Nikki: Looking back at my high school photos, if you didn’t know me you would probably say I fit the bill for the “popular girl.” Long blonde hair, blue eyes, big breasts and I wore size 3 jeans. But…I wasn’t. I had no interest in being that girl, and I didn’t feel like her either. I would look at those girls with envy while quietly picking apart my “flaws.” When I would go shopping for new clothes with my best friend we would stare in the dressing room mirrors and discuss our body flaws; although I was tiny I had broad ribs…what?! Yep, we called it “the thing” and we would spend hours finding something to wear that didn’t accentuate my ribs. We actually NAMED my “flaw”. Now I look back on those photos and I do not see anything wrong with my ribs; I wish I had been able to love my body for what it was.
I remained relatively slim into my twenties and ended up marrying my husband fairly young. When we decided to start a family I was crushed to learn it was going to take some minor medical intervention. I gained weight. A lot. The disappointment of not getting pregnant along with the way I felt about myself made trying even harder. I didn’t feel sexy and yet I was supposed to be making love to conceive.
After my son was born I never lost all of the weight and continued to gain throughout the years. We decided to try again 7 years later and it was the same story. This time, it was twins! Pregnancy is my body love sweet spot. I love everything about myself during pregnancy. I feel powerful, beautiful and completely in tune with myself when carrying my children. I love the hard swell of my belly, my dinner plate sized nipples, my swollen face and feet. All of them are constant reminders that I am privileged to become pregnant and carry my own children.
I was so sick my first trimester with the twins and they took so much out of me that I came out of the pregnancy thinner than when I had started. But now, I have this belly. I have this belly full of loose skin that hangs over my c-section scar. Yet another thing I can get down on myself for…but now I am older and more confident. Now I am proud. This body has carried three babies. This body has nourished them exclusively. When I was pregnant with the twins I would google “twin skin” non-stop. I would show my husband and friends the photos. I did this so that no one would judge me after. I did it so it wouldn’t disgust them later. Now here I am, displaying my own twin skin. And I am proud. It is an amazing thing to carry twins. It is an amazing thing to exclusively nurse twins and I now understand that my body displays the physical evidence of traveling that road and living these experiences. It is hard work to love yourself. It shouldn’t be, but in this current society, you have to actively seek out others who see perfection in your flaws. That is what Jade is doing for me…for all of us.
I have saggy breasts that have sustained my children’s lives. I have stretchmarks on my thighs, hips, belly and breasts from carrying my three children. I have a scar on my abdomen that is a constant reminder of my children’s first breath and first glimpse of this world. I have an apron of a belly that I now have to tuck into my mom jeans as a reminder that I have the privilege of being their momma. It is my hope that all of my children will see these photos and that they will feel I am beautiful in them. I hope my sons will look at them to see what real women look like and that my daughter will look at them and see that there is beauty because of those flaws.
*Jade Beall is cofounder of A Beautiful Body Project and a body positive photographer. To book a session with Jade in her studio in Tucson, AZ or to bring her to a city near you, send her a note here.