This Artist Is Turning Disney Princesses Into Postpartum Mothers
Image Source: Getty / Disney Junior
Artist Anna Belenkiy, known on Instagram as annabell_illustration, has amassed a following on social media for her portrayals of Disney princesses.
But her drawings show a different side of the fairy tales – namely, each character’s journey toward motherhood after happily ever after.
Illustrations range from pregnancy announcements to morning sickness and food cravings, offering a different, less magical take on the daily lives of characters many of us have grown up with.
One illustration in particular is grabbing attention, as it delves into a more difficult aspect of pregnancy many people feel shame or anxiety over: breastfeeding dysphoria.
In the image, Mulan sits breastfeeding a small child. Stretch marks are visible on her abdomen, and her expression is mournful as a tear slides down her face. In the caption, Belenkiy writes, “This illustration is really special to me and pretty hard to talk about. [As] soon as i started to breastfeed i started to suffer from depression and negative feelings about myself, about my motherhood and my achievements. I finished everytime full with tears and self disappointment and literally i thought i becoming insane. Just few minutes after the feeding was over i started to feel better.”
Belenkiy noted that it wasn’t until she read an educational post discussing breastfeeding issues on Instagram that she was able to name her struggle.
Breastfeeding dysphoria – also known as dysphoric milk ejection reflex (D-MER) – is characterized by sudden negative feelings that can accompany breastfeeding. A case study published in PubMed reports that D-MER can range from wistfulness to self-loathing, occurring just before milk release and continuing for only a few minutes afterward. The study suggests these feelings may be related to “an abrupt drop in dopamine when milk release is triggered.”
Though more research is needed on D-MER, one study found that as many as nine percent of breastfeeding parents experienced D-MER, meaning that people who experience these symptoms are not alone in their discomfort. Often, just acknowledging the realities of postpartum life – which can certainly include joy and wonder, as well as issues like postpartum depression, stress, and discomfort – can change a person’s outlook on parenting.
The reception to Belenkiy’s illustrations makes that clear. Her take on Disney princesses are making parents feel seen, understood, and less alone – and that can be incredibly powerful.