Symbols of Enlightenment in Jody Coughlin’s “Growing as a Mother”



Growing as a Mother (Copyright 2010, Jody Coughlin. All Rights Reserved.)

Visualizing Birth returns to the work of Jody Coughlin, first explored here in 2011.  That post focused on the celebration of pregnancy found in Coughlin’s bright watercolors.  In Growing as a Mother, Coughlin uses intricate ink patterns to represent the Becoming-Mother found in the pregnant form.  In this print, however, the mother’s form also merges symbolically with the natural world around her.  Here, the pregnant body becomes part of the lily-pad beneath it, and as the woman looks meditatively downward with arm resting on her belly, she seems to become the water lily itself, a symbol of enlightenment in Buddhism and Hinduism.

Aesthetically pleasing, Coughlin’s work is also useful in helping women to visualize pregnancy and birth.  In the case of Growing as a Mother, Coughlin reminds women of the interconnectedness that the pregnant body has with nature.  Like her other works, this one is also calming to look at.

I have written about Jody before and represent that material here in that I find her birth stories to be particularly important in larger discussions of birth as a rite of passage:

A maritime artist, Jody Coughlin lives and works in New Brunswick, Canada.  In addition to her work as a painter, she is a writer, photographer, mother and wife.  Jody writes deeply about the births of her two children and the challenges she has experienced as a mother.  I find her birth story and description of becoming a mother and artist of birth art to be both beautiful and poignant.  I am particularly touched by her very important words advocating support for all new mothers, and her understanding description of what it is to be a new mother.  Jody’s children were both born via c-section, and her birth story powerfully describes the feelings and experiences she associates with the way in which they were born.  I believe that her beautiful work, Incision (below), is a physical representation of those very complex feelings.

The Watercolors of Jody Coughlin's Expecting Mothers


Incision (Copyright 2011, Jody Coughlin. All Rights Reserved.)