When the inimitable Pandora Sykes had her daughter Zadie, her world changed, but not in ways she expected. While the common narrative around new motherhood is one of trials and tribulations, Pandora was happily ensconced in a bubble of love, and while she doesn't recommend everyone follow her 5 week maternity leave example, she acknowledges that she was able to return to work for a myriad of reasons that worked for her and her family...
How did and does she do it? A question that often gets thrown around to mothers who seemingly "have and do it all", quite simply, Pandora doesn't. While her colourful and varied CV boasts writing, podcasting, styling, presenting and more, her reality is one of strict priorities. In order to capture the zeitgeist she so expertly discusses on The High Low with co-host Dolly Alderton, she chooses reading – books, websites, interviews – over social engagements, exercise and social media scrolling, and acknowledges that her voracious appetite for content can disarm many people, particularly mothers. "Someone reading a lot can make other people feel bad – which is never my intention – and what I always remind is, I sacrifice other ares: I don't go to the gym, and I only properly cook once a week. So I save over an hour a day, from that! It's also important to remember that reading is fundamental to my work: I often interview authors, we talk about books a ton on the podcast, and my writing – whether non-fiction or journalism – is imbued with the writing of others. So I make time for it because it feeds into my work as much as it does my own brain."
There's a reason Pandora has captured the hearts and Instagram scrolls of seemingly everyone you know, and that is because she's a journalist first and foremost who happens to also have an infectious love of style – a reluctant influencer, if you will. While she's updating you on the latest current affairs, she's also reminding you that Mango does a great snakeskin print this season, and it's this fusion of substance and style that makes her the ultimate go-to when it comes to both inspiration and knowledge.
This interview originally ran in GRACE magazine, where we were thrilled to showcase Pandora at home in London with baby Zadie where we caught up on all things motherhood, media and style.
As clichéd as it may be, many women experience a dramatic shift in the way they view the world after becoming a mother (or even after falling pregnant). How has motherhood changed – or how is motherhood continuing to change – the way you approach life?
It is a cliche – but cliches are cliches, for a reason! I didn't realise how much motherhood would change not just my life, but my own self, at a completely fundamental level – that was less of a resistance, although there was an element of that, and more total ignorance. It colours absolutely everything – from logistics to love.
You have spoken about the fact that being Zadie’s mother was a role that felt quite natural to you. Why do you think we have a level of shame in our culture around saying that we enjoy motherhood, or that it comes easily to us? Do you think there may be nobility or martyrdom in struggle?
I hadn't actually thought about it like that before, but yes – you're right. Everyone kept saying to be "don't worry, it gets better" and I thought, "I've literally never complained about her." The accepted narrative around new motherhood is that it's a total nightmare and you just have to "get through it". But – and this is not true of other areas in my life at that time – Zadie was never my nightmare. What was my nightmare, in truth, was the fact that societally we pretend to to be sensitive to new motherhood but don't actually follow that through behaviourally, in the way that we accommodate them or, just as importantly, accommodate fathers in the workplace. The lack of accommodations made for fathers, directly impacts the mother – who has to pick up the shortfall.
Talk to us about the issue in celebrating when women “get their body back” after birth, particularly your own experience of this.
I think the 'baby weight' rhetoric is a damaging one. I was reading a parenting book not long ago and it said, near the 6 month post-partum mark, "you're probably on track to getting your old body back, and being a yummy mummy by now!" Like, WTF? It's 2019! I definitely realised how much you are yourself, like a book, judged by its cover, post-Zadie. I had terrible insomnia and anxiety so I lost my baby weight pretty early on, as I lost my appetite. People would say, "so you're doing great" which is quite an odd thing to say to someone, on the basis that they look the same as you remember them looking, or because you have, let's be honest, a really smiley baby. I think you just have to ask how someone is. Just ask. Don't presume how they are, via their love handles, or butt-size. One of my best friends, who is definitely an everyday hero of mine, chastised how brother in law when he congratulated her on her flat tummy, post-baby. "There's a woman at work that still looks pregnant" he said, by way of comparison. "Don't congratulate me on having a flat tummy" she said. "Congratulate me on growing and ejecting an entire baby. Congratulate your colleague for doing that, and returning to work."
