Friday, June 20, 2014

my 4th trimester body

i don't consider what i did today especially brave.  yes, i was photographed in my undies for all the world to see (at least, those who puruse facebook, instagram, and the internet), but in all honesty, that was the easy part.

i thought on it for a long time... would i?  could i?  what would ben think?  what would other people think?  i became OBSESSED with ashlee wells jackson's 4th trimester bodies project (, a concept that started so small with just one picture, and has snowballed into sometime absolutely incredible that is being received worldwide.

at first i was like, wow this is cool.  these chicks are so confident, so *brave* (that word again) to get in their skivvies (or less, in some cases) and put it allllll out there.  but as time went on, i was pregnant with henry at the time, i started to realize the meaning of the project really hit home with me.

"dedicated to embracing the beauty inherent in the changes brought to our bodies by childbirth, motherhood, and breastfeeding."

my body is forever changed.  my life is forever changed.  i've said it before, i'll say it again, i KNOW how lucky i am.  i am grateful for the opportunity to be a mom.  that i was able to conceive, carry & deliver, albeit with quite a bit of intervention, but nonetheless.

i will take the stretch marks and scars.  the saggy boobs and "i need mom jeans" belly.  i look at my babies and i am grateful that they gave me this body.

so i reached out to ashlee.  i wanted to have my picture taken.  email was the first step.  but then she gave me a date and asked me to pay the donation fee to participate, and then it was confirmed.  and that was that.  i didn't give it a lot of thought.  i mean i thought about how i wanted to tell my story (which by the way, why do things NEVER come out as eloquently in real life as when you rehearse them in your mind?), i took time to find some nice new undergarments to wear, i prepped the kids for this silly thing we were gonna do in our undies, i got my mom to come along to help out, but i really never stressed about the image i would be putting out there.

am i 100% body confident?  is anybody?  no, you won't see me in a crop top or bikini because i a 35 year old mother of three who does not find the need to do so.  (but yes, i will pop my boob out just about anywhere to feed my kid, not for any sort of shock value, but because the bugger is hungry and that's what boobs are for, duh.)

i think for me i latch onto things i believe in.  i learn about them.  i become passionate about them, and i think that's important, and unfortunately somewhat lacking in our culture.  people pass the time talking about the stupid reality crap they watched on tv last night, but nobody ever wants to shoot the shit about politics, science and medicine, positive body image and breastfeeding, etc.

i think for me i became passionate about the idea of embracing my body and trying to inspire others to do the same.  i'm out there about so many things that are important to me because i truly hope the honesty of my words and experiences can help others.  and if by putting my 90% naked body out there and saying, "yeah i look pretty damn good for having three kids even with that belly and those stretch marks" helps one person look at them self in a more positive way, that i've succeeded.

our appointment today was at 10am in the city.  we left at 8am just to be safe.  there was NO traffic and we were early for once!  we walked around a bit and the kids colored with chalk in front of ashlee's house/studio.  when it was time, we climbed the steep stairs to the studio where photographer ashlee and hair/makeup artist laura greeted us.  ashlee gave us the low down and showed the kids where they could play, and i was immediately ushered into the other room to get my hair and makeup done.  i felt so calm and comfortable with these amazing gals.  we chatted about laura's roommate who doesn't do the dishes, ashlee's car getting tagged with spray paint last night and how stuff like that doesn't happen two blocks from the mayor, and about ashlee's daughter nova's early intervention services after i told them i was a service   coordinator.  i tried to nurse henry while laura did my hair, but mister man was so distracted, so interested in everything that was going on, it was a lost cause.

from there, i sat on a stool in front of a white photography backdrop in my black tank top, a small mic attached to my bra.  ashlee instructed me that she was going to ask me a few basic questions and then a few open ended question, all of which would be video recorded.  my name, where i'm from, my age, my kids names and ages.  tell me about your story, pregnancy, childbirth, motherhood.  in that moment, all the thoughts i wanted to convey were out of my head, and i just rambled.  the kids were getting kind of impatient and bored, so it probably didn't help that i kept getting distracted my them during my interview.  in any case, i was able to share my story, one i've told a million times, but this time in a way that will reach an infinitely wider audience.  i cried of course talking about IVF and how grateful i am for my kids, because that's what i do.  laura was quick to bring me tissue and then to touch up my make up when the interview was done.

ashlee took my picture, a head shot, first.  me, this moment in time.  looking far fancier than a girl in a black tank top should, but nonetheless, me.

 photo courtesy of ashlee wells jackson, 4th trimester bodies project

and then it was time.  noah and emily and henry and i, down to almost nothing.  but i felt fearless.  the interview was the hard part.  ashlee made it easy to feel comfortable and at ease, and let's be honest, my kids have seen me in my undies, my mom has seen me in far more compromising situations... this was easy.

ashlee put the kids in position, emily standing on a stool next to me, noah instructed to hug me.  the kids touching the baby, kissing one another, smiling at me.  they were a dream.  they listened to her instructions and were sweet as pie.  and henry... he was a giant ham.  just perfection.

and as soon as it started, it was done.  she repositioned the kids maybe twice, click, clicked away, for a few minutes, and that was it!  the kids and i got dressed, henry ate a bit more, and we waited for ashlee to upload the pictures, and pull out her favorites.

she narrowed the pictures down to about 12.  it was overwhelming in that moment to make a decision, but as we narrowed the list, i just went with my gut.  once we were down to the last few, i couldn't decide.  ashlee had a favorite but mom and i were leaning toward another.  we decided that this would be my official shot:

  photo courtesy of ashlee wells jackson, 4th trimester bodies project

this one struck me because i loved the way the kids were doting on their baby.  i wish noah's arm wasn't hiding his smile, but this is them.  they love henry, they love each other.  

ashlee was kind enough to give me a "bonus" photo since i had such a hard time choosing, and i think this one was her favorite from the day:

  photo courtesy of ashlee wells jackson, 4th trimester bodies project

i want to thank everyone who encouraged me and cheered for me for choosing to participate in this project.  doing so wasn't brave, it was real.  it was about embracing it and empowering other, but also about teaching my children that there is beauty in all people, regardless of shape, size, color, ability.  that "perfection" isn't real.  real is real.  love yourself as you are.


Here is the official 4th trimester bodies project post: