Audra Meusx (36) and Brixton (2.5)
San Francisco, CA
How has parenthood impacted your body image?
“The simplest answer is that parenthood created a shift from how my body looks to how my body does; the functionality of my body now supersedes the appearance of my body. My tits became deeply purposeful - wholly sustaining my son for four months and now at two and a half years my breasts still sustain his comfort and our intimate connection; my nipples went from casual fantastic sexualization triggers to serious practical life changing guns.
Parenthood sent me on an introspective journey where I questioned my beliefs about this cumbersome thing that cages my spirit ... I realized most of my judgements were social. That when I got honest with myself cellulite looks fucking neat. Stretch marks appear as these glorious reminders of what we've survived. Grey hair looks boss, I see it as absolutely powerful and stunning - so why did I dye mine? I didn't have an answer aside from THATS WHAT WE DO encouraged by this aggressive societal pressure to censor our age. I stopped dying it after my best friend (a hair dresser who can't stand that I'm not dying my silver) married at the end of September; watching the triumphant roots grow uncensored naturally unaltered feels something like watching my self-acceptance grow but more like witnessing my self-celebration grow. I censored a lot of my experiences as a *being* before motherhood and in time measured in years, months, weeks, days and sometimes brief awkward moments I've uncensored them.
I posted portraits of me breastfeeding and pumping milk - because it is fucking magical. I posted portraits of me bleeding - because it is fucking magical. I posted portraits of me giving birth - because it is fucking magical. I've learned the importance and value of honestly sharing my experience with this process and found much value in the the courageous vulnerability of other folk doing the same. Earlier this year during my best girl's bachelorette I posted a portrait and some words I scribbled that sort of sum up what I've found within my self that I directly attribute to motherhood: "lets choose to acknowledge beauty is infinite. happiness is infinite. success is infinite. no abstract notion is finite : we can all be it all & have it all the moment we know this to be true. / lets stop boxing ourselves within agreeable predictable boundaries with labels that limit our views of ourselves; lets choose to be phenomenal contradictions: philosophical dolls, heavy lifting skirts, sexual mamas. / lets choose to be courageously vulnerable & celebrate our feminine experience together." [In hindsight I wish I'd ended with " - especially if you're a man's man's man."]
Parenthood impacted my body image by gifting me freedom from seeing my body as breathtakingly beautiful or unbearably ugly or something betwixt - it lifted me to a place where, instead of a negative or a positive perspective, I can conjure a whole perspective of my body as a composition of magic.
Feel free to share your postpartum journey.
Postpartum I felt like I'd been kicked in the vagina with a soccer cleat. I was in active labor with my son for 37 hours & breathed thru every moment of those hours fully conscious and connected to the experience.
I have a fairly athletic build and I absolutely hated my tits, how big burdensome bulky they were - I enjoyed that my husband and son appreciated them but they made me feel incredibly uncomfortable, especially when I'd see portraits of me. I went from an A/B to a DDD. They got in the way. Taking stairs sucked. None of my clothes fit right. And I just found it unbelievable how other women thought I should enjoy these things that looked like a giant ass on my chest. So. There was that.
I lost weight quickly, my son ate A LOT - he went from 7lb 14oz and 19in (smack dab average) to the 99.8% for weight.. He literally suckled the baby weight off of me. I ate like a starved fiend and couldn't keep weight on. The comments I received from other mothers were the not the most considerate or thoughtful. I posted a candid family portrait at 3 weeks postpartum of me in a bathing suit with my husband and son at the river and these were some of the comments: "ummmm... you look fantastic... 3 weeks ago, really?!?!?" ... "Be careful girly, 3 weeks is kinda soon to be out like that for both you and your baby...you’re not done healing" (she thought I was working out obsessively) ... "Whats with the flat stomach so soon after child birth bitch !!!" - I don't even get how people think my body is an appropriate topic of conversation. So I felt a bit self-conscious about that as well.
Before birth, I was fearful of staying heavy & soft mainly because I know what being out of shape feels like and its exhausting. The moment I gave birth that shift to what i can do to from how I look doing it happened and those fears mostly dissolved. Now, whatever - I really don't fucking care how I look as long as I'm happy/healthy.
What is your truth?
I can't emphasize the importance of sharing our individual truths; that when we speak up we give permission for others to do the same. ALL our experiences are valuable; shared experience creates community and community saves lives. And just fuck censorship. Looking at all the pieces of my self that I censored 3 years ago, 2 years ago, 1 year ago, I realized now those aspects of myself were the most magical - I feared my own expansiveness and only by exploring it have I become closer to being who I honestly really truly am. The fact is we become magic the moment we believe we are.
Why did you choose to participate in this movement and share your story?
I adore the concept. I enjoy doing things that encourage vulnerability. It's just important. I really value the courage of all these different folk undressing emotionally and physically and sharing their experiences. I hate to just take and not contribute or support something I value. I thought I was going to write more about how I never possessed any interest in motherhood - about how horrible I was to my body thru my drug addiction - about how I didn't think carrying or caring for a child was within my scope of abilities - etc etc etc. I think the weirdest thing for me has been going from a place of severe drug addiction where I used my hands to regularly harm myself and destroy my life, my hope, my freedoms to a place where my hands regularly heal myself and build my life my hope my freedoms ... the same hands once chained by handcuffs in cop cars and court rooms now freely chase my son. I hated my hands and now I love them; parenthood made me love them even more by giving them even more purpose.”