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A Mother’s Beauty 2021

Edmonton Photographer | Hobbs Photography

Welcome to the 2021 edition of A Mother’s Beauty. We were beyond happy to be back photographing these sessions again this summer and already are planning our 2022 sessions! As always, we were blown away by the strength, beauty and wisdom

best Edmonton photographer makes portrait of a group of women and children for A Mother's Beauty project
Best Edmonton photographer makes portrait of a variety of postpartum women
Best Edmonton motherhood photographer shares portrait of 2021 A mother's beauty participants at Lake Eden

“When I got pregnant I was 20 years old with the guy I had been dating and living with for the past two years. I knew things were rocky between us but I thought maybe after he found out the news things could change… maybe voices wouldn’t be raised, lies wouldn’t be told and substances wouldn’t be needed anymore. I remember after he found out the news he would tell others he was so proud, excited and would post the ultrasound photo but behind closed doors he would tell me I need an abortion, that it isn’t fair I get attention, that it was all a mistake. It later turned into me not being allowed to come, bigger lies that would unravel and I would be to blame that he had to make them to begin with. I spent the first few months of my pregnancy crying myself to sleep at my parents on the bottom bunk of my younger brothers bed. Eventually I got a message saying he didn’t want to do it anymore so I got a drive to our house and he was gone along with his stuff. Going through something so heartbreaking during your pregnancy, then having to deliver in a room with just your mom, stay at the hospital all by yourself with your new little human really teaches you how strong you are. It made me realize how much love I have to offer and the relief that sometimes doing the hard things alone is better.”

Katie, 23

“We are shaped by our experiences. With my older child, especially in the beginning, I was an absolute wreck of self-doubt. I would question every decision I made – pacifier vs. not? Baby-led weaning vs. purees? I honestly had never been around babies that much – I had no siblings of my own, I didn’t do a lot of babysitting, etc. I thought I might ruin her forever if I went down the wrong path. I think back on that now, and I wish I could just put my arms around that scared first-time mama and tell her that truly – all you need is love…I was glad that I had learned that lesson before my second came, because there were some different challenges that came out of her birth. We found out the day after she was born that she had Down Syndrome, and three days after, that she had a significant heart defect that would require open heart surgery. While those were big things, no doubt, I was really grateful to have already learned the lesson that “all you need is love.” That was our north star in those early days…”

Bryna, 42

“Motherhood made me more empathetic. I approach myself and others with more grace.”

Renee, 32

“Having two babies, back to back really pushed my capacity in every single sense in the physical and mental realm. I gave birth to my second daughter, Forest, the day before the lockdowns were announced. My husband lost all of his work overnight, and so I went back to work 1 week post partum to keep our family afloat. We went through months of sleepless nights with a newborn, tending to a busy toddler while I worked with a baby on my breast…and the world felt so uncertain. I had already experienced prenatal depression in Forest’s pregnancy, so the depression deepened with post partum. The spiral of post partum and no support ignited my inner rage- something I had been supressing since giving birth to my first daughter. I felt incredibly alone and ashamed of my feelings – until I started opening up and sharing about it. Going to therapy. Practicing breathwork. Taking medication. Talking with other mothers and realizing that post partum rage is so common, yet something we have not gotten comfortable talking about yet. I realize now that depression and rage in new mothers is a reflection of today’s society especially the unmet needs of the mother and the loss of the village. My experience with PPD and PPR has been challenging yet so transformative and healing. It has bridged more self awareness with myself to know that when I begin to feel the inner fires swell again, it is a signal from my body to ask for help – because we mothers NEED support- we were not meant to do this alone. I wish for more mothers to know this… Your rage is sacred and it is a signal being released from deep within. It is a symbol of your awareness and your strength.”

