Motherhood – joy, pain, nostalgia, guilt and so much more. I always wondered if other moms had the same fears, frustrations and hopes I did.
Sometimes is easy to get lost on the endless discussions about vaccinations, online learning, and so many other important things, but what about the big picture stuff? What really goes on in our heads? I always felt the need to be heard, but struggled to find a space for women, and specially mothers to speak frankly.
This is where the idea for this project came from, a place to speak openly about motherhood and everything else that comes with it. I hope you enjoy the beautiful images and words from women around Portland, wherever you are.
Tell me a bit about yourself, what would you like others to know about you?
I was born and raised just outside of Portland and eventually branched out on my own to Western Oregon University where I got my first bachelors degree and met my husband. We’ve been married for the last 4 years and have a (newly) 4 year old. I started the process to become a surrogate in 2016 and in 2019 delivered a baby girl to a long-awaiting family. More currently, I’m a nursing student at OHSU and spend any truly FREE time that I have at the yoga studio.
How do you define motherhood?
I had an interesting relationship with my own mother for all of my formative years and because of that my grandmother resumed that responsibility in my life. It is my believe that biology doesn’t make family, and even more specifically biology doesn’t make a mother. What makes a mother is presence. What makes a mother is intention. What makes a mother is memories. Motherhood isn’t being perfect, but it’s showing up with pure intentions and creating a safe enough space for your children to explore their world with curiosity; always knowing you’re there to catch them if they fall.
Do you feel motherhood has changed you? In what ways?
Motherhood has changed me in many ways. Birth changes your body in so many physical ways, after having done it twice my hips are curvier, tummy a little softer and I’ve been left with an 8in vertical scar down my stomach. See after having my own son and then deciding to be a surrogate I had some very serious birth complications. Complications that, at 25 years old, required an emergency hysterectomy. My husband and I had planned to have more children of our own shortly after the surrogacy. Becoming a mother to my son changed me immensely. It made me more patient but also taught me how to turn on the stern (I definitely break out the mom look when needed). My son has made me more imaginative and loving him has given me the strength to get through some pretty dark times. Delivering my surrogate changed everything I thought motherhood would look like for me. At first it all felt bad, but now, more times than not, I’m contented in my family, my life and my role as a mother. It’s a really good feeling.
What is your biggest fear as a mother?
There are two that vie for being “the biggest” fear, one of which is not teaching my son enough about respect and equality and fairness for him to be a decent human being. I taught my son about consent and bodily autonomy before I taught him his ABCs. I want him to live in this world as a confident, respectful and courageous person and I hope I’m doing enough to help him on that path. I also worry a lot about leaving him, about me being taken away. My PTSD after my last delivery coupled with anxiety/depression is something I have to work through and actively manage. It’s kind of the ugly side of birth and motherhood but it’s real. I want to make sure I’m doing everything that I can to live a healthy and long life to be there to see all the amazing things my son will do in his life.
What support do you think mothers lack the most in society?
I think our society fosters a lot of competition between women, and subsequently mothers. We lack the humility to approach another group of women and admit struggles and dark times. We fear judgement or maybe even we’ve caught ourselves judging others and fear that their doing the same to us. Motherhood broke me down, down to a place where I just needed help and support and that pure exhaustion is what led me to my moms group. We were all new moms with babies under 1, we all were exhausted, we all cried, we all had puke or poop on our shirts or a nipple half out. There was always something. It was in those connections that I developed the confidence to be a mother. To learn to trust myself and my decision making capabilities. Caring for a human being is kind of insane, they send you home from the hospital with a living breathing person that you’re just responsible for and I was terrified. I feel like many mothers don’t get to make these connections. They miss out on the supportive bonds made while sitting together and crying over literal spilt milk, they miss out on the sharing of real life stories that normalize the struggles that every mom goes through. Motherhood is hard and I don’t think there’s enough stories about the reality of it.
How can mothers show up for each other?
Mothers can show up for each other by letting go of preconceived notions about what mothers are and the way they should parent. There’s a million ways out there, all with their own quirks, but as long as children are safe and supported shouldn’t we try to do the same with each other? Give each other the security and support to flourish as mothers the same way we give security and support to our children to help them flourish as human beings.
How do you want to remember this period in your life?
I want to remember this period of my life as an exciting, bright, opportunity for growth. I feel like I’ve been climbing a pretty steep hill for quite awhile dealing with some difficult circumstances and emotions and there’s a power in that. A power in making that hard climb and realizing that your legs can withstand it. Making it to the “top” but not really to the top, more to the top of your imagination. The top of what you imagined could be possible so from there your climb up can be full of wonder at all the amazing things your body, mind and soul are capable of overcoming and exploring.