our state has anti-shackling laws in place, preventing women from being chained to their hospital beds during labor. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be chained afterward.
The ritual my sister underwent Tuesday and Wednesday wasn’t an unusual occurrence. In prison, 4 percent to 7 percent of women are pregnant on arrival.
Something very important will happen in the global motherhood movement when we realise that prisons are as much a motherhood issue as ‘push presents’ are. (I’m quoted in the article on ‘push presents’, because yes, I have so many opinions).