Lauren Mary, 32

“At this point I just realized that life isn’t designed to bless us. It’s destructive, fluid, aggressive, relentless, and it doesn’t care what you want or how you feel about it. It goes on even when you think you can’t. And the reality is that life owes me nothing. Peace and joy comes from hope, love, beauty, understanding, and above all, I believe it comes from accountability. I’m accountable for my perception, choices, my help, my mindset, my input, etc. I’m learning to control what I can and let go of what I can’t. And to accept things with out expectations.”

Rayne, 29

“There is no instructions manual to being a “good” mother. What we’re shown as acceptable parenting is always reflective in how we were raised, good or bad. Even after having three kids, I feel like I’m always in a frenzied balancing act and regrettably it took a quiet toll on my mental health for years. However, there is one thing this pandemic has taught me and that is to slow down. Yes, it took a fucking pandemic for me to take a mandatory leave from doing, doing, doing, and slow…down. I know there are many things I need to work on as a parent, but thankfully now I know what’s important, but also taking more time for me (without the guilt). Because at the end of the day, it’s truly to embrace the notion of progress over perfection.”

Mary, 38

“The biggest struggle postpartum has been connecting with my partner. There’s so much resentment for his freedom and how much naturally falls on my shoulders. My past self would have ran long ago but things are different once children are involved. You no longer have just yourself to think about. Relationships are hard and that’s not normalized… choosing your partner over and over again, despite their failings (not forgetting our own behaviours and pitfalls, of course), remembering that they are a whole person and allowed their own parenting experience.”

Caitlin, 33

“At first I had a hard time looking at my very different body after I gave birth. I now had scars in the form of stretch marks all over the place, there was so much swelling everywhere. I was very self conscious especially since i didn’t seem to be “bouncing back” like the celebrity’s or social media influencers do. I did a lot of inner healing work to address my struggles with PPD PPA and part of that was learning to love and affect my body as beautiful and powerful for all it had done in growing and birthing a baby. Now after my third baby I fully embrace and honor my body, stretch marks and all. I accept it will never look like it did before I had babies but it’s not supposed to, I’ve gone through a major transformation as a women and become a mother.”

Abby, 36

“For me the hardest thing about myself postpartum been not having a sex drive. I just don’t feel like myself, I’ve always had a high sex drive and now I’ve had no interest. My body doesn’t feel like its mine because so much of it now feels like it belongs to my son. But the best thing has been that my husband still tries to make me feel sexy and loved without making me feel like I have to do anything about it. He has been such a help trying to get me back to myself.”

Jessica, 29

“Its funny, I have always loved kids. Growing up I always babysat and was the first one to offer to hold a new baby. I always knew that I wanted to be a mom. But having my own children has highlighted my best and worst traits in ways that I didn’t expect. It has shown me that parts of myself that are loving and good and kind and amplified them. But on the other side, it has also shown me the sides of myself that are angry, and anxious, and ugly and amplified those as well. Both sides are me, but one side I wasn’t really aware of until I had my own children and the worry and anxiety that comes with having humans that you made out in the world. I will say that I am definitely not the mom I thought I would be. I though I would be the Mom who was always doing crafts and going on outings with my kids and everyone had on coordinating outfits and most days the thought of doing a craft with my kids sends my anxiety through the roof and going to the grocery store is the only outing that I will even consider taking my kids on and just forget about the coordinating outfits because I am always drowning in laundry and who even has time for that. I will say that my boys in matching outfits sometime is pretty cute though.”

Aimee, 35

“Being an Indigenous mother, my parenting skills or abilities will never be considered mainstream or admired in this country. I will likely always be on the opposite end where people are very critical of the things I do. Did you know the phrase, “stop acting like that or someone will call child welfare” is a common saying in Indigenous households. I’ve even said it to my own children without a second thought. This would be said in moments where my children were simply being children and acting out, because of the fear of how someone non-Indigenous might perceive what I’m doing as a parent. This is because I know child welfare is a very real threat to my family as Indigenous people, no matter how good of a parent I may be. When I bought my son a new gaming console he happily said “I’m so happy I just want to scream, but I can’t because someone might hear me and call child welfare”. We thought it was funny in the moment, but thinking back I realize that this probably isn’t a common fear to many non-Indigenous families.”

