Angela Jane Lavender
Water Mixable Oils on Canvas
16" x 20"
I remember very clearly asking my husband to take a picture of me breastfeeding my newborn Henry, in the NICU and him asking, “Why? Who are you going to show this to?”
I hadn’t planned on showing anyone. I just wanted this for myself. I had earned this moment. I had pumped every three hours on the hour, forcing my body to produce milk that wasn’t there, that wasn’t intended to come in until 7 weeks later, when I was actually due.
I didn’t get to give Henry his first bath, or even his first several baths. His first haircut was conducted by a nurse for medical purposes. I wasn’t always the one changing his diaper in those first few weeks. I wasn’t the first person to see him or hold him. I didn’t enjoy leaving Henry in the NICU, or going home and being woken up by my alarm at 12am, 3am, and 6am, only to feel the cool plastic of my double electric breast pump. I hated the loud buzz it made and to this day I swear it sounds like it’s saying “fat - girl, fat - girl, fat - girl”. I just wanted to nurse my son.
But... Making milk made me feel like I was a mom. It did make me feel like I was doing what I could do to care for my son. It gave me something to do, to be proactive in a situation I couldn’t control. I couldn’t bring him home, but I could fatten him up. And little by little my milk came in and eventually he learned to latch and nurse properly.
Fast forward to now, 4 years later and I am so proud of this photo that I don’t want it just for myself, I want the world to see it. Breastfeeding isn’t a dirty secret. It’s a badge I feel honoured to wear. And this photo, this painting, fills my heart with joy.
I wanted to choose a name for this pierce that encompassed this moment appropriately. I wanted the title to reflect that breastfeeding didn’t come naturally to me. It was something I had to work for. Every tiny drop was so exciting! What started out as teeny tiny droplets after 20min pumping sessions at 3 hour intervals served up in a gavage feeding tube, eventually turned into engorged breasts.
It became overflowing my Medela bottles, and breast pads that were absolutely soaked, like clockwork. My body would leak at the sound of a pump, the way other mothers leaked at the sound of a crying baby.
And when he finally nursed; latched and gulped, I was a proud milk making Mama!
-Featuring Angela and Henry-