My abs are separated from my pelvic bone to my sternum, I have an umbilical hernia in need of repair, and I’m currently in physical therapy due to back problems stemming from my abs being weak. I have stretch marks. I have sciatic nerve pain in my bottom. All this came out of left field after my perfect first pregnancy.
The days would ebb back and forth between grieving my previous physique, to truly understanding and battling to find strength in the fact that I’ve grown two babies in that body. One baby growing so quickly I can barely wrap my arms around her, the other baby wobbling as he learns to stand… each day taking them further from my womb, further from this place they used to call home. I’m still not there, not fully 100% in acceptance of this new body, but the days pass and I forget the details of that elusive pre-pregnancy body, and I cling to these moments with my babies that need me. One day I won’t be needed anymore, little by little it’s happening each day. My oldest’s newest phrase, ” Let me do that, I can do it by myself.” My youngest nurses less with each passing month, and gains new motor skills that take him one more step away from me. One day they will stop reaching for my hand, they won’t need me to kiss their boo-boos, before I know it I won’t be needed anymore. But these lines, these battle scars of life… I will carry them with me until the day I die. I see myself 20-30 years from now, resting my hands on this soft tummy of mine, sitting in an empty house remembering this season of my life, and with age and wisdom, the bigger picture will have played out and these insecurities I feel now will be but a laugh under my breath.
This project is not intended to just focus on Motherhood, I see it having many chapters, with several characters all with differing stories to tell. I would even love to see some men participate in the future. Obviously women are more apt to be the victim of body shaming, or the seemingly rampant epidemic of mommy wars. But we as humans all have insecurities and we are all scarred, imperfect and flawed in some way physically and emotionally. Standing on the other side of this first endeavor into this project, I’m convinced people of all ages, genders, and races, people with differing reasons for struggling to find acceptance of their body image, could benefit from this. I want to see more diversity next time: postpartum, weight gain/weight loss, cancer, amputees, paraplegics… I could go on and on.
As the weeks, months, years continue on from this inaugural post, I pray this project grows into something even better than anything I can dream up at the moment.
Before going any further I want to thank the Midwives of the Women’s Hospital of St. Francis and BirthSource for helping me get this first leg of the project off the ground. Many of the ladies came to an informal meet and greet the Friday before their sessions were scheduled. The Midwives sponsored it, and Melissa even came out to enjoy getting to hear the women’s stories and reasons for signing up. The underlying theme that most of the women had in common was wanting to show their children that their bodies are beautiful, that these lines that mark their curves are normal, and the unique signature left on their skin by their pregnancies. Some women had fertility struggles, others were currently pregnant and living in that temporary space between the past and the future, there were stories of adoption, insecurities with weight: too skinny, too heavy, while others processed scars left from c-sections. A couple of women had stories of breastfeeding issues, from babies with tongue ties, and exclusively pumping, to medically having to wean with no warning, battling to feed her child on donor milk for over a year. Lastly we had our youngest participant at 4 years old. Her mother signed her up to capture her daughter now, in her spunk and innocence, an angel among us with spina bifida. She wants her daughter to know that she can do anything she puts her mind to, that she is strong and never to be defined by her disability.
Below is just scratching the surface. They’ve included a very brief comment on what this experience was like, from fears on the front end, to strength on the other. Over the course of the next few weeks I plan on giving each of them their own blog posts to really delve into why they did this, in hopes that it will lift and inspire someone else who may be fighting a similar battle.
The support for Perfect Imperfections FAR exceeded anything I could’ve ever imagined when I started planning this back in January. I set out to get 12 people, I’ve photographed 16 this weekend. I pulled two 12 hour shifts, one on Saturday the other on Sunday, and still have another 10+ women wanting to participate. I am simply blown away, humbled, grateful, and truly blessed by each of you. I sat out to take my own photo and start my healing process, but meeting you all, hearing your stories, seeing your courage, have nourished my heart and placed bandaids on parts of me I thought would take much longer to heal.
-Neely Ker-Fox is a photographer for A Beautiful Body Project. You can book private shoots with her and see the rest of her amazing work here: KerFox.com
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