Recently, I read an article in O Magazine about professional photographer Ashlee Wells Jackson. She has a body of work (pun intended) capturing brand new mothers proudly posing with their babies and their post pregnancy bodies, extra pounds and stretch marks not concealed by photo retouching.
As I looked at the photos, I wished her work was around the time I had my son. It would have been comforting to see appreciation for the body changes.
Over 16 years ago, when I was pregnant with my son, my body knew exactly what to do. It was as if it assembled all its parts and announced, "Gather around troops! This is what we were made for! Commence metamorphoses!" However, my mind was like a conscientious objector. During my first trimester, I thought "I'm having a b-b-baby? No kidding? Really?" Eventually, my mind caught up and joined the program, marveling how my body changed with every trimester.
After the customary 9 months, my son arrived and I was thrilled. A month later, as he slept soundly in his crib, I went into the bathroom to change clothes, leaving the door open. He was only a few feet away from me and within earshot. I had developed a knack for judging how far I could distance myself from him and be in safe range to sprint back in case he needed me.
As I removed my pajamas, I caught a glimpse of myself in the bathroom mirror and gasped. I was startled by my reflection--my belly looked like a deflated tire with scarring tread marks. Shocked, I started to cry, for I didn't recognize myself. It was as if my body had finished its mission and left me in this baggy husk.
I looked out the doorway to my tiny son, cooing in his slumber and I smiled through my tears. My mind engaged and called out to the troops "Okay, I'm back in charge now! We've all been through a lot these nine months, so it stands to reason we look different. It's going to be okay. Until we build up our strength, we'll proceed with our new objective..."
Perhaps if these photographs were around at this time, I wouldn't have embarked on a 2 year mission called Operation: Avoid mirrors at all costs!