December 12, 2012
Postpartum bodies and newborn photoshoots
My very sweet mother-in-law gifted to Chris and me the opportunity to have Emilia photographed as a newborn by one of her coworkers who also has a side business as a photographer (Keja Photography). We hoped to get a few family shots while the photographer was in our home because ... we don't often have photographers in our home. So just 6 days postpartum, I found myself facing the conundrum of dressing my new mom body for the camera. Thankfully, my ankles decided to come back to me that morning and I was generally feeling on the mend. Of course we were both pretty sleep deprived. Chris and I hadn't slept much in the hospital due to adrenaline, interruptions, and the tasks of taking care of a new baby. By the time we got home, things weren't much different. But I grabbed one of my favorite maternity dresses (by Maternal America), put on some make up, and smiled for the camera. The baby was a total trooper and slept through most of the pictures. My mom and mother-in-law played dutiful photo assistants.
Although it is easy in this new state of physical transition to be critical of myself, I'm glad I decided to be photographed. A few months ago I read an article by Allison Tate about keeping mothers in photos... she writes that so often moms of all ages shy away from having their picture taken, lamenting x, y, or z random self-critiqued aspect of their physical appearance. The results are that negative self-talk becomes normalized (further) and children wind up with fewer photos of their mothers throughout life. I didn't want to capitulate to the temptations of bashing my post-baby body, even if it feels very unfamiliar to me and (similar to pregnancy) brings its own set of physical discomforts.
Like anyone else, I have good and bad body image days. This was true before and during pregnancy, as I am sure it will be now that I'm postpartum. I will say that during pregnancy it felt as though my pangs over body image were amplified in part due to the unknown and uncontrollable aspects of inhabiting a pregnant body. But no matter how critical I felt toward the end and how unfamiliar my postpartum body feels to me currently, I am determined to embrace positivity and cut myself some slack for my daughter, if not for myself. It's hard enough to grow up weathering the pervasive social expectations heaped on women and girls without also hearing it from one's parents.
Besides, this body grew and nourished my eventual child. Knowing that, I can't knock it too hard!