Before Vincent’s baptism I went shopping for something to wear for the ceremony. With Matteo’s help, I ended up with a really pretty orange dress from H&M. Orange is his favorite color (Or was at the time, anyway. Apparently it’s now red and purple.) and after four months of new motherhood it felt nice to dress up again.
We had family photos taken of everyone after the ceremony, which we just got back last week. When I saw the pictures my first reaction was to cringe. Ugh, I groaned. The pretty orange dress was no match for the extra 20 pounds of baby weight still hanging on. My first thought was that I looked like a pumpkin. My second thought was to hide the pictures – hide them with all of the other unflattering photos of myself I’ve been amassing since I started birthing children.
I take very few photos of myself these days and I can count the number of family photos of the four of us on one hand. Mostly it’s because I’m the one usually behind the camera. But when someone does take a photo of me, it’s not uncommon for me to delete it, especially in the first few months after having a baby. The chubby, tired, frumpy woman who frequently appears in these photos is someone I struggle to accept.
I read this essay last year and it really resonated with me. I re-read it again today, after seeing these ridiculous post-partum pictures of Kate Middleton and feeling shitty about myself. Thank goodness I did. It was a brilliant and comforting and a good reminder, of why I need to be in the pictures. As the author later wrote in a subsequent essay on the same topic:
“…our family pictures do tell our stories. They are the stories we plan to pass to our children, to help recount to them and help them remember from where and whom they came. But even more than that, keeping ourselves out of these pictures — out of these stories — can symbolize something greater about how we see and treat ourselves as both mothers and human beings, and our children are watching. I am hoping that we might accept ourselves, perceived warts and all, as valuable, integral, essential parts of our own stories. I’m hoping we can value ourselves in our everyday forms as mothers, women, caretakers, warriors and, most importantly, individuals. “
(She wrote about this topic again, and what she’s learned from a year of being in pictures, just a couple of weeks ago. Read it here.)
I’m vain, I’ll admit. But I can handle that. What I can’t handle is doing a disservice to my kids. From before they were born I’ve been working hard to create a rich collection of photos and messages from loved ones for them. The gift of their history is something I want to make sure I give them. So why am I being such a vain jerk and editing myself out of it?
“We’re sporting mama bodies and we’re not as young as we used to be… The kids are so much cuter than we are; better to just take their pictures, we think.
But we really need to make an effort to get in the picture. Our sons need to see how young and beautiful and human their mamas were. Our daughters need to see us vulnerable and open and just being ourselves — women, mamas, people living lives. Avoiding the camera because we don’t like to see our own pictures? How can that be okay? (from, here”)
Life is about much more than the superficial. We try and teach our kids this lesson all the time. Why is it so hard to follow our own advice?
I’m going to work on this. So what if I look like a pumpkin? So what if I’m not playing volleyball in heels and flashing my taut stomach three months after giving birth? (Kate Middleton, I love you but I gave you a serious side eye with that one.) I’m going to stop being such a hater and start making sure I’m in more pictures – LOTS more. (Sorry instagram friends, you’ve been warned.)
Mama friends, I know I’m not the only one who goes through this. Who’s with me on staying in the pictures?