I need a goddess moment, she told me. How could you not be having one, I wondered. You’re pregnant, a natural walking work of art for all to see. Your beautiful belly is a caress-magnet, drawing soft looks and appreciative smiles wherever you go.
“I feel so good,” she said, “but when I see photos of myself I look so fat! I look huge! I don’t look as good as I feel! I want to see what I really look like, through your eyes."
What she couldn’t possibly see was the happy dance my insides were doing. All she saw was a knowing look and a soft smile. I was already seeing the images in my mind, the soft light falling gently on the fullness of her body, her husband, a real sweetheart of guy, just loving her and holding her like the everything that she is.
I start to think about how so many people get the wrong idea about themselves. I know for most people, that process started a long time ago, and now all they can see are these misshapen, haphazard versions of themselves as if it was the truth. And for a pregnant woman, whose body is changing so quickly and dramatically, it can seem impossible to even recognize, let alone appreciate, what you look like.
Why is it so important to have photographs anyway, you might wonder. I mean, it’s all about the baby anyway, yes? You’re just a vessel, the changes are temporary, not so much worth memorializing, right? Pregnancy is the most natural thing, why make such a big deal out of it? Who cares?
Except that it’s magic.
It may be the first and only time you have a physical, visceral, undeniable experience of being a part of something exponentially larger than yourself. It may the first and only time you feel poignantly connected to every single woman who has come before you, joining the invisible yet almighty feminine line of motherhood.
Being pregnant connects you to your body in a way that is otherwise impossible. You may be the most physically active person in town, but even if you’re an Olympic contortionist there is nothing like carrying a life and feeling it move and kick inside of you. And then when you meet that person, that little being you knew so well but had yet to see, you’ll think to yourself, that was YOU in there! Hi!
When my son was 5, during a particularly sweet snuggle session, he said “I used to be in here,” patting my still ample belly. Smiling, I said yes, let me show you. I pulled out the album of my pregnancy portraits, and we turned the pages together. That was you in there, I pointed, hugging him close.
Turning his sweet face up to mine, smiling the most beautiful smile, he said, “that’s when we were the same person.”
Yes, my sweet boy, that’s when we were the same person. One miraculous intertwining swirling walking work of art, that would one day birth a son and a mother at the same time.
When I had the photos taken, it was easy to think it was just about my body and what it looked like. But it’s only after the fact, after the possibility of photographs has ended, that you realize it’s indescribably bigger than that. As with all things life-changing, there is no way to fully understand the depth of your experience until afterwards, when the earth has shifted, your body has settled, and your eyes have adjusted to a new way of seeing. Before that happens, you need to trust that tender voice inside of you that already knows, the one that's saying "this matters."
Having pregnancy portraits created celebrates your own intimate experience, the person this little being will become, and the feeling they’ll be born into. It’s a most beautiful way to honor the beginning for both of you.