Why Expecting Motherhood to Be 'Natural' Is a Load of BS

Jeanne Sager | Mar 16, 2017 Being a Mom
Image: Leah DeVun

Leah DeVun photo series
Leah DeVun

It wasn't long after Leah DeVun had given birth to her now-6-year-old son that she started talking to other moms about birth. A common theme emerged: Disappointment. "Things hadn't gone as planned," the Brooklyn, New York, artist tells CafeMom. "Our bodies hadn't been capable of giving birth or breastfeeding as we imagined they would do naturally." It was those conversations that laid the groundwork for a stunning photo series exploring the medical technologies that assist women with breastfeeding.

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Called "In the Age of Mechanical Reproduction," DeVun's incredible photo series features moms she found on a Brooklyn listserv -- moms whom she invited to pose with the apparatus they used for breastfeeding. These photographs are beautiful, raw, and show that motherhood doesn't always look the way we think it does, or the way we see it on TV. These women are completely vulnerable with their difficulties with being a new mother, and DeVun has really highlighted how the debate on what one should or shouldn't do has completely missed women who don't always have that option. 

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Read on to see these incredible photographs of women who prove that motherhood coming "naturally" is totally BS. 

  • Shielded

    1

    "I thought it was a long shot that I would find many people willing to pose, but I was overwhelmed with responses, and the emails I got back often included long personal anecdotes about motherhood," DeVun says. "My favorite part of organizing the shoot was hearing other people's stories, which were really interesting -- also, many of the mothers felt isolated in their particular struggles, which I found were actually quite common."

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  • Holding On

    2

    "We as a society tend to expect mothers to give birth, breastfeed, and care for their children in a sort of effortless, heroic way that creates a serious burden for those who don't measure up to this ideal," DeVun says.

  • Full to the Brim

    3

    It was through the conversations with other moms that DeVun began to think more carefully about "how we categorize bodily experiences as 'natural' or 'artificial'; how entwined our lives are with technology; and how the experience of birth blurs the distinctions we usually make between our bodies and the external, 'artificial' devices that are now so commonly a part of parenthood."

  • One Side

    4

    The items featured in the photos include pumps, tubes, shields, and all kinds of accessories that DeVun says reminded her of a cyborg. They came from the moms or from DeVun's own home.

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  • And the Other

    5

    The artist says her breastfeeding experience was "bumpy but definitely not as difficult as a lot of mothers'."

  • No Hands

    6

    "I didn't have problems with latching or production," DeVun says. "More of my problems were during the pregnancy (I had lots of complications, including preterm labor, and I spent quite a bit of time on bed rest) and the delivery, which was awfully scary. The breastfeeding was more like being let in on the secret of all these arcane techniques and devices, which other friends showed me and explained to me. I was back to working when my son was 10 weeks, so I had to pump, which led to some pretty humiliating moments trying to find the right way to do it, a private place to do it in, and a dignified way to carry around my milk and store it in a shared fridge with my colleagues."

  • That's a Wrap

    7

    DeVun hopes moms who look at these photos are empowered. "I hope these images can be a counterweight to a lot of the idealized, 'naturalized' photos that we see of motherhood and breastfeeding. For a lot of women, this is the reality. It's strange and complicated, and amazing in its own way."

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  • In Profile

    8

    "All the models were so great and so giving with their time," DeVun says, "and they really went out on a limb exposing this moment to the world."

     
  • Filling

    9

    "Some of the people who've written me or commented have said that the women look miserable in the photos, but I don't think so. I see a vulnerability along with toughness and defiance," DeVun says. "The way they talked about their experiences and the subject matter of the photographs was complicated, and I think that mix of emotions is visible in their faces, which I find beautiful."

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