Last month, I decided to do something that was so out of my comfort zone the very idea of it used to make me blush: I decided to do a body-positive photo shoot. It was spontaneous, and I booked it fast. I was afraid if I let the thought simmer, I’d change my mind.
Before I knew it, I was sitting in front of a photographer with only a thong and a sheet between me and her camera. But within a few seconds, I felt more like myself than I had in a long time. I was shocked and so unbelievably happy. I’ve been glowing ever since.
It was as if Nancy, the photographer, had waved some kind of magic wand that made me feel and see myself in a way I’d always wanted. When she gave me a few sneak peeks, I was amazed at how she captured me in a way that felt so like me, but also made me see myself so differently than I had before I walked in her studio.
I felt natural, beautiful, and comfortable in my skin. For the hours I was there, I didn’t feel like a mother. I wasn’t trying to figure out a hundred things at a time. I wasn’t multi-tasking. I was just me. The woman who I am today—someone who has been a mother for nearly 15 years—came face to face with the woman I was before I gave birth to three beautiful humans.
During my consultation, I looked at the photos of other women who’d loved themselves enough to celebrate their bodies this way. I didn’t know if I could achieve their level of confidence. I thought, They are younger than me, so they are entitled.
And if they weren’t younger than me, they were prettier, or thinner, or had better boobs, or a firmer ass. Their hair wasn’t as frizzy as mine. And damn, they all looked good lying on a bed with their legs up in the air. I’d have to cover up. After all, I’m almost 43, and I’ve had three kids. I’d been a mom for so long, I didn’t know how to be this.
It’s easy to sit back and preach to other women about how they should embrace their flaws, love the bodies they have, and not care what anyone else thinks.The words flow from my mouth without giving them a second thought. I believe it for other women, but deep down, I didn’t think these messages pertained to me.
Maybe that was why this photo shoot was so important.
I wanted to break through these negative thoughts and embrace the woman I am today. The woman who has been walking around for more than four decades; the woman who has given birth three times; the woman who has insecurities about her body that have only been exacerbated by years of pregnancy and nursing.
It ended up being one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself. I’ve always hated my backside, but Nancy made me love it. There’s nothing like seeing yourself through someone else’s eyes to change the way you view yourself. As Nancy edited my pictures, she sent me a message saying, “This is what keeps going through my mind as I’m editing your photos: I am a real woman, this is me, take me or leave me.”
Those were my exact thoughts, too. Mother or not, I wasn’t holding back or trying to hide parts of myself I don’t love. Being a mother changes you mentally and physically. Everyone tells you how your stretch marks and loose skin are badass badges of honor. After doing this, I can honestly say I finally believe that.
After I let my guard down and gave myself permission to be seen as a woman and not just a mom, after I decided to stop listening to the voice inside my head that told me I shouldn’t do something like this because I have three kids, that’s when the magic happened. Because as much as I needed this for myself, I also needed my kids to see me as a well-rounded woman who pursues her passions, practices self-care, and loves herself. This was a big turning point in my journey to self-love. Yes, I can work on myself without having photos taken of me in lacy underwear, but I wanted to do it this way.
I’m a mom, but that doesn’t mean all the parts of me have been erased or certain things are off limits. Being a mother is a huge part of you, but it doesn’t define you. Doing something that makes you step out of that role and makes you feel this alive is life-changing. I can’t recommend it enough.
Photo: Nancy Greindl Soul Shine Photography