The first “four letter word” that I remember being taught not to use was “CAN’T.” The options were to ask for help or to learn how to accomplish whatever it was that caused me to use that four letter word. Parents and grandparents encouraged me to be confident and independent. Just like the little engine that could, I could accomplish anything I set my mind to. That four letter word was not needed in my vocabulary.
From a very early age, my mom entered me in pageants like a traditional southern belle. She and the women in my family taught me that beauty is not judged by outward appearance but reflects inner character. Respect for others and being true to myself were of utmost importance to project beauty. As I grew older, pageants dwindled and sports took over. Through the support of my family, I was allowed to pursue any sport that piqued my interest: softball, soccer, basketball, and volleyball consumed every night of the week and most weekends of my youth through college. No matter the competition, the same projection of inner character applied. My primary opponent was myself and the internal standards I set to achieve my maximum capabilities. To me, beauty was projected through presenting my best inner self and proving my abilities through constant improvement.
My family’s encouragement to pursue life’s possibilities and explore adventures fostered a since of confident independence and determination that I treasure as a part of my character. This confident independence also yields stubborn ignorance. In February 2008, I was presented with a proposition to share future adventures and discover new possibilities with someone who pushed me to dream bigger and achieve more. My stubborn ignorance feared this challenge to my independence, but Jeremy inspired me to redefine my own expectations and continue exploring life’s adventures together with him. He reshaped my perspective of beauty because of what he saw in me and for our future together.
Fast forward 5 years and many adventures later we ask, “Is there a “right time” to start a family?” We approached this idea with a nonchalant, “If it happens, it happens,” mindset and no pressure to make it happen. The thought of pregnancy always seemed a bit unnatural to me. I perceived it as an awkward state of existence with medically imposed limits, mental and emotional vulnerability, and lack of control that renders its subjects fragile and dependent hosts to delicate mini-humans. I never imagined not having kids – I just couldn’t picture myself as being pregnant. Limiting my activities seemed detrimental to my core being because those are times I feel most confident and beautiful.
Throughout the first trimester and early second trimester I snowboarded, played volleyball and softball, and continued yoga with minimal modifications. I was in a bit of denial and refused to tell anyone other than close family and friends I was pregnant out of fear that I would be perceived differently. Slowly, I began to notice subtle differences in my reflection and how my body moved. My family and friends continued to encourage me without treating me differently. Jeremy was a motivator to push me when I needed it and a mediator to calm my inner fear of inactivity when I needed to rest. Little flutters, pokes, and jabs in my belly increased my awareness of the life that was forming in me and I began to accept limitations.
I’ve always considered that the only limits on life’s journey are self-imposed. Out of discernment, that haunting four letter word “CAN’T” has been minimally introduced throughout the past 36 weeks. These new challenges inspire a sense of curiosity and discovery. However, when my personal control is limited, internal grace is required that I fear is outside my capability. Physical strength, mental determination, and emotional confidence are the source of the beauty that I possess. Patience and situational flexibility require a level of mental and emotional control that I have not achieved. My goal is to embrace this challenge with a new perspective on beauty.
I accept and now appreciate that pregnancy has changed me – physically, mentally, and emotionally – for the better. This body has sustained and nurtured a new life. This mind has grasped a new understanding. This heart has established a connection with a new life that will last forever. The traits of beauty that I so ruggedly attempted to define greatly exceed the limits of my understanding. True beauty extends beyond our bodies and our minds; it is more than our character traits and does not need our pride for it cannot be owned or achieved. It is ever present and reflected in all creation to be admired and shared. -Danielle Smith
-Rachel McCormack is a regional photographer for A Beautiful Body Project. Visit here at: http://mily.zenfolio.com/
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