I have been thinking about the way she gazes at me when I’m feeding her - as if she knows the struggles I’ve had to get to be her mother. I imagine she really ‘sees’ every single ounce of shame, powerlessness, hate I have felt for my body - and she loves me still. Her tiny suckling motions and appreciative calmness as she becomes fully nourished lulls me also into a state of calm as my sense of purpose increases.
Then it becomes complicated - the sense of purpose deteriorates into relentless monotony - a never ending cycle of feed, poop, sleep and repeat leaving me tender, nipples sore, sleepless, irritable, feeling lonely and frustrated. The sense of oneness I feel with my child becomes a plea to return to our separate states of being - a cry for all that is in the past. And the heaviness and weight of caring for my helpless baby’s every need brings me into an anxious state of overwhelm.
Today, I am remembering the old feelings I had about my breasts before motherhood. I have pre-pubescent memories of desperately wanting to wear ‘training bra’ so badly - to be like the grown up girls I saw on television. When I developed (earlier than most) - I was extremely scrutinised - especially in PE at primary school - singled out by my peers, I couldn’t fit into my old clothes, felt the loss of girlhood. Teachers assumed my grown-up-ness and forgot I was still child - this partially had to do with race too but that’s another story.
The world had persuaded me the body they told me I needed was a body that wasn’t right and I desperately wanted for puberty to reverse. Eventually, I stopped participating in sports through embarrassment - left the athletics team, quit netball. It makes me sad and angry at the world for making a me feel that way I did about myself.
I end with asking myself - in what ways can I support my child through these difficult years of growth? Like most parents, I want my child to feel confident in their body. I want them to know its value - that it belongs to them and that all wonderful and interesting things it does are just things and whatever they feel about it - thats okay too.
I want them to know they are worth more than their body. They are needed and loved and there is space in this world for them to be exactly who they are.
So this is my new mantra: there is space - right here in this moment for us to be exactly who we are.
📸 Photographer: Beth Morris Photographer