Tuesday, December 26, 2006


While we were sitting around the dinner table on Christmas Eve, we got onto the topic of my blog. My siblings have read it and commented occasionally, but I don’t think my mom has ever read my blog. When I had asked her why not, she made comments like, “I don’t like blogs.” But that evening, she told me the real reason why she hasn’t read it—she thinks that the pictures I posted are inappropriate. She is ashamed that I have made them public and refuses to look at my blog because she can’t stand the thought of others seeing things that should be “private and sacred.” Another person at the table remarked that “anyone could take those pictures and put them on a porn site.”

Those pictures. What are they referring to, anyway? I they assume mean the picture of me and Zari immediately after the birth, and the three nursing pictures I have posted.

I agree that birth is a very private, sacred event. That’s exactly why I chose to give birth with no one but my husband in attendance, and even he remained in the other room until I called him in at the very end. But sharing my experiences does not detract from the beauty of the experience. I want others to read my story and know why I chose this path.

In addition, I find the picture of me holding my freshly-born daughter incredibly beautiful and inspiring. Whenever I look at it, I feel the elation and joy all over again. To say that this picture is degrading—simply because there is nudity—is like equating Michelangelo’s “David” or Mary Cassatt’s “Mother and Child” with an x-rated video or centerfold. Nudity does not pornography make.

For being completely naked, I expose remarkably little in that picture. All you can really see is one breast, camouflaged by blood smears. Everything else is covered by the baby or in shadow.

And don’t even get me started on breastfeeding being considered objectionable!

I am sad that my mom cannot see beyond the images. I don’t think she has ever read my birth story, and I wonder if she ever will. This blog contains intimate, heartfelt posts about things that are the most important to me--things that are part of my core identity as a woman and a mother.

So, dear readers, would you be ashamed if your own daughter posted similar pictures? Please share your thoughts.


  1. Not only wouldn't I be ashamed I would be so proud of her. I find the picture of you immediately after birth to be one of the most beautiful pictures I have EVER seen. It evokes in me such heartfelt feeling and depth of emotion. I am sorry that your mother is not honoring the incredible journey you are on. Please know that your blog and pictures are touching many hearts.

  2. i agree with the above commenter.

    i can only hope such a wonderful experience for my daughter someday. i hope her births, should she have any, are such that she wants to share and marvel in them. how could i be ashamed if she should share intimate pictures? her body slipped from my body which came out of my own mother's. there is no shame in that. we were all conceived from sex, born from yonis, loved and touched and nursed, a life without honoring these things is empty.

    that said i have my birth story only public in my blog and sometimes i feel worried people will judge me somehow. but that is just my upbringing nagging at me.

    i feel for your mother because of the shame she is living with and passing onto others. it is not her fault. but it shouldnt have to effect you, either.


  3. I have never commented on your blog before but I have been reading for a few weeks now. My husband and I will have children eventually and I find your daughter's birth story to be truely beautiful! The picture of you with your newly birthed little girl is so incredibly beautiful.

    I think your mother is just of a different time - a time when women were made to feel ashamed of their bodies and what their bodies did. Perhaps one day she will come around; perhaps one day your joy in your body and its abilities will enable her to come out of her shell. I hope so.

    I agree with the first commenter - your blog and pictures are touching many hearts. More women need to take pride in their own stories and share them. Thank you for sharing yours.


  4. I would be so proud of my daughter I would cry. I'm sorry to hear how your mother is taking this. Though my mother and I haven't really discussed it in depth, I'm pretty sure she doesn't want to know the details, though she's come around a lot in the past few years.

  5. Thanks for your comments. I hesitated to write this post, because I don't want to turn it into a complaint about my mom. I was just so surprised that she felt this way, since she had never said anything about it before. It's hard when your my mother feels so differently about a peak life experience...I would like her to share in my joy.

  6. Rixa,

    I agree with the above comments. I also would be so proud, excited, humbled, etc. if my own daughter were to do it.

    This country has Puritan roots and fathers which still affects us today. Just ask Janet Jackson. America, single handedly, is slowly convincing some of the world that the breast is sexual. However, some enlightened individuals (mostly Europeans, Asians, etc and even Arabs) realize it is not it's function.

