Mums Who Inspire

‘I feel quite humbled and privileged’: mum turns passion for art into gorgeous sonogram paintings

This week on our Mums Who Inspire series, we sat down with Laura Steerman, lawyer turned artist who paints sonograms. If you have a story that you would like to be featured, email mumswhoinspire[at]magicmum[dot]com.

Mum-of-three Laura Steerman has always loved arts and crafts. However, as a young adult she instead decided to pursue a degree in Business and Law in UCD.

“Naturally as a teenager I was undecided about what exactly I wanted to do with my life. The Celtic Tiger was beginning in Ireland and I don’t think I had the self awareness at the time to really ask myself whether I was pursuing a living, or a life,” she said speaking to Magicmum.

After qualifying she began working with Lawyers for Creative Arts in Chicago, providing affordable legal advice to creative industries. Working with artists inspired her, but not the way she expected: 

“I was inspired by the client's passion pursuing their creative dreams. I'd leave work buzzing each day after meeting some fantastic musicians, artists, sculptors, chefs and writers. It prompted me to question what side of the table I felt I should be on – the solicitor side giving the legal advice, or on the other side of the table where our artist clients sat.”

​Moving back to Ireland, Laura continued her law career, eventually balancing family life with full-time work. While she was pregnant with her daughter, she was relaxing at home after a long day of work. Suddenly she was unable to feel the baby moving.

“I was 30 weeks pregnant and should have been feeling regular movements of my baby in the womb. I thought I may not have noticed movements throughout the busy work day,” she recalled. “However, after food, sugar and the warm tea I felt nothing. I tried an ice cold drink of water and moving about… still, I only felt the slight weight of a buoyant baby rolling about in my belly… There were no kicks.”

She called midwives who advised that she check in at a maternity hospital.

“Those few seconds after they apply the cold gel to my tummy seemed to last a lifetime and I was petrified with fear that something had happened my baby. Within seconds, a smile emerged across the sonographer’s face and she turned up the volume on the machine so I could hear the galloping thud of my baby’s heartbeat. All was ok.”

Luckily, an anterior placenta meant that the baby's kicking were being cushioned. Laura would return to hospital frequently to monitor the baby’s progress before being induced.

“Each time I left the hospital after hearing the words ‘your baby is ok’ and the consistent rhythm of the heartbeat.

“It was a miracle my baby was alive, well and safe in me.

“To celebrate this moment, all I had until my baby safely arrived into the world were tiny scan pictures. The black and white blurry images just didn't do justice her precious self.”

She turned to art as her solace.

“Like many times in my life after an emotional, happy or sad or difficult experience, I found myself drawn to creativity, arts and crafts. It felt natural to take out my paints at my kitchen table at home and start painting to soothe my soul.”

Pretty soon, friends and family began to ask her to paint their sonograms.

“I think every pregnant woman goes through a similar emotional, physical, mental and spiritual roller-coaster during pregnancy and then parenthood. Each person has their own reason for wanting their baby’s scan to be painted.”

Laura knew that she had found her calling, and law no longer held the same attraction to her as it once did.

“It became evident to me that working as an solicitor was relatively devoid of any such meaning to me and I was becoming unhappy. Certainly, being a solicitor paid the bills but doing these baby ultrasound paintings, it feeds the soul.”

Despite turning away from her law career, Laura notes that creativity in practising law and in painting are similar:

“When you have a 100 page piece of legislation you have to find a creative way of making it work for the business. You turn risk into something positive. Making something interesting so that people will understand requires a great amount of creativity.

“Painting is similar; you’re taking this black and white sonogram and turning it into a painting. There’s so much more to just the sonogram, it’s a collaborative effort.”

Like her very first painting, each piece carries it's own emotional charge and story.

“It's emotional painting babies in the womb for families. My favourite part about the process is connecting with clients and hearing their stories. 

“No two experiences or babies are the same.”

Emotional connection is something that Laura feels very strongly in her paintings.

“I often find myself crying as I paint an angel baby thinking that their mum never had the good news I did on one of those scans.

“It reminds me that I am so entirely in love with my children and full of gratitude that they are here with me today.”

Several of the client stories that have touched Laura include a mother who was present at the Brussels Airport bombing in 2016. Thankfully the baby survived and she commissioned the painting to represent “the joy of travel, undeterred by fear and hatred in the world.”

She has also painted the scans of a mother with Down’s Syndrome twins, as well as an American Navy Seal who was on duty for his wife’s pregnancy.

Most recently, she was commissioned to paint the scans of a baby that was being carried by a surrogate.

“They were living really far away from the surrogate so they couldn't attend any of the scans. Having the painting was a way for them to connect with the pregnancy and celebrate the arrival of their baby.”

“It’s such a personal thing to paint their baby's ultrasound photo, I feel quite humbled and privileged to be doing this for them.”

She advises mums interested in career changes to 'just go for it':

"When you have a baby it’s so easy to worry about everything. But they say happy baby, happy mummy. Just do what makes you happy. Ultimately, what’s right for you will be right for your family.”

QuaintBaby Ultrasound Art will be at the Pregnancy and Baby Fair in the RDS on the 14th and 15th of April or you can find out more about her work on Facebook or by clicking here.


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