This Mom Staged a Beautiful Breastfeeding Photoshoot With Her Daughter and Instagram Wasn’t Having It

Clarissa Marie, a photographer and mom of 3 girls in Windsor Ontario, set out to commemorate her breastfeeding journey with a beautiful milk bath photo session showcasing the bond between mother and daughter, but when she shared them online, Instagram had other plans.

Within days of posting the artistic images, which were the product of a collaboration between Clarissa and her photographer friend Sarah Barichello, her pictures were removed as a violation to Instagram’s policies, and Clarissa was floored.

“When I woke up to the message from Instagram that my images were deemed a violation to community standards, my inner rage rose from zero to one hundred,” she said.

Clarissa was already feeling hurt after receiving an angry message about the photoshoot in her inbox from someone who wasn’t following her but had been shown the images by one of their mutual followers.

“The message was hurtful, angry and completely inappropriate, ” she said, adding that someone was trying to stir up drama in her life based on their own agenda. “I chose not to acknowledge this at all or engage this person about their words.”

Clarissa breastfed all three of her daughters, although this final journey saw her nursing beyond 15 months, which she hadn’t expected.

“If I’m being honest, extended nursing always seemed incredulous to me. Until I was doing it, and I finally understood.”

Not only did Clarissa exclusively breastfeed her third and final daughter for the first year of her life, but she also pumped and froze breast milk and began to donate to other babies in need. At one point she donated more than 60 litres to 7 different babies.

But her breastfeeding journey wasn’t always a smooth sailing one, and Clarissa faced some devastating challenges along the way. Her marriage to her husband of 11 years ended before her youngest daughter turned one, and she came down with an aggressive case of mastitis and thrush that led to numerous hospital visits and ultimately a trip to the ER to be treated for a more serious issue, multiple pulmonary embolisms.

When the cardiologist delivered the news that Clarissa would have to begin blood thinners and stop breastfeeding, Clarissa was hit with a wave of emotions and she burst into tears.

“I wasn’t ready. My baby wasn’t ready to be done with this journey. So much had already changed and been taken from me that I couldn’t accept this,” she recalls.

She brought her case to Jack Newman, a professional breastfeeding guru, and with his guidance she pushed through the pain and continued to pump. After 2 weeks, she was given the nod to breastfeed again, and she recounts that she’d never seen a happier smile on her baby’s face.

Her daughter is now 3 years old and she has been weaned down to once daily just before bed, although Clarissa says that her daughter would still be content with full time breastfeeding.

Clarissa and Sarah of SB Photography staged the beautiful nursing milk bath session using a combination of their skills and creativity; Clarissa says that her vision was perfectly executed in the images.

“I worked SO HARD and endured SO MUCH to continue my breastfeeding journey that I knew I had to have this,” she says about the photoshoot.

The response to the images on both of the photographer’s Facebook pages was a positive one; people reached out to say how beautiful and touching the photos were, and even those who were initially uncomfortable with extended breastfeeding admitted that the photos held more beauty than they expected.

When Instagram removed her images, Clarissa says she was dumbfounded and enraged by the double standards of what is considered nudity or deemed inappropriate by the social media network. She points out that her newsfeed is filled with sexual imagery, vulgar and inappropriate posts and even pornography that flies under the radar.

She notes a trend on social media where sexual images and provocative nudes receive the praise and accolades of society, while the images of the innocent act of breastfeeding a child has become controversial.

“It’s complete and utter bullshit,” she states.  Do you know that I prepared myself for a fight, negativity, or some sort of comment EVERY SINGLE TIME I nursed in public? Why is it that a nursing mother must be on guard, be ready for negativity and narrow minded comments? I’m literally feeding my baby!”

Clarissa says that she wants to shout a giant F*CK YOU to Instagram and to anyone else who chooses to sexualize the photos, or chooses to degrade her for something so beautiful and innocent as nursing a child.  She feels that society is over sexualized and that people who are offended by breastfeeding are not educated on the bond and the benefits of breastfeeding.

She has been called selfish for continuing to breastfeed her daughter beyond 15 months, and has been accused of doing it for her own benefit, which she concludes has no merit given that breastfeeding isn’t easy, and that it’s a selfless act.