    I, myself, haven't been reading this blog long. I, too, was a little stunned by the amount of exposure not only in the pictures, but the words also. This tells you of MY upbringing. However, I agree with you in that it is beauty. Your confidence in yourself and body and your willingness to share will hopefully affect other mothers.

    Thank you.

  7. Rixa - What an awful moment that must have been for you.

    I love your pictures. Your birth is so inspirational to me. I hope my birth is as awesome and I'm as comfortable and open with the realities of birth's beauty as you are. I hope the same for my daughter and all women.

  8. No, I would not be ashamed if my own daughter posted your photos. I might have some concerns about who was looking at them, though. I assume that the vast majority of your audience is viewing them in the spirit which you intend. However, there is always the possibility that those who choose to view your photos in a sexual light are also looking at them. Your mother may be feeling protective of you, having considered the potentially unsavory types who can also freely view your blog. Still, you are an adult, and I imagine that you have already considered these possibilities and have concluded that you are willing to live with them. It is too bad when a woman feels shamed for her own body by her mother. I don’t think that’s too unusual, though. My own mother probably did not intend to do it either, but many of my own hang-ups about my body seem to stem from how she viewed and related to her own body.

  9. I do understand that she feels protective, and I don't fault her for that at all. On the other hand, I have loved sharing my blog and all of the conversations I've carried on because of it. I guess it's a risk we take whenever we post things on the net--that someone will misread/misuse it. But for me, I would rather post things that I want to share, rather than editing out important parts for the slight chance some weirdo will stumble across it.

    Plus, that weirdo would have to wade through a LOT of my ideas to get to the pictures!

  10. I enjoy reading your posts, but I am very cautious when I read because I have been shocked by the graphic nature of some of your photos. I find your words appropriate (though militant at times). Some pictures I do find inappropriate for a *public* place and I would encourage a daughter of mine not to post similar photos.

  11. Rixa, I'm sorry your family is commenting negatively on your blog - I find it simply amazing, inspirational, and my source of strength and well-researched and thought-out information in my own journey for this baby (#3). I think the picture of you and Zari in the moment after birth is quite simply the most beautiful birth picture I have ever seen. I am so thankful that you have shared that picture with us! You may not change your mom's perspective, but you have the potential to help many others see birth in the same manner that we do...keep up the great work :) And to address your question, I hope my daughters will have the self-assuredness and poise to someday approach birth and nursing as you do: without the hang-ups of societal "sexual" taboos...

  12. Rixa, I am truly sorry that your mother isn't sharing this with you, but I understand as another reader mentioned, that she grew up and mothered in a different time, when wimmin were made to be ashamed for BEING wimmin. ashamed of birthing, ashamed of their sexuality, etc. Your photos are beautiful and are appreciated by all of us who you have allowed into this intimate part of your life.

    I would be so proud of my daughters if they choose to share their photos with the world, should they have photos of their births. You have courage that I don't have.

  13. A sister here. I'd like to add a few words.

    My mother is incredibly proud of Rixa and was so happy that Rixa had the birth she wanted. She was one of the most vocal supporters in the family and never doubted that Rixa would make a wrong decision concerning her health or the health of her child. She herself wishes she had the positive experience that Rixa had with Zari and hopes all of her daughters enjoy birth as well.

    She finds nothing wrong with birth or breastfeeding. She would love nothing more than if Rixa sat down with her and said, "I would like you to see some birth pictures of me and Zari" and would not in the least bit be offended by them. She attended the birth of my daughter and was not the least bit prudish (since you all think she is) about her nearly naked daughter giving birth (wore a bra because my breasts are big and need the support--other than that, it was a blissful five hours of nakedness).

    Her only concerns were that OTHER people would take the pictures out of context. With a blog you cannot control who is seeing the pictures. My mother is not ashamed of being a woman nor is she ashamed of her body or childbirth. She merely wants to protect her daughter from the dangers that are out there. I have wonderful pictures of myself and my children that evoke powerful and happy memories, but I would not post them on a public web site because I cannot control who looks at them.

