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Cohousing

to Provide

Support for

Nontraditional Families 

Elaboration Studio 48-510 Birth Rights | Central Northside, Pittsburgh

Studio Professor: Annie Rantilla | Spring 2019

TEAM

Rachel Baker

Serra Cizmeci

Kevin Jiang

Jai Kanodia

Alina Kramkova

Elizabeth Levy

Bingxuan Liang

Xin Hui Lim

Bridgette Mekkelsen

Nika Postnikov

Victoria Yong

 

STUDIO OVERVIEW

The Birth Rights studio will explore topics surrounding the issues related to maternal and infant health in the City of Pittsburgh. As part of this studio, students will explore existing literature to understand the scope of the issues related to pregnancy, birth, and postpartum periods of parenthood, investigate current systems in place within Pittsburgh, and meet with birth professionals and advocates.

 

By mid-semester, students will have worked together to create a series of zines focused on condensing the research they've been doing with the intention of making an accessible and educational resource for advocates and soon to be parents alike. 

Click to skip ahead to the zines I directly contributed to: Mental Health and Support.

 

At this point, the students will independently define the scope and propose a project that addresses multiple opportunities that have presented themselves through the research phase of the semester. 

Click to skip ahead to my individual project proposal: Co-housing to Provide Support for Nontraditional Families

 

BIRTH RIGHTS INTRODUCTION

Team: Elizabeth Levy and Jai Kanodia

This introductory zine poses recent statistics revolving around the shocking increase in maternal mortality in the U.S in 2018. This zine explores issues of maternal and infant care, complications throughout pregnancy and post-partum, as well as racial disparities. It also poses questions based on population size and Pennsylvania's decreasing birth rate in the past six years.

TEAM

Rachel Baker, Serra Cizmeci, Kevin Jiang, Jai Kanodia, Alina Kramkova, Elizabeth Levy, Bingxuan Liang, Xin Hui Lim, Bridgette Mekkelsen, Nika Postnikov. Victoria Yong

 

FAMILY PLANNING

Team: Kevin Jiang and Alina Kramkova

This zine is a comprehensive overview of how family planning and specifically Title X funding is critical to improving women’s health outcomes. Additionally, it raises awareness about reproductive coercion and the restrictions facing abortion care. 

This zine only begins to illustrate the myriad of decisions women of reproductive age must navigate and the potential consequences of making them. One of those decisions that is further explained and analyzed is abortion.

 

EMOTIONAL AND PHYSICAL HEALTH

Team: Rachel Baker, Serra Cizmeci, and Elizabeth Levy

This zine covers issues of racial, gender, and class discrimination within maternal care that affect pregnant people in the US, along with the effects of unequal access to health care and support systems, such as OBGYNs, doulas, and support groups.

This zine is dedicated to talking about physical and emotional well being of women during the childbirth process. It also explains birthing types, professionals available around childbirth, self-advocacy, support types, doula care, and support groups.

 

MENTAL HEALTH AND SUPPORT

Team: Nika Postnikov and Lexi Yan

This zine begins to touch on postpartum depression, its risks, and  what screening and treatment options are available. It also goes into how breastfeeding and family support can positively affect the mother's mental health, briefly touching on the benefits of cohousing for seeking additional support.

This zine is dedicated to educating and normalizing postpartum mood disorders such as depression, anxiety, and PTSD. It also delves into what medications can be taken during the pregnancy, support options for both partners, and mental health providers local to Pittsburgh. 

 

NUTRITION AND BREASTFEEDING

This zine outlines proper nutrition while pregnant, information on government aid provided to women, infants, and children through WIC, food insecurity within Pittsburgh, and statistics about breastfeeding.

This zine outlines proper nutrition for breastfeeding and pregnant mothers, provides a list of for food resources in Pittsburgh, and communicates information about the basics and the benefits of breastfeeding for new birthing people.

 

FINANCES AND POLICY

This zine discusses some of the challenges that parents face from employment rights to childcare, and how the US is faring compared to other countries. There are significant disparities between different states and within states - inequality of access to choices is an important issue.

This zine provides resources and hands-on guides for birthing people to navigate employment rights, parental leave, childcare choices.

 

COHOUSING HELPS ADULTS AND CHILDREN ALIKE

While researching the connections between postpartum mood disorders and partner/familial support, I realized cohousing provides an amazing opportunity to closely tie children into a community. Traditionally the mindset was that "it takes a village to raise a child" but a lot of people don't have that opportunity. With the astronomical cost of childcare in the United States (as stated in the Wealth Discrimination in Parenthood zine, 26% of a typical US family's net income goes towards childcare with $14,900 annually being the norm in Pittsburgh alone), geographical separation from family, and the rise of single family households, cohousing is a viable option for those that want to find their own modern day village.

Cohousing isn't for everyone but a lot of adults thrive in this kind of social environment. A lot of adults are experiencing social isolation in this modern day and age - 40% report feeling alone, 27% feeling not understood, and 43% feeling like their relationships are not meaningful. Loneliness has been alleged to have the same impact on our life expectancy as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, with a risk factor that rivals excessive drinking or obesity. In addition, a lack of social contact can hasten cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s, heart disease, depression and suicide.

 

Living in a cohousing community doesn't just mean automatic friendships. While the experiences of each community are unique, most emphasize the need to negotiate with different personality types, share resources, and contribute to the community. At the same time, you really get to know your neighbors with community events and dinners where everyone comes together. Most communities have an environmental focus with gardens tended to by the community that supply fresh, organic produce for the community dinners.  Depending on the community, there are often formal or informal carpools, children pickups, and childcare options that help cut down costs and parental responsibilities. Parents can often times find sympathetic ears to vent worries with, get feedback on parenting techniques, and grab a class of wine to unwind with. Perceived emotional and mental support are some of the most important factors of receiving support as a parent.

Growing up in cohousing communities come with a variety of benefits to the children as well. Not only are they living in close proximity to their friends, being in the same community also means their parents don't need to worry when the children are playing since there are no strangers around. From a young age, children are exposed to a variety of people from various generations, cultures, sexualities, and belief systems that open their eyes to diversity that often doesn't exist within one family structures. Children also connect with a variety of adults with different skills, interests, and talents that can help guide them in life and self discovery. 

 

COHOUSING PRESENTATION

 

COHOUSING PROPOSAL

CONTACT ME

I can't wait to hear from you!