Owlet: In Conversation With Artist & Muse Meghan Bustard

First, how are you feeling?

I’m feeling great for the most part! I’m tired and a bit foggy, but also really happy. Ace is six weeks, so we’re right in the middle of that ‘infant fussiness’ phase, but I know it will pass quickly.

Tell us about your relationship to your art.

Art is so important to me. I’m a creative person, and as painting is my main creative outlet right now, it sort of feels like an extension of who I am. As such, I really try to prioritize making space for it no matter what else is going on in my life. I feel healthiest when I do, and I often notice I feel most myself after time in my studio. When I’m painting, it’s like everything else dims; I have time to think and process and feel and put all that into the canvas. It’s become an integral piece of life for me.

Tell us a little about your motherhood journey.

I became a mother three and a half years ago to my daughter Rosie Wonder. The transition was quite difficult for me as I stumbled my way around a new role that didn’t feel like it came naturally to me the way it appeared to for other women. Slowly I found my footing, though, and I began to feel at home in my new title of “mother.” The more I leaned into who I am, who my daughter is, and our rhythms of relationship, the more I was able to embrace and enjoy the expanse of possibility within motherhood and my little corner within it. Motherhood has brought me such deep joy, and I often feel overwhelmed with gratitude that I get to share my life with these two small, incredible people.

Shortly after giving birth to Rosie, you suffered from baby blues. Can you tell us a little bit about that period and what helped you overcome that difficult time?

I think the more I was able to let go of what I imagined a mother to be and embrace, rather, who I was as a mother, the easier it became to find joy rather than insufficiency. Letting people help was big for me (and my pride, haha); I think I sort of had this idea that I needed to show everyone how well I was doing and how easily I took it in stride, but accepting help as it’s available was big. Finding a good counsellor was also a big piece of it for me, and something I wish I invested in sooner. And time, haha. Those first few sleepless months are a wild ride! But they don’t last as long as they feel they will at the moment.

What advice would you give to women that might be suffering from baby blues?

It’s ok to feel sad! Your whole life has just changed and shifted in enormous ways, and your hormones are running wild as they figure themselves out postpartum. Ask for help. There’s no shame in it. Figure out ways your partner can give you breaks or take friends and family up on their offers. If you’re able, find a good counsellor who can help you navigate everything. It will get better.

Having experienced a miscarriage, how did going into your pregnancy a third time differ?

My third pregnancy felt so different. I had a hard time connecting to the idea of it because it all felt so fragile. I think there was a part of me that was just really afraid to get excited or plan too much in case I miscarried again. As each week passed, I kind of felt surprised and relieved that we’d made it another week. I wasn’t able to relax and embrace it until my son was born, and I held his wonderful little body and could look at him and believe he was really here.

Now, you have a healthy baby boy named Ace. Can you tell us a bit about your birth with him?

Yes! We welcomed our son Ace Ocean just over six weeks ago. My birth with him was amazing. I had to be induced, which I was apprehensive about, but my midwife was so calm and confident I just kind of let that carry me. Once labour got going, I didn’t have much time to do anything other than focus on the intensity and hard work of birth. It was a very quick labour—just over two hours, and then he was here, all healthy and crying on my chest. It was such a euphoric rush of joy and relief!

Shop Owlet Smart Sock 3 Here

You mentioned on set that Ace was in the NICU after birth. The Smart Sock from Owlet is the first baby monitor to track your baby’s oxygen level and heart rate while they sleep. The short and sweet definition of the Smart Sock is it’s basically a pulse oximeter, but in a super soft sock form for your baby’s foot. It has a sensor that tracks your baby’s heart rate and O2% in real time, anywhere when they have this on. Do you feel this will help ease some anxiety and help you sleep better regarding his heart concerns?

Yes, it completely will. I tend to worry on the best days, and having something that can track both my baby’s heart rate and oxygen levels is such a comfort. Ace had some health concerns that were picked up on my 20-week ultrasound. While he has progressed incredibly, and things look even better than the best case scenarios we were told to prepare for (for which we are incredibly grateful), it has, of course, made me a bit nervous. This provides such peace of mind.

