A MOTHER’S TALE – A JOURNEY INTO MOTHERHOOD
“Being a mother is learning about strengths you didn’t know you had and fears you never knew existed.”
~ Linda Wooten
At the beginning of this year, I set out to do a few personal projects in the hope that I could showcase some areas in Boudoir photography that are often missed or not fully represented. One of those areas is Boudoir and Motherhood.
It’s fairly safe to say that Maternity Boudoir is not as popular as traditional Boudoir photography and I was intrigued to know why. I started researching and educating myself about the relationship that women have with their bodies as they change and also the societal norms, stigmas, pressures, and expectations that are placed on them as they become Mothers.
I can tell you that after much research and lots of questions, I quickly learned that there are actually a LOT of opinions floating around about the subject.
I won’t go into ALL of the data I discovered, but one area I did find interesting is that many people have a specific perception of how a mother should act or conduct herself. Have you ever heard of the Madonna-Magdalene Complex? Ohh it’s a doozy!
“The Madonna-Magdalene (aka whore) complex is the assumption that the traits we value as stereotypically “feminine” are at odds with embracing one’s sexuality!!
It is compartmentalization at its best (worst.) and is described as the dominant pattern of thought that divides women’s humanity into two neat and tidy categories that don’t overlap: Madonnas and whores. The pure and the tainted. The nurturing and the depraved. The asexual and the sexual. The loved and respected versus the desired.” – Bellesa
Learning more about this topic certainly stoked a fire for me to move forward with this project ASAP! Well at least as soon as Covid restrictions allowed me to!
Why can’t women celebrate Motherhood AND their sexuality at the same time?
Why should they be made to feel like they have to choose between the two? Or worse yet, that society pressures them into not wanting to show their sexuality as the beautiful sexual beings they are!
A woman should not be “tarnished” for wanting to express her sexuality at any time, regardless of whether or not she is pregnant or for how her body is changing. Giving the gift of life inherently comes from a woman being sexual in the first instance (in most instances) so why should that suddenly change or end when she enters into Motherhood?
These are all interesting questions and ones that I felt the need to explore further with women who have experienced their journey into Motherhood first hand.
This is Miss N. She came for her session as a second time Mumma (and a repeat client) and here are some of her thoughts and perspectives from our interview together:
IN HER WORDS:
What made you decide to participate in this project?
I really wanted to participate in this project because during my first pregnancy I spent the entire time dreading all the changes to my body, and this time around I really wanted to embrace the changes.
Describe how you felt about your body image before doing this project and why?
Before doing this project I felt kind of neutral about my body. Giving in to the fact that it was going to change again, but also not super thrilled after working so hard to burn off the “baby weight” after having my daughter. There’s a lot of expectation to snap back to a pre-baby body right after having the baby, but your body goes through 9 months of changes, it doesn’t go back right away. It takes time and that’s ok and needs to be more widely accepted.
Did anything change about the way you see your own beauty/sexuality/sensuality/body confidence as a result of this session?
It was really cool seeing my growing body in more of a beautiful/sensual way instead of just another mom. It gave me more confidence as I continue to grow and accept the changes that happen. The next time I feel like a tired blob, I will absolutely love looking at the pictures to remind me that I can still be beautiful.
What were your fears or concerns going into this project?
After my first boudoir session, and focusing on not looking like a mom and feeling beautiful and sexy again, I was worried I wasn’t going to be able to get the same feeling of being “sexy” from this session.
Did your concerns about doing this project come true?
Not really! It helped having done a session before and knowing what to expect,. Aroha is really good at making people feel comfortable and relaxed. I really appreciated being able to see pictures throughout the shoot to give that nice confidence boost.
Describe in your own words what you hoped this project would do for you.
I hoped that this project would help me enjoy my pregnancy a bit more, and give me the confidence to show it off. I also look forward to having the memory and pictures to look back to after I have the baby. I feel like time is spent trying to get pregnant, and once you are, it goes by so quickly and there are so many changes it can be hard to stop and enjoy the moment, so I’m glad I can look back on it.
What did you love the most about doing this project? What were some highlights for you?
