As many of you know I recently took my clothes off, save for a mismatched pair of funky socks, for a photoshoot. They are at the bottom of this post, but I'd ask you to read about my reasons for doing it first.
Primarily it was Kate On Thin Ice who invited me to do it, she who writes an inspirational blog about boosting women's mojos and giving them confidence.
Yes, I thought, I will show the world that we must celebrate our Mummy bodies, in all their stretched and squidgy glory for they have created our beautiful children.
Then I thought I might as well raise a bit of cash for my chosen Down Syndrome charities while I was at it. Nothing like getting your kit off to get people to look up and give, I figured.
£3500 WAS RAISED FOR VARIOUS DOWNS SYNDROME CHARITIES. THANK YOU X
So, at 43, I did it. My photograher friend at Photography by Maryna donated her time and expertise, along with a make-up lady Julie of Angel Face and Geoff produced a video of the preparations and my reasons. But I found the day strangely emotional, as this behind the scenes photo shows.
|The tears behind the bravado|
Why was that?
I thought at first it was because I was thinking of all the families just starting their journeys with their little ones with Down's Syndrome and remembering that tricky time of acceptance and adjustment for us.
But no, it was more than that.
I then thought perhaps it was because the last time I was naked in our house with a group of people around me, it was at the planned home birth of Natalia. Perhaps my body was remembering, revisiting the shock and worry.
It was only when I was chatting to a journalist one evening about the photos and why I wanted to share them with other women, that I suddenly realised why that day had been so emotional....
Like all women, my body can tell a story, the story of my life.
The growing up and adjusting to my new shape, the hideous toes I hid until I was into my twenties and moved to Cornwall where flip flops are de rigeur, the growing to accept and gloss over the bits you don't care for and make the most of the bits you do.
Then there was the stuff it has lived through the horse-riding falls, being married to husband number one Mr Aggressive, the keep fit fads and phases, the parachute jump, the minor RTA.
And then I turned my thoughts to babies
I have been pregnant a total of 7 times. It's quite a lot and it's not something I think about every day. But they are there as part of my journey.
We first became pregnant unexpectedly quickly on our honeymoon, a paradise beginning in the Maldives. 5 weeks later that ended amid blame: the sun, the diving, the rum. I was desperately upset, for life is supposed to go exactly how you plan it when you are first married isn't it? I Googled and researched and planned a detox. It would not happen again.
I became pregnant straight away after our second attempt. We were already more cautious, keeping the pregnancy quiet even from family because it didn't seem real. But it was very real and the morning sickness kicked in with a vengence. I was so desperately ill, lost weight, was listless and struggled to keep down dry crackers and San Pelligrino water. Anything else was unbearable, even the smell of food. Bob had to eat in the garden at one stage. Gradually the illness passed and out came our beautiful, strong, feisty, dark Mia, the image of her father. She was an undiagnosed breach, but luckily we managed.
Being a Mum was wonderful yet all consuming. The tiredness continued, Mia didn't sleep well and breastfeeding on demand continued for many months. The last thing on my mind was another baby at that moment. But, just around the time of Mia's first birthday I became unexpectedly pregnant again. It seemed too early, but I knew I would have coped, but by the same token I was wary of my body's ability to sustain this pregnancy. I had a 50/50 chance right? The track record showed it.
I was right. Again at around 6 weeks I miscarried.
Lying on the sofa in pain, covered in blankets. I began to wonder what was wrong. Why was my body rejecting these babies? Surely there couldn't have been something wrong with both of them. My diet was incredible, I was taking Folic acid, I was only 34. Was that too old?
My GP said there was nothing to worry about and that they would only investigate after 4 miscarriages in a row. Gosh, what if that happened. 4! I wasn't sure if I could take the emotional trauma.
We moved house and quickly pregnancy number 4 was conceived. This time when I saw the blue line, there was no excitement at all. I just thought, 'Right, let's give it our best shot. Here we go again." It became a challenge.
I rested as much as you can with a 1 year old, lifted nothing. But to no avail.
I sat at a baby sign class, looking around the room at other pregnant Mums, so happy and oblivious to my pain. Tears plopped silently onto my lap. Why was it seemingly easy for others and not for us? A selfish thought.
