The Milk Label Journal, sharing stories that celebrate life: The beautiful and the messy. For this journal, we travelled to the Caribbean island of Trinidad and photographed Emma, Bobby & their son Ayo in their island home in Port Of Spain.
Photography by Sam Jackson
When you first meet Emma you're a little thrown as to where she's from, her accent is a blend of British, Australian & Trinidadian. Although she was born in England, Emma lived in Guyana and Australia for a number of years before ending up in Trinidad, where she told us, "finally felt like home."
Emma is a social scientist turned stylist & owns a vintage clothing label in Port of Spain, Trinidad, which she sources unique pieces for from all over the island. This is where she met her now-husband Bobby, a Jamaican architect who also fell in love with Trinidad - and her.
And then there is Ayo, a charming, confident & electric 4 year old, who undoubtably has some of the most creative parents on the island.
Can you tell us a little bit about who you share your home with?
"I live with my husband Bobby, our 4 yr old son Ayo, our two cats Ragnar and Agnes and a bunch of lizards, birds, fireflies and whatever other wildlife is passing through."
What are some of the rituals and rhythms of your home and family life?
"Both Bobby and I are Sagittarians, and run our own creative businesses, so we’re quite spontaneous and therefore maybe a little chaotic. We tend to go with the flow on any given day, although I always get up and open all the windows in our home and feel the sunshine on my face. I’m definitely trying to be more intentional about our routine though - I love the idea of treating the mundane as ritual - a work in progress!"
What can you tell us about your breastfeeding journey?
"I fed Ayo until he self-weaned at about 15 months. I was aiming for 18-24 but he made his own choice I guess. I know weaning can be tough so I was lucky in that regard. I actually really struggled with feeding him though, it was something I really wanted to do but couldn’t straight away. Ayo wouldn’t latch in the hospital and I remember asking everyone to help me and no one would. One of the nurses told me my nipples weren’t right! Eventually the staff on duty started guilting me for not feeding him, telling me I was starving my baby and pushed me into giving him formula. Of course I don’t judge other parents for using formula, but it should be your choice. I’d been leaking colostrum since I was 4 months pregnant, and if I had known about storing and freezing it before birth I would have definitely done that. I ended up seeking out a lactation consultant to help me because it transpired that Ayo had a tongue tie, and that was the best thing I ever did. We figured it out and it felt good to be able to feed him, but I have to say it wasn’t something that I really enjoyed doing.
It’s so funny because I kept a lessons learnt log during postpartum and apart from “freeze colostrum” one of my lessons was have a wireless triangle bra with breast pads in it to make feeding easy, now i don’t have to worry about the pads falling out or getting soggy because I'll have MILK next time round."
What makes you feel supported and safe as a woman/as a mother?
"Being able to have honest conversations with other parents about how hard parenting is! There’s nothing worse than feeling totally isolated and alone when you’re really struggling."
Are there any books, films, podcasts or artworks that depict aspects of parenthood that you feel connected to?
"I gifted myself a print by Hunter Clarke when I gave birth. It’s a naked pregnant woman with the head of a lioness roaring. Cliche maybe but I resonated with that image so much after giving birth. I had wanted a soft image of flowers in a womb but after my birthing experience I just felt like a lioness, not because it was easy but because I’d made it through a long and difficult process with every intervention I didn’t want and even though I was weak, I felt so fierce and deeply connected to all other birthing people. I also love Dr Becky, What Dad Did and Destini Ann on instagram, intentional parenting with boundaries. Definitely need all the support we can get on the parenting front!"
Can you share with us some of the joys and some of the challenges of parenthood that you’re experiencing at the moment?
"Ayo’s at an age where he’s really becoming himself, he’s so funny and wild and feels all of his emotions intensely. Some of his behaviour is super triggering for me, it’s been a huge and continuing lesson in self regulation and letting things go, like having a tidy house. Also managing work around mothering. Whew!"
Would you share the story of a tender moment with us?
"Actually Ayo crawled into bed this morning and said “Mummy, you’re my love” and snuggled with me for a moment. He's usually trying to pry my eyes open or yelling at the top of his lungs in the morning so it made a nice change."
What does Community mean to you?
"Having people around you that you can celebrate your joys with, call on in your lowest moments, share a meal with and just BE with. Neither Bobby or I have family here and that has been a huge challenge for us starting our own family. Getting time to recharge just doesn't happen and we definitely need to get better at calling on our community when we need them."
What gives you comfort?
"Knowing I have community to call on. That, and a good cup of tea or a home cooked meal."
What are the dreams for the season ahead?
"Allowing for more ease and stability, more time with loved ones, more joy, more time in the ocean, more laughter."