This is going to be a slightly different blog post for me and a call for models!
This is Katie, the first mama friend of mine who so bravely and graciously offered to be a part of this! See Katie's post here:
To be honest, I feel a little nervous putting this post out here, but here goes! As a mama of two, I struggled with nursing in the beginning. I entered my first pregnancy believing nursing would be easy, it's natural right? My body was meant to do this. Around me, I saw images of women in magazines and natural parenting resources who looked like me, blissfully nursing cute, chunky babies. I was a nanny before I had children and a teacher, so I had seen many women easily nursing their babies. Most of those women inhabited white bodies like mine, athletic bodies like mine. So, when I was pregnant with my first child, I expected nursing to come naturally, why wouldn't it? I was a crunchy, home-birthing, earth-mama. It did not. At all.
I was lucky enough in my pregnancy to have the most amazing homebirth midwives in Atlanta, Georgia, Sarahn and Toya. Sarahn warned me that there would be days after my son was born that would be beautiful and days where both the baby and I would cry as we tried to figure everything out together. Boy, was she right. We had such a hard time nursing. His head circumference was tiny, he was 10 days early, and my milk came in fast, which meant I was engorged and he just couldn't latch, he was a little jaundiced and it was stressful. After a short time, Sarahn suggested I pump and feed my son a tiny bit with a syringe to take the edge off so we could focus on his latch. I realized I had no idea how to use this pump handed down to me by my sister-in-law! I called her on skype in tears so she could walk me through all of the pieces and how they worked, while I tried, so I could actually successfully get the tiniest drop of milk.
Toya was gracious enough to come over and check on the baby and I almost daily in those first days (She lived in my neighborhood). She showed me how to position him, how to position myself and the breast to make breastfeeding successful. In those early days, while Sarahn and Toya were helping me navigate nursing, we talked a lot, including about the lack of images of women of color nursing. While I owe my success at breastfeeding to that incredible community of women and the access to support and love they provided, I also went into pregnancy feeling like nursing was normal. That normalization primarily came from seeing real women and images of women, many who looked like me, successfully nursing their babies. As a first time mama, I knew I could figure it out because others before me had. I knew tons of mamas who I could ask for help and support, even though my mom didn't nurse, I saw tons of images of women just like me nursing. I knew we would make it through the rough patch.
This is me, nursing my son when he was about 8 months or so? I hesitate to put my own picture in here, because this project isn't about me, but this is what led me to this idea. So, here's me, almost 6 years ago.
For 6 years, since the birth of my son, I've been dreaming of doing photos around this, to add some beautiful imagery of women of color nursing into the narrative. Have you all seen the gorgeous photos? The woman nursing her child in a field with a flower crown and beautiful light? It's gorgeous and it's not very diverse. I know this is a drop in the bucket in terms of the work that so many women, especially women of color, are doing, and I hope that it will have a positive impact, however small. I'm entering this project with the intention to collaborate. I believe strongly that representation matters and that the way we see ourselves reflected in the world matters.
In this spirit, I'm asking for models. If you are a nursing mother of color who would like a free nursing portrait session, I want to work with you! I ask that you be comfortable allowing me to use your photo publicly. You'll receive a high resolution digital copy of your nursing photo. I'd also like to include your story in your own words, because stories are so powerful. They can speak to the hardest, most vulnerable parts of motherhood. If you aren't comfortable with a photo of you nursing your child, I'd be happy to take a photo of you with your child and include your nursing story, although I can do very discreet nursing photos if you'd prefer! The idea of this shoot is to add something powerful to the visual landscape, and to change the narrative at least a little bit.
When I first put this project idea out into the world, Katie was kind enough to reach out. We got some absolutely beautiful images of her and her adorable son nursing. As we settled into our shoot, she told me her nursing story, it was inspiring to hear all that had brought her to this moment. The community of help she had getting to this point and it really brought home to me the importance of adding narrative to images, I initially intended to just create beautiful images. Katie is really due the credit for including her powerful story and adding that element to this project.
So, if any of you beautiful mamas would like to be a part of this photographic series to empower other nursing mamas of color. Please send me a message! Let's set up a time! If you feel like there's something to be added or changed here in this project, I'm open to collaborating!