But she also sees the negativity as a driving force to empower her three daughters and teach them the value of their bodies in the face of people’s ignorance.

“I want them to know if they have children, and should they choose to breastfeed, that they are met with unconditional support and love,” she says, “that they are valued for the incredible amazing things they can do.”

And when it comes to her personal  reasoning for the photoshoot and the overall message she wants her daughters to gain from her breastfeeding journey, Clarissa says that she wants them to be proud of what she was able to give to them, and to know that the love and sacrifices she made were out of love.

“I want them to remember the comfort of being in their mother’s arms, safe and loved. I want them to feel my love for them and the bond we created,” she says. “I wanted to do this nursing session as a way to begin the final chapter of weaning. To remember this incredible time, a time of my life that my body did an amazing thing; it sustained life. Soon our journey will be over.”


Images are courtesy of Clarissa Marie, photographed by Sarah Barichello of SB Photography.

Clarissa’s professional pages: 
Instagram: @clarissamariephotography2507
Facebook.com/clarissamariephotography

Sarah’s professional pages:
Instagram: @sbphotography519
Facebook.com/sbphotography

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I Planned To Eat a Sandwich, But I Gave Birth Instead

February 19th, 2015

“You failed your NST today, do you know what that means?” the OB nurse looked at me matter-of-factly while I sat on the hard gurney waiting for my 35-week ultrasound results.

I parted my lips to answer but before I could come up with a response, she tapped on her clipboard and said, “You’re probably going to be admitted to the hospital again, okay honey? We have to find you a room first, so if you want you can go to the cafeteria and grab some lunch, just come back here in about a half an hour.”

I was unfazed. Actually I was hungry so all I really heard was an invitation to have lunch and an uninterrupted nap. During my previous admission to the hospital for pre-term labor symptoms, I had my own private room, my meals delivered to me and zero responsibilities aside from letting my body cook the two babies that were in utero while the professionals monitored them. It was basically a vacation, but more sterile and with people accosting my body with medical devices several times a day.

I hobbled slowly to the cafeteria, now 35 weeks pregnant with twins and barely mobile. I was sure it would take me the full half an hour just to get to the cafeteria. My crotch bone felt like it was about to cave under the weight of my uterus and my lower back had all but given up hope on survival months ago.

Although I was mildly concerned about what had transpired during my ultrasound that had required 2 techs to gather around the screen and mumble things like “I don’t see any here, do you?” my rumbling tummy was too busy reminding me that I needed to devour some grub ASAP.

I killed a foot long sub in record time and played around on my phone before heading back to triage, where I was greeted by the nurse from earlier and a high risk obstetrician. The OB took a minute to explain that they couldn’t find any measurable amniotic fluid on Baby A, and then her next words floored me:  “You’re not being admitted for monitoring, we have decided it’s best for you to give birth today.”

“Like, now?” I asked in a panic. I wasn’t prepared, I didn’t have any of the shit they tell you to bring to the hospital like slippers and my own pillow or one of those cute birthing gowns and a birthing playlist with “Push It” by Salt N Pepa on it. My makeup looked like crap and I was going to need a fresh face for post birth photos. My breath reeked of onions from the sub, I definitely needed a toothbrush and a breath mint. OMG I though,  my hoo ha is probably bush league right now.

It also dawned on me that I was alone, I didn’t even have a husband there to annoy me while I expelled humans from my body. (Uhh, I mean share in this special moment together.)

I saw the OB reading my frantic expression, although she probably assumed I had a more logical thought process going on that revolved around the health of my babies and not the size of my bush.

“We’re going to get you in a delivery room right now and start the process of inducing you. Don’t worry, it will still be hours before the babies are delivered so as soon as we get you into the room you can call your husband and family.”

Before I knew it I was being wheeled to a delivery room and introduced to a slew of nurses and doctors and given an ugly hospital gown instead of the cute leopard one I should have ordered on Amazon.

“How much do you weigh, Stacey?” the nurse on duty asked me while recording things on her chart.  “A ton,” I lamented, followed with “Uh, I haven’t been weighed since I was 20 weeks along and I was hoping we could keep it that way.”