My head knew we were lucky to have Mia and I knew other's pain was much worse. All our losses were early but my heart was growing fearful that I would not be able to make a sibling for our firstborn.
It wouldn't have been the end of the world, we would have coped, adopted maybe. But those were my honest raw feelings of the time.
Pregnancy number 5 came fairly quickly afterwards. I getting frustrated with my body, cross and angry, impatient too. I began searching around for more help, a definitive answer.
I went to a herbalist and Foresight who tested a sample of my hair and prescribed various vitamins for the shortfalls it highlighted. If any of that works it was too late. Again the dull ache that signified the end. The lack of sickness or hideous metallic taste always a sign it would come. I was clutching at straws I guess.
Bob found it hard to comprehend my dark despair. He urged me to relax, that all would be fine, and that anyway we should be grateful for having Mia. I guess for many men, until they see a baby it is hard to feel a pregnancy in the same way as a woman does. She lives it after all.
So, now on the regime of various vitamins, Natty was conceived. I panicked, was desperate to know if all would be fine. I paid for a private ealry scan at 6 weeks. The heart was beating and we were to go home and wait. Nothing more could be done. There were no answers.
The metallic taste came and the nausea rose, I knew these were positive signs. Less nausea than with Mia but never-ending vomiting right until the day she was born. It was miserable but I clung to the notion that this was a good sign. Family tried to take over when they could, to entertain 2 year old Mia. CBeebies played on a loop in between.
When Natty arrived, and there's enough written on this blog about her entrance into our world, people said things about the state of my eggs, my age, why hadn't we had 'the tests'. All those questions making me feel that I had caused her medical problems. Again the body was at fault. I feared my marriage would be over because of an extra chromosome. My body looked fine on the outside but it must be decrepid on the inside. Did all those other miscarriages have DS too? The genetic counsillors could not tell us. Apparently there are no answers to some of life's hardest questions.
It's funny how your mind works when you are in shock because in reality Bob bonded with Natty far earlier than I was able, saying she would be just fine, his Italian belief in family outweighing anything else. And of course babies with DS are born to women of all ages and backgrounds.
But here is the thing:
Natty is not a mistake, nor an error. She is just as perfect as Mia. They are incredible and we made them. Not only that but my body produced every single drop of milk they both drank, for Natty that was expressed life-giving milk that passed down her nose tube for 3 months. When the tube was removed she breastfed successfully for 18 months. Thank you body.
After a period of readjustment, almost mourning that baby we thought we were expecting, Natty drew us in, melted our hearts, began her life long work of teaching us and the world around.
She will face obstacle in life, but we are here to try and smash them out of her way. Perhaps, deep down, this is me trying to make up for that teensy bit of guilt, that I too was initially a part of those barriers.
Maybe that's why I throw my whole life into changing things for others, not ever wanting any other parent to feel the desperation I felt in those early days, and working to knock down and obliterate those obstacle for her and others like her. My head knows I didn't cause them but my heart is determined to smooth the way.
A couple of years ago came the very last pregnancy. A dangerously ectopic one that found its way despite a coil in place. That time I was relieved when no medical intervention was needed to save me from surgery, that my body dealt with it by itself.
So that is why I chose to take my clothes off. To thank my body for the babies, those with us and those lost. To thank it for feeding our girls for 3 1/2 years between them.