On the How to Fail podcast, you spoke about the insomnia you recently experienced and the emotions that accompanied a challenging time, despite everything outwardly being (or appearing to be) “really very good”. This is something we struggle with so much – particularly as mothers. That it feels almost unfair to whinge or complain, when we know how lucky we are. What has helped you get through this time and these conflicting feelings?
That podcast was the first time I had talked about a lot of things that I didn't think I was interested in sharing – and actually, it felt quite cathartic. I think I feel particularly piquantly that I have to be careful how I express struggles about motherhood, because I have seen first hand how hard it has been for my sister, who had her fertility taken away from her by chemotherapy for breast cancer, to navigate the idea that she will not get to be a mother. I'm also personally not one for doing a big moan on social media. I don't care if it's more 'real' – to me, it makes no sense to go rant to a load of people I don't know, versus picking up the phone to a best friend who knows me. Those people aren't invested in the real 'you'. I am not saying they don't care, and don't support you just by following you – which they do – but it would always be an anathema to me, to ask the internet, for help. I do not trust the internet. And I just don't think people need to see that from me, when they log on in the morning. They have their own shit to deal with.
Late last year you wrote a brilliant ode to your nanny, Mimi, on Instagram, and described how having reliable childcare enables you to work 4 days a week on your varied freelance projects, podcast and writing. A lot of women have guilt around childcare, despite our need to return to work for both our financial stability and our sanity (not to mention career ambitions and interests). Did you face any of these feelings of guilt, and what would you say to any other women in similar situations?
It was definitely a navigation – I had no idea how much childcare would cost – but I came to terms with it, because I am the primary earner and also, having my busiest year yet. The year I became a mother was also probably my most fruitful, professionally. I did not, and have not, worked one iota less since having Zadie. What has changed, is that I say yes to barely any work events and I am very careful about social obligations. That said, I am tremendously lucky that working hard means that I can afford a nanny, rather than having to take her to daycare, as it affords me extra hours in the day to work.
You have publicly spoken about taking a short maternity leave and how you felt in those early days and weeks following birth. What are your views on parental leave and how our governments or employers should be supporting new parents?
I think it's tremendously hard to operate via a "one size fits all." I went back to work at 5 weeks, which I wouldn't recommend. But then I think a year can be an awfully long time to take out of the workplace, for some women, and they really struggle to re-adjust. What's the optimum? I have no idea. It depends how your baby sleeps; and how long you want to breast-feed for, as that's the real tie. What I wish, is that we would stop seeing it as the mother who has a baby. Two parents make a baby. Which means that you should allow men flexibility too, so that women aren't always the ones making the compromise.
What is your relationship like with your phone on days when you don’t have to be online or on social media for work. Do you put any digital detoxes in place or monitor your screen time each week?
I turn my phone off all the time. I had to get a landline installed for this very reason! So my family can still contact me. It's Monday today and I had my phone off from Friday afternoon until Sunday lunchtime. I love an airplane! It helps me focus and is good for my anxiety. I typically only check Instagram once a day, or every other day, which also helps.
You’ve been asked this a lot, but as a voracious and dedicated reader, and a mother to a one-year-old baby, how do you find the time to read so much - books, articles, news? Are there some weeks where you simply can’t and don’t?
I think the reason why I am asked this a lot, is because reading comes with moral attachments. Someone reading a lot can make other people feel bad – which is never my intention – and what I always remind is, I sacrifice other ares: I don't go to the gym, and I only properly cook once a week. So I save over an hour a day, from that! It's also important to remember that reading is fundamental to my work: I often interview authors, we talk about books a ton on the podcast, and my writing – whether non-fiction or journalism – is imbued with the writing of others. So I make time for it because it feeds into my work as much as it does my own brain. It is, as Zadie Smith says, a sanctioned addiction. But an addiction nonetheless.
Life balancing children and work is often about prioritising. Is there something that you’ve actively chosen to not focus on, or focus on less now, because of lack of time and inclination?
Oh I totally prioritise. I am incredibly selective and try and be thoughtful about everything I do: why am I doing it, is it important to me, will it make me feel good, will it help my work, etc etc.
