The Women Who Changed it All: Normalizing Breastfeeding and Our Bodies { Divine-Mothering }

Left Kathryn with her son, and Mallory and her daughter.
Photo by LilianaBeatriz.com

I already shared with you the amazing image from Erin White Photography which is getting an incredible amount of attention. If you haven’t seen it, you should! Go check it out here, in this amazing post by Krista Zurn titled “The Shame Game” on Erin’s blog.

But what I haven’t shared yet are the images that I had the opportunity to shoot once our group photo was finished.

It was a last minute decision that I am so thankful for. Because at that moment I was reminded of why I love photography, reminded of why I had started divine-mothering.com, reminded of what I found so mystical and amazing about women and their bodies. What I captured in these photos is everything to me. And while the shoot was literally only a few minutes long, as I waved over whoever wanted a photo as quickly and simply as I possibly could, it filled me up with so much positive energy. Like my very soul was consuming this joy we all felt.

I need more of this in my life! I need to keep make sure that these moments happen again and again and that as many women as possible can experience them. This is why Divine-Mothering is launching a Series of Photo+Interviews for mothers and women. So that we can come together and celebrate each other, our bodies, our accomplishments, our spirits, and the special bond we share as women.

To find out when the next Photo+Interview Session will be, click here.

And now, I leave you here with the words of some of the amazing mothers who shared their stories, speaking about their choice to participate in the photo session as well their personal breastfeeding journeys.

Thank you, Krista Zurn for collecting the stories and graciously sharing them with me so that they could be published in their entirety.

As I read through them it was hard not to get emotional. These beautiful, beautiful women are my inspiration. Their unapologetic fierceness shook me to the core.

We will not be silenced. Our bodies are incredible, and we are proud of it. So very proud.

{S}Hero Achely

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Ashley with her child. Photo by LilianaBeatriz.com
“As an active duty Soldier/mother my schedule is demanding. When I first started breastfeeding I had this unrealistic schedule that paralleled the demands of my son while I was at home on maternity leave. Soon after returning to work, I realized, that just because something is unreal doesn’t mean it’s impossible. In the morning-6am, I nurse my son on one side while I pump on the other side, this way he has a fresh meal every morning. Throughout the day, at work, I pump and store for the next day. Often times this conflicts with my schedule but being that I am a federal employee working in a federal facility, I have access to a place where I can pump and not feel ashamed. When I return home, I resume the same process, pump one side while nursing on the other. Now on the weekends it’s a different story. On weekends I can bond with my little one, I can exclusively nurse him, and appreciate the opportunity to do so.
 
This is why I am an advocate for normalizing breastfeeding… because when given the opportunity I shouldn’t have to turn my face away in shame, cover my son’s face in fear, or be restricted to a room simply because society tells me I’m acting outside of the norm.
 
Breastfeeding as a black woman has its challenges, but the biggest one is making sure that the message I am sending is a clear one. While I’m sure nearly all breastfeeding mothers who nurse feel this way, I speak from a different angle. When I had my first child, my great-grandma told me to cover myself, not because I was being inappropriate, but for her fear of what other wives might think if they caught there husbands looking at me.
 
For years the black nursing moms was a myth, a fairytale, the unseen. As moms of every race grace the cover of magazines, I patiently waited for my green light; a phenomenal black woman to make a statement so bold she inspires WOC (women of color) to come out of hiding. Nearly seven years since my grandmother’s death, I take solace in knowing that the times are slowly changing, to include my perspective. You don’t need black to relate to black, you just need to freedom, encouragement, and support, all of which can be found in most moms, despite their race.
 
I take pride representing the women of color. We’ve all heard “black women breastfeed too” but to be honest,  I wasn’t too sure if that was true but I stand here today to tell you they do!” – Achely
{S}Hero Jessie
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Photo by LilianaBeatriz.com
“I’m Jessie Holland and I’m nursing my 13 month old son in the photo. He is still nursing through the night and consistently through the day so we’re just following his cues on when he wants to wean (which doesn’t look like anytime in the immediate future).
I also have a 5 1/2 year old daughter who I nursed for approximately 3 months (always pumping or hiding in other rooms) because I didn’t have the knowledge or support for breastfeeding like I do now.
Where I am from, breastfeeding, especially in public is NOT that common and if uncovered, you would hear others mumbling about it. I know this because I had the same thoughts about breastfeeding before I came to our current location and received such amazing support and gained a wealth of knowledge. I think most importantly, I was exposed daily to women nursing their children in public all over the place, which helped me realize how normal and natural breastfeeding is and should be.
When I heard about the opportunity to partake in this photo, I was eager to do so because I’m proud of the past year, being able to exclusively breastfeed my son and do it when and where he needs knowing that I am providing him the best comfort and nourishment that I physically can. My mindset regarding breastfeeding has changed so much in the past 2 years and I thought by being involved with this project, it showed that growth.” – Jessie
{S}Heros Kathryn & Mallory
Left Kathryn with her son, and Mallory and her daughter. Photo by LilianaBeatriz.com
Left Kathryn with her son, and Mallory and her daughter.
Photo by LilianaBeatriz.com

“I’m Kathryn Washington. I just turned 24, and this is my 10 month old son Ezekiel. I’m a first time mom, away from family, so we are learning everything together. Our breastfeeding journey has been rough, but we are both determined to not give up. Struggling with low weight gain for my son, I started researching. We visited with a CLC and an IBCLC. I tried pumping to increase supply, but barely anything came out. I received donor milk and tried to feed my son through a supplemental nursing system,  but he refused to take it! We even tried mixing donor milk with formula in a bottle, but he wouldn’t take that either.  Zeke wanted nothing but my breasts. After seeing  specialists, causing countless tears and frustration, Ezekiel received a tongue tie and upper lip tie revision. We still struggle feeding to this day, but I’m not weaning him until he wants to.

