My second daughter was born a month late. They don’t let that happen these days, but back in 1989, the doctor and I disagreed about my due date (I knew for sure when she was conceived and he, frankly, was not there, so he should have believed me). At the end of what I had calculated to be my 10th month, I finally convinced the doc to induce labor. My little darling came out dry as a bone. My placenta had all but fallen apart, and she was scaly and peeling. She was also born able to hold her head up, which was a little creepy. Being right in this instance was not as satisfying as I had imagined, but eventually, she plumped up and thrived and the pediatrician stopped calling her lizard baby (yes, that really happened), and we settled into our new life in separate bodies.
Except. Except that while I turned 25 the day before my darling baby was born, my body seemed to age quite a bit more than that in the 24 hours that followed it. I was horrified. At least when you’re pregnant, things are relatively tight. But once I had her, stuff started drooping and draping to beat the band, and I was terribly ashamed of my post-baby body.
I have said before that I wish I were the weight now that I was when I first thought I was fat. I didn’t know how good I had it (of course I didn’t, I was 25!). Considering that I was breastfeeding, I got a body back pretty quickly after my daughter’s birth. The problem was it wasn’t MY body. Pregnancy and birth changes you. Of course it does. I made peace with it, purchased supportive undergarments, and moved on. But like most of the women I know, I was never completely happy with my body again.
Chicago photographer Ashlee Wells Jackson is determined to turn that sense of self criticism on its ear. Her 4th Trimester Bodies Project, linked at the bottom of this post, is full of glorious black and white portraits of underwear-clad women and their children and also tells each woman’s birth and breastfeeding story. It’s really quite lovely.
“I see beautiful, inspiring, real women on a daily basis who struggle with their body image because they don’t feel they measure up with who the media tells them to be,” Jackson told BuzzFeed. “I feel like this is even more poignant in mothers who often feel like their bodies have been ruined when instead they should be respected for creating, sustaining, and nourishing life,” Jackson continued.
I think that spring (and the approach of bathing suit season) is a very good time for us to remind ourselves that our bodies are still beautiful. Sure we have a few more bumps and stretch marks and scars than we did before our children, but maybe like Monday’s post about Kintsukuroi, we’re more beautiful for having lived.