Mid-life mothers celebrated in travelling photo exhibit
By Isabel Teotonio | thestar.com | March 20, 2013
No, she's not the grandmother — she's the mother.
Cyma Shapiro, 55, hopes you'll look beyond the grey wisps and thinning skin. She wants you to see the "breathtaking" lengths that new, mid-life mothers go through to have a child, not always their first.
She is the creator of a travelling art show that explores the joys and challenges of being a mom after the age of 40. The show opens Friday at Toronto's Miles Nadal Jewish Community Centre for its only Canadian run.
Nurture: Stories of New Midlife Mothersfeatures 25 black-and-white photos of new moms, some in their 60s, with their families. The women have become mothers through IVF, surrogacy, adoption, fostering, guardianship, blending stepfamilies and natural childbirth.
"You can achieve motherhood at whatever age you choose," says Shapiro, an American writer who started the website Motheringinthemiddle.com.
But, she notes, a woman's decision to be a mother, after she hits her mid-40s, can be costly, emotionally distressing and spiritually taxing.
"(People) don't realize the amount of time and energy (the women) spent thinking about how they would achieve motherhood," she said in a phone interview from her home in West Hartford, Conn.
"There's an enormous amount that goes on behind the scenes of every mid-life mother and that's what I wanted people to see."
The exhibit is especially timely as more and more middle-aged women are choosing to become mothers. While some women were unable to have children naturally, and others only met their partners late in life, medical breakthroughs and new family models have opened up greater possibilities of parenthood, says Shapiro.
"It's the newest chapter in the women's movement," says Shapiro, calling mid-life motherhood "a Zeitgeist of the times."
According to Statistics Canada, the number of women over the age of 40 giving birth rose to 12,915 in 2011 from 10,349 in 2007.
People often ask Shapiro if the show is meant to be inspirational or supportive. In truth, she says, it was intended to dispel myths about middle age, introduce a growing number of women opting to be mid-life mothers, provide younger women with role models and, most importantly, to give mid-life mothers a collective voice.
But after first seeing the photos up on the wall, with their accompanying family stories, she can see why they inspire. They are, she notes, "great stories of inspiration, hope, love, passion, conviction, willpower, perseverance and determination."
Shapiro came to the project by chance.
When she was 46, Shapiro and her husband travelled to Russia to adopt a daughter; they returned two years later to adopt a son. For Shapiro and her husband, the decision made "perfect sense," but after they started their family they were met with "puzzling reactions." After all, she was middle-aged and already had two adult stepchildren. Why would she do this? Her decision left her feeling isolated and lonely, she says.
She tried to network with other new mid-life moms and was surprised to learn there was little cohesion amongst them, largely because of the profound differences in their experiences. But the women she met, by phone and online, turned out to be a "breathtaking group of women, who at all twists and turns inspired me."
Initially, Shapiro wanted to share their stories in a book and interviewed 58 mid-life mothers from across the United States, from different faiths, races and socioeconomic classes. Instead, she decided on an art show, the first of its kind in North America. She hired photographers Shana Sureck and Tracy Cianflone.
Her discussions with other mid-life mothers made her realize she wasn't alone. And, she adds, there is "an enormous amount of power as a woman in making life choices that are truthful and fulfilling for you."
The free exhibit runs until April 21 at the Miles Nadal JCC at 750 Spadina Ave., near Bloor St. W. Regular gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Read the original article.
'NURTURE' exhibit to open at gallery (401)
By Nancy Kirsch | The Jewish Voice & Herald | November 9, 2012
gallery (401) hosts an opening reception for "NURTURE: Stories of New Midlife Mothers" on Thursday, Nov. 15, at 7 p.m.; the event is free and open to the community.
In a brief interview in Providence, Cyma Shapiro, exhibit creator and writer, talked with The Voice & Herald about the project, which Shapiro called the first of its kind, one dedicated to presenting women choosing motherhood at age 40 and older.
Shapiro noted that the show is traveling through North America. It opened recently in Houston and will be shown in Toronto after it leaves Rhode Island.
After she was met with odd responses to her lifestyle choice of adopting a child later in life, Shapiro said that she wanted to establish support groups for women who came to motherhood later in life. Although those efforts drew good turnouts, she said, "It was the weirdest phenomenon I've ever seen. It was instantly apparent that none of the women liked each other. If they adopted, they only talked to women who adopted, in vitro mothers only talked to other in vitro mothers."
That led her, said Shapiro, now 54, "to network across the country to find as many iconoclastic women as I could and share their stories. I wanted to identify every race, religion, creed, gender status and family status that I could...at the end of 2 1/2 years, I found 58 women from Alaska to Maine and Guatemala, none of whom I knew."
