I am not just a portrait photographer. I am a mother of 4 little ones and military wife who too struggled and still struggle some with self image. I started having body issues when I was 10 years old. I was “too skinny” and was teased by everyone, including my own mother. She and my cousins would call me Talita Palita; English meaning equivalent of Talita Toothpick. Seeing women on television with 'the perfect bodies’ made me want to look the same. Perfect. That's when I began to hate my body. I always felt inadequate. But when I got pregnant with my first child my body changed! I couldn't decide if I liked those changes or not. My breasts were still small (or nonexistent) and that hate against my own self-image still lingered within me. Ten months after my oldest son was born, I got pregnant with my daughter and gained 50 pounds with that pregnancy. Then 50 more with my third, and 40 with my fourth. I have really struggled the last five years with how my body was changing, and how rapidly it was happening. After I had my second baby, I hated my body even more than when I was younger and had a really hard time accepting my new self. I lost the baby weight fairly quickly with my first, but not with any of my others. And a bonus: I had stretch marks everywhere! I have a five inches abdominal gap from my pregnancies, which made me feel like I always needed to be covered up to look acceptable.
After I had my 3rd child, I began thinking about needing to fix the way I viewed myself. Around the same time I came across the Beauty Revealed Project and was in awe! So many vulnerable and totally gorgeous women were flaunting their natural beauty, and they were all normal women, like me. Women who, despite their beauty, struggled with their bodies. I decided then that I wanted to love myself. It didn't happen overnight, of course, and is something I'm still working on.
No one is perfect, no one will ever have a perfect model body; not even the models! That’s what photoshop is for, and that is the reality and the truth. However, you don't need to be perfect to be beautiful. I want other women to know that they can love themselves, too! It's not always easy, but it is possible. Bodies, no matter the size or changing size or condition, aren't something that should just be accepted. They should be cherished and celebrated. Every single body is beautiful. Every one. We need to change the mentality of our society of what really is natural & beautiful; it starts within ourselves.
After finding out about the Beauty Revealed Project, I knew I wanted to be a part of it. So I volunteered my time photographing some fantastic mamas and being part of it myself.
The Beauty Revealed Project is a project for women to have the opportunity to see, and appreciate, their real postpartum bodies. It focuses on those things that society classifies as flaws – stretch marks or lack of, cesarean scars and extra skin where baby used to be. We want to educate our children of what beauty is and that begins with loving ourselves.
Society has established unrealistic expectations of feminine beauty. We are flooded with photo-shopped images of what we should consider as the standard for attractiveness. This is especially true in ones struggle to lose weight after carrying a child. Why have we let the media define “beauty?” Why has it come to the point that ideas like plastic surgery, eating disorders, self-mutilation, reclusion, and even suicide have slithered their way into our minds? I am putting my foot down and declaring that THIS is what beauty is. Mothers who are real. Mothers who are changed. Mothers who are scarred. Mothers who are forever marked for conquering the most beautiful thing of all—creating life. What could possibly be more beautiful than growing, sustaining, and nourishing another life with your own body?
Although this project was originally created to be for women who have had children, the founders recently decided to open it up to ALL women (whether you have had kids or not). All women need to discover that they are beautiful-before and after bringing a child into the world.
I wanted to share my own story because without BRP I probably would have not learned to love and accept my new body.
Below are real stories of real people. Aren't they all absolutely beautiful and amazing?!!!
"I was always self conscious about my body because I'm tall (5'10) and I'm built more like an athlete than a model. Then I started having thyroid issues which messed with my weight too. My husband has played a huge role in helping my self esteem. I was a size 10 when I met him which was the biggest I've ever been. He accepted me the way I was and thought I was beautiful. After our first year of dating, we decided together we wanted to get more active. We started working out together. I got down to a size 4. Even before we got married we agreed to complete a triathlon together before having kids so we could be good role models. We completed a triathlon together a year after we got married and I found out I was pregnant a week later. I was on the best shape of my life and I was terrified it was all going to be ruined by having a baby. I dwelled on it for a while but then I realized how amazing my body is for creating a life. It has also sustained my son for his first year of life by breastfeeding him. As soon as I was cleared to workout, I started walking and then running. This past May, I completed my first half marathon. I'm in awe of what my body is capable of and I'm so happy. Yes I have stretch marks, but they are just a reminder of what my body has done. "
"I feel like the true meaning of beauty has completely lost its intended purpose. As women we are especially plagued with trying to keep up with society and it's crazy standards. I feel as though people always have something judgmental or negative to say about other people and their bodies when they have no right whatsoever to do so. You're either too fat, too skinny, ugly because you have stretch marks, or hated because you don't have stretch marks. As women and mothers you can't win and that is wrong. Sadly the positive things that are often to said to us go unrecognized because we focus on the negative things people often say or associate a "mothers body" with. BRP proves that we are all different and beautiful in our own right, on the inside and on the outside. Women and especially mothers shouldn't be afraid to wear certain things or cover certain things because of cruelty in society. We shouldn't be afraid to show our bodies however we want just because of the negative things people might think and say. It's incredible that stretch marks formed from carrying a child are viewed as ugly, or that breastfeeding a child in public is viewed as sexual or inappropriate. It's time to take back the meaning of beauty and stop focusing on appearances and start focusing on who people are as human beings."
