I wanna be vulnerable with you: I’ve struggled with my postpartum body too. After all, I’m also susceptible to society’s pressure to “bounce back” after having a child (or 4). I’ve put in the hard work to tell society to go fuck itself with its unrealistic beauty standards, and I’m here to empower you to do it too.
The part that is the hardest for most mothers is 3-6 months after birth. The time where you feel you’ve been not pregnant long enough that you think you should be looking more like ‘you’. That the person in the mirror doesn’t match the person in your mind (or in your past).
That’s also the time your child becomes needier, and your workload most likely has increased (going back to work, taking care of your child through their leaps, other children needing your attention, etc. etc.). You start feeling guilty because you can don’t ALL THE THINGS. You want to exercise, but you just can’t get even 30 minutes alone from all your responsibilities.
You are torn in a million directions. You feel like a failure if you can’t be the person you used to be, do all the things you used to do, hell, even shower on a regular basis. You probably cry A LOT. And to ice the cake, that is also when your body does one final hormone dump, and you’re the proud owner of hot flashes and hair loss.
It’s neither glamorous, sexy, nor happy.
And I write this all in third person as if I’m not talking about my own personal experience. During that time of my life, I would change my clothes 3 times a day. And the baby’s at least that many. I was seemingly constantly covered in spit up and god knows what else. I just wanted to shower. Alone. I was pulled in so many directions that even Elastigirl would tell me ‘that’s too much stretching.’ My 4 kids would (and still do) pull me constantly in 4 different directions. And let me tell you, just because two of those are teenagers, doesn’t mean anything. Neuro-diverse children require just as much mental and physical energy as the toddler most days.
I had originally taken my 4 months postpartum photos to share in the group and say, “LOOK!!! If I can get in front of the camera after having a baby and SLAY, so can you!!” I picked out a sexy, strappy set from my lingerie closet. I did my makeup and styled my hair. I used my knowledge in posing and expertise in photography to guide Rachel on how to frame the shot. But I had a bit of a break down when I attempted to edit those photos. There was nothing wrong with how they were constructed… I felt there was something wrong with me.
They made me want to cry. They made me realize just how not in my own skin I feel. And not just because of the weight. I started to photoshop my own images… I shrank my waist, and my arms, curved my tush (Pregnancy flattened it), removed stretch marks (that are barely noticeable anyway), shrunk the gap in my teeth, removed my under eye circles, and changed enough about me to be ‘beautiful’ but not enough for the world to realize. I didn’t recognize my own mental state.
After analyzing what I was doing, I really broke down. I went against my own gospel. I started the self-sabotage journey I mentioned above. Recognizing how much I’m not “ME” anymore challenged the way I saw myself in a way that I’ve never thought was possible. Here I am, preaching to hundreds of women every day about self-love and yet I also fell victim to society’s ever-suffocating beauty standards. I broke my own golden rule and changed my body in photoshop. (Don’t worry: I’ve deleted those edits after I caught myself.)
And I’m here pouring my heart out to you, to remind each of you, we’re not alone. Whether you’re a mom, or have had weight gain, or weight loss, or our body just doesn’t feel like home anymore: You are not alone.
So how did I get out of that funk? I reminded myself that bodies are constantly changing. They are ALWAYS in flux. It took me 9 months to make that baby, and it’s probably going to take AT LEAST 9 months for my body to even be close to my “normal”. I forgave myself for being so harsh, allowed the feelings to wash over me, and then let them go. I started talking to myself like I would my best friend. I took more boudoir photos of myself and shared them with those I love and trust. My inner circle – my hype crew – helped me see the things my hyper fixations didn’t, and I repeated the amazing compliments that they gave me. I used my photos as tools to lift myself out of that funk and was kind to myself.
So yeah, even 16 months later, most days I don’t always feel glamorous. I don’t feel sexy. Most days I feel tired and like I’m going through the motions the best I can. I’m finding missing toys and cooking large meals when I want to be relaxing on the couch watching tv. I’m chasing after toddlers and cleaning up messes while my body is begging me to take a nap. When I feel this ragged, I have a hard time feeling anything positive about myself. But I have a secret weapon to help me remember I’m more than just a mom: across from my laundry room, where only my husband and I can see it, is a wall art from my first boudoir session.
Whenever I go to do the laundry for all 6 of the people living in my house, I look at that hottie and remember who she is. I remember her passions. I can see why my husband still gives my ass a little smack as I walk up the steps ahead of him – even in my rattiest of pj pants. I remember all the compliments I’ve gotten, and remember to repeat them to myself.
How can you learn to love your body when you haven’t been given the vocabulary to do it? Outside of “MILF” society hasn’t given us many examples of what it means to be a mom and be beautiful. I’m here to show you the best example: yourself. I want to show you the beauty that your kids see in you and the sexiness a potential partner sees in you. I know it works from personal experience. And I know it takes time to get there.
I’m on a boat that is teaching me to love myself more every day. But that day I had Rachel take those photos of me 4 months postpartum, I hit rough water. I fell overboard. I thought about how helpless the situation was, certain I’d drown. Then I stopped SELF-SABOTAGING myself, started treading water, and climbed back into the damn boat. Because self-love is an ONGOING JOURNEY. It’s not a destination. My WORTH is MORE than THE WAY I LOOK. I know this. I’m beautiful the way I am today and I was beautiful in my 20’s. My beauty is ever growing and changing.
[Photo by Amanda Ellis Photography]
Letting myself feel those uncomfortable feelings allowed me to emerge stronger. It gave me courage and confidence to be an advocate to others. So when I say boudoir is empowering, THIS is what I mean by it. It empowers you to keep pursuing your self-love journey. It gives you the strength and vocabulary to fight against the inner monologue society has so cruelly ingrained into us. Boudoir gives you permission and grace to talk to yourself like you would your best friend.
I’ve had moms in my studio cry when they see their photos because they see what others have been telling them. They can finally connect the compliments they were given to themselves and embrace them. They see their sexiness rather than the lumpy, bloated, blah they see in the mirror (and that feeling of being lumpy, bloated, and blah is something I totally relate to). High quality photos are the closest we can truly see ourselves as others see us. It allows us to view ourselves from multiple angles rather than the weird eye-level-and-only-one-perspective view a mirror gives us.
Let me show you what I mean. Spend the day with me and my crew. Allow yourself to feel how beautiful you are. Find your sexy again.