Self-Portrait as Mother as Nature Documentary

Chelsea Krieg

The shoebill pesters its mother for a drink, says David Attenborough.

Drained of the nutrients that rose her body, the pink flamingo feeds her baby crimson milk from the hook of her beak. This will give the child its bright plumage. During this process, she turns white.

A human mother bleeds for one week after birth. Her mother helps freeze witch hazel cotton for her underwear to soothe the body where it was torn open—just the way she had done so for herself after she bore her own children.

Most snakes abandon their children as eggs, but most snakes do not need their mothers to survive.

Suckling is one of mother nature’s great inventions, says David Attenborough. A remarkable bond forms between baby and mother.

Her nipples bleed for weeks because the infant does not latch. She cries every time the child eats. The midwife cringes when she sees the breast.

The mother black bear raises her cubs alone. Over the year of gestation and nursing, black bear cubs absorb nearly half of the mother bear’s weight. Despite this, she protects them. She does not trust their father, who does not recognize his own children.

The moment the mother can feel the baby inside her womb is known as the quickening. This sensation often feels like a flutter of wings and is not experienced externally. It is the moment she believes she is a mother.

The mother octopus dies mostly alone. Her body—pale and thin as the skin pulled over the bridge of a child’s nose. She has already lost so much, an arm to a hungry pyjama shark, a safe place to bury her head. Not everything taken grows back, and there is no word for a group of octopuses.

After giving birth, crab spiders let their babies eat them alive. This is a process known as matriphagy, in which the children devour until there is nothing left. The mother knows this and still she presses herself into her children’s open mouths. She could run, but she does not.