Sunshine (Sunnie) Abou Bakar is a photographer, content creator, world traveler, fashion lover, and also mom to three-year-old Noon. You may know her as @africanboheme over on Instagram, where she shares gorgeous photos of her world travels with her family of three. I love most of the mother-daughter moments Sunnie shares, but I was most drawn in by the shots of Sunnie breastfeeding Noon in killer bohemian outfits everywhere from Benin to Brooklyn. Confidence looks good on this woman.
Here, I talk to Sunnie about traveling while mothering, why she thinks more families should just do the damn thing and get out there already, and a little about her home birth journey because I just had to.
MEGAN: For those who don’t know you… who are you? How do you usually introduce yourself?
SUNNIE: My name is Sunshine Abou Bakar, and I’m an island girl in search of eternal sun. I’m a creative. I do photography, fashion design, social media strategy and content creation. I’ve studied photography for 18 years, and art affects how I see the world. When people ask what I do, I kind of revel in saying simply that I’m a stay at home mom. It’s hilarious to watch people blink, befuddled, searching for a way to exit the conversation and find someone more interesting to talk to. [Little do they know…]
“When people ask what I do, I kind of revel in saying simply that I’m a stay at home mom. It’s hilarious to watch people blink, befuddled, searching for a way to exit the conversation and find someone more interesting to talk to.”
MEGAN: How have you felt your identity shift since becoming a mother?
SUNNIE: Since becoming a mother, everything is entirely different but also, oddly, the same. The best way to describe it is like going to Canada, for an American, where everything is essentially the same but you know something is different. You just can’t put a finger on it.
MEGAN: From the posts on your Instagram, you seem to enjoy a great deal of travel. Why do you and your partner prioritize travel in your lives?
SUNNIE: I am the product of travel, the child of immigrants. I wouldn’t exist had my parents not traveled abroad, and the same is true for my husband and now for my daughter as well. We travel to show our daughter that there are many narratives and experiences around the world other than her own.
MEGAN: Did you travel while you were pregnant with Noon?
SUNNIE: We found out we were pregnant while we were in Bali, and while I was pregnant, I traveled to Japan, Malaysia, and Singapore too. We took photos at all sorts of monuments with the first stuffed animal we ever got her, and now—out of the womb—she’s been to all the places her stuffed animal has traveled except Bali.
MEGAN: How did you feel yourself transform when you were pregnant with your daughter?
SUNNIE: Physically, the speed at which my body changed while pregnant wasn’t super conducive to me enjoying myself. Mentally, my world completely shifted when we found out we were expecting.
I had my first few prenatal visits in paradise [Bali], attended to by midwives. It was there that I learned more about birth and discovered that women have been fighting for years to birth as they please. I also learned about the abysmal mortality rate for women of color and their babies in US hospitals. Going through it myself, it was scary to have an entire industry treating me like I didn’t know anything during one of the most empowering moments of my life. I had prenatal care in three countries before coming home and settling on a home birth midwife in the states.
MEGAN: I’m a sucker for birth stories, and I’m especially a sucker for home birth stories. Tell me more.
SUNNIE: My daughter was born on a summer day in Brooklyn, on the garden floor of a brownstone in Bedstuy. My husband caught her and her two godmothers and my baby sister watched on. It was the most powerful moment of my life. Apparently the entire neighborhood was sitting on their stoops that morning and heard me give birth. The next day, neighbors came by to congratulate me on Noon’s birth with gifts and advice.
MEGAN: How long did you stay in Brooklyn before you got the itch to travel again?
SUNNIE: I got the itch pretty much immediately, but I didn't listen to that inner voice. I thought not traveling made me a “better mother.” Ridiculous, right? The first flight I took was a solo flight with Noon to North Carolina. She was such a dream, and I was instantly hooked.
MEGAN: You have shared beautiful photos of you nursing Noon all over the world. What has been the reaction in different cultures?
SUNNIE: In Malaysia, which is a predominantly Muslim country, I was asked not to breastfeed in public. Instead, I was always ushered into a luxurious pumping/feeding room. It made me realize that everywhere else is loads more considerate of breastfeeding women.
MEGAN: What does the future of travel look like for your family?
SUNNIE: I want to travel around the world, slowly, full time, learning about sustainable ways to live. I want to explore and see for myself all the ways that people are growing their families and protecting mother earth simultaneously.
MEGAN: Here’s an easy one. Best tip for traveling with babies?
MEGAN: And since toddlers are a totally different ball game… best tip for traveling with toddlers?
SUNNIE: Be gentle on yourself. There are going to be some trying times.
MEGAN: And what is your number one recommendation for moms-to-be in general?
SUNNIE: You are enough. Your instincts are right. Build your mom tribe.
MEGAN: Yes mom tribes! How did you build yours?
SUNNIE: I don’t have a traditional family, and being without a tribe of women was definitely the hardest thing about early motherhood. For the first year and a half it was just me, fumbling and struggling to stay above water. So many cultures have rituals welcoming women into this new phase of life, and I craved that for myself so badly that one day I just decided to create a community for myself. It has been the single best thing ever. I joined mom circles and found mom friends that became sister friends. Their mere presence makes me feel more sane and centered.
To read more about Sunshine, check out her blog, African Boheme, where she writes about black family travel and millennial motherhood.
To follow Sunshine and Noon as they travel the world (and Brooklyn), follow @africanboheme on Instagram.
Photographs courtesy of Sunshine.
The Also Mom Conversations series features incredible women doing incredible things who are… you guessed it… also moms. What a trip that we all have this motherhood thing in common, eh?