I am very marked by the experiences maternity have brought me. Actually, I am acutely aware that perhaps those are the most remarkable experiences I will ever have in my life, the most significant.I became pregnant for the first time at 14yrs old and my first daughter was born two days after my fifteenth birthday. How could I not be marked by this experience? While many friends were enjoying their debutante parties, I was learning to take care of a little girl I had not expected.
I lived all the consequences of being a single mother and teenager in a sexist society. I was judged in every way, victimised by some, demonised by others. I carried with me the rejection and loneliness of an unwanted pregnancy and especially the mark of the guilt I felt for not having loved my daughter from the very beginning. As a great outcome I suffered an unnecessary C-section and inhumane hospital care, absolutely alienating and perverse. Still in the hospital, cut and sewn, I was discouraged from breastfeeding by the nurses who said I was too young for such responsibility and, among themselves talked of the pity they felt to see a fifteen-year-old “loose” her youth in such a sad way. I never received congratulations on the birth of that little girl, she was not planned for me, she was not dreamed by my family.
Yes, people were sad for me. And that’s the biggest and baddest mark that I have from my first experience as a mother. Twelve years have passed and during all this time, I’ve struggled to give a new meaning to my relationship with motherhood, with my daughter and to myself. We built another form of love, another way of being mother and daughter, but the scar of the imposed cesarean still burned in my body and soul.Then in a wonderful period of my life, in a respectful and happy relationship, I had the opportunity to experience another pregnancy, this time carefully planned. From that phase I bring the most intense and transformative memories, I destroyed and rebuilt myself many times during this second pregnancy. Cried all the sadness of that first stolen labour, I let go off the fear of not being a good mother, of not being able …
I forgave the rejection and loneliness experienced previously and allowed my family to also transform themselves with me. And, even though I can not relive and change what happened before, I could turn into a new mother to my oldest daughter and change the present, accept that I did what was within my limits at that moment and I can always be better now. The thirty-eight weeks I spent with my second child growing inside me were magic, I felt cared for, supported and loved by those who accompanied me. I could share the changes week by week with my husband who showed his love for me in many different ways during this period. And it was then that I could actually die to my past. In a quick and intense labour of about two hours I had my second daughter at home in the early hours of a Sunday waning moon full of symbolism and astral messages.
I was accompanied by spectacular professionals who knew how to speak and be silent precisely when necessary, and so I could receive my daughter without any intervention in the bathroom at home, by candlelight, supported by my husband. My second daughter was born in her own time and was received with respect, but also with her arrival, I was also reborn. The birth was a redemption for me, a test of my ability as a mother and woman. It was actually a portal of healing and transcendence. I thank my daughters for having chosen me as their mother and for giving me the opportunity to learn to be a better person. I thank the women who shared their experiences with me, they taught me, welcomed me and looked after me in the pregnant women groups, in the feminist groups and during childbirth. Finally, I thank my husband for the strength and love that he was able to demonstrate from the very start. We are finally a family reborn. I’m finally a woman who accepts the marks of life.” Denise and Surya
-Leticia Valverdes is a regional photographer for A Beautiful Body Project based in Brasil and the United Kingdom. To book a shoot with her visit: www.LeticiaValverdes.com
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