You’ve described your personal style as “eclectic but specific”, and you try to incorporate vintage pieces in your looks every day. Can you tell us how you approach getting dressed each morning? Do you plan your outfits in advance or have a shopping strategy each season?
I don't plan in advance, no. If I'm working at home, as I am probably 3 days a week, it's very casual. If I had to look smart every day, I'd definitely struggle! What I wear depends on how tired, or how bloated I am, or what I have on that day.
Your media career has followed the path of magazines, newspapers, websites, social media, a podcast and books. How do you think traditional mediums such as print can hold up against the fast and furious world of digital, audio and video right now?
I'd really like to hope that they can all work in tandem. I enjoy all of them in their collectiveness. But I am keenly aware that most people my age don't read newspapers or magazines. I think they are missing out, as I try and remind them via my recommendations on The High Low!
How would you describe the evolution of your career – how you began and where you are now?
With my career, I wouldn't call myself strategic, necessarily – as I actually really don't like taking risks – but I'm always preparing for the next thing. For instance, I had a blog from day dot, because I wanted to always have something 'extra' to give me the discipline of writing every day, when I didn't get to do that, as an intern, and also in the hope it would get me a better job. It did – it got me the gig as Fashion Features Editor and columnist at The Sunday Times Style, at the relatively young age of 27. I then started a podcast, with Dolly Alderton, while at The Sunday Times, because I was feeling frustrated at existing predominantly in a fashion space. That was the beta version of what is now The High Low, a culture podcast which has helped position me as a journalist who covers fashion, rather than a fashion journalist, and has opened doors for me like, being a speaker (I chair or speak on a panel probably every week, at the moment) or a commentator on radio. My next project will hopefully further cement me as the kind of writer and thinker that I would like to be.
Publishing is in a state of transformation which affects everyone from journalists to photographers – what are your thoughts on the current state of media and where do you think it will be in 10 years?
I think there will be fewer magazines and the ones that exist will be more like coffee table books. We see that happening already: there are more arty bi-annuals than ever before and yet consumer titles are folding almost monthly. I don't think newspapers will ever be defunct, although I do think that we will see some conflation: for EG I think The Times and Sunday Times will become one, at some point, and The Daily Mail and The Mail on Sunday, and so on and so forth. They're very much run as church and state now and I don't think that will last forever. I think digital will have much better journalism, too. In the UK, digital is very much still second fiddle to its print arm. But I think we will see less clickbait going up on websites, and more longform journalism – on the decent websites, at least. Oh and everything will be behind paywalls. Except I think podcasts will stay free…..
So much emphasis is placed on the number of followers a person has on social media, but it’s always the following list that provides a lot of intrigue for us. Can you tell us who and what some of your favourite accounts to follow on Instagram are and why?
I love @houseandgarden for its inspiring interiors, @tanksgoodnews for the feel-goods, @parisreview for great pieces of writing, @animalsdoingthings because it's animals doing things and what could be better than that!?
What would you say to your younger self?
Things take the time they take.
It's no secret we adore Ashley Graham, and just when we couldn't love her more, she has posed nude in Elle US's August issue, alongside her son Isaac, 6 months, and husband Justin Ervin, photographed by Ervin himself.
Ashley Graham with her son Isaac
Ashley Graham stars alongside son Isaac, 6 months, and husband Justin Ervin in Elle's August issue, with photos by Ervin
By the time you finish this story on Auguste founder Ebony Eagle, you'll want to move to Byron Bay, own a couple of horses and dress exclusively in Auguste. At least, I did. She's the type of woman who spreads positive energy and this energy trickles down to the clothes she designs. Ebony has created a fashion brand for women and children that's driven by sustainability and giving back.