As a mother, it’s essential to take some time out for yourself. How would you recommend mothers, and women in general, do that?

Absolutely. I think it’s so important to find some of the things that make you feel like “you” and do them. Let your partner give you breaks (it’s so good for their relationship with kids too!) For me, this usually looks like spending time painting, moving my body, or grabbing a glass of wine with friends. I think it can feel a bit selfish or something, but the truth is that when you are in a healthy place, you’re able to be a better mother. I have to remind myself often that prioritizing being a healthy, whole individual is one of the most loving things I can do for my kids.

Do you feel this will be a helpful tool [Smart Sock] during day naps so you can get some alone to create or the time out for yourself?

Totally. Rosie is in childcare/preschool much of the week now, but I have Ace all the time, so I bring him to the studio with me, and his naps are when I’m able to work and paint. Being able to sink into the creative process without always stopping to check on him will help maintain the creative flow!

Shop Owlet Smart Sock 3 Here

What are some of the ways your family and your art interact?

Both are such big parts of my life and, as such, overlap a lot. My art is based on the experience of places, usually in nature. We spend much of our time as a family outdoors: hiking, swimming in the ocean, biking, picnicking, etc., and these experiences are where I draw inspiration for my paintings. I’ll often bring a notebook and a couple of paints/drawing tools on our outdoor adventures and take visual notes while we’re there that later find their way into my work. Rosie has started wanting to do this too, and we’ll often spend an afternoon at the beach or on a trail, set up with our art supplies, making little paintings and colour studies. It’s become a really special thing for both of us. She also loves to join me in the studio, and I have a little space set up for her with her easel and paints and whatnot so that she has a space to create there with me. She calls herself my studio mate, always wants to leave some paint on her hands so that people know she’s an artist and is often taping up her creations all over our house or my studio as ‘art shows’ for people. I love watching her creativity blossom. She makes with such freedom and confidence; it’s really inspiring.

Do you find your attitude towards your art might be different because of your parenting / has it changed since you became a parent?

That’s a great question. I don’t think I’ve thought of it in exactly those terms before, but I think the shift towards a more intuitive approach in my work mirrors a similar growth in my parenting. I also think that it’s reflected in my attention to emotions. Parenting (especially a toddler/preschooler) is really teaching me a lot about navigating feelings and emotions and their weight/purpose. I find the importance of this coming up in my work as well. More and more, I’m interested in conveying the feeling or atmosphere of a place in my work just as much as I’m interested in its colours etc. I went back to school for Art Therapy a number of years after completing my art degree, and while it’s not something I ever practiced as a career, a lot of what I learned about the relationship between form, shape, colour, marks, etc., and the feelings they emote, has become increasingly important in my painting. I wonder how much of that is fuelled by my experience in parenting a preschooler through the highs and lows of big emotions. Maybe my brain is hyper-aware of feelings right now!

What advice do you have for expectant mothers in your field?

You can be a great mother and also a great artist! The two may ebb and flow as you navigate changing seasons within both motherhood and your work, but I think both can be enriched by the presence of the other. Find ways to honour both, and don’t be afraid to invite your kids into your artistic process. Logistically, having a place to make art that you can bring your baby to is really helpful, as is a great sling/wrap/baby carrier.

What’s a project that has been exciting you lately?

I’ve been working on a number of large commissions lately, and getting the chance to work big and really get my body into the process has been so fun. There’s something about creating a mark with your whole arm, or even your whole body, that is so powerful.

Lastly, who is your Mother Muse?

My own mother. She is both an incredible mother and the one who inspired my creativity from a young age. She paints watercolour, and I have many fond memories of painting alpine wildflowers with her on a hike or sitting beside her at a lake, painting our surroundings together. I, of course, am also incredibly inspired by many other full-time artists and mothers who have gone before me and prove that this is possible, like Zoë Pawlak, Sandeep Johal, and Lauren Mycroft, among others.

Shop the Owlet Smart Sock 3 here

Follow our Mother Muse Meghan Bustard

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