    We were not commenting negatively about Rixa's blog. I have really enjoyed reading it and coming to understand my sister more. My mom was just trying in her way to explain to Rixa her views about the public nature of the medium.

    And she doesn't read blogs, period. She thinks they're too much like journals. Yes, in that way she's a bit antiquated, but please, give her a little credit.

  14. Hi Rixa, here's what I think...
    Those pictures are not beautiful in an innocent way: they are raw, passionate, radiant, primal. That's why they speak so powerfully. Please don't apologize that you only look a little bit naked or that you're *only* feeding your child.

    You know I support public, private, any and all breastfeeding. But I've never for a moment concluded that breasts are asexual: breastfeeding does not make them so. Preaching that an infant suckling on a mother's breast is asexual sounds to me about as prudish as those chanting "cover up" do.

    Our sexuality is more, not less, than whatever societal mores define it as. Breasts both nourish and arouse. That doesn't necessarily need to be a problem. You are not just happy and proud, but gorgeously naked in the birth shot, and that makes it a BETTER PICTURE.

    You ask is all nudity porn? I don't think so, but maybe then is intimacy eroticism? Is welcomed pain pleasure? Is arousal sex? Maybe, can be... Is birthing and mothering sexual? I hope so, yes. All the better, let's broadcast it to the world. Not on porn sites of course, your blog will do; and perhaps best not advertised at the Christmas dinner table either... But it's only wrong (i.e. pornographic) to be turned on by the flesh in your photos if one misses the larger point. But they are quite sensual. Your mom might think so and so this might embarrass her a bit. But do you REALLY think they are NOT? If not, why not, and what would be wrong with them if they were?

  15. Judit, we were not saying that because the pictures contained nudity that they were automatically considered pornographic or wrong. There is absolutely nothing wrong with birth or breastfeeding. The commenters at the dinner were only saying that because the pictures contained nudity and were posted on a public arena that other people could misinterpret them. It was the hijacking of the pictures we were concerned about, not the nudity.

    Nobody in our family would consider a Mary Cassatt pornography! We never stated that the pictures were offensive or inappropriate in any way. We ALL agree that nudity does not equal pornography; that idea offends me more than anything I've read or seen on this site.

  16. we should not live in fear of other people.

    not posting words or pictures out of fear {of what others might be thinking or doing} is living in fear.

    tabitha (karl is my dh)

  17. Whew, sparks are flying! It's interesting how my sis and I interpreted what happened at the dinner table in different ways. I'll have to agree to disagree with some of my sister's thoughts--nothing new there in our family!

    My husband came away from the conversation very hurt and upset. I didn't respond to my mom during dinner, because I knew it would just escalate the tension.

    I think my mom does have some deep-seated hangups about the female body. Case in point (and maybe I should write a blog post about it? or maybe not, because I don't want to make my mom a target):

    During our family vacation, she tried to get me to cover up while breastfeeding THREE times: twice at home, and once at church. She became very upset with me when I wouldn't. Once she wouldn't even eat dinner with the rest of us (we had invited two guests over--boys in their early twenties) after I refused to eat dinner in the other room. My mom breastfed all five of her kids, so it's not that she is unsupportive of breastfeeding. But she does NOT approve of breastfeeding in public, unless you are covered up with a blanket.

    Now, we are all stubborn people in my family. But this is one area that I will not budge on. I refuse to cover up, because that sends a message that breastfeeding is something to hide, something to be ashamed of. I think covering up actually contributes to the sexualization of breasts, by reinforcing the idea that breasts are to be hidden when being used for their real function.

    Until we all start eating with blankets over our heads, I will not make my daughter be covered when she eats.

  18. Hello Rixa's sister, I just wanted to let you know that I hadn't read your post when I wrote mine. Your explanation of how you understand your mom's feelings is well taken. You are both absolutely entitled to your concerns, they are not unfounded, and obviously you feel the way you do because you care so much. I just wanted to make a general, theoretical point about female sexuality encompassing birth and nurturing. I wouldn't try to dictate how others should feel about it or even what courses of action logically follow.

