When Kelsey Shaw threw a party for the release of her book last year, she ordered dozens of boob balloons and mammary-shaped cookies to serve her friends and family. Shaw, who lives in Kessler Square with her husband, Tucker, wrote and illustrated the 24-page “Boobies are for Babies,” which looks like a children’s book but is meant for new moms. It was inspired by the boredom and loneliness she felt after the birth of their daughter, Emma, in 2018. Their second baby, a son, is due this month.
What inspired this book?
I had multiple doctors tell me, starting when I was 16 years old, that I’d never be able to have children. My husband and I had been together for eight years when I got pregnant, and we didn’t even know it was within the realm of possibility. When we found out we were pregnant, my world shifted, and I freaked out. But my husband was great. He was like, “You know this is a really good thing, right?” I was in labor for 24 hours and had to have an emergency C-section. Then I was on maternity leave, and I was home alone with a baby all day. I felt really overwhelmed, but culturally, we have these archetypes where you can either be a badass career woman, and you hate kids. Or you are this really saccharine mother who has always wanted a baby. And I didn’t think I was either of those.
You mentioned that it started with a poem about nursing bras.
Yes, one day when Emma was asleep, I was online looking for a nursing bra that didn’t look like my grandmother designed it. I couldn’t find one, so I thought, “OK, Victoria’s Secret.” Normally I don’t even shop there, but like, bras are kind of their thing, so I thought surely they would have something. And they have nothing. I thought, “These are literally here to feed you, and there’s nothing I can buy that makes that easy to do that and makes me feel pretty.” So I wrote a stupid poem in 30 minutes about not being able to find a nursing bra.
Did you ever find one you liked?
No. Luckily Nordstrom will alter any bra to make it a nursing bra, and it’s $16.
How did the poem become a book?
When I was breastfeeding my daughter, I needed an outlet. So I got an iPad and Illustrator. My friends kept encouraging me to illustrate the poem, and when I did, they encouraged me to do a book.
There’s one page that’s about nurses bothering you.
I was in the hospital for five days, and this nurse [points to illustration] was OK because she was just there to give me medication and check on me. This person [points again] was not cool because she would wake me up in the middle of the night, like to sign off on insurance papers, even though my husband, who wasn’t recovering from major surgery, was right there sleeping in the same room.
“Maternity leave shocked me out of being able to control every situation.”
What is your career background?
I always thought I wanted to be a lawyer, so I went to law school for a year, but I didn’t enjoy it. My mom says I should stop telling people that because it makes me sound like a dropout. But I don’t mind because I tried it, and I was brave enough to say, “This is not what I want to do.” I worked for tech startups that deal with e-commerce. That turned me into an entrepreneur, and I had a modeling agency in Arkansas, of all things. But that wasn’t it either.
What do you do now?
I work for Cristo Rey Dallas College Preparatory School, and I teach an arts entrepreneur class to ninth-graders. This is my fifth year, and they are the most inspiring, hard working kids ever.
How did you decide to focus more on your art?
Being creative is scary, and you run away from it. Maternity leave shocked me out of being able to control every situation. I was just sitting around for three months, and yes, I was caring for my daughter, but I felt so unproductive. But my daughter introduced this beautiful chaos to my life. Now she paints with me. When she’s done with her paintings, I draw women with their children into them. My style is so tight and controlled, and she’s way more chaotic and colorful. It’s been learning how to live and opening up this part of me that I didn’t know was there.
Who did you write this book for?
We did a pop-up in Oak Cliff, and this woman came up, and she was by herself, and she had a newborn baby with her. She stood there and read the book, and she just started crying, and she said, “That’s me.” Being a mom is really lonely, and no one talks about that. It’s not culturally acceptable to be like, “This feels very isolating, and I have no idea what I’m doing.” I want this to be something you can give to a mom who’s in a hospital bed that will make her feel not alone.
Find the book at boobiesareforbabies.com.