So I’ve gone back and forth on posting these pictures. On the pro side, it’s:
“YAY! Pretty photos! To share on the Internet and prompt people to say nice things about me!!!”
And on the con side, it’s:
“Umm, ok. My pregnant body on the Internet! That’s a little weird! Vulnerable! Potentially embarrassing!”
If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you’ll know that the concept of self-branding eludes me entirely and I’m just not very good at it. As an aerialist/yoga person, I am a-ok with pictures of all bodies, including mine, because human physiology is fascinating (to me) and its capabilities beautiful (to me).
But as a writer, I have a knee-jerk hesitation to showing any skin, because, because…well, I’m not entirely sure. Life of the mind vs. life of the body, I guess.
However, as previously discussed, a topic that captures both my interest in bodies and my interest in thinkerly, writer things is that of sex positivity for women. And specifically, pregnant women.
Hence, this maternity photo shoot. I did it a few weeks ago with a very talented local photographer, Whitney Martin, and my dear friend Fannie, a stylist-slash-video game programmer. (Slash-badass.)
We shot it at Bull Creek, a craggy park in Austin overhung with ancient oak trees and wrapped in mossy caves. It’s one of my favorite places in the world.
Over these past 37 (whoa) weeks, I’ve found that it’s very, very easy to feel infantalized as a pregnant women. The maternity wear complex creates clothes that make you feel like a giant baby yourself, with frilly, pastel outfits and message T’s that say things like, “I’m baking a GIRL!” with appliqued cupcakes or “Mama’s little RASCAL!” with an arrow pointing down to your belly. Why?
Maybe it’s because pregnancy is a clear, visible sign of sex being had, and cutesy outfits like that take the edge off, making a woman’s sex-having body less threatening.
Anyway, that definitely wasn’t the route I wanted to go for a maternity shoot, but conversely, I knew I didn’t want a pregnancy boudoir shoot either. I’ve seen beautiful, sensual examples of that, but I’m just too immature to pull it off. I’d be snickering the whole time and acting a fool for the poor photographer.
So what did this picky photo subject want? Well, something that felt like me.
I wanted something that captured the all-encompassing womanliness I’ve felt during this pregnancy, something that felt nature-y/natural, and something that felt interesting. And, maybe, something like Stevie Nicks.
So Whitney, Fannie and I collaborated on putting together a session that didn’t divorce sexuality from the whole maternity experience, which is a very formal way of saying we shared a Pinterest board.
And how do I feel about the result?
I am THRILLED. I love them! These photos will probably humiliate my daughter to no end one day, but until that time, I’m happy to have a visual memory of this little sliver of my life, thanks to Fannie and Whitney.
Pregnancy is a time where I haven’t always felt 100% awesome about my body, but you know what? I think that’s good for me. I like to think I’m a feminist, but my perception of what is beautiful is just as influenced by media / American culture / the “male gaze” as anyone else’s. On top of that, pregnancy always seemed like this freaky, science fictional thing to me (probably because most science fiction is written by men), akin to Alien or Gremlins.
But now, corny as it sounds, I’ve been converted. I’m shocked at what the female body can do, and I like the idea that baby and I are working together as a team to make her strong. Nutrition / good sleep / prenatal care / blah blah are all parts of that, but sex was (obviously) a pretty essential part of it, too. “Sex positive” and “belly proud” don’t have to be mutually exclusive concepts. You can celebrate the cute little baby growing inside your belly, and simultaneously celebrate the sex that brought him or her here. I don’t think anyone openly disputes this; I’m just ready for a culture that finds a portrayal balance between hyper-sexualized moms (i.e. MILF’s) and one that pretends moms are these harried, sexless creatures who are only focused on motherhood and THAT’S IT!
There’s a middle ground, I like to think.
Thanks again to Whitney and Fannie – I love you both.