Kate Griffin Photography // child & family portraits in Surrey, Hampshire & London » celebrating family life in london, surrey and hampshire

I asked Jessica if she felt comfortable breastfeeding outside. “Yes of course!” she said, “I do it all the time.” So we went out into their garden and gave the neighbours something to talk about.

Breastfeeding your daughter at home in the garden – perfectly natural.

Breastfeeding your daughter at home in the garden, whilst a photographer takes your picture – perhaps less so.

But Jessica was just another of the many mums that I met whilst shooting for the MILK project who gave off a sense of calm, quiet happiness whilst breastfeeding. She knows some people may raise an eyebrow at the age of her daughter, who clambers onto her lap and asks to be fed, but she’s making a personal choice for herself, for her family, for her daughter.

It really is that simple.

breastfeeding portrait // © kate griffin photography 2012 // surrey family photographer

 

 

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When I asked for people to take part in my breastfeeding portrait project, I had no idea what the response might be, or who would even answer. But I was always hoping to find a group of new mums who felt comfortable enough to share their experiences with you. And yes, pride. Proud to breastfeed, because their experience had shown them that it was an accomplishment after often months of struggle.

In a light, bright, London apartment, on a day when I couldn’t tell my left from right and spent 15 minutes walking up and down the same street to find the address, I meet in person the wonderful mum who sent me such a lovely email telling me her story. And his. Little Rafael, with a wide smile that flicked on like a 100 watt bulb for me.

It was a story I knew I wanted to share, because the simple honesty of it would resonate with so many people – those that fell into breastfeeding easily and loved it, together with those, just like Raji, who fought their own personal battle and won.

Here’s Raji’s story in her own words:

We are still nursing not out of any pre-established intention to do so, but just that it has never seemed like the right time or necessary to stop. Establishing the breastfeeding relationship was a real struggle for us – undiagnosed tongue tie along with latching and sucking difficulties along with the usual time it takes for mum and baby to learn a new skill. We didn’t actually ‘get the hang of it’ until about 4 months! He started life needing to be almost fully formula-fed (which made me very sad and feel like I had failed – not because there’s anything wrong with that should a mother choose that path for herself and her baby – but because I had always intended to nurse him!) and gradually he progressed to taking more and more breastmilk and less formula. Around 3.5 months when we could completely stop supplementing with formula was a real milestone for us (and a bit odd going that way round instead of the more common breast to bottle transition).
 
Anyway, because of all that difficultly getting established it seemed sensible to carry on until around his first birthday. And then there’s never really been a reason to stop. I also want the end of our feeding relationship to happen more naturally and be non-stressful because the start was so traumatic.
 
Having said that, he is sort of in the process of weaning. There are days when other than the morning and sometimes the night feed he doesn’t ask to nurse and I don’t offer. If I do offer he will always nurse for a little while, but may be quickly distracted by a toy or something. Its bittersweet knowing our special time together is coming to an end, but it makes me happy that we both fought for it!

breastfeeding portrait // © kate griffin photography 2012 // london family photographer

Bittersweet. That word struck me. You want them to grow up, become independent. But you recognise the shift that occurs, the distance that grows, as it should, as it always will between you. It must be tempting to dream of keeping them little and tied to you. He’s growing bigger and stronger and quicker. Every day, a little difference, a progression. But always that connection because of what you fought for Raji.

Those early years, where the weeks rush past but the nights can feel long. That time when things change quickly, without fanfare, but steadily and everyday. In those pure moments of bliss, where the only sound in the room is his soft breathing, the tiny gulps, and his toes curling up, brushing against your arm, that is what I hope to hold onto in a photograph. Because it is all there, in those slices of time, those fragments of the daily routine that will change tomorrow.

 

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Me and physical activity. The mind is willing, but the flesh is weak.

I’ve had a mixed relationship with exercise and exertion. At school, I loved the competition of team games. I always made sure to place myself in a position of intimidation in defence, rather than all that running about activity. Slim pickings of willing participants meant I would usually get on the school team. Mental.

In hockey I was Right Back. No “Right Back in the dressing room” jokes – you’re better than that.

For netball I was the Goal Shooter, a splendid position where I only needed to hang about underneath the net and wait for the glory. Although that would more often come to Becky who was Goal Attack. She zoomed about, pivoting like a mad woman, with a far higher percentage of goals scored than me. She still plays today.

Basketball was fun. More low level aggression was allowed and I really didn’t have to move about much at all.

Rounders. Hmm. I had to develop a pretty decent hit to achieve a rounder, but I did enjoy being the last barrier to the other team scoring when I managed to get a spot on 4th base.

Things became more challenging when I was in the Sixth Form and became House Captain for Tudor House. At our school, everyone was divided into one of six different houses and throughout the year you would have competitions for Drama, Music, Public Speaking and always most traumatically in the summer, House Games. In the creative arts, I’m proud to say Tudor flourished. In other competitions where we didn’t have to sing, act or sit down and play chess, we floundered slightly.

But not for the want of trying.