Take us back to your childhood. What was it like and what are some of your most vivid memories?<p>There are so many magical memories, particularly of summers spent at our beach house in Rosebud, Victoria – days that seemed to go on forever in a world that felt so big spent with my brothers and sisters, aunties, grandparents. Lots of sand, sun and banana paddle pops on the beach. We still own this beach house and boat shed and I now take my children there to do the exact same thing. It's so unbelievably nostalgic for all of us. It's the most at ease any of us ever feel. My childhood also wasn't without adversity, but children are incredibly resilient and you learn to deal with the situation you are in as best you can. These things shape who you are. I'm from a big family of four children and we moved around a fair bit so, affectionately, home was always where the chaos was! </p>
What was your career path like prior to starting Auguste?<p>I've worked since the day I turned 13, starting with an after school job at the fruit shop, into weekend jobs at cafes and then when I finished school at 17 I was a nanny for a travelling family and spent two years hopping all over Europe… This was where the fire in my belly grew for travelling and I believe it's where my perspective on more of an entrepreneurial career took shape. When I landed back in Australia at 19 I waitressed for a few years until I got poached for a styling/production job at a studio in Richmond. This is where I learned all about shoot productions, etc, and it was whilst working here that I decided to take the leap and start my own fashion brand at 22. I managed to secure a small loan to start my business while I was working full-time and then resigned to waitress again by night and work on my label by day. I had that brand 'ebonyeve' for ten years before I started Auguste five years ago.<br></p>
Was it always a dream to have your own label, or did that come about organically?<p>Well, my Grandma taught me to sew when I was eight-years-old and I continued sewing my whole life. I've always been a massive vintage and op shop trawler and I'm creative, so the whole design part came quite naturally. The business part I learned on the job!</p>
Did you have your girls prior to starting Auguste, and if so, what was that transition like?<p>I had Coco when I was 28 and then Frankie when I'd just turned 30 so at that time, I was still running my previous label 'ebonyeve', so yes I had a business. I never stop working and throughout pregnancy and when the girls were young this didn't change… I was living in Bali at the time that the girls were young though so I just worked wearing a few less items of clothing! Work-life balance will be my lesson in this life – it's something I'm still trying to master.</p>
What's been the biggest challenge of motherhood? And the biggest blessing?<p>The thing I find most challenging is the work-life balance juggle and the fact that I have missed out on so many precious moments due to my work commitments. The biggest blessing is all of it! The whole apple, even the seeds. </p>
You've lived in Melbourne, Byron, Bali and Sydney. Do you feel that you're settled now that you've moved back to Byron, or do you crave change? What were some of the challenges and joys of living overseas?<p>Yes, I've moved around a lot in my life. Auguste HQ has always been based in Byron so moving home to here made sense for us and we always wanted to bring our children up here. I'm very settled now. I've travelled enough for ten lives! Honestly, we didn't find living overseas challenging, we adore different cultures and the perspective that they give you. We are so grateful that our girls started their life like that. All four of us loved living abroad right up until the very end but you just know in your core when it's time to come home.</p>
Is there something about Byron that called you back? Has moving to Byron influenced your designs or your process?<p>Auguste HQ has always been based in Byron so coming back here was the natural decision. Growing up here as a teen I was super eager to get out and experience the world but after I had my children, I definitely felt a strong pull to bring them up here, but more so to the hinterland where we now call home. I just love being in nature, surrounded by my children and as many animals as I can fit in! My designs have always naturally thrown together bohemian and vintage inspiration so I suppose, yes, growing up here could have been the beginning of that attraction.</p>
What are your time management tips?<p>Oh god, finish emails in your evening bath? Between the kids, the horses, the business and my embarrassing attempt of a social life, there is very little time to stop and try to time manage anything, so I pretty much fail constantly, no tips here!<br></p>
How would you describe the Auguste aesthetic?<p>Classic, bohemian, feminine, timeless.</p>
Who is your ultimate Auguste muse?<p>That's a tricky one. Stylistically, the ever-influential Jane Birkin has always been a huge creative inspiration and a measuring stick for my designs. Would Jane wear it? Yes? Good, let's do it. Her sense of fashion was just so easy going and feminine, it's everything we make Auguste to be. I've also always felt inspired by Brigitte Bardot and her femininity, she just made it so approachable. My main inspiration though is Jane Gooddall. Her connection to nature, work with animals and bravery in her field, particularly as a young woman, have given me so much courage to create, stay true to myself and use my platform to give back to the planet. </p>