I loved having the confidence of doing “implied nudes” (easy to do when you have a belly that covers everything LOL). That’s something I wouldn’t have even considered a couple of years ago. An unexpected result of having a baby is not really caring what other people think anymore and it’s easier to feel comfortable in your skin (if you let yourself!). The biggest reason is that I want my daughter to grow up seeing me confident in my body no matter what, and hopefully, she can feel the same way. Doing shoots like this really helps see yourself in a different light, whether you’re a mom or not, you can always be beautiful.
What would you say your biggest challenge was by participating in this project?
My biggest challenge was trying to get the image of my pre-pregnancy pictures out of my head and be ready to accept that they’re going to be different and that’s ok. Both versions of me can be beautiful.
How did you feel after your session? How did it impact you?
I felt good! So good that I decided to go out for a nice dinner with my husband despite being exhausted. I also felt recharged, it can be emotionally draining when you have a little one at home, you have this little bean growing, a house full of animals, and a husband that needs attention. It felt really nice to do something for myself and to spend an afternoon focusing on myself and making myself feel beautiful.
I think every mom needs to make time for herself every once in a while. You can have all the support in the world, but the feeling of needing to be in charge of everything doesn’t go away. You need to take time for yourself to recharge.
How do you feel about your body image now after completing your session? What has changed (if anything) about how you see yourself now?
This question I keep skipping and coming back to because I’m having a really hard time putting it into words. I had my first daughter when I was 24, and it was really hard seeing my “early 20-year-old body” change not only because I was getting older, but because I was pregnant. Then I spent an immense amount of time trying to feel like myself again but never really getting there, and then finding out I was pregnant again! It’s all a weird feeling, I wasn’t upset with how I looked but I wasn’t thrilled.
Between my 2 pregnancies, I decided to do a boudoir shoot, and it made me feel really really good again (despite being 7 weeks pregnant during the shoot). It is a second pregnancy and I was getting bigger, faster. It turns out muscle memory applies to babies as well! So I wasn’t feeling bad about my body, it was all just expected and normal. But it’s really hard to keep a positive outlook when you’re tired, and throwing up.
Completing this session and seeing the pictures helped give a positive outlook. It turned neutral and expected into beautiful and special. It’s really incredible that this whole little life and mind are created and it’s just a normal thing that happens. Anyway, I guess this is a long-winded answer to say I went from neutral and accepting to beautiful and special.
What are three positive things that you realized about yourself after participating in this project?
1. My hair can look good straight and left down. I know it sounds silly, but I spend 99% of the time with my hair in a bun or ponytail because I don’t like the way it is straight and boring no matter what. I absolutely love my pictures with straight hair.
2. My boobs have changed a lot between the first pregnancy, breastfeeding, and now mid-second pregnancy and it’s something I feel self-conscious about. And it took looking back a few times at these pictures to realise they look real and normal and it makes me feel better about it.
3. This baby bump got bigger faster than my first, and I felt weird about it because with my first everyone would always say “oh what a cute little bump” and it didn’t feel that way this time. It’s still a cute bump, no matter how big or small.
How was your overall experience doing this project? Is there anything that could have made your session experience better?
Good! I really enjoyed it, and love looking at these sneak peeks!
A mid-session nap (kidding!). No- I loved my session and wouldn’t change anything!
What would you say to other mothers who are considering doing this project?
To take the leap of faith and try it! You can be as open and daring as you are most comfortable with. It’s going to be so nice to have the pictures to look back on down the road. You’ll be able to look back and see how beautiful you are! Whether you are a new mom, a first-time mom or you have 10 kids at home, you aren’t just a mom and this is a fantastic way to see that! Being a mom doesn’t mean you give up being sexy and beautiful.
Do you have any advice to share with other participants?
Take a deep breath and trust Aroha,! She knows what she’s doing and she’ll only make you look good! Be open to the ideas and fake it till you make it, you don’t have to be oozing confidence going in, that comes during the shoot.
Do you have anything else you would like to share?
I think the biggest takeaway is that you don’t ever have to be just one thing. You don’t have to be “just a mom”. You can still be strong, and beautiful! You’ll have your “mom” days but it doesn’t mean you can’t still be sexy and confident. You don’t have to lose yourself in everything that changes.