Born during the Lebanese Civil War, a Photographer and a Mom, Rhea Karam Shares Her Unique Perspective On Motherhood
Experience of surviving a bomb attack during the Lebanese Civil War that almost killed her when she was just 1 years old gave Rhea Karam, a photographer and an artist and now a mother of a 1 year-old boy, a unique perspective and strength to overcome the small challenges of being a new mother. We were fortunate to get to know her a little better and excited to share her perspective and wisdom.
What are your passions in life?
My work, photography and art in general, and now more than ever watching my son, Kai change and evolve every day.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I was born in Lebanon in 1982. When I was 1, our building was bombed in the middle of the night and a shrapnel entered my window and bounced all around the room and ended up lodging in my crib. My room was covered in glass, but I was miraculously unharmed. After this event my parents decided to leave, and my brother and I grew up between the US and France. We were privileged to have a carefree childhood away from any political turmoil and I have many happy memories of fun and play. Now that my son is the same age I was at the time, I realize what an obstacle my parents were put through, and it gives me a lot of perspective and strength to overcome the small challenges of being a new mother.
Tell us about your pregnancy experience in New York as a busy working city woman.
After the first trimester, which was the most difficult due to extreme fatigue, my pregnancy went very well. I was able to remain extremely active and actually became more productive at work. I think the awareness that I will not have as much free time once the baby was born gave me inspiration to work on several new projects. I even managed to do some street art at 6/7 months in New York. New York is a great place to be pregnant, as I was active and walking daily and taking advantage of all the prenatal yoga and stretching classes they offer throughout the city.
Can you share your birth story?
I was fortunate to have an OB that had a natural approach and tried to help me avoid getting an epidural too early. I was actually sent to a hotel near the hospital to labor as I came to the hospital too early. I had a doula and my husband by my side. I have vague memories of strolling down Madison Avenue at night stopping at each corner during my contractions trying to reach the hotel which was a few blocks away. My labor lasted 30 hours. It was quite a marathon! It amazes me what we our bodies are capable of.
How was your postpartum life after you brought your baby home?
It was an extremely difficult process which I was not prepared for. I did not have a sufficient support system and no family living in the US. The only help I had was from hired professionals (ie. babysitter, lactation consultant, etc.) [who] offer knowledge but no emotional support, which is so important during this period of a woman's life. The adaptation and learning curve was steep, but luckily became more and more rewarding as the weeks passed. I thought I had experienced sleep deprivation during college and my earlier years, but it was nowhere close to the exhaustion I experienced those first weeks. Breastfeeding was also a challenge, and I realize how uninformed I was before giving birth. I thought it would come naturally. I think there is still a great deal that needs to be done in the US about helping women transition back home, and informing them ahead of time. In Canada for example, a nurse comes to your home 2-3 days after you leave the hospital to make sure you are well settled and answers all your concerns.
Tell me more about your life with your new baby!
Kai is almost 1 and it is hard to believe how quickly time flies! Having a baby has definitely changed my world around. I have adapted to my new sleep schedule of getting 4-7 hours of sleep a night as he is an early riser. The days are longer, but more productive and exciting. A typical weekday:
- 5 am: wake with Kai
- 5-7am: Play, read books, feed Kai
- 7 am: Go for a walk or take Kai to the park (I have a whole new appreciation for the city which is still quite in the early morning)
- 9 am: Put Kai to sleep and get ready for the day
- 9:30 am: Nanny comes and I leave for the studio
- 5 pm: I come home and give Kai dinner
- 6 pm: Bath time and story telling
- 7 pm: Put Kai to sleep
- 7 pm onwards: Enjoy some peaceful time, finish up on work, have dinner, catch up with my husband.
Do you have any advice/two cents for other mothers, new moms, and mothers-to-be?
There are no set rules. My advice would be not to get too much advice or read too many books that fill your head with how things should be, and can add stress. Sometimes too much advice is actually a disservice because you always question whether you are doing the right thing. Is he sleeping enough? Am I feeding him too little? Should I not be rocking him to sleep? And the list goes on. Everyone has their method which works for them, but it does not necessarily mean it works for you and your family.
What does a brand like Mitera mean to you and to other women/mothers?
I was very excited when I discovered Mitera, which I wore both during my pregnancy and after. It is important to feel good during a time [when] your body goes through so much change. Mitera offers an elegant design while being comfortable. I found it very hard to find well-designed clothes adapted to all stages of pregnancy and breast feeding.
Radiant Rhea in our Katie Dress in Black