    Likewise Rixa, I'm just not *theoretically* convinced that not covering up does or should lead to eventually desexualizing breasts. I'm not convinced that our goal should be to desexualize them--in the bf context or otherwise. I doubt they can be desexualized because I happen to think breastfeeding and nurturing is sexual in a broader sense. (Our goal is definitely to make our breastmilk accessible to our babies anywhere, anytime, even in the absence of blankies and that is the bottom line.) I see the logic, "if only people wouldn't think of boobs as sex objects, I could nurse in peace" but it's not a real ONLY IF.
    Hope I'm making sense.

    Hey, I hope the controversy isn't causing too many hurt feelings in the family. You're obviosly an opinionated bunch who all mean well and care a lot about one another!

  19. The truth is that all events can be seen and read from different angles depending on who you are and what point of view you are looking at. Rixa, I understand how you feel; that you are frusted with Mom asking you to cover up because you don't agree with her reasoning. I also understand Mom's reasoning for wanting very amazing and special pictures of her daughter and granddaughter not to be shared publicy without control. I honestly think Mom loves the way that you have chosen to have a baby and carefully decide how to raise and care for Zari. That is a wonderful thing and truly a sign of how much you and Eric love your baby. And it makes me so proud that you are so involved with her birth and her infancy! I hope that I will be able to be this involved and make deliberate choices on how I will birth, feed, and raise my children.

    My family has never considered nudity automatically porn. Hey, you are talking to a family of art lovers who have no problem going to see nude art and never get uncomfortable about it. In fact my mother made it clear to me as a child that nudity in art was beautiful and celebrated the human body; it was not something dirty or wrong. I think you need to understand this about our family.

    We all have different levels of what we think is appropriate and a bit too far for our own tastes. Just because someone does not agree with you does not make them ashamed of the female body or have deep hangups about it.

    Everyone has different opinions of childbirth and nursing. I for one love Rixa for the way she is bringing up Zari. Both of my sisters are wonderful mothers and great with their children. And if I choose to parent in a little bit different style, that does not mean I'm doing anything wrong or hate the way my sisters mother; it is just a personal preference. I would hope that commentators keep from jumping to conclusions without knowing the facts. I'm sorry that Rixa and Eric were frustrated after that conversation. Hey, there are lots of conversations that frustrate me with the family, but they just happen to be about dating, not children. I'm sure that will change one day. I would just hope that Rixa would continue to share with the family for I love to hear from her. But it is true that not everyone is going to agree with her 100% of the time. She said it herself; we are all pretty stubborn.

    But the blog is a great way to hear about Rixa's daily life and keep on track with Zari's growth. Thank you for your honesty and an insight into your mothering style. It is beautiful and inspires me to be better.

    A sister

  20. Judit,
    I guess when I say breasts shouldn't be seen as sexual, when a baby is breastfeeding, I am thinking of sexual in the Playboy/Cosmo sense--reduced to mere objectification. Or sexual in the sense of something inappropriate for public display. I do agree that giving birth and breastfeeding are part of a woman's sexuality. I think the problem is that our society has defined sex in such a narrow way, usually meaning something provocative or arousing, and often objectified.

    Responding to other posts: I did not mean that our family sees all nudity as pornography. I don't think I ever said that in my original post.

    You know, I don't mind if mom or another woman wants to cover up. What bothers me is that she is trying to make me do something I do not agree with. I know many women who prefer to go somewhere private or use a blanket. The issue isn't whether or not I agree with that--it's how I react to those people. I wouldn't tell them that they are wrong for covering up and that they should take the blanket off.

    It's actually a similar issue to birth choices. There are a lot of women who make choices I do not agree with. While I might ask them why they are doing certain things and provide them with information and support if they want it, I would not tell them they are wrong or stupid or misguided. Even if inside I strongly disagree. This blog is where I voice my true feelings over issues relating to pregnancy, birth, and mothering. People are welcome to come read what I have to say; they don't have to if they don't want to.

    Plus, some of my frustration came from my mom telling me what to do, period. I think we can all relate to that!

