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The Yellow Wallpaper

Currently 1 in 5 women will experience perinatal mental health struggles during their journey into parenthood.

Black Womyn are twice as likely as white women to experience perinatal mental health struggles, including traumatic birthing experiences, and are 2 to 6 times more likely to die from childbirth complications due to lack of access to services.

These stats represent the experience of cisgendered, heterosexual women. Other birthing parents who are trans, queer, intersex, or gender non-conforming are not included or identified in current public research on perinatal mental health.

The Story

When writer Charlotte Perkins Gilman experienced a post-partum mood disorder in the 19th century, the "cure" was worse than her illness, prescribed by a doctor who believed that his female patients were faking their symptoms. Perkin Gilman's response to her treatment was the short story, The Yellow Wallpaper.

Written in 1892 the story is still read and studied within post-secondary institutions around the world. It's portrayal of a woman's descent into seeming "madness" is a story that continues to make us question how we treat womxn in crisis. It tells the story of our societies' continued lack of understanding and turning of a blind eye.

In 128 years, how far have we really come in supporting birthing parents?


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It is getting to be a great effort

for me to think straight. Just this nervous weakness I suppose. He says no one by myself can help me out of it. That I must use my will and self-control and not let any silly fancies run away with me. There's one comfort — the baby is well and happy and does not have to occupy this nursery with the horrid wallpaper.

I make lists in my head

of all the people I could possibly give him to, who could take care of him better than I can. I thought maybe my sister, or my best friend. The list goes on and the thoughts won't go away, of wanting to find a better home for my son because I feel completely incapable of taking care of him. I'm even scared of him most days.

I hate the tired, bitter, fearful

person I've become, and I feel so much guilt for feeling this way, because I'm supposed to feel joy. I got what I wanted after all these years, didn't I? I go to bed at night and think that I shouldn't be a mother. That I shouldn't have done this. What kind of mother isn't happy to see her baby when she's there crying for you? She just wants you to love her and you can't even do that.

My thoughts are like those

Russian dolls. One inside of another, inside of another. Just looking at a bare tree branch I am so sucked into the vortex of desolate thoughts, and one minute feels like one hour. The immensity of time weighs me down and I think — this is just one minute — and I have 60 of them to make one hour and I have 15 hours in one day. My partner is working long days. Alone with just a baby is who is crying and crying.

You are a real mother.

You don't kick or break any toys
on purpose. And you don't scream and you don't weep
Your baby grows. You've got a shiny red shovel
for all your shitty feelings.
You've got a daughter with a broken lip
where she's been biting down.
The house is full of nests. Tiny piles of torn
newsprint, a million crumpled swans
swimming down the stairs. Another life
folded inside each paper bird.* * excerpt from White Paper Swans, a poem included in the book Precious Energy by Shannon Bramer (book*hug 2017) — used with permission from the author.

Post-Part is the creation of the artists of the Longernin Collective

Pazit Cahlon (lon), Catherine Mellinger (ger), and Nat Janin (nin), in partnership with sound designer Adam Harendorf.

Post-Part draws on the written works of Charlotte Perkins Gilman and Barbara Ehrenreich, as well as takes visual inspiration from the contemporary collage movement and the RGB innovation of the Italian design duo Carnovsky.

It reimagines a 19th century-style brocade wallpaper pattern incorporating a "hidden" collage narrative, combined with an immersive auditory score to bring to life the experience of Postpartum Mood Disorders.

Using testimony from local Kitchener-Waterloo and Toronto communities, as well as Catherine Mellinger (collaborating collage artist) herself, the installation presents an opportunity to question and reflect on how far wehave come in supporting birthing people during the postpartum period.

Thank you