Beautiful. Thank you for doing this and thank you for sharing. Just beautiful.ReplyDelete
From one Gigi to another, I thank you for giving me the confidence to do it.Delete
Such a beautifully written post, and amazing photos! I wish I had anything like your confidence :)ReplyDelete
We've had similar journeys (I have 3 children, on pregnancies 3,7 & 11 and my middley is autistic) so I really identified with your reason for doing this amazing thing. Thank you for being so brave x
Thank you so much for sharing this with me and for letting me know I did the right thing. I was very nervous it would not be well received.Delete
What a moving and beautiful post, and gorgeous pics xxReplyDelete
You are very kind. Thank you Sonia.Delete
Beautiful pictures, really really lovely. Being physically naked I think does often bring emotion to the fore, I'm not surprised you found the day emotional. I know I haven't dealt with the raw pain of my miscarriages, they happened in quick succession and then we had Lawrence, who has taken up all my emotional energy with his various disabilities and difficulties, but this post has prompted me to try and do so, thank you.ReplyDelete
I know exactly what you mean. Natty's Down's Syndrome overtook the miscarriages and only now have I sat and thought about them. Much love to you xDelete
Amazing pictures Hayley! I suffered a miscarriage 4 weeks ago at 11 weeks pregnant after trying for baby number two for almost two years, I can relate to so much of what you have said, it's heartbreaking and I have constantly questioned my body, my sanity and my belief that a healthy pregnancy will ever happen for me again as this is my second miscarriage. Hearing your story gives me faith and like you I thank my luck stars every day for my gorgeous fdaughter and hope that at some point it does happen for me again, your story gives me faith and strength thank you for sharing it x xReplyDelete
Karen, so raw and so recent for you. I send you love and strength. H xDelete
You are beautiful lady! as are your children, I may have sobbed all the way through this post xReplyDelete
I am so sorry Jane. But in a way that means we are even for the tears I wept over your Erma Bombeck one xDelete
Really, really beautiful. xxReplyDelete
You are so kind darling xDelete
beautiful photos, beautifully written, heartfelt love to you for sharing some of your intimate mummy body journey...particularly love the photo of you standing on the stairs, so strong Anita xReplyDelete
Thank you Anita, a tricky post to write but one that seems to have helped many. Love to you all.Delete
Truly beautiful pictures and inspirational words. So many of us have been on this journey and we blame ourselves. Think we are the only ones. And yet clearly we are not alone. Thank you so much for all the wonderful things you do.ReplyDelete
It's surprising how many women have trodde this journey and actually it feels god to talk about it.Delete
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Babies 1 and 2 were miscarriages baby 3 quite possibly spoilt rotten because of them and the journey taken to get to that point. 10 days overdue and I was starting to panic that we would then loose 'it' too, 50 hours of labour ending in c-section, "yes please!" Years of sleepless nights delaying all thoughts and possibilities of a sibling. Then along came the unexpected 4th pregnancy. The one that unites me with so many new friends and has opened our eyes. 4 pregnancies in 7 years, breast feeding and expressing for 24 months. Thank you Hayley for your honesty and bravery, I'll learn to forgive my body xxReplyDelete
Thank you for sharing your story. We owe it to our bodies to celebrate what they have done xDelete
This post is so beautiful it made me well up. The photographs are amazing and they look so elegant and raw. I am in awe of this post & you. Brilliant!ReplyDelete
Thank you, you are very kind. I glad it is reaching out to people. H xDelete
Incredible post, Hayley. Well done you - and what beautiful babies you made with that body of yours xReplyDelete
Thank you so much. Yes, I am immensely proud of our girls and also that the post speaks to many about the journey our bodies have been on.Delete
Thank you for such a strong post. Yes, our bodies speak of our journeys. You describe it so well. I've never loved my body more than when pregnant, or just having given birth, or breast-feeding. And I felt so let down by it after miscarrying.ReplyDelete
Yes, it's so incredible when it goes well but hard to forgive when we encounter what isn't in the plan.Delete
Found this post through The Gallery and so glad I did. Beautifully written and gorgeous photographs xxReplyDelete
Thank you so much for coming over to read. The Gallery theme seemed to fit well, although I still feel a little shy about pushing the post forward, but I know it has helped many. H xDelete
I missed this when it was first published. What a moving post and what beautiful photos.ReplyDelete
Thank you Sarah, for taking the time to read. I felt a little shy about putting the post out there really but many have written to say it's helped them after miscarriage. All part of our journey's of being mothers I guess. H xDelete
WOW this is such and amazingly inspirationally post, your strength alone is amazing, thank you for sharing xxxReplyDelete
You are very kind. I think I doubted how wise it all was just after I did the shoot. I blame Kateonthinice completely :) But then the comments from others who have lost came in and I realised it had helped. Plus we raised a nice bit of cash for our charities.Delete
A really beautiful post, well done you for raising all that money, bringing awareness and showing us all that we need to embrace our bodies. xReplyDelete
Thank you so much. We all need reminded how amazing our bodies are sometimes. H xDelete
What a fabulous post and amazing pictures. You are incredibly inspirational.ReplyDelete
Brilliant!!!! Beautiful, amazing, sexy, desirable.... I LOVE this post... GO YOU!ReplyDelete
Beautiful photos and a worthy cause :)ReplyDelete