You see, I really enjoy team games. I relish being the underdog and sometimes surprising the opposition. More often than not, it ends in last place and humiliation, but I wouldn’t change that for the world. If life means always getting involved and often falling short, or never getting involved or attempting anything, then I choose the former.

An example from my illustrious school sports history. House Cross Country. Tudor House has 0 applicants to take part. I can’t have that as House Captain. I sign up. The day of the race I heave myself over, up and down a Surrey hillside, huffing and puffing my way along. A thoughtful teacher, mostly thinking of getting back to a warm staff room and his tea and biscuits, directs me to a shortcut so we can all just go home. Shamefully, I took it. It didn’t improve the result, but it meant the school bus could return before the sun set.

Another, more public example. House Summer Sports. No one in the Sixth Form steps forward. So I, and trusty Deputy Captain Clare, divvy up the races between us. Let me be clear. The ENTIRE school attends. You spend the day on the sports fields with everyone watching you. I got the 1500 metres and the 100 metre sprint. Sprint. Dear Reader, I don’t get up out of a chair without several attempts and a sweaty brow.

One hundred metres. Sounds such a short distance, doesn’t it? But when the school is watching, you are having to wear shorts, and everyone else appears to have superhuman fitness, it is a long, long way. Long. I’ll spare you the metre by metre details of that horrifying race, but just let you know that as I stopped for a breather at the halfway point, everyone else was already sat in their chairs receiving their medals.

I walked across that finish line, hands on hips, head hung in shame, but laughing at the ridiculous position I’d put myself in. What happened when I crossed the line? The crowd cheered. When Clare stormed the bend of the 200 metre race, our House stood on our feet and clapped, cheered, whopped and hollered her home. She did not win, but at least she ran it. Even the school-aged British love an underdog.

But trying. Making an attempt. Fighting against all odds. Bearing the brunt of losing. That is something to be admired. Winning is not everything, but I know this for absolute sure: You’ll never win at anything, if you don’t sign up for the race to begin with. You’ll never move forward unless you accept the possibility of failing, and try anyway.

And that is why, the London 2012 Olympics is a reason to be excited, and hopeful and full of expectation. We’re not going to top the medal table, but I think Team GB will triumph in the old Tudor House way – because singing, dancing and acting through tonight’s Opening Ceremony, of that creative endeavour then we are most definitely the champions.

To celebrate the Olympics this summer, me and Ellie from Buttons Children’s Parties decided to arrange a very special party in the Surrey woods, that gave some local athletes the chance to test their metal against other eager competitors. They carried boiled eggs on spoons, hopped along a sandy track in a hessian sack, found that 3 legs are not better than 4 and finally hunted for medals in the woods.

And what got them there in the first place? What made them hungry for success? (Literally hungry).

It was Ellie’s amazing sweet table, heaved into place with the help of Mr Kelly and excellent party helper Stevie. An antique bureau bedecked with old school, old fashioned sweets and topped off with a creative homage to the olympic rings. As ever, with all things crafty and creative Ellie did a gold-medal winning job.

The kids came. They conquered. They won bags of sweets. I believe all the sweets were made from root vegetables and contained absolutely no sugar whatsoever.*

* This claim cannot be verified. And actually if the kids had to do a sugar-based doping test following the races, I’m pretty sure they would have all failed.

So here it is, in pictures, the story of our Olympics-themed party in the woods. On your marks. Get set. Go!

Thank you so much to all the amazing athletes who came out to run, hop, skip and jump through the races. I’m so glad you had fun, cheered enthusiastically and smiled wildly through your own mini-Olympic adventure.

As ever, huge thanks to Ellie Kelly and her team for hosting the party, dreaming up the games and creating a sweet table to sugar-rush over.

I wonder what will be next for us. We’ve done sea and now land, so I suppose next is air. Any ideas?

Enjoy the Olympics everyone – watch and cheer, be thrilled and wowed. It’s a once in a lifetime experience to enjoy them on home turf. Don’t waste it.

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  • July 27, 2012 - 4:03 pm

    Julie Skelton - It’s such a happy set of photos, they make me grin from ear to ear!ReplyCancel

  • July 27, 2012 - 4:49 pm

    Jane Packard - Fab images Kate. The competitive streak in me wishes I’d been there….especially for the egg and spoon race 🙂ReplyCancel

  • July 28, 2012 - 1:56 pm

    Kirsten Mavric - You did an AMAZING job on these, Kate. Your post production is particularly fabulous. xReplyCancel

  • August 2, 2012 - 8:45 am

    victoria - the children had a great time kate, thank you to you and ellie – you are both brill at what you do!ReplyCancel

  • August 4, 2012 - 7:08 am

    Belle Bébés - Olympic Party - […] this theme in mind, I have a gorgeous party to share with you from Kate Griffin Photography and Buttons Children’s […]ReplyCancel

  • August 4, 2012 - 1:22 pm

    Fanni - These images are fantastic Kate! Love the concept and all participants look like they’re thoroughly enjoying themselves! Well done xReplyCancel