NURTURE: Stories of New Midlife Mothers :: Art Exhibit

Mon, June 17, 2013

Through Sept 2, 2013. Photos and stories of some 25 midlife mothers with their families. Written and created by Cyma Shapiro. Photography by Shana Sureck and Tracy Cianflone.


https://asoft8273.accrisoft.com/marinjcc/clientuploads/directory/CJP/2012-2013 Season/Nurture-Aleta-St-James.jpgAleta St. James

Photography by Shana Sureck



clientuploads/directory/CJP/2012-2013 Season/Nurture-Regina-Thomas.jpgRegina Thomas

Photography by Tracy Cianflone



https://asoft8273.accrisoft.com/marinjcc/clientuploads/directory/CJP/2012-2013 Season/Nurture-Dee-Dice.jpgDee Dice

Photography by Shana Sureck



https://asoft8273.accrisoft.com/marinjcc/clientuploads/directory/CJP/2012-2013 Season/Nurture-Sharolyn-Davis.jpgSharolyn Davis

Photography by Tracy Cianflone



https://asoft8273.accrisoft.com/marinjcc/clientuploads/directory/CJP/2012-2013 Season/Nurture-Joanie-Siegel.jpgJoanie Siegel

Photography by Shana Sureck



https://asoft8273.accrisoft.com/marinjcc/clientuploads/directory/CJP/2012-2013 Season/Nurture-Tracy.jpgFamily

Photography by Tracy Cianflone



https://asoft8273.accrisoft.com/marinjcc/clientuploads/directory/CJP/2012-2013 Season/Nurture-Michelle-Meyer.jpg Michelle Meyer

Photography by Shana Sureck



https://asoft8273.accrisoft.com/marinjcc/clientuploads/directory/CJP/2012-2013 Season/Nurture-Rivken-Slonim2.jpg Rivkah Slonim

Photography by Shana Sureck



https://asoft8273.accrisoft.com/marinjcc/clientuploads/directory/CJP/2012-2013 Season/Nurture-Olivia-Ilano.jpg Olivia Ilano

Photography by Shana Sureck



In the past 30 years, the number of women over 40 giving birth to their first child has jumped from 1 in 600 mothers to 1 in 77 mothers. More middle-aged women are becoming new mothers through adoption, surrogacy, in vitro fertilization, fostering and guardianship. Through dramatic black and white photos, and the mothers’ own words, this exhibit explores the joys and challenges of becoming a mother after 40. While they still get mistaken for grandmas, later moms bring wisdom to their roles as nurturers. Some women were unable to have children the traditional way; others took a while to find the right partner; medical advances opened doors to motherhood that had been closed for lesbian couples and single women; and still others saw a child in need of a loving home and embraced motherhood through adoption, guardianship and foster parenting.

West Hartford resident Cyma Shapiro, a blogger, writer and former journalist, has interviewed more than 56 midlife mothers across the United States (and Guatemala) from a variety of faiths, races, occupations and circumstances. They came to motherhood in every way possible (natural childbirth, IVF, guardianship, fostering, adoption, surrogacy, blending stepfamilies), but they share a commitment to redefining their midlives. While each mother's journey differs, most chose midlife motherhood at this "middle age" stage of their lives. Later moms are more present to their children than they may have been when consumed by the business of building their careers, living without added responsibility. Married, divorced, single or in committed partnerships, these women's lives have been enriched by the challenges, thrills and lessons of new older motherhood.


This is the first show of its kind in the country. These dramatic photos, 25 in total, together with the narrative text, help to:

  • dispel myths about middle age
  • introduce society to the growing number of women choosing midlife motherhood
  • offer subsequent generations of women role models for making life choices, irrelevant of age
  • provide this burgeoning group with a voice, face and forum.

In addition to Shapiro’s introduction, the show includes a special introduction by professor and writer Elizabeth Gregory, director of Women's Studies at the University of Houston and author of Ready: Why Women Are Embracing the New Later Motherhood.


Award-winning photojournalist and the show's East Coast photographer Shana Sureck, herself a midlife mother, has captured in pictures the joy and love that binds these midlife moms with their children.

West Coast photographer and former make-up artist Tracy Cianflone, who became a mother to her last child after 40, specializes in family and individual portraits, including celebrity clients.