Summer, 30

“I once had someone tell me they didn’t believe postpartum depression was a thing because how could you be sad when you just had a beautiful baby. I think no matter what struggles you have postpartum whether they are physical or mental we are all going to have our days both good and bad. Now that more of my friends are having babies we are learning to ask the right questions. Not just asking how baby is sleeping, asking how mom is sleeping, how mom is feeling, if mom needs a break. There are a million things we ‘should’ be as mothers but there are also a million things we can be including being more supportive to other moms whether it be their first kid or their fifth. “

Andrea, 28

“I am proud to be able to breast feed. Besides creating a human, I am most proud of my breast feeding journey. To know my body supports life and give it an opportunity to grow is amazing. Feeling my baby’s heart beat next to mine. Gazing into their eyes. Feeling their warmth in my arms as their hand is pressed on my cheek. I am overwhelmed with joy and love.”

Efi, 37

“Oh boy my mental health was at an all time low this past 10 months plus my pregnancy was also a horrible time. I’ve faced some of the deepest darkest spaces of my mind. After it became clear that my daughter was just going to cry all day everyday I grew so resentful and had so much regret and rage. I was already feeling so much of this because I was incredibly sick in my entire pregnancy. I didn’t want to exist anymore. I wished my daughter didn’t exist. I missed myself and I missed my husband and my first born. I felt like such a failure as a mother because I was supposed to love my daughter and I felt like I didn’t want her anymore. I was so mad at her and at myself for not being the mom I was supposed to be. Eventually, slowly, I fell in love with her and I even like her now.”

Kelsey, 30

“Postpartum is tough. Change is tough. My body who had a human cut out from it feels so foreign to me. That c section shelf that earned its place is something I still struggle with. The stretch marks, stretchy skin and scars are gentle reminders of every scan, ultrasound, needle and insulin dose it took to have three incredible kiddos.”

Amanda, 30

“Becoming a mother has really opened me up to the true magic of the feminine. I’ve developed an appreciation for that energy in myself and others.”

Amy, 37

“One is the things I feel like is perpetuated in current mom culture is this mentaility of “Don’t worry momma, you go this” and this mentality made me feel like I had to go at figuring out motherhood on my own. My son had a speech delay and behavioral issues that were later diagnosed as a sensory processing disorder. And I remember staying up late googling, “why does my son do x, how can I stop my son from doing x”. I asked our pediatrician about my concerns and was dismissed. I finally pushed back and said “I need help, I can’t figure this out on my own” and I was referred to a number of resources from a child psychologist, social worker, speech therapist, and occupational therapist. This was the support network that I needed, this was the group that told me I was a good mom and not a failure,, that showed tools and tricks to help support the development of my child. In my opinion, motherhood is not meant to be a solitary activity and sometimes your community is your mom friends and sometimes that’s your mom community includes a network of professionals. There is no shame in asking for help.”

Leanne, 33

“I’d love to say I feel stronger but the sad truth is I feel weaker, exhausted and as a failure. I have family and friends who would say how lucky I am to be a stay at home mother and how easy it must be, but everyday is a struggle. I constantly had to hear negative talk growing up, but it became even more prevalent after I started my own family. In the back of my mind I can still hear comments about a women’s build, size, how she ate, and how loud her walking was even though that has been removed from our lives now. I’m extremely cautious if how we represent certain words in our home, they are neutral, and I am constantly instilling that in my children.”