  21. Tabitha, you said that "not posting words or pictures out of fear {of what others might be thinking or doing} is living in fear". I say that's ridiculous. If I didn't put pictures of my nursing self on the internet because I was afraid that someone would tell me my breasts were ugly, that would be one thing, but to not do it because it's a safe, cautious, and smart thing to do? Haven't you ever heard "be careful of what you put on the internet"?

    It is not living in fear when you put your seatbelt on in the car; it is not living in fear to ask questions about a babysitter before you hire her, and it is not living in fear to sniff the milk before you drink it to see if it has soured. Making an educated decision does not denote fear.

  22. Rixa, I like your clarification and of course we are in perfect agreement.
    I especially like the word 'provocative' b/c that's exactly what a bit of flesh showing next to a nursing baby's face ISN'T.

    Is exposure during nursing really provocative? Here's a better starting point for real dialog with those who feel provoked by it... Instead of arguing about relative terms like sexuality and modesty, by using words like provocative we can better point out that the onlookers' imagination is what's creating the issue.

    A nice way to say we think it's all in their heads ;)


  23. using a seatbelt protects against real physical harm- being afraid to post pics doesnt. the harm is all in what you *allow* to effect you. people looking at your birth pics with the wrong thoughts cant hurt you unless you let it. and you shouldnt.

    i have unfounded ridiculous fears, i do. but ideally we shouldnt let it rule our lives. especially when, like rixa, we have an academic purpose. whether she knows it or not, rixa's blog is powerful.


  24. hi I'm considering having an unnasisted home birth and when I searched for that, yours was the most helpful, informative page. I'm 21 and its my first baby and Ive read a lot about labor but sometimes I feel like it might be scary. I mean things can go wrong, its possible. birth can be a simple seamless physiological process such as in your case or some of the others I read about. but things can also go wrong. I'm trying to decide, I'm 31 weeks.
    My midwife says Im low risk but the baby could wind up breech, there's no telling now, he's (or she's) still swimming and then I would need to go to the hospital.
    i want my mother to be with me because she's done it before and she wanted to be there when was planning birthing with my midwife but she is negative about my having him myself. my email is awaybirdiesweep@yahoo.com, If I could talk to you, that would be great

  25. i just came across your blog. Your daughter was born the day before my son!
    I had a home birth with him, although not unassisted. And I'm pregnant again with our second baby, also going to be a homebirth.

    I saw the first picture of you and your daughter and it's beautiful. Brings me to tears. As well as your nursing pictures. Just so natural and beautiful. Things are just to sexualized and pointed at as shameful, and it's sad.

    I think your family is taking the right road. They just don't have to look at your blog, but you have EVERY right to post it.

  26. Hi and thanks for reading!

  27. I just found this blog by mere accident as I was looking for information about the "Souviens toi" hymn, and I read the "shame" blog, and I have to let you know how much I agree with you. I'm also LDS, I have served a mission and currently am a student at BYU-Idaho, and I hear degrading comments about art works all the time, again just because of the nudity portrayed in them. I know the kind of life that Oscar Wilde lived, but I love his works, and in his preface for The Picture of Dorian Gray he says:
    "Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault.
    Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope".
    I do agree with Oscar in that statement. I think your pictures are beautiful, even though I haven't even seen them, but there's nothing greater than the miracle of maternity and no perverse ideas should be linked to that.

  28. Do we have the same mother?

    Your blog is beautiful and such an inspiration to me! I am planning to UC my 3rd baby in January & if it wasn't for beautiful pictures on blogs like yours showing the sacredness and beauty of birth the way it is meant to be, I'd be totally alone.

    My mother was upset I put a breast pump on my first baby registry!

    Thank you for sharing your blog with people like me. You and your birth are beautiful!

  29. I feel the same way about my bathroom UC pic - and I actually took care to cover my privates but I'm half naked in the picture. My dh doesn't want me to have it up but I put it on myspace page anyway because I love it and it reminds me of how I felt at that moment. I titled it birth bliss because that is how I felt and you can see it on my face : )

    so no, i don't think it's objectionable at all. In fact I have gotten a lot of nice comments on myne!

  30. No, I don't think it's objectionable. I feel the same way about my bathroom UC pic. Birth bliss!

  31. Oops sorry I didn't think the first one went through. I'm serenyd too!


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