Please send me an email if you want to share an artist who inspires you: email@example.com
I first discovered one of Phoebe's illustrations a few years ago. I fell in love at first sight. Both visceral and spiritual, her work touches me and many others in deep places. When my family and I went to Portland over the summer, I reached out to her...never thinking she'd actually welcome us into her beautiful studio and home. Phoebe has a wide range of subjects, but what I wanted to share with you was her work surrounding birth. Although not a mother yet, Phoebe recalls with fondness the breastfeeding relationship she and her sister had with their mother. As you can see, she depicts women fully, celebrating the parts of us that are so often hidden in shame. I only hope that my little Lulu will grow up to be as empowered and inspired as Phoebe (and perhaps also channel some of her creative energy to help support and encourage women in their journey). Enjoy. You can find more of Phoebe's work here. And guess what? Her Esty shop reopens in just a few more days.
Please send me an email if you want to share an artist who inspires you: firstname.lastname@example.org
Next week we will be touching on the deep and serious issue of eating disorders and pregnancy, of wrestling with the changes in our bodies as mothers, coupled with the pressure of society to maintain a certain physique. But for now, an ode to the body that brought me my angel.
Dear Body –
Thank you for your gift and service in crafting this angel I hold in my arms. Thank you for dedicating nine months to nurturing her, loving her, and growing her into the treasure she is now outside my womb.
Stomach, thank you for growing and expanding to cradle my daughter as she developed. You are now neither flat nor defined, but strong and powerful in a new way. I revel in the reminders of what you’re capable of. You are soft and feminine as I rest my hands on you, closing my eyes, remembering the gentle kicks of my darling’s feet as she grew.
Breasts, how amazing you are. You have nourished my precious baby from day one. Delicate streaks on your surface remind me of how you stretched to hold the life-giving milk that continues to sustain my daughter. A bit lower you are upon my chest, you plunge, the perfect height for my daughter to find as we both snuggle to sleep.
Hips and thighs, I could not forget you. As you widened to welcome my daughter into this world, how grateful I am for your broadening as the gateway through which she emerged. Soft and round, truly feminine and lovely in a way I had not thought possible before.
Arms, you are strong now, not from weights or gym hours, but from holding the growing body of my child. Of tossing her in the air as she laughs, of holding her as she nurses, of snuggling her as she falls asleep, of nestling her when she cries.
Back, how powerful you are, from neither yoga nor push-ups, but from wearing this babe for hours a day. From carrying her, strapped to my front to keep her close as she naps or safe in a crowd. From wearing her as we peruse the vegetable aisles or hike rugged mountains, you complain very little now as she settles in against me for hours at a time.
Eyes, though bright with love and joy unknown before now, I see those dark circles, badges that remind me of the nights of sleep regression and teeth emerging. Lines dance a bit deeper around the edges, carved from hours of smiling and laughing at the new life brought into this world.
Body, you are beautiful in a novel way, unlike what the past strivings could ever accomplish. You represent health and life and balance, and a mind heavy with eternal perspective, tangled a shade or two less with the fleeting struggle for the vacant beauty of this world. Thank you.
When is your baby due?
My babe is due March 27, but in Celtic tradition my babe will most likely be born under the same moon she was conceived...which would be March 23, which is also my dear, late granddads birthday. My family is from Northern Ireland and there are lots of birthing traditions in our culture.
What do you love most about being pregnant right now?
The mystery. I am approaching 10 weeks, so I have yet to see my belly expand, feel baby move and experience many of the nuances of pregnancy. I love the anticipation of what is to come.
What makes you feel best right now?
Hearing my daughter, who will be 3 in a November, sing and talk to her little sibling. I am convinced my little girl was created to be a big sister. Physically, staying active, ginger snaps, sea bands and extra magnesium have greatly helped with my "morning" sickness.
What are some of your struggles?