Katy, 27

“When I had my first child I managed to get back to a size 1 in two weeks!! I use to think that skinny was healthy. I use to push myself physically to keep those pounds off. Definitely a conditioned response from my upbringing & from the world around me. The C-section with my third is what stopped the weight loss insanity. I mean I wanted to push myself, but my body physically couldn’t do it after I had the C-Section. So I was forced to let go of prescribed ideas of how I should look. Believe me this was a struggle for me that went on for the most part of my thirties. I really felt depressed about the way I looked & the fact that I had let myself go.
After I turned 40 I decided to try and let go so I could love my body for everything that it has been and for what it is. Even at a size 1, I never really stopped to thank my body for all the beautiful gifts it has given me. I think sometimes as Mother’s we forget how much our bodies go through to grow these little humans. It’s actually quite amazing.”

Kristie, 40

My postpartum struggle started out mentally. I was so anxious in hospitals. Graesyn had all these wires attached to him and I was so scared to hold him at first because I thought if I touch one wire it could hurt him . Being in the nicu there is constant sounds going on and I remember every sound to this day . I was glued to Graesyn’s monitor day in and day out . My postpartum really kicked in when I thought “if these nurses are trying this hard to care for him how will I do it “ I started to doubt myself and that is when I started to get in my head . When it got closer and closer to discharge I should of been excited to bring my baby home thinking about it but I was not. 33 days of sleeping on a pull out couch in a place that I use to hate and I finally get to go home and actually be a family of 4 under one roof and I wasn’t excited …. this is when I knew I had to see a doctor . Looking back I was just anxious . Bringing a baby home on oxygen was terrifying . I was literally going crazy over his stats , I barely slept because I could only hear the bad hospital sounds in my head. I was so impatient with my husband at the time and my daughter . I seeked help with a doctor and started working out and seriously being a mother just made me adjust. I knew god would only give me what I can handle. Graesyn has truly made me conquer many of my fears and overcome a lot of my anxiety.”

Tristyn, 26

“It has been an odd journey. I’m still searching for who am I now. When I had my rainbow and even before I knew I was meant to be a mum. And when she was put in my arms I knew that is what I was. We are in a transition to kinder and such and now I don’t know who I am. I know I am a mother. And how I want to parent. I know I am trying to do the work to break cycles. But I wonder who am I.”

Ashley, 35

“I’ve had 5 babies and each experience has been unique and has come with different struggles. I would say that my biggest postpartum struggle has been with my last baby, my 5th baby boy. I was diagnosed with invasive breast cancer and had a mastectomy while pregnant. I was induced at 36 weeks and ended up requiring an urgent and very complicated c-section. I started chemotherapy when he was 4 weeks old and I also learned that I have a genetic mutation, BRCA2, that puts me at a higher risk for reoccurrence and so I will need to do some preventative surgeries to mitigate that risk including the other mastectomy, a full hysterectomy and oophorectomy. I feel like I haven’t been able to enjoy this postpartum season and I feel like I have been robbed of so much joy in this season. I am so grateful that my body grew and gave life to 5 amazing little humans. I am in complete awe that even in the midst of a a terrible cancer, my body protected my baby and he is perfect. I am so proud of my body for everything it has endured and the life it has created. AND. I am so angry, and I feel like my body has failed me. I feel like I have been robbed of the things that make me a woman – my breasts, my ability to have children…even my hair. I have struggled more in this season than ever before and while I know I will be victorious, it has been an incredibly difficult journey.”

Carrie-Sam, 36

We are so thankful you’re all here. A Mother’s Beauty is a project that is so close to our hearts. We are endlessly learning from and inspired by you all and are hugely grateful for the humans who are so willing to share their stories.

Once again, a huge, HUGE thank you to Jena and Asha for acting as hosts for this event so we can do our thing behind our cameras all night. It is truly such a weight off our shoulders to know that you’ll make sure questions are answered, babies are held, snacks are served and a billion more things that you both do for us. Thank you.

If you loved it and want to read more, you can see sessions from previous years HERE (Do it! You know you wanna.)

You can also learn a little bit more from this fun segment about A Mother’s Beauty that was featured on Global News.

Edmonton Photographers | Hobbs Photography

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