(first published on NPR's Baby Project)
There's something to be said for feeling beautiful.
For the latter months of my pregnancy, I realized that my face was filling out and that I was dangerously close to acquiring a second chin. To a girl who has always been slender without really trying, the extra 50 or so pounds I put on while Finn was incubating had an effect on me that I was not expecting — I felt ugly.
I went from being the girl who loved to have her photo taken to being the girl who didn't appear in a camera frame for several months, save my baby shower in May. Virtually all of the photos taken of me between May and July are of my lower half, specifically my belly. Granted, that was the part of me most people wanted to see, but if I'm really honest with myself, I was ashamed of my weight gain, and a little scared that I didn't recognize the girl I saw in the mirror.
I was sure that I would want to be one of those women who gets maternity photos taken, and was certainly planning to do a belly cast in the last few weeks (which wound up nonexistent as Finn arrived three weeks early). However, when I looked at my body, it wasn't something I wanted to commemorate. I felt swollen and out of control.
A few things have happened over the past couple of months to make me feel much more comfortable in my skin. First, as you may have guessed, getting that baby out of my belly and all that accumulating fluid that went with him was a good start. Since then, as Finn and I have taken our daily walks, I've slowly watched my face return to a more familiar form. Now that we've hit the six-week mark, I'll be able to start running again (gulp), and shake those last 10 pounds. It also helped to dress up in a slinky black number (which may have shown off some assets that are a bit more ample than they were pre-pregnancy) and put on a little makeup to help at a gallery opening a couple of weeks ago.
In addition, though, I do have to shout out to two fabulous artists who have played a huge role in my reconciliation between my pre- and post-birth selves. I am a very visual person, and the images these two have created are a tangible representation of my journey.
I have a great friend for whom I've been doing some unconventional modeling for the past eight years, who was only too enthusiastic to photograph me in my 8-month glory. The photos (one of which is at the top of this post) were taken from a cliff into a granite swimming quarry on the island where I managed to feel almost graceful. I have always felt at home in the water, and doing something that was so familiar to me in such an unfamiliar form gave me an almost primal sense of security and groundedness in my body.
The other artist is one I've been looking forward to working with for months, but whom I didn't meet until a couple of weeks ago when she came out to shoot Finn's newborn photos. Amanda was a godsend. Not only did she teach me some new techniques for soothing Finn, but she managed to capture some amazing shots of my son. What she really did for me, though, was to give me a visual representation of who I am now.
Yes, I spend my days nursing and changing diapers. You would think, therefore, that it would have sunk in by now that I'm a mom, but it was so profound to see myself in these images, almost as though they are proof that I made it. Somehow, they made me feel so much more comfortable and confident in my ability to do this job, which is turning out to be so much harder and so much more wonderful than I ever expected.
So thank you, Michael and Amanda, for joining me on my journey back to myself, and for creating images that define beauty as strength, confidence and love.