An incredible image taken by a former military mom-turned-photographer is going viral after making the rounds on Facebook. It was originally intended to adorn a wall of the new nursing room at Fort Bliss, the Army post in El Paso, Texas. Instead, the photo has turned into much more. The portrait includes 10 active-duty military moms nursing while in full Army uniform. The image is truly stunning, not just because of its subjects, but because of what it conveys. The fact that a mom can be anything, even an active-duty member of our military.
Photographer Tara Ruby was an active-duty military mother nursing her children in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s. Ruby told the Huffington Post that during her time in the military, support for nursing mothers “wasn’t even an option or a consideration,” and goes on to explain that her goal in capturing the image was to convey that military moms “can be amazing mothers and soldiers at the same time.”
Ruby never expected to get so many responses to her call for nursing military mothers to participate. She ended up with a total of 10 mothers and it made for a striking portrait:
From her statement on Facebook, Ruby says, “Ladies, I can’t begin to express how I felt during the session, and during the time I spent editing. I remember nursing my oldest in the shadows, hiding on toilets and where ever I could while in uniform. My second baby I was told to cover up, that no one wanted to see ‘that.’ I remember that breastfeeding wasn’t cool or the norm.” She goes on to thank the mothers for participating as she feels it will help young women who are trying to decide if going into the military could work for them and their families. I don’t see how it wouldn’t — many women must wonder if they will be able to fully commit to the military and also, plan to have children while they serve.
Indeed, as Ruby tells CNN, “I think it’s great the Army is supporting active duty mothers,” Ruby said. “Sometimes, you hit a point in your military career where you have to choose between being a soldier and a mother, and a photo like this helps mothers so they don’t have to choose.” This image might help them to see that they wouldn’t be alone should they decide to have a baby while also serving their country, that they would be one of many women doing the same thing.
It is quite powerful overall seeing the juxtaposition of these moms in uniform while performing the task of nursing a child. Any woman who has had trouble getting time to pump in a typical office setting has to be a bit wowed by this portrait for the sheer fact that many of us know how hard it is to maintain a nursing relationship after returning to work from maternity leave. Doing it with a desk job is tough enough. Doing it while enduring physical training or facing a future deployment may seem impossible to some. This portrait shows it is very possible and that there is support for them.
In addition to this portrait igniting a conversation and the Army approving the use of Ruby’s gorgeous photo, the organization Breastfeeding in Combat Boots is there for the purpose of informing and supporting active-duty military personnel who are pregnant or presently breastfeeding. The fact that it exists now shows how far the military has come in its support of nursing moms since Ruby’s difficulties during her time of service.
Aside from showing that the Army is accommodating of nursing moms, this image is so powerful because it proves a mom can do anything, even fight for our country, while still being a mom. Ruby says this image helps “normalize” breastfeeding and I agree but mostly, I think it shows that we aren’t placing limits on ourselves anymore as mothers. Whether it’s suiting up in a military uniform or returning to our desk jobs, all moms can continue life as usual while having kids. And that is a very powerful message on it’s own.