I stumbled on a great magazine a few weeks ago: Hip Mama. It’s published in Berkeley and I’ve never seen it before, though this is its 55th issue. I bought it because I liked the cover: a woman breastfeeding a preschooler, like on the famous Time Magazine cover, but way more funny and ironic (there’s a Spiderman costume involved).
And when I randomly flipped it open, I saw another amazing image.
It’s by the same artist shown on the cover, Ana Alvarez-Errecalde, and it’s a self-portrait taken moments after the birth of her daughter. Ana sits on the floor, beaming a million-watt smile. She’s nursing a brand-new infant, whose umbilical cord is still attached (it stretches toward the floor, where the placenta rests heavily). There’s blood smeared on the baby and the mother, and a rumpled piece of cloth on one of Ana’s legs.
It’s a little shocking, very beautiful, and totally joyful. It shows a woman filled with power and satisfaction and awe. It also shows the earthiness and realness of birth. I love how unafraid of her own body Ana looks in the photo, and how comfortable she is with birth as an animal process (yup, it can be a leetle bit messy). At the same time, the image is totally human in that she revels in the sheer delight of a new baby. She’s making a point of showing herself as a proud woman who, in this moment, needs nobody’s help to be a capable mother. Or, as she puts it in the article:
“The ‘Hollywood’ versions of birth show the mother as a spectator, the baby as a product and the doctor as a hero and protagonist. A birth like mine reverts that order. The mother is the protagonist, the baby is the motivation that justifies and gives a transcendental meaning to the experience and the doctor (midwife, father, friend) becomes a spectator that offers support only if the woman needs it.”
Mothers: YOU ARE THE HERO OF YOUR BIRTH STORY! You have the power! It is your body, your baby and your day. Live it up!