Auguste is such an ethical label, from your fabrics and factories to your ongoing charitable initiatives. Is that something that has always been important to you?<p>Absolutely, I always wanted to get to a point in business where I was able to give back. To have a platform and a voice is a gift and one that I believe should be used wisely and for greater good.</p>
Do you think the fashion industry is becoming more conscious?<p>Absolutely and largely that's being driven by consumer demand, which is just awesome. It won't all happen at once, but the fact that more and more consumers are seeking out eco-friendly fashion alternatives means that more brands will follow suit. They're starting to realise that if you're not thinking about your impact on the planet, you're not being competitive, or responsible really, and that's the only real future for fashion. </p>
You regularly design collections in aid of a charitable cause. Tell us about your latest 'Hero' campaign...<p>As a mum and as a member of the global community, I wanted to unite people in recognising the dangers of bullying and how important it is to use your position to stand up for others. We designed a range of Hero slogan tees as a call to action and donated 100% of the sales to the National Centre Against Bullying and the Cybersmile Foundation to continue their work preventing abuse and giving support to sufferers. I'm incredibly proud that our message of solidarity was shared by thousands around the world and we raised more than $85,000 for our partner charities. </p>
Why is charity work so important to you?<p>It's just part of who I am and what I've always believed in, but when I had children it became a larger priority in my life. If we're not working to leave the planet a better place for our little ones, then what are we doing? How can you see what's happening in the world and not respond? I've worked hard and now I'm fortunate enough to have this platform, so I use it. To me that's just good sense, simple as that! </p>
Little August is your childrenswear line. Tell us about the inspiration behind it?<p>My daughters were my inspiration here. I created little Auguste when my girls were little and loved spinning around in full skirts, it was made for princesses – and even though those two princesses now will only wear ripped denim shorts and Auguste tees I'm so happy that there are so many other little angels out there still spinning in our creations.</p>
What's your parenting philosophy?<p>Shower them with so much love and kindness that they don't realise you often forget to do story time. Also I believe in teaching my girls independence – if they are able to do it themselves then they do. Also have fun with them and keep phones down.</p>
One of your most popular charity campaigns was your 'future woman' tee range. What sort of example do you want to set for your daughters?<p>The 'future women' tees were part of our charity campaign raising money for UN Women and promoting female empowerment, and as a mother of two daughters this meant so much to me. A big lesson I hope my daughters learn from me is to not be passive. Make opportunities, don't wait for them. Offer to help, don't wait for someone else to. Use what's at your fingertips, and then reach for more. </p>
How has COVID-19 changed the way you think about your business?<p>Covid brought a lot of perspective for me. It showed us all that everything can literally stop overnight, so for me it was a reminder to make sure that what I was doing was right for me personally and was to the standard that I wanted. We are doing a lot of work on our ethics and sustainability and really our whole brand identity. It's a time to contract and refocus on not necessarily being big but being great… and I am LOVING that.</p>
What changes will you be making?<p>We made the decision around the beginning of Covid to exit from wholesale entirely and focus on our own vertical channels, making Auguste exclusive to our online store <a href="http://augustethelabel.com/" target="_blank">augustethelabel.com</a> and our Brisbane and Byron Bay boutiques. The exit was a huge decision for me, however I know it was the right one. Being a purely vertical business means we can retract and refocus. There were many factors in this decision however the most important was the ability to continue on our journey to being a more ethical and sustainable business, because that is what it is, a journey – it is not about any one decision, it's every decision you make. Being a vertical business means we have the flexibility to make the decisions we feel are right.</p>
The story we are told of motherhood is one of lightness that leans into the beautiful, the incredible and the magical. However, for all the lightness there is shade, and in the shadows lies a rollercoaster which pushes you to your limits and at times breaks you. Both sides are important for open, real dialogue around motherhood. As a health professional I entered motherhood confident. I had all the resources at my fingers tips as a women's health physiotherapist. Despite this, my journey was far from smooth. Even though I was well informed, it didn't make me immune to the real emotional and physical challenges of motherhood that are still so rarely discussed.
