A Victoria photographer recently captured a familiar but rarely seen side of motherhood in a series of photos of one mom pumping for three babies.
Sherida Rae Taylor’s photography focuses on maternity, so she frequently shoots expectant and new parents. But recently she had the opportunity to photograph something a little different.
It’s a combination of some common experiences, she said, although they’re rarely spoken about: the collaboration between mothers who can pump but can’t breastfeed, and mothers who can’t produce enough milk.
Watch: What happens to your body when you breastfeed?
“Most mothers have something they struggle with, something that didn’t go as planned,” Taylor told HuffPost Canada. “But these mothers showed me that when motherhood has blindsided you, leaving you broken-hearted, you can come out on the other side feeling even stronger.”
The woman in the centre of the photograph, Jessica Rimmer, wrote on Taylor’s website that she “dreamed of nursing my baby for nine months as she grew inside me.” When her daughter couldn’t latch, “a piece of me felt gone.”
She eventually got used to bottle-feeding her daughter, using a breast pump to extract her milk. But the pain of pumping is intense, she said, and she’s also struggled to come to terms with the fact that she can’t nurse her baby by herself.
Many people don’t realize how hard pumping actually is, said Taylor, who has four children of her own. “The pain, the time spent attached to a machine away from your baby and the constant reminder that you can’t breastfeed takes a toll on mothers emotionally,” she said.
See the unblurred version of this photograph on Sherida Rae Taylor’s website.
But for Rimmer, part of that burden was lifted once she started donating the excess breast milk she pumped to other parents.
She had enough milk to donate to two different mothers, who both produce about half the milk their babies need. One of the women in the photos is a close friend’s cousin, and the other responded to a post Rimmer put on a Facebook moms group.
The mood in the room, between the three mothers and their babies, was “emotional,” Taylor said. She teared up several times watching the way the three women interacted, the connections they had forged as they all learned to cope with situations they hadn’t anticipated.
Rimmer said she knows some people have had unpleasant experiences with milk donation, but says she has a hard time picturing that, given how validating the experience has been for her.
“This journey has been so full of gratitude and love,” she told HuffPost Canada. “Not once have I felt obligated to keep donating or to push myself. These moms have made me feel extraordinary and have been so loving. Sometimes I feel like I don’t deserve all the love, because in my eyes they’re the heroes.”