An L.A. Doula Brings Visual Art — and Her Punk-Rock History — to Birthing
Maggie Ehrig has assisted 50 families as a trained doula. A skilled photographer, she also documents “the most epic and intimate rite of passage of [women’s] lives.”
Photo by Danny Liao
Her answer came quickly: the decision, almost 30 years earlier, to give birth at home. From the cozy confines of their Venice Beach apartment, Ehrig and the baby’s father, ex–Black Flag drummer Emil McKown, counted every contraction, and upstairs neighbor and friend Hillary Bedell acted as their doula.
Since then, Ehrig’s major focus in life has been the art of giving birth. She has assisted 50 families as a trained doula, providing resources, comfort and help navigating the many twists and turns of pregnancy and childbirth. As a skilled photographer, Ehrig also documents “the most epic and intimate rite of passage of their lives,” encouraging women to be driven by their own spirit and instincts.
Ehrig’s photographs buzz with a palpable, concentrated passion. A woman bowed over her knees, anticipating. A man clasping the sweat-drenched hair of a straining mother-to-be. A baby, nestled on a breast, eyes awake. Ehrig also creates renderings of the placenta that resemble universes flecked with tiny stars and planets.
“With my photographs and the art I create from images of the placenta, I seek to capture the intimacy and emotions within each moment,” Ehrig says, “honoring every aspect of the journey.”
Ehrig’s own birth was not so phenomenal. In 1962, her teenage mother traveled from Oklahoma to have her daughter in secret. St. Anne’s Catholic Home for Unwed Mothers in Los Angeles housed her and acted as a liaison for Ehrig’s adoption.
“I don’t even know where I spent my first six months,” Ehrig says. “Never did I experience that initial bonding or trust, which was a major factor in who I became.”
Who she became was a pivotal player in the L.A. punk scene. A runaway at age 17, Ehrig was a powerhouse of unbridled energy in the clubs and on the curbs of Hollywood — a prodigious punk princess who starred in the cult film Suburbia, fronted the band Twisted Roots and, in 1980, was featured on the cover of the L.A. Weekly for a story titled “This Violent Generation.”
“Being at the forefront of L.A. punk, I expressed myself radically with what I wore, how I looked — indigo blue dreads, scissored-up pinafores, fishnets and combat boots,” Ehrig says. “In my work now, I fade into the background. I’m not the star; the mom and the baby are.”
Today Ehrig is a quirky, pensive artist with a loose salt-and-pepper ponytail, dressed in a gray T-shirt and jeans. She’s a doula with a past that shapes her present. And she’s a woman bent on paying tribute to the individuality and miracle of every birth.
Maggie Ehrig with her placenta art
Photo by Danny Liao
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