My Motherhood Journey<p>When I first fell pregnant, I was blissfully happy. I felt I had realistic expectations of what motherhood was going to be like. I was also very aware of the high rates of mental health conditions that come up during the perinatal period and knew what to look out for. I was primed and ready to be the earth mumma I was destined to be.<br></p><p>Then my pregnancy had a slight curve ball, I had placenta previa which meant many unsettling vaginal bleeds, no exercise, and the very real threat of complete bed rest. Thankfully, my placenta lifted around 35 weeks, and I was able to have a vaginal delivery. I was induced, the birth was fast and intense, and I needed a ventouse and an episiotomy. Despite this, I felt very positive about my birth mainly because I was informed, supported and respected through the journey. We had a healthy little girl, and I was in absolute awe. Pure. Magic.</p><p>And then the post-natal period began. I had feeding issues, my baby wasn't gaining weight, she had blood in her stool, and chronic vomiting. Paediatricians prescribed various medications and prescription formula, but the constant crying from my bub and the sleep deprivation for all of us continued. For many years. </p><p>Bit by bit my confidence began to crumble. I was anxious that she wasn't getting enough nourishment, I felt guilt that this was all my fault and I started to doubt myself and believe I was a bad mother. This was not the motherhood I had pictured. But as all 'good' mothers do, I put on a brave face and pushed on. I continued to run my business, treated patients, and carried on with life. Under the surface, I was utterly depleted and hanging on by a thread. </p><p>And then we fell pregnant with our second baby. During this pregnancy my level of exhaustion hit a new low. I was still getting up through the night, working and studying, and I became highly anxious about how I was going to care for another baby.</p>
Just over a week ago, I stumbled across a piece on childfree women in The Guardian, after a couple of women I follow on Twitter were sharing it, outraged by its contents. The piece, part of a 'Childfree' series, was essentially a conversation between Guardian editors Summer Sewell and Jessica Reed, who, having read Sheila Heti's Motherhood, discussed their own personal reasons for not having children over drinks.
The Grace Tales is a global lifestyle platform for mothers searching for style, substance, and solidarity. Driven by creating content, community and connection, we celebrate the paradox of modern motherhood; the struggle and the beauty, the joy and the relentlessness.
Sophie Harris-Taylor captures something we often try so hard to hide: our vulnerability. As mothers, we're supposed to be strong and powerful, yet what is often overlooked is that our transition into becoming a mother is the most vulnerable period of our lives...
"I think we're often afraid to show our vulnerabilities," agrees London-based Harris-Taylor. "Perhaps we think by showing this side people are going to judge and only see weakness. Where actually I think there's something incredibly powerful and strong about being openly vulnerable. I'm in awe of the people I photograph, its often about striking the balance between confidence and vulnerability. I've found my work to be a very therapeutic experience, it took me a while to open up myself, but by doing this it has allowed my subjects to open up and engage in an honest conversation."
You’ve said: “I think most importantly that looks don’t define who you are, and in the end don’t really matter.” Why do some of us take so long to come to this realisation? And tell me your thoughts on beauty and how it led you to create Epidermis?<p>I think when we're younger we get so caught up on our looks, perhaps before we know where we're headed in life, it can seem like the be-all and end-all. And sometimes it comes from a place where you just want to fit in. And perhaps it just comes from life experience that you start to realise other things matter more.<br> <br>It sounds cliché but beauty is of course so subjective yet in the mainstream media we are often not exposed to this kind of diversity. Epidermis for me was a way of showcasing beautiful women in skins less often seen. Most of my personal projects seem to come from my own life experiences and throughout there is always some element of my own vulnerability – I began to reflect on my own past and feelings towards my skin, I'd suffered from severe acne. Back then, there were no idols, role models and people to look up to who had anything but flawless skin. Which obviously meant I struggled with my own self-image. We've come a long way since then, what with body positivity and generally people speaking out about beauty standards and promoting diversity. However, I still felt that there was a lack in representing skin in an honest and open way. </p>
Your work captures a character’s vulnerabilities – why do you think we sometimes hide our vulnerabilities and what have you learnt about being vulnerable through your work?<p>I think we're often afraid to show our vulnerabilities. Perhaps we think by showing this side people are going to judge and only see weakness. Where actually I think there's something incredibly powerful and strong about being openly vulnerable. I'm in awe of the people I photograph, its often about striking the balance between confidence and vulnerability. I've found my work to be a very therapeutic experience, it took me a while to open up myself, but by doing this it has allowed my subjects to open up and engage in an honest conversation.</p>
