Despite doing my best to follow my daily yoga practice while I was pregnant, I put on a lot more weight than I had expected to during those nine months. Seven weeks after giving birth, I had not been medically cleared to begin exercising again quite yet. This adds up to a very different body than I have grown accustomed to over my lifetime.
My skin is riddled with stretch marks, and loose around my midriff. My weight is a drastic change from before birth, but significantly more than it was pre-pregnancy. My body moves differently. It’s uncomfortable, physically and mentally.
So, when my friend Alana at AG Photography asked me to participate in a body-positive photo shoot she was conducting for a book, I had mixed feelings. The book is called Strength Through Adversity and it focuses on how societal standards can warp our perception of self.
I realized how intimidated I felt when I looked in a full-length mirror – how I hardly recognized what I saw. A couple years ago, I was lean and petite. Now I have heavy curves. I wondered if I could I muster the necessary confidence to be photographed for a publication when I had so much trouble viewing my own body.
For a while, I had trouble making up my mind as to whether I would commit or not. It was only a few days before the shoot that I finally said yes. Even then, I went back and forth on whether I should back out. I had to remind myself of how important I felt this project was on a societal level. Deep down, I knew I wanted to contribute to something so lovingly honest about the human body and its many forms of beauty.
The night before and the morning of the shoot, I spent a lot of time staring down my reflection. I was determined to come to terms with it. I conditioned my hair and shaved my legs. I put on makeup for the first time since before the pregnancy. I even considered painting my nails. still, no matter how much I glossed over my image, I couldn’t stop judging it.
On the big day, I was so nervous, my hands started shaking. I didn’t know if I would be able to face my insecurities well enough to show them off. I summoned my courage, we packed up RT, and we headed out. I hardly spoke during the car ride. I mostly stared at RT, who made all the changes worth it.
In all of my photographs, I’m holding RT. In most, I’m gazing at her in wonder. An unfamiliar body is a small price to pay for this amazing new life. Accepting that allowed me to stop concentrating on what I disliked about myself.
While photographing, Alana commented that I looked strong, and it was then that actually I felt like I was. Not only had I done something spectacular with my body, but I was proudly baring the unfavorable side effects of doing so. She showed me some of the pictures she had taken, and they were wonderful. I can’t wait for the book to come out so I can see the whole series.
The book’s release party is scheduled for December 5th if anyone in the Worcester, MA area is interested in attending. There is no word yet as to whether pre-orders will be available, but I’ll tell you that I’ll be the first in line for a copy. This is just such a fantastic piece of work that no one should miss out on.