"NURTURE" has been featured in The Huffington Post, The Chicago Tribune, The Jewish Voice & Herald, and NPR, among many others! To read the articles, click here. (http://www.midlifemothers.org/press.html)



Seven years ago, while sitting in the Moscow Marriott at age 46 with my newly adopted year-old daughter, I realized that I was going to be old when she graduated from college. The "old" was nearly my grandmother’s age – old! This was the very first time I’d ever felt my mortality and had ever even stopped to consider my chronological age. I had long ignored the biological clock theory thinking that it was mere hyperbole. I always looked, felt and acted much younger than my age. Although it came as a shock to me that I had not previously become pregnant, on that cold winter’s night nearly 9,000 miles from home, I finally felt my life begin. My age was a nagging problem, but at that moment I was filled with pride, joy and the fullness of starting a new family. I could see nothing but rosy times. Or so I thought. Little did I know that I had just joined a new club – moms over 40 – with no dues-paying members and no glue to bind them. Little did I know that in reality, I was one of them.

Arriving home, we expected the rest of the world to share our joy. However, the reactions were puzzling -- jealousy, disbelief and confusion. We were middle aged, had launched my two stepchildren into adulthood and had finally achieved time to ourselves. Although our decision seemed perfectly logical, it seemed like the rest of the world didn’t agree. Why would we do this? Adopting a child in middle age had suddenly left me isolated and lonely. Why had we done this?

Seeking answers, and perhaps subconsciously, support and comfort, I decided to network across the country to find other new older mothers. I was inquisitive: Why did they do this? How did they do this? What did they need to do to do this? How did they feel? How did their family and friends feel? Were they to live their life over again, would they do it this way?

Within months, my phone started ringing. Women from across the country began reaching out to help me find new mothers over 40. The networking was incredible; the women amazing: story after story, endless hours of discussions. All of this prompted me to look further (and faster) for more: the oldest, the most amazing; the most poignant, the most joyous, the most spiritual, the most life-altering, and on and on. I would go to the furthest reaches of this country (and beyond) just to find the most iconoclastic women I could find. Pioneers, leaders, followers...Little did I realize that all along I was just looking for me.

I found women like: Shirley Pollock, a married mother of two adult children, who at the age of 55 saw a television documentary about the number of available children in Chinese orphanages and, after much prayer, adopted three Chinese children. Esther Torres was the only unmarried and childless woman in her large Latino circle of family and friends. At 39, she accidentally became pregnant from a "friend with benefits," and went on to form a friendship with the father and an inseparable bond with his family. She stands as a role model to women choosing a career and later motherhood. Ellen Schumey, 49, and Shea Novak, 52, had been in a 17-yr. relationship before determining that they, too, were missing out on having children. Now, eight years later and despite all odds – physical and relational -- they are the adoptive parents of two beautiful daughters. They recently were married. Vicki Smith, 49, "GrammiMom," took on this title to her grandchild after her daughter was murdered. Despite six other adult children, her grandbaby is now her own.

Love. This is about love and life choices. It is about strength, guidance, conviction, perseverance, determination, willpower and a breaking down of all relational obstacles – be they physical, emotional, spiritual, financial or psychological. In many ways, each woman in this show has broken down some barrier in pursuing her own path, her own destiny. In all ways, these women have shown courage, fortitude and resilience.

This is the newest chapter in the women’s movement – the emerging new face of older motherhood. The women in this show represent nearly every conceivable family unit. Their one common denominator is that they are over 40. Three quarters of a million strong, with approximately 100,000 new births each year, these women are pursuing their lives not collectively, like "soccer moms," but singularly and without fanfare – the result of medical breakthroughs, greater socio-economic freedoms and the breakdown of cultural barriers and traditional family structure.

NURTURE is intended to dispel myths about middle age; introduce society to the increasing number of women choosing midlife motherhood; provide support for future generations of women to make life choices irrelevant of age; and simply give this group a voice, a face and a forum. It is my desire that in viewing this show, women will find the hope, inspiration or support necessary to make personal changes in order to live fulfilling, truthful lives. In my case, I felt I had no choice but to find, pursue and finally get my children. My journeys to Russia became a spiritual epiphany, which ended in the adoption of my children who I believed were meant to be mine and were just waiting for me to claim them.

It is my hope that my journey and the journey of these brave women will resonate with you as you read of their honesty and courage. We expect that the subjects will change as time progresses. As with all things, the addition of new women will reflect the ongoing, never-ending quest for (new older) motherhood. Please join us as we navigate the waters together...I look forward to doing this together with you.