Embracing My Post-Baby Body
Photos by Jesseca Bellemare Photography
Makeup by Elizabeth Hayward of Pop of Color
Hey guys, can you see me over here hiding in the corner? I'm so super nervous about sharing these photos but I think maybe I'm making it a bigger deal than it really is. I mean you're seeing less than you'd see if I was wearing a bathing suit, right? Right??
Okay, I'll take a breath and get on to why I decided to share them in the first place. A few weeks back, the Engaged girls were invited by our fellow creative team member Jesseca Bellemare to take part in a mini boudoir shoot in our studio (!) with the Pop of Color team on hand to do our makeup (!!). Jesseca's boudoir and maternity photography is sooooo dreamy, soft, and pretty! When I first came across her work, I felt this pang of regret for not doing something like this when I was pregnant. I felt so beautiful when I was carrying Harlow and kind of powerful, too, like I was in my ultimate state of womanhood.
Even though I missed my chance while I was pregnant, I started thinking about what doing a shoot like this now, post-baby, could mean. How do I feel about my body in its current state? Do I think its worth celebrating? These photos would make such good anniversary presents (there are more in the shoot I am opting not to include in this post ha!)...would I feel proud and beautiful in print, frozen in time to always remember myself as I was in this moment?
Well let's see. I totally have a baby pooch. Stretch marks magically appear on my stomach when I bend over to tie my shoes. My breasts shrunk after nursing Harlow for a year, and I didn't have much to begin with. And my hair was destroyed by postpartum shenanigans...luckily I could fix that particular problem sans plastic surgery!
I'll be honest: I am NOT immune to the mean ways we women talk to ourselves or think about our bodies. What we don't like, what we would change, how we're not enough -- I say/think all those things. I've got the baby "scars", age spots are showing up, and I'm gonna be fighting crows eye and laugh lines from now 'til kingdom come. It's a lot for me. Sometimes I feel upset that I'm only 35 and I already feel like I'm losing the anti-aging battle. And I haven't even gotten to the jeans I haven't been able to zip in a very long time. Jean size up, bra size down. Ughhhhh make it stop!
So I did. I stopped letting the snowball of mean thoughts tumble around and started thinking about what my body has done for me.
It carried and birthed my daughter. It produced the ideal nourishment for her to grow strong and healthy, and kept up production for an entire year. It takes a beating from all that Mom Life throws at it everyday. It occasionally feels weak (I have lingering back issues that sometimes flare up in big ways) but it summons the strength to keep going often without rest, or healthy food, or proper treatment.
My body is what I believe in to keep me healthy and here to be with my daughter as she grows up. It deserves some daps. And more than a few kind words thrown it's way.
That other question I had -- would Mike like the photos? What a silly question. If one person on this entire planet believes my negative self-talk needs to stop ASAP, it's my husband. I looked like hell for months after Harlow was born and he always looked at me like I was dressed to the nines. He loves me for me, as I am.
I realized what he'd like most about the pictures is that I believed in myself and my body enough to take them.
So long story long: I said 'yes' to Jesseca's kind offer and wound up having the best experience I could've imagined! She is so easy to be around, and offers great ideas on everything from what to wear to how to pose. She does not push you to be "more" than what you're comfortable with. Jesseca so obviously believes in the beauty of women. It was awesome getting to work with her!
I chose to wear a longer, off-the-shoulder sweater with a pair of boy short undies and some Louboutin stilettos. Lordy knows I don't get to wear those shoes anywhere else -- might as well put them in pictures LOL! I'm not a big lingerie gal, but if you are or your partner is ohhhh man this would be so much fun for you! One of the other girls brought her husband's football jersey to wear -- I thought that was such a cute idea! If I ever do another shoot I may have to steal that outfit idea ;)
Whatever you wear, whatever your reasons for having boudoir photos taken -- for posterity, for yourself, for someone you love -- you won't find yourself feeling self-conscious. You'll feel self-confident!
One other thing I thought about that I think other women will, too, is that we recoil from doing things that say "ooh look at me! I'm hot shit!" We worry about attracting the wrong kind of attention. But when we so frequently talk to ourselves in such mean voices, why would we silence the one that tells us 'hey, I look good'? Because we're worried about other people's opinions? I think most of us can tell the difference between a person celebrating herself, her baby, her body, etc versus a complete narcissist. And for those that can't -- eff 'em! That's their problem if you ask me.
My TL;DR summation is this: I had a chance to do a boudoir shoot with Jesseca Bellemare. I was scared because I didn't know if I'd like what the camera was going to show me. But I broke the wheel of self-deprecation and shifted my focus to what my body is instead of what it isn't. And it revealed some really amazing truths about myself that I needed to call forward to consciousness in order to embrace a more positive body image.
Thank you, Jesseca, for making me look so beautiful on the outside...and for helping me believe it on the inside.