I think maternity pictures are a beautiful way to commemorate a wonderful and exciting time for a family. I especially love the in and out photos that juxtapose the pregnant belly and newborn baby. I imagined an image of myself laying nearly naked but realized not only would my belly be emphasized, all my rolls and flaws would be exposed. It just reminded me that I don’t look like the women in those beautiful pictures.
Then I remembered seeing a milk bath photo and thought that would allow me to have a belly shoot without emphasizing the things that I’m self-conscious about. While we were shooting, my daughter asked to nurse. It was the perfect opportunity to take the milk bath photos a step further.
I am extremely passionate about normalizing breastfeeding in general and in the black community specifically. My daughter and I had many difficulties establishing our breastfeeding relationship and were only able to overcome our obstacles because of amazing support. Too many people struggle because they don’t have that support and they don’t see people who look like them breastfeeding. This is why we need to normalize breastfeeding. Part of normalizing breastfeeding is making sure people see breastfeeding.
I get a lot of looks when I am nursing in public. Not only am I feeding my child (or children) but I happen to be a plus size woman of color and I don’t fit the crunchy, peaceful, mother nature look that many people associate with breastfeeding. My breasts are large. Nursing a small child is difficult in the most comfortable setting but manipulating my breast in an unfamiliar place is really tough. I’ve received all kind of looks – annoyed, confused, disgusted – and that made it difficult when my daughter was young. I was not confident in my abilities and I’ve always been self-conscious so people looking at me was something I tried to avoid. After a while though I decided I didn’t care about people’s thoughts on the subject.
My kids need me for food and/or comfort. I am here for them.
I am also my own person and what I need is to not hide out at home for however many months or years my children need me to breastfeed them. My family needs to have nice dinners out and go to the zoo and shop at the mall and do all the things that other families do and we deserve to feel just like everyone else when we do them. Now if I get a look when I am nursing in public I just smile pleasantly in return. They can waste time and energy getting upset. I won’t let them ruin my day. And I won’t let them stop me from setting an example.
This is why I post “brelfies” on Facebook all the time and why I decided to share my nursing milk bath photos publicly. It has been amazingly empowering to see the end result and even more so to see the reaction people are having.
Read about this experience from the photographer’s point of view at jenpritchett.com.
Read about my water birth here.