Gaia: Strength in Motherhood

 

Growing up with a mother who was a labor and delivery nurse provided me with an early introduction to birth and motherhood. I would watch birth shows on TV and hear my mom’s friends talk about their pregnancies. It fascinated me, but the only stories I heard were of mothers giving birth
in hospitals, breastfeeding, and using disposable diapers. It never occured to me that there were other options, and learning about those options drastically changed my views on the subject. e way we view and talk about birth and motherhood are deeply rooted in western culture. e quick growth of hospitals in the early 1900’s pushed midwives and home births to the wayside. Hospitals changed the way women were treated during their pregnancies, and o en used medication and surgical procedures when not absolutely needed. Now, the earlier practices of home birth and more holistic medical care for mothers are becoming popular once again.

In this body of work I use a non-directorial approach, while following the diverse stories of three families during their journey through birth. With families both using holistic approaches as well as more Western care plans, I am able to comment on the incredible strength needed no matter what choices a mother makes. e mothers I have photographed each have a unique story; Brynn who struggled with infertility, Jodi who ended up needing a Cesarean Section, and Katie who is mothering three other children while welcoming her new baby. is series aims to celebrate and share the unique stories of each family and mother. My work focuses on capturing unposed moments during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum to include not just the tender and beautiful moments, but the struggles and challenges as well. Much of my photographic process is in uenced by Jade Beall and her work with “ e Bodies of Mothers: A Beautiful Body Project” which compiles the stories of mothers from all over the country and pairs them with photos. Beall seeks out a diverse group of mothers and she does not retouch the images speci cally to show the bodies of these women in their true form.

e journey I’ve taken while making these images has made me aware of the immense strength and courage these women have and I hope to encourage those who are going through similar situation. Birth is an incredibly unique thing, and by showing these numerous approaches it is my goal to share just how important and valid each families journey is.

Special thanks to the Beukema, Barker/Plont, and Parrish families, Faith Groesbeck, and Erica Guthaus for making this project possible.

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