This blog entry was written for inclusion in The Leaky Boob World Breastfeeding Week 2010 blog carnival: "Perspectives: Breastfeeding from Every Angle"
My first experience of breastfeeding was when I first nursed my son in the hospital after my caesarean. His tiny head, swollen and mishapen after spending two days wedged against my cervix, his tiny hands almost like an old person's hands after living underwater for so long, his face was wise as only newborns and the elderly are. It was a moment of wonder, and pain, and joy. I was aching after surgery. I nursed him in the football hold, his body on one side to avoid hurting my incision. The suction caused my uterus to contract, both a painful and a wonderful feeling of release, emotional and physical.
I had spent a few years in a state of yearning for that moment. I had suffered several miscarriages and a molar pregnancy, I had felt for so long as though my body were the enemy, as though my body could betray me at any moment. The moment I nursed my son everything changed; suddenly my body was my friend, my breasts were competent and friendly, my baby was beautiful. As a small breasted women I've also always felt somewhat sub-par, a little less than a real woman. The moment my new baby latched on all those feelings of inadequacy disappeared too. I felt about as womanly as I could possibly feel, overflowing with joy and bliss and sensuality in the purest sense.
It was that moment that I decided to start The Madonna and Child Project I hadn't fully formulated my concept at that point, but I wanted to express the joy and awe I felt as a new mother, and I could think of no better form than the classical Madonna and Child theme. As an artist and a mother I've had to struggle to balance both worlds. There were times when I actually continued to breastfeed my child as I completed my projects- a true case of art imitating life! Sometimes I felt frustrated and harried as every mother does when trying to balance work and life, and sometimes I've felt guilty for wanting to do art when my children need me more. Most of the time I find my work and my children are symbiotic to each other- they relate so closely to each other that I have trouble separating the two. My experiences as a mother inform my artwork, and I think my artwork contributes to my experiences as a mother in turn.
Not every moment was magical of course. I had days in which my breasts were aching and engorged and every item of clothing I owned was stained with breastmilk. My sheets were soaked at night, and I struggled with feelings of irritation or disgust at my own wonderfully productive body. Then there were other moments in which I would feel the most overwhelming love while nursing. I remember specifically nursing my daughter in bed while she was only a few days old... thinking... no FEELING with my whole body "I love you!" People explain that rush as a release of oxytocin and other hormones, but I prefer to believe that it's something more than that. It felt almost like I was experiencing something transcedent, something of the divine- God if you will. I think there is just a touch of the divine involved in the best parts of motherhood. For some that involves bathing a child, looking into their eyes and hearing their laughter. For me that also involved nursing, and that is what I have attempted to express through my art.
A blog on art, roller derby and life.
I'm an artist and mother of two in Courtenay, BC. I've completed a project called the "Madonna and Child Project," and I'm now working on a series of roller derby inspired drawings. In my spare time I play roller derby with the Brick House Betties.