"I never had too many body issues growing up. I was always skinny with small boobs and a decent butt. I became comfortable with that to an extent. I would always say that I wanted to change my boobs, to make them bigger. I didn't really expect my body to change much when I had a baby. But it did more than I thought it would. I have stretch marks on my stomach, thighs, and butt. My boobs have surprisingly gotten smaller despite me breastfeeding. And my once full, perky butt definitely isn't what it was anymore. But having a baby changed how I look at myself. Those stretch marks are the miracle marks given to me by my daughter. My boobs aren't for looks anymore, they are to nourish and help my daughter grow into this amazing little girl. And my butt... Well I can work on that This project has helped me look at my body as a mom because that's what I am. A mom. It may take a bit to appreciate the changes in my body. But when it comes to my daughter, I will be able to teach her that her body is beautiful no matter what "flaws" society sees, that she is perfect and beautiful exactly how she is! I am the person she is going to look at as she grows. If I am not comfortable with my body, despite my "flaws", I can't teach her to love hers. She is going to know that she is beautiful and lovely. And I know that my body is beautiful and lovely and perfect exactly how it is! heart emoticon"
" I am learning to love myself again. I am realizing that America has a very narrow view of what beauty is. In my opinion, beauty is very much so in the eye of the beholder. I used to be that model type girl. I only weighed 115 lbs before I got pregnant with my son a little over 9 years ago. I gained 60 lbs with him, and never lost it. I hated life. I hated buying clothes, and I loathed looking in mirrors. When I got pregnant with my daughter in 2013, I weighed 180lbs. I was depressed, having health issues, and could only be intimate with my husband in the dark. I hated my body. Even though I have since lost over 60 lbs since her birth, I still struggle daily with loving my body. It is getting better. I watch friends around me show off their curves, and have pride in their bodies. I remind myself on bad days that I have two, healthy beautiful children, and a husband who fell in love with me when I was at my heaviest. I am now the smallest I've been in over 9 years, and learning to love myself and my body a little more everyday. I hope that all people can learn to do the same. We are beautiful inside and out, no matter what mainstream beauty magazines say."
"I never had any issues with how I looked until after I had my son and was pushing almost 200 pounds. It wasn't until I had my daughter that I started to realize how my body told my story & how beautiful it was.I think a lot of the image issues I had stemmed from birth trauma & having my healing birth with my daughter helped a ton.I always see women (mom's in particular) saying they believe their body is ruined. We're constantly bombarded with airbrushed images of what we "should" look like & it's just not true! I started being positive & promoting body positivity and I'd like to think I've helped some women feel better smile emoticon "
" I never had the best view of my body and motherhood did not help with that. After my son was born I lost the weight and then gained it all back with birth control. It's been a hard 3 years for me watching that number go up and watching my clothes no longer fit. I've told myself I'm disgusting. Seeing the women in these Beauty Revealed photos has helped me realize that is not the case. I am still beautiful no matter what motherhood has done to my body. I really hope that I can help others realize this too and begin to love their own body. Being a mother is the world's greatest gift we should enjoy every bit of it and not hate on the body that gave it to us. To all the women out there You Are Beautiful!"
" I see and feel the intense pressure of media and marketing places on women to look and act a certain way. I think that is unfair and body acceptance is the only way to to vaccinate ourselves against unhealthy expectations. I hope my weight is the farthest thing from my mind as I welcome my baby into this world. I know childbirth can leave physical and emotional scars, but my hope is that I will recall how I felt during this project and use that to help heal myself so I can accept my body and teach my child self love. I hope he or she learns that people are so much more than their bodies and that one's physical attributes should never define them."
" I had struggled with my weight for most of my adult life. Until I just got tired of the struggle. But rather than giving up on myself I decided that I just needed to accept who I am and move on with life. I never try to pretend to be something I'm not. And yet in spite of that after I had my kids my body was changed. It was wiggly and jiggly in places it never had been before. And so i struggled again with my self image. So now when I look in the mirror I remind myself that I have carried three babies in the last four years. Those changes in my body are the reminders of the amazing power and strength I have had to carry and give birth to those babies, two of whom were born at home. So instead of having a "problem" with my weight or "struggling" with my weight I choose to accept myself as I am and quit being so mean to myself. So I choose to do these photos to show other Moms who may be "struggling" with themselves that it really doesn't matter, those babies who made you a Mom and gave you that body, love you no matter what you look like."
" I decided to do this shoot so I could prove to myself that I can be comfortable with my body. Accepting my body has given me strength and confidence. I'm a mother and my body will never be like it was the day I left basic training and that is okay! I hope that my bravery to bare it all has inspired at least one other woman to love her body enough to bare it all!"
“Remove those ‘I want you to like me’ stickers from your forehead and, instead, place them where they truly will do the most good — on your mirror!” ~Susan Jeffers
I am thrilled to be an affiliate photographer for such a wonderful group. Please go check them out http://www.beautyrevealedproject.com