Luckily my nurse appreciated my sense of humor and she chuckled as she threw a guesstimate onto her chart that I caught a glimpse of later and nearly cried. I also warned her about the potential situation happening with my crotchal region.  “I haven’t been able to see down there in awhile, it’s kind of been a guessing game,” I apologized. She assured me that she saw vaginas all day and bushes were making a comeback.

I called my husband and my mom, the Doctor broke my water and the next few hours were a blur of needles being shoved into me, contractions, me cracking inappropriate jokes, and ultimately being wheeled into the blinding lights of the OR with a team of people hovered around my vagina. My mom took pictures and my husband held onto one of my dead legs for dear life. I couldn’t feel a thing and it was glorious.

The birth went smoothly and thankfully no medical intervention was needed that warranted delivering in the OR.  Baby A came out like a wrecking ball, and he was only handed to me long enough for me to say “You’re so beautiful! Disgusting, but perfect,” to his tiny slimy body before they whisked him away and carried on like it was a baby birthing assembly line.

Baby B arrived 10 minutes later and he was noticeably bigger and redder but every bit as slimy and perfect, but he too was whisked away from me before I had a chance to stare at him and decide if he had inherited my weird chin and resting bitch face.

I was able to admire my placenta for longer than I saw my children, the Doctor lifted up the sack of brain meat and said “It’s a….placenta!”  I think they may have even offered to wrap it in a blanket and let me hold it as consolation.

They whisked my body away like I was the afterbirth, the discarded baby maker that was no longer needed and could be dumped into a bin somewhere with the placentas.

My babies were somewhere in an incubator and it was jarring not seeing them, not holding them or feeding them, and not doing all of the things you typically get to do when you give birth, the way I had after I had my first born. I felt detached and useless but I tried to focus on the positives: I looked a lot skinnier than I did a few hours ago.

I inhaled a plate of spaghetti because my new supermodel body needed carbs and my sweet nurse was nice enough to offer her dinner to me. She could probably see me just wasting away now that I was 13 pounds lighter than the 468 pounds she recorded me at earlier.

The most important thing was that my babies were here, they were safe, they were being monitored by professionals and kept in an incubator because they were premature. But aside from seeing them for a few minutes in the incubator, I was brought back to my room that night to sleep without them and my hormones couldn’t handle it. I told my husband that I felt like I had given birth to someone else’s babies and I started crying.

The nurses brought me a breast pump machine to console me and told me to try and suction my tits to get my milk flowing. Stop crying and milk yourself, selfish woman!  The machine made loud grunting noises and tugged on my breasts while my tears turned to laughter as I compared myself to a cow.

My twins spent 10 days in the NICU mostly for observation, baby A was 5lbs and 3oz at birth and he had a heart murmur but was otherwise healthy. Baby B was 6lbs and 11oz at birth and had some extra blood and needed a CPAP for the first night to help him breathe, but he was also otherwise healthy.

I finally got to hold both of them at the same time when they were a week old and it was the most amazing feeling in the world. I had only been able to hold them individually up until that point and I finally felt complete when they put them both in my arms. I also low key felt like a cat with a litter but so hashtag blessed and proud AF.

Another mom with a preemie in a pod nearby smiled at me while I grinned ear to ear holding my babies as a nurse took pictures.  I was incredibly happy but also silently panicking trying to figure out how the hell I was going to maneuver the two of them back out of my arms having no arms to use and I got a glimpse into my immediate future as a mom with twin infants.

My 5-year old son finally got to meet his brothers when we brought them home; the hospital had been under strict visitor regulations due to a flu outbreak and he had only seen pictures of them.

He was happy to meet his new brothers and even though it was chaotic at the time, our family was complete and we were full of love and floating on cloud 9 for those first few months. It was probably also caffeine and sleep deprivation clouds we were floating on, but it was a magical time nonetheless.

The memories are almost magical enough to drown out the sound of all 3 of them right now, 4 years later, screaming and trying to kill each other over Legos and making me wonder how I can get another free stay in the hospital for even a brief period of time. I’d pay for a sterile vacation right about now.

Happy Birthday My Loves