I met Denise Cortes of PearMama.com on a media trip a couple years ago and have been following her work ever since. She’s not only a beautiful and vulnerable writer (and person!), but she’s also an amazingly talented artist.
Her colorful paintings brighten my IG feed, and when I saw this one when she first shared it I insisted she let me know when it would be available for sale so I could tell all of you. It’s finally available in her Etsy shop, just in time for World Breastfeeding Week/Month!
The description on her Etsy listing for this Milk|Leche, Body Positive Art Print reads:
If I have forgotten who I am, remind me. — Rumi
We celebrate bodies of all kinds. Your body is beautiful. I make art to remind you.
I asked Denise a few questions about her art and motherhood and breastfeeding in honor of World Breastfeeding Week. Here’s what she generously shared:
You have 6 children, right? Did you breastfeed any/all of them? What were your own breastfeeding relationships like with them? Did it vary from baby to baby?
I go into it a little on my most recent blog post but yes, I breastfed all six of my children. With my first baby, I didn’t really know anything and didn’t have a support system in place so we stopped around 3 months. With my other five children, I was obsessed with the idea of fully breastfeeding. I just felt like it was so important for their growth and our health. The bonding aspect was a big deal to me as well — I really wanted that relationship with my babies. Sadly, I struggled with low milk production after each of my subsequent five births. I did it all: nursing on demand, I pumped, I took fenugreek pills, I drank copious amounts of Mother’s Milk tea (one whiff of licorice these days and my stomach turns) and used an SNS (supplemental nursing system) filled with a little bit of formula. I even rented a scale so I could make sure they were gaining enough weight. It worked. I was able to maintain a breastfeeding relationship with all of my babies and they were able to grow and thrive. The longest I breastfed was around 18 months.
What inspired you to paint this?
My inspiration was my own mother. She did not breastfeed her four children because it “just wasn’t something women did any more”. She was discouraged from breastfeeding and it always made me so sad. Her healing came when my sister and I began having babies. She watched us breastfeed, she encouraged me to keep trying even after one of my babies was diagnosed as failure to thrive and she was so happy to witness the bond we had with our babies as they nursed and that was so rewarding to me.
You are an experienced mom who has raised babies into teens and young adults now, so what wisdom would you pass onto a first time expecting mom, especially as it relates to feeding their baby?
The time you will spend breastfeeding your baby is so brief — enjoy it. Consider it a moment in your life when you have permission to slow down and really enjoy motherhood. There were moments I just wanted a break, when I wanted that particular stage to quickly pass us by, when I wanted some freedom and some space for my body! I mean, we all do. That doesn’t mean you’re a terrible mom. But looking back, I’d give anything to be able to lay chest to chest with my baby again. What a really, really special time in a mother’s life.
This is part of a new #ParentIdLikeYouToKnow series where I’ll share some of my favorite parents who are making and doing amazing things. I hope you’ll stay tuned!