For your series Sisters, you photographed and interviewed over 70 sets of sisters, of all ages and backgrounds – and have said that it was a way of reflecting on the difficulties of her own relationship with her sister. Can you describe this relationship?<p>At the time I created the work, there wasn't much of a relationship there if I'm honest, we'd not really been able to see past our teenage years and sisterly disputes. Since then we've started to rebuild our relationship as adults. I think I tried to understand a bit more about the complexities of sisterhood and the journeys of this kind of lifelong relationship.</p>
You’ve described mastitis as more painful than childbirth – tell us about your experience with breastfeeding?<p>Yes looking back I really did! It was very much a love/hate relationship. In some ways I was lucky, my son latched on quickly in the hospital and fed well. But getting mastitis early on meant it became very difficult and painful to feed him at times. I seemed to always be overproducing which led to the ducts becoming completely blocked and then getting infected. The pain combined with sleep deprivation was pretty exhausting. My son used the breast as a comfort a lot so for months I felt like he was completely attached to me, but never that full. I started mixed feeding after about 4 or 5 months.. this helped him sleep through the night. Once he started weening there wasn't much milk left and in one breast my supply had pretty much dried up all together. As soon as I stopped, I missed it.</p>
How would you describe the intimacy or closeness of breastfeeding and how did it make you feel?<p>It's pretty magical. I loved the intimacy, the comfort it gave him which in turn it gave me.</p>
There’s sometimes a longing for personal space, as mothers feel they have a baby constantly attached to them. Did you ever feel this?<p>Absolutely I felt constantly clinged too. Being pulled and tugged whilst covered in milk really did make me long for personal space. Then again, I felt this huge guilt, because I'd met so many mums that couldn't for various reasons breastfeed and there I was complaining about it.</p>
You’ve always had a complicated relationship with your body. Can you tell me about this relationship – and how did breastfeeding change the way you felt about your body?<p>Having had an eating disorder since my early teens, it's been an ongoing battle really. I don't know if breastfeeding really changed the way I felt towards by body but certainly postpartum I was desperate to get back to my old body. And having never had large breasts before, this made me feel pretty uncomfortable, physically and mentally, and it was weirdly unfamiliar.</p>
You felt lost after you gave birth – can you take us back to this period of your life and how you felt?<p>I did, I think because you've got this new identity suddenly as a 'new mum' and your life as what you knew it has completely changed overnight. But you know deep down, you're still you and your identity hasn't really changed at all. Don't get me wrong, I actually loved becoming a mum, but I found the day to day, the monotony of it all at the very beginning pretty boring. My friends were working, and I felt in some ways a bit bored and not that stimulated. When I started to make work again felt like I got a bit more of myself back.</p>
What were some of the most vivid memories you have of shooting MILK?<p>Zenon my son, was there for most of my shoots. This was in some ways really fun and a real bonding experiences between me and the Mum. But looking back a complete nightmare. Logistically. At the beginning when I started shooting, he couldn't even sit up by himself so he'd often be just out of shot, lying on the bed next to the other Mum feeding. Then towards the end, he was running all over the place, pretty much destroying the house..</p>
What messages do you hope women will take away from MILK?<p>It'd be nice for other women, to feel they can relate to the images and experiences of the other mums a bit more, than the typical nursing Madonna-like images we are used to seeing. For a lot of people and not just men, they find it kind of gross. Even though we've all seen a cow being milked, I guess women's breasts have become so sexualised, that actually what they are originally for has almost been forgotten. I think the more we talk about these things and make them more publicly seen, the less taboo they become. At least, that's the hope.</p>
"I know that abandoned is a word that has been used in telling that story, but I actually don't want to use that word anymore," Zoe Hendrix tells me, when we go back to the beginning of her life, when she was born amidst the Eritrea-Ethiopia border war...
When she was five years old, she went to live at an Ethiopian orphanage with her twin brother. In her own words, "It sounds like you abandon an old tire on the road or something, and to me, it's more that she surrendered us because she was very unwell. I only learned this recently as well, so that's why I want to correct the wording I have used previously." Hendrix and her brother were later adopted by a Tasmanian couple and moved to Australia. Fast forward to 2015, and the country watched Zoe marry Alex Garner on the very first season of Married at First Sight. The couple went onto have a beautiful daughter Harper-Rose, but have since separated.