Keeping up with my daughter. Mostly, trying to stay on the positive side of thought. Before my daughter, I was pregnant with multiples and we lost them during my pregnancy. So those fears haunt me from time to time. I have also seen over 40 births as a doula since my last pregnancy and I feel that has greatly influenced this pregnancy. While the most of what I have seen is normal, healthy birth, it is still more difficult for me to not focus on what could go "wrong" with this pregnancy and birth. I feel that as I keep progressing in this pregnancy these fears are beginning to leave, but they certainly are no fun when they are around!
What kind of birth do you envision for you and your baby? What are you doing to prepare for it?
We are planning a home birth with a CNM. I imagine this birth being similar to my daughters....full of celtic tradition and spirituality, some moments peaceful and others full of cursing, but mostly I envision feeling supported and comforted by my home and family.
Best advice you've read or heard about pregnancy and childbirth?
Limit your expectations. Pregnancy and birth is a journey that teaches each of us something deeply true about ourselves, and in my belief, about our God. Take the journey with as much as strength and faith as you have and let it mold you and create you into to the mother your child needs.
My first natural birth was with my daughter in a hospital, and I was 37 weeks and 2 days along when she was born. This time around, pregnant with my son, I was planning my first home-birth. I had been having contractions on and off (5-10/day) for at least a month, which I had none of with my daughter (who was 2 yrs 7mo at his birth) – which goes to show just how very different these two labors would end up being. April 1st started off with my daughter coming with me to a chiropractor appointment where the chiropractor did some ‘uterine ligament relaxing’, which was worth the pain if it helped move me into labor! Next was a bible study during which I only had a few tiny contractions. Then I had a massage from 2:30-3:30pm where I asked him to hit all the acupressure points that are supposed to stimulate labor. Literally, as I stood up from that massage, I immediately started feeling some medium pressure massages. I decided to go to an outdoor shopping mall and walk around to keep the contractions going since my daughter was napping and eating dinner at Oma & Opa’s house and my husband was still at work – some shopping/retail therapy for Mama! I did have to pause a few times while shopping because the contractions were starting to hurt quite a bit. But then when I got into the car at 5pm to come home the contractions nearly slowed to a stop going from 1 every 3-5 minutes to 1 every 15-20 minutes, therefore it created a lot of doubt in me as to if I was actually even in labor.
What does breastfeeding mean to you?
Before I had Lola it was simply how I was intended to feed my baby. I thought nothing could be more natural and I assumed that because of that, it would be simple and intuitive. After encountering every single obstacle you could possibly imagine and finding the brightest light at the end of a very dark and very long tunnel, breastfeeding has become so much more. I feel like it has completely defined my womanhood and allowed me to embrace motherhood to the fullest. It has softened my personality, made me a better parent to my older daughter, and a more loving partner to their dad. I also feel that its power has stretched beyond our home and into the community at large. I have been fortunate enough to donate hundreds of ounces of milk to other mamas in need for their babies and I feel that my willingness to breastfeed publicly is helping break down the barriers that surround the purest and most natural of acts so that my girls can feed their babies without shame or fear of ridicule. Simply put, breastfeeding, right now, is the most important and empowering part of my day, every day.
What has been your biggest breastfeeding challenge?
