A burn survivor’s powerful breastfeeding photos are spreading a message of strength and hope.
Photographer Ivette Ivens captured some striking photos of Schamica “Mimi” Stevenson nursing her son, Josiah.
Stevenson attracted attention after sharing her story and some personal photos on the Facebook page Black Women Do Breastfeed.
In 1985, Stevenson survived a house fire that killed her baby brother when she was just 2 years old, she told HuffPost. Though she needed skin grafts and surgeries through her teen years, she was able to become pregnant and gave birth to her daughter 14 years ago. On March 4, she welcomed her son.
“I am just so blessed that my breasts didn’t get any damage to them and I am able to nurse my little Prince,” she wrote in the Black Women Do Breastfeed post.
The images of Stevenson with her son inspired Ivens. “When I first saw Mimi’s breastfeeding selfie she took with her iPhone, I thought to myself, ‘This woman deserves to have a piece of art that screams STRONG. DEVOTED. WARRIOR.,’” the photographer told HuffPost.
Stevenson was on board with the project. The Michigan mom, who is studying to become a registered nurse, wanted to share her story with the world in the hopes that it would reach someone who needs it.
“This whole journey has been amazing,” she said. “I’m so happy to encourage other women to breastfeed as well as be an inspiration for others’ self-esteem. Women feel breastfeeding is so hard and time-consuming and just plain-out painful, but I was determined to do so because I’m just thankful to even have my nipples still.”
Ivens shared a photo of Stevenson on her Facebook page, where it received around 7,000 likes. The photographer said they’ve been grateful for the positive comments, messages and media attention. The photo has forged connections between burn survivors and inspired others to count their blessings and persevere in the face of obstacles, she added.
“Humans tend to stop themselves from achieving their goals because of insecurities, tragedies, illnesses, etc.,” Ivens explained. “Mimi did not have it easy, yet she shines confidence, self-love, fearlessness. All of these features we are already born with, but then life happens and some of them might be washed away. Mimi is a great example of how to fight it back. A true, humble warrior.”
Stevenson told HuffPost she doesn’t want anyone who sees her photos to feel sorry for her. “I want them to instead feel inspired to overcome their flaws and obstacles,” she said, adding that it breaks her heart to know how much anguish people feel about their looks.
“And then there’s me, not a care in the world, walking around as if I look like Beyoncé or Tamar Braxton,” she said. “There are days I get down because I’m human, but I bounce right back and thank God for my life and my beautiful babies I was able to birth and nurse.”