This is a haunting painting in which both the birth giver and the birthed child seem dead. The head of the woman giving birth is shrouded in white cloth while the baby emerging from the womb appears lifeless. At the time that Kahlo painted this work, her mother had just died so it seems reasonable to assume that the shrouded funerary figure is her mother while the baby is Kahlo herself (the title supports this reading). However, Kahlo had also just lost her own child and has said that she is the covered mother figure. The Virgin of Sorrows, who hangs above the bed suggests that this is an image that overflows with maternal pain and suffering. Also though, and revealingly, Kahlo wrote in her diary, next to several small drawings of herself, 'the one who gave birth to herself ... who wrote the most wonderful poem of her life.' Similar to the lithograph Frida and the Miscarriage (1932), My Birth represents Kahlo mourning for the loss of a child, but also finding the strength to make powerful art because of such trauma.
The painting is made in a retablo (or votive) style (a small traditional Mexican painting derived from Catholic Church art) in which thanks would typically be given to the Madonna beneath the image. Kahlo instead leaves this section blank, as though she finds herself unable to give thanks either for her own birth or for the fact that she is now unable to give birth. The painting seems to bring the message that it is important to acknowledge that birth and death live very closely together. Many believe that My Birth was heavily inspired by an Aztec-style sculpture of Tlazolteotl, the Goddess of fertility and midwives.
Popstar Madonna collected this painting. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Madonna said she used this painting to tell who is her friend and who is not. “If somebody doesn’t like this painting”, Madonna said, “then I know they can’t be my friend”.