Linda Anne Sinni (32), Treyvon (5), Javier (2)
New Jersey | Photographed in Seattle, WA
Linda shares -
"The complexities of my relationship with my body were subtle before becoming a mother. I experienced praise and attention for my "athletic body" my entire life. My identity and self-worth were tightly woven together with the musculature, size and shape of my body. I abided by the important food rules that would keep my body small. Don't eat bagels. Don't eat after 8:00pm. Don't indulge your sweet tooth, except on holidays. I cycled on and off every fad diet that came into popular culture. I felt a sense of community with other women when dieting together. I felt powerful in a mini skirt and heels. I took pity on those washed-up mothers and their stubborn belly fat. The more attention I got for my body shape, the more powerful and feminine I felt. Such were the lessons my own mother taught me. Such were the lessons that society reinforced for me.
When I went home as a new mother, I brought with me an uncomfortable scar, deep stretch marks, and thirty new pounds. I meticulously counted the days until I could exercise again. I hid from friends. I felt deep shame for the state of my body. I loathed it. I wouldn't look at it in the mirror. I spent hours online, researching ways to starve yourself without losing your breastmilk supply. I believed that I was nothing. Worth nothing. Nobody. The transformation I experienced after that was long, and slow, and painful. It pulled at the threads of my fragile marriage. It sent me into spirals of a dark and relentless depression. One rock bottom moment gave way to another.
This pattern went on for three and a half years. One way or another, I finally found myself stumbling into the offices of professionals that listened and sometimes, not-so-gently challenged me to examine the values of my family of origin, talk out loud about postpartum depression, and honestly inventory the twisted narratives I believed about how a woman should earn her keep in this world. Through this process, I began to replace those old narratives with new ones. I replaced food rules and body shame with the loving voice of an internal mother, the one that I never got to have growing up. She told me that self-worth has nothing to do with the musculature, size, or shape of my body. I began looking at myself in the mirror every day and came out from hiding. I joined the world again, as a woman with a different body and different set of values. I unapologetically began to take up space as a woman with a fierce birth scar and beautiful marks where my body stretched to house a HUMAN BEING. I began to believe that size diversity is beautiful and health is possible at every size.
To any new mother, and to my former self, I would like to say... YOU GO, GIRL. You have everything going against you right now. You're too much of a mess or you're too put together for someone who just had a baby. You've "let yourself go" or you're narcissistic and a neglectful mother. The truth is, there is no right way to be a mother. There is no right way to heal. There is no right way to feed, soothe or care for your baby. And there is no right way to avoid the judgement that the world will place on you at this time. Be in your new body. Be in your physical and emotional pain. Be in your fear and your happiness and your doubt. It is yours. And yours alone to reckon with. Sadness and mourning after a baby are real. Greet each wave of emotion into your body and experience them all without criticism. But don't suffer alone. Don't hide from the world in shame. Begin to rewrite the old narratives that don't serve you anymore. Trust that you know what's right for you and your baby. Give your intuition its moment to shine. You made a person. You are a mother fucking Goddess. A Goddess that might feel like a foreign and uncomfortable version of you. Be gentle with her. Take time to get to know her. Don't fight the transformation. Say the things you fear the most out loud to someone supportive and accept help. This is the way. This is the only way.
I came to the 4th Trimester Bodies Project because I have suffered since becoming a mother. I have drowned in the expectations placed on me as a woman. When I first began to notice that there was a movement happening to give mothers a voice about their shame and their fears, I was overwhelmed with relief. I looked at the images of mothers from the project on Instagram every. single. day. and I clung to the hope that maybe I could be like them. I took a leap by signing up for the photoshoot and decided that I was ready. To be a picture that might help a woman who is suffering as I once did. To take my commitment to myself to the next level, stand on the other end of a camera lens, and let the world see me. To bring my sons to a place where women are celebrated as they are, so they might grow up knowing that there is no right way to be a woman. This is my big debut, to myself and to my children as a woman who can confidently pose for all eyes and honestly say: I am worthy of love, in my body, as it is right now."