I chose to be in the picture fully clothed because that’s how I feed my son in public. Nobody pressured me into taking my clothes off, and I didn’t feel awkward keeping them on. I wanted people see that breastfeeding, no matter how you do it, is beautiful. I’m a conservative Christian, and also wanted to show the church that breastfeeding in public CAN be “modest” without using a cover. Taking part in this picture was empowering to me. We,  especially women (and the church) need to stop shaming mothers; no matter what they look like, covered or not.”

In the individual photo… “the woman next to me is Mallory. We are polar opposites. I am a conservative Christian, she is an open atheist. I am tall and slender, she is shorter and thicker. I have a nursing tank on, and she is topless. I have small breasts, and well…she doesn’t! I feared being shunned by family and never being seen the same again for partaking in this project, and she knew she’d be supported. I have a son, and she has a daughter. We most likely raise our children in completely different styles as well.

So why are we paired together, and get along? Because we have at least one thing in common: we are both mothers; and that is a bond of sisterhood we both understand.

In the group photo I remained fully clothed,  but standing there after the photo was taken,  I felt empowered b and convicted. I felt moved for some reason by God to remove my pants;  something I never thought I would do. I realized something at that moment. I did not feel dirty, nor ashamed. I did not feel immodest, or like I was sinning. I felt euphoric and BEAUTIFUL! Something I cannot describe.  My soul felt pure, and that I was worshiping God in an intimate way. As if by feeding my son, bearing my body, I was in the garden of Eden. Would I feed my son in public with just my underwear on? Probably not, but this photo is about so much more. I encourage everyone to look at it from my perspective,  and women to imagine yourselves there; dressed however you feel comfortable.

As for me and Mallory…To me this photo represents that although we are quite different, we share the bond of motherhood.  We have a connection here on earth that cannot be broken. And that is beautiful.” – Kathryn

“I’m Mallory, and this is my 13-month-old daughter, Ali. I had her a month before my 27th birthday, and, with the knowledge and encouragement of my older sister, we have successfully breastfed since birth. Although I endured a lot of nipple pain for the first three months, I endured, and we have a fantastic breastfeeding relationship. Doing so has helped her cope with busy and loud places, to fall asleep, and help her when she has gotten boo-boos.

Having her gave me much larger breasts and some truly beautiful stretch marks on my now-round tummy. I am proud to wear my new body, because it reminds me of how I got this perfect little girl.” – Mallory

 {S}Hero Jaclyn & Liz

Jaclyn with her daughter, left.  Photo by LilianaBeatriz.com
Jaclyn with her daughter, left. Liz and her son, right.
Photo by LilianaBeatriz.com

“My name is Jaclyn and that beautiful baby girl with me is my daughter Julianna. My breastfeeding journey has not been the smoothest, especially in the beginning. I had no prior knowledge of breastfeeding, no one in my family ever breastfeed their children. I endured sore, blistered nipples and long emotional nights. With the help of an amazing breastfeeding Facebook support group I was able to conquer through the hardships and there was always someone to give me the courage to keep going when I thought I couldn’t. And now we have been successfully breastfeeding for 10 months!

When the opportunity came up to take this photo, I honestly wasn’t doing it for others. I did it for myself. My changing body during pregnancy was difficult for me and especially afterwards was hard. I’m at a good place with myself and I have just recently began to appreciate my stretch marks and mommy belly. This body carried and nourished my baby for nine months and pushed for 4 hours just to meet her so I should be proud of this body. To just be out in the open, half naked, with other beautiful mothers was such an amazing feeling.

There was no judgement, we all looked beautiful.” – Jaclyn

“I’m Liz and in the photo I’m nursing my 16 month old son, Emmett. When I was pregnant my husband debated me for hours over the “proper way to nurse in public”. To me there is no proper way to nurse, you just feed your baby. I went from clumsily nursing in my car, afraid of drawing too much attention to myself, to nursing at the base of the Eiffel Tower without a cover.

Participating in this photo shoot was a big step for me; I have always been self conscious even at my smallest and after having a baby my once toned stomach was proof that I had bore a child, complete with a c-section scar. As I read the description for the photoshoot project I knew that it was something I had to participate in.

Gone was the fear of someone seeing my curvy frame, instead it was replaced with joy knowing that something powerful would be created. Mothers are beautiful, babies are beautiful, and when you happen to be nursing a child, that to me is the epitome of beauty.” – Liz

{S}Heros Tiffany & Olivia

Photo by LilianaBeatriz.com
Photo by LilianaBeatriz.com

{S}Hero Krista

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Krista and her child. Photo by LilianaBeatriz.com

To read Krista’s amazing words, go check out the original blog post “The Shame Game” published with Erin’s incredible group photo.

To read about my own experience participating in Erin’s photo, check out this blog post “You Inspire Me”.

If you are interested in Liliana Beatriz Fotografia, visit the website here.

If you are interested in Erin White Photography, visit the website here.

If you are interested in participating in the Divine Mothering Photo+Interview Series inspired by this photo session, Follow Our FB Page and Join our Events.

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Posted on: June 1, 2015, by : Lotus_Lili

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