I think the better question would be: what hasn't been my biggest breastfeeding challenge? I expected breastfeeding to be the easiest and most natural thing I would ever do. I had the perfect home birth and was fortunate enough to do immediate and prolonged skin to skin, delayed cord burning, baby-led latch, basically everything associated with a great start to breastfeeding and it just didn't happen. Lola did not latch on at all the first night. My midwife assured me that she had more than enough to get her through to the next morning when she'd be back to check on us. Still no latch. By the 24 hour mark I was frantic and my baby was hysterical with hunger. I was fortunate enough to have a doula, midwife, and LLL leader come to my aid. Things got very scary and I was on the verge of sending Jorge to the store for formula. That's when my wonderful co-worker loaned me her breast pump and I was able to pump colostrum to feed my baby with a dropper. I had never pumped before and boy did I work hard at it. I was getting nearly three ounces of colostrum from each breast by the next day! Great, right? Wrong. Because when my milk came in it sure came in! I was soaking dozens of receiving blankets every single day - milk was literally pouring out of me. Lola and I continued to work on her latch and because of my oversupply she was drowning in milk - choking, frantic, crying and I felt like a melted ice cream cone - a sticky mess! By the end of our first week she was finally latching and things were going great. Or so I thought. Nursing her on my right side was extremely painful - it had always been. Everyone thought it was because that nipple was a little more flat and I just needed to give it time. Then, it split wide open. I have never in my life experienced such blinding pain. I spent the next several days crying and literally shaking when it was time to feed her on that side. It was terrible. We finally took Lola to see an ear nose and throat specialist who diagnosed a severe upper lip tie. Letting that doctor cut my baby was the single hardest decision I have had to make as her mother thus far but we decided to go through with the procedure and about one week later there was no pain. We continued to struggle with oversupply and undersupply for the next couple of months and things really started to level out at the four month mark. I am so glad I hung in there because at this point I feel like I could breastfeed her upside down hanging from a tree by my toes if I needed to. But believe me, there were days when I couldn't have imagined making it this far. And of course, there are always more struggles to be had. Lola got her first two teeth at only four months and oh how those have been fun! However, my biggest struggle right now is pumping. It is something I dread doing. Fortunately I am able to pump five ounces every time I pump and so I have considerably decreased the number of pumps I am having to do per day while at work and don't pump hardly at all when I'm at home now.
Who (or what) has offered you the most support?
I have been fortunate to have an amazing support group that cheers me on. It started with my midwife who was so patient and so resourceful. Angela Hand, a local LLL leader is the reason I didn't give up. She came to my home and helped me with positioning, was the first to recognize the upper lip tie, and offered countless kind gestures and plentiful encouragement. My mom has been my biggest supporter since, hands down. She did not breastfeed my sister or I but has become the biggest breastfeeding advocate I know. She endured the mood swings and temporary depression that came on strong in the first few weeks because of the struggles I had with breastfeeding. Not only does she tolerate how finicky I am but she has become just as picky as me about the storage and handling of my milk and pump supplies. I was actually laughing the other day because I told her I wasn't going to pump on the weekends anymore and she would have to use frozen milk on Mondays and she proceeded to tell me about how it wasn't as good as the fresh stuff and expressed a real concern about that decision. SHE IS AWESOME!! She has Lola during the week while I'm at work and does an amazing job of pace feeding and comforting a baby who refuses a pacifier and has never once over-fed her or made me worry about not having enough milk. She may not have breastfed us, but I know for a fact that the patience and kindness I have that has allowed me to be successful at breastfeeding came directly from her. Lola's dad is another huge support. He went from being a very reluctant observer when I was pregnant and decided on a home birth, to a full-blown "crunchy" dad. I was finally able to begin openly breastfeeding in public after he told me that he absolutely supported me 100% and would deal with anyone who had a problem with it. I have two very wonderful friends, Doni and Chelsea, who are both breastfeeding babies who are well over a year old who have offered me tons of insight and support throughout my journey. And of course, I cannot forget, all of the other moms on the natural parenting, LLL, natural birth, and other pages online who have offered help to a total stranger. I also need to thank Monet for her efforts to normalize breastfeeding.
Any advice for other mothers who want to breastfeed?
I'm not one to give unsolicited advice but the one thing I will say is, KEEP TRYING. Even in your darkest moments, remember, this too shall pass. And always expect that whatever hurdle you've overcome will not be the last. Breastfeeding your baby will take work and it will cause you to feel the lowest lows and the highest highs of your life. But in the end, whether you've made it one day, one month, one year, or more, you've done exactly what you were supposed to do for your baby and you are a wonderful woman and mother.