I used to shoot boudoir photography almost exclusively for three years. Over those three years, I photographed over 800 women. I worked with women of all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds. Out of alllllll, the women I worked with the ones that were mothers were always the most self-conscious about their bodies. I had women apologizing to me for their stretch marks or the few extra pounds they were carrying since having a baby. At the time I didn't understand it. I didn't understand why all these moms were insecure with their bodies. I never viewed their 'mom bod' characteristics as flaws, but I've come to realize society does.
Every day we are surrounded by a false sense of reality when it comes to body image. Our social media feeds, grocery checkout aisle, company advertisements are all filled with unrealistic body images portraying perfection. These images have altered to remove things society would consider flaws things like acne, extra weight, stretch marks, scars, etc. Being continuously surrounded by these unrealistic body images, we start to believe them. We think it's normal to look like that and our expectations for our body goes to a level of unrealistic. We are always putting ourselves down. Would you say the things you say about yourself to your mom, daughter, or best friend?
I have never thought of myself as a self-cautious person, but during my pregnancy with my first, I started noticing I was picking my body apart. I would wear layers to smooth my newly formed back roll. I airbrushed out my stretch marks from my maternity photos. I HATED myself in our newborn family photos because I thought I looked bloated and puffy (7 days PP). It makes me sad that I was so hard on myself especially after just having a baby. Looking back at those photos now I don't see the "flaws" I saw them. I now see a tiny little 7-day old baby who has grown into such an amazing little kid. I notice all her small features and the way my husband is looking at her. I don't notice my puffy face and tired eyes I see a momma who was swooning over her new baby. I so cherish these photos now.
Words like 'bounce back' are thrown around to women when they are pregnant or right after they had a baby. "I bet you'll bounce back." "Do you think you'll bounce back?" "I bounced back." "I didn't bounce back."
What does 'bounce back' even mean... I'm now on baby #2, and I haven't done any bouncing unless you count the middle of the night bounce & stroll combo down the hall to get the baby back to sleep. Am I supposed to special order a trampoline or something? In all seriousness I truly believe you'll never be the same person after having a baby so why should you expect your body to be the same as it was before?
So no... I didn't bounce back. Yes, I had an "easy" delivery, but no I didn't bounce back. Yes, I'm adjusting well to two under two, but no I didn't bounce. Yes, I lost most of my baby weight, but no I didn't bounce back. Yes, breastfeeding has been a good experience, but no I didn't bounce back.
Truth is going back to everything like it was before these little humans is impossible so why do we put so much pressure on moms to 'bounce back'. Going back to your 'old self' even though you start to feel normal again, it's a new normal as you will be forever changed. Your body will be the same way.
It took me until right before I got pregnant with #2 to realize my body is kickass and I need to celebrate it and say 'fuck it' to societies standards and definitions of flaws. I let go of the idea that my body would go back to exactly how it was before I got pregnant. I even got rid of ALL my pre-pregnancy clothes that weren't fitting right.
Fast forward to my maternity photo shoot with #2 I remember my photographer (Tampa Bay Photographer) asking me "Are you self-conscious about your stretch marks?" to which I was able to reply with complete honesty "No, not at all."
This was a full circle moment for me as I ALWAYS asked this question to the women I was photographing to know what I needed to edit out. I would never want to edit out something they wanted me to leave and offend them, so it was better to ask. As a photographer, it's kind of a thing you need to know, and even if you aren't editing things out, you can do things with posing and light to minimize it. In my entire career of photographing, I only had ONE person tell me to please leave them because she loved her body just the way it was.
After baby #2 I caught myself doing it again. I was getting ready for our family photos (9 days PP) and had two different dresses picked out but the one I wanted to wear I left in the closet because it was a more fitted one and I knew it would show off 'too much' of my postpartum belly. I tried on the two outfits I put together that were more 'forgiving' but they didn't feel right, and I didn't like them. I went back to the closet and got the fitted one. I reminded myself I just had a baby and this is what my body is right now, and I WORE IT. I am so glad I did. It's so empowering to let go of the pressure I put on myself to not look like I just had a baby.
Having a daughter specifically I never want her to put body image pressure on herself. Growing up surrounded by all of this makes it even harder to maintain a positive body image. Children learn early how acceptable and unacceptable behavior. They are greatly influenced by those close to them in their lives. They pick up habits, quirks, phrases, and body image. Children learn by example. I will always try my best even on a bad day never to put my body down because I know she's listening and soaking it all up.
Your kids are listening when you call yourself fat.
They hear you when you rag on yourself on the days you don't put makeup on.
They are watching when you look at your stretch marks with disgust.
They pay attention when they see the look of disgust on your face when you look at yourself in the mirror.
Your kids hear and see the reaction you have as you pick apart the picture of yourself.
Stop body shaming yourself. Start normalizing what REAL bodies look like and celebrate that. Stop normalizing that those
airbrushed and photoshopped images you see everywhere are what a woman's body looks like. But most importantly BE KIND to yourself and your body.