Although her efforts to turn these mid-life mothers' stories and photos into a book have not borne fruit to date — Shapiro was invited to turn the project into a traveling art show. And so, she did.
Her motivation and intention for "NURTURE" is threefold, she said. "One, to dispel myths about women choosing motherhood [at 40 or later]; second, to provide role models for younger [women] to make life choices irrelevant of age; third, to really educate society about who we are and why we've done [midlife mothering] and to redefine middle age."
"Why age 40," she was asked, "as opposed to 35 or 45?"
"I chose it as a cutoff point because I find it to be an age where women are making a very conscious and willful choice to pursue [motherhood] at all costs, be they financial, emotional, physiological [or] psychological," said Shapiro. "The women represented in the show...have come to motherhood in seven different ways: surrogacy, in vitro, natural, adoption, fostering, guardianship or blended step-families."
A Realtor and a blogger as well as a former newspaper journalist, Shapiro said that people asked her early on, "Are these intended to be inspirational stories?"
She explained, "They are painful stories, stories of love and loss...but I think...people need to recognize the lengths to which we have all gone to achieve motherhood, the perseverance we used to get there and the uncharted waters that many of us had to navigate."
She says the exhibit's most important message is the "sheer willpower and determination and passion that all these mothers had to achieve motherhood."
The stories and photographs of 25 of the 58 women will be included at the gallery (401) opening, which will also offer wine and light refreshments. Shapiro and Shana Shurek, the project's East Coast photographer, are expected to attend.
Read the original article.
Coney Furniture Store Hosts Photo Exhibit on 'Midlife Mothers'
By Brooklyn Daily Eagle | Published online March 9, 2011
CONEY ISLAND — At first thought, a furniture store may seem like an unlikely choice to have a photo exhibit. The setting was a perfect match, however, for "NURTURE: Stories of New Midlife Mothers Exhibit" at Raymour & Flanigan Furniture in Coney Island, which had its opening reception on March 3.
Shoppers were pleasantly surprised to see the photos and stories of midlife mothers and their children hanging on the walls of living room and bedroom settings throughout the store, just as they might be displayed in the midlife moms' own homes. They looked at the rich black and white photos and took a break from their furniture shopping to read the diverse biographies of the midlife moms portrayed in the photos.
The choice of locale was also to make the exhibit accessible to people who might not otherwise go to see a photo exhibit in a gallery or museum. It is the first time ever that Raymour & Flanigan has hosted a photo exhibit in any of its stores.
Read the full article.
Gallery Show Tells Story of Midlife Motherhood
By Susan Schoenberger | West Hartford Patch | November 18, 2010
Discovering that fact lured Shapiro into a project that is now on display at the Hartford Seminary's Women's Leadership Institute in Hartford. The project started out as a book but has turned into a gallery show of moving black-and-white photos along with descriptions written by Shapiro and words of the featured mothers. "There's so much edification in what's happening here," Shapiro said at the gallery show's opening. "There's so much support and love. Even with this one show we've already started to break barriers."
While the show features 25 midlife mothers, Shapiro has interviewed more than 50 from across the country. What they share, she said, is the decision to embrace motherhood at a time when they could have made a very different choice. "What had been a very well-ordered existence suddenly was turned upside down," she said during her introduction to the show. Despite the upheaval, Shapiro said these midlife mothers are changing the face of families forever. "We're all over the country," she said, "and we're really a force to be reckoned with."
Read the full article.
Midlife Mothers and Their Challenges Are Subject Of Photo Exhibit At Hartford Seminary
By Teresa M. Pelham | Hartford Courant | November 2, 2010
Excerpt: "I am very dedicated and passionate about putting these women in the spotlight," said Shapiro. "I very much want this to open a dialogue. I want people to say 'What? She's 63?' I want all of this to be discussed and discussed and discussed."
Read the full article.
Mid-life mothers find a forum in ground-breaking exhibit of photographs and stories
By Tracey Weiss | West Hartford Life | October 10, 2010
Ms. Shapiro, a town resident and late-in-life mother herself, went in search of others for support and instead found so many tales to tell she put it all together in the form of an exhibit of stories and photographs.
"NURTURE: Stories of New Midlife Mothers" runs from November 4 -22 at the Hartford Seminary (in Hartford, Connecticut) and tells the stories of 25 women who have made the choice to be mothers for a variety of reasons.
"The purpose of this show is to dispel myths and provide a face and a forum for future generations to see that making life choices at a different age is OK," Ms. Shapiro said. "Their stories are amazing, breathtaking. They came to motherhood in every way possible, but they share a commitment to redefining their mid-lives." For three years now, she has put together their stories. "I couldn't stop,' she said. "One would lead me to another and I would have to talk to that mom."