Toni Rakestraw


"Labor Dance" acrylic on paper

This one started out as a mere sketch in my sketch book. As it evolved, I really liked the flow and movement. I made a larger version and used acrylic paints like watercolors to paint it. To me it shows the joy of the impending birth and the energy that flows through the body during labor.

"Crowning Glory" pen, ink, and pencil

Crowning Glory started out as an ink illustration, but when I was approached to put it into the ICAN Cesarean Voices traveling exhibit, I reworked it and added the pencil shading on the mother and baby. I wanted to show the reality of the mother and child’s experience while the attendant was merely there to guide and observe.

About Toni

Toni Rakestraw is the mother of 8 children. Their births have greatly affected her life and have a big impact on her art. Toni has been a doula and childbirth educator and has studied midwifery for many years. She drew a lot of horses as a child, but then set aside her pencils until 2005, when she was driven to create again.  Mostly self-taught, Toni likes to work with pencil and acrylic paints. She loves illustration, is amazed at realistic pencil work and is inspired by the broad brushstrokes that can paint a scene.

I have always loved to draw. When I was a little girl, I drew nothing but horses. As I grew up, I developed other interests that took me away from art like music, theatre and life in general.

I married and began my family. In 2005, my husband was sweet enough to press the issue by giving me an acrylic paint kit for my birthday. I had never really painted before except sets for theatre and a sign for my aunt’s horse farm. Thus began my art career.

I still like to draw and paint animals, but my true passion is to draw and paint images of pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding. After having my first child, I studied pregnancy and childbirth. I read everything I could get my hands on, studied to be a childbirth educator, and eventually I became a doula. As my own family grew, I gave up doing doula work to care for my own growing brood. I still kept studying. I started reading midwifery texts and worked for the Ancient Art Midwifery Institute.

I currently write and edit for a living so I can be home with my kids. I run several websites: At My Breast, Instinctual Birth, Rakestraw Reads and my art page.

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