Shauna Wiley-Naefke’s “Birth Partner”

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Birth Partner, 11″x 14″, oil on canvas (Copyright 2015, Shauna Wiley-Naefke. All Rights Reserved).                                                                                                                                    

The radiant work of artist Shauna Wiley-Naefke’s celebrates the role that the birth partner plays in the processes of labor and birth. Painted in warm tones of red, brown, orange, yellow and black, Wiley-Naefke’s Birth Partner shows a partner who physically supports the laboring woman and holds her up as she bears down in the squatting position [for other images that demonstrate the benefits of this position to the laboring woman, see: Feminine DivinityBeautiful SculptureClassical GreekAncient EgyptianMatrika ArtCrowning].  To paint the scene, Wiley-Naefke used a photo of an actual woman laboring and supported by her partner.  The artist has explained to me that the photo reminded her of how she herself labored with her husband’s support during the births of both of their children.  Wiley-Naefke describes him as her “rock”, which is exactly how I have described my husband’s support during the labor and births of our two children too.   In our case, I had severe back labor with our first child because the baby was in a posterior position.  At one point, my husband and doula alternated in kneading my back for about 15 hours straight, at the end of which time my husband said that his finger prints had disappeared!  Almost immediately following the birth, my husband collapsed and fell fast asleep.  The work of the birth partner (or partners) is often underestimated, and yet it is a crucial part to the process of labor.  Wiley-Naefke’s painting brings strength to the pregnant woman and her partner, both of whom can use it in the visualization of labor and birth.

A birth partner may come in the form of a husband, life partner, doula, nurse, midwife, doctor, friend or family member, and the importance of his or her role cannot be emphasized enough.  In 2007, a research team led by Dr. Ellen Hodnett of the University of Toronto, completed an extensive study on the benefits of continuous support to the laboring woman.  Some of the research showed that having solid support during labor results in: a 31% decrease in the use of Pitocin, 28% decrease in the risk of C-section, 12% increase in the likelihood of a spontaneous vaginal birth, 9% decrease in the use of any medications for pain relief, 14% decrease in the risk of newborns being admitted to a special care nursery, and a 34% decrease in the risk of a woman’s dissatisfaction with her birth experience.

Shauna Wiley-Naefke is a Bay Area artist located in Alameda, California.  In addition to her own experiences with birth, she has attended other births as a doula.  Wiley-Naefke has shown her work in California and has a special interest in painting scenes of pregnancy, birth, and babies. Commissions of these and other subjects are welcome, and the artist is also always in need of models to take pictures of for her work.  More of her artwork may be viewed through her Facebook Page and she may be contacted through email at: s.naefke [at] gmail [dot] com.

Next month, Visualizing Birth will return to the work of Wiley-Naefke to explore other important themes found in her painting.