True confession: I am a Birth Without Fear fangirl!!
I started following the FB page way back in 2010 when it first started as a simple message that birth without fear is possible. Since then, the message has expanded to support and validate all birth journeys, the postpartum period, and the crucial role that fathers/other partners play in the family.
My first experience hearing the founder, January Harshe, was in April of 2013 when she spoke at a MommyCon mini offered in Phoenix, Arizona. It seemed like maybe she was nervous, and then she found her voice and delivered a powerful message about being supported in birth choices. Come to find out later, our group in Phoenix got to see the first BWF presentation ever!! Super-cool.
Later that year, I got to see her again in LA for another MommyCon event, and then in 2014 we traveled to Austin for her second Birth Without Fear conference – it was life-changing for me. 2015 ushered in a year of “Meetups” – one-day events designed to bring the best of Birth Without Fear to more communities. Although we didn’t get to a meet-up last year, Puma and I did get to see January speak at a fabulous Club MomMe event, the Fall Family Fest at the LA Botanical Gardens.
Imagine my delight when I found out that there was going to be a meet-up right here in my backyard in February!! Super-yeah…especially when I found out that the keynote speaker was going to be Jade Beall, the amazing and conversation-shifting photographer from Tucson, Arizona.
Jade did not disappoint. Her message of body positivity, and the way she wholeheartedly embraced the changes of pregnancy – OMGosh – I hope that there was not one person in the room who left without believing in their deepest cell that their post-pregnancy bodies are inhabited by goddesses of the highest order. She gushed over the rolls we try to hide, the beautiful stretch marks that shine with the pride of growing life, and showed us the beautiful human body through her lens.
Flashback to my own journey with food and semantics: Since I struggled so much with body image, and I am a huge believer in positive thinking, I knew that the words I used about my body would be very likely to influence my children. I have made a concerted effort to talk about my food choices in relation to the amount of activity I do. I don’t eat less because I am on a diet, I eat less because I am not as active as they are. I make green food choices and smoothies because those foods give me energy, not because I’m on a “diet”. When we talk about their bodies, we use the words like, “muscular” and “strong” and “healthy” when we talk about shapes, sizes, and foods we are buying for them to eat. Will they add health? Or do we avoid them because they compromise our health? I try so hard not to make it about weight and body shape/size.
So as far as the food conversation, I hope I am already on the right path with our children. What Jade gave voice to, and it applies to body image as well as the bigger picture of motherhood, is the idea that if we are tearing ourselves down with our words, imagine what it does to our children (loosely paraphrased):
If mama is talking crap about herself, MY QUEEN, then what am I?
If MY QUEEN is not worthy, what is going on in my world?
To our children, we are the whole world. We are their mothers – we are beautiful in their eyes simply because they love us!! How amazing that the universe placed this wisdom in my path this week, “You know how when you get to know someone you see their inner beauty and stop noticing how they look on the outside? I wonder if that’s how kids see everyone all the time.”
Um…YES…until, as someone wisely pointed out, they are taught to judge. Unless we tell them we are unworthy, they do not see us as unworthy. Until we give them the words that exclude everyone except the photoshop images in glossy magazines – they do not know their mothers are anything but the most beautiful mother in the world.
Here are more gems from Jade’s presentation:
- The story of growing a human and pushing it out/birthing is not restricted to one body type.
- Who likes lies? Truthfulness is so empowering. What is so wrong with cellulite? What’s wrong with being human?
- Today this is me. It is enough.
- All of us together in our skin are beautiful in our diversity.
- Love yourself – love yourself – love yourself. It is the key to awesomeness and to being able to live the life you want to live.
- Self-love is a complete practice.
And my favorite: “As soon as we are free from the shame, our epicness can happen. Epicness enters your body, and amazing things start to happen.”
After Jade concluded her presentation, January shared her keys to embracing body love: start replacing the negatives with the positives. Instead of waking up and naming all the things we don’t like about ourselves, find some things you already love about yourself. Then, start the day with those affirmations of what you love about yourself. Little by little you will find that your conversation about who you are starts to shift.
She made the great observation that body-love and self-acceptance has a bigger effect beyond ourselves and our families…it’s about people. Everyone is struggling & judging in one way or another. Skinny, fat, pink, purple, there is no magic formula to being happy – everyone has a story they are telling themselves that colors their perspective.
Here are the gems I wrote down from January’s follow-up to Jade’s presentation:
- What am I worried about?
- I’m the only one in this body. I’m the only one on this journey.
- The kinder you are to yourself, the kinder you can be to others.
- When you use your voice, you give other women the power to use theirs.
What both of these ladies touched on matters in such a deep, profound way to mothering. Can we love ourselves enough to teach our children the gift of self-love? We have heard this, read this, seen this over and over: Actions speak louder than words.
If we tell our children to be confident and that we love them just as they are, will they believe us if our actions towards ourselves completely contradict our words? When we have a double-standard, one for them and one for us, how will they know which one is right? If the current state of our collective self-esteem is any indication, self-loathing wins that battle every time.
I left the event on Saturday with a renewed commitment to be body positive and to live in self-love every day. I am actually excited to release this body shame and allow my own EPICness to take a firm hold. It’s been rooting around in there, trying to get a good hold since hearing Jennifer McClellan of Plus Size Birth in Austin…now it’s time to really plant it in the tilled soil and start to thrive. I am the Queen of my queendom…in all the world, only one.
I have lived in Phoenix since 1995. Have driven past this corner so many times. Yet today, I SEE this message. For the first time. Such an amazing message by @jadebeallphotography + @january_harshe We are the Queens of our queendoms. Be right with yourself. our children our partners love and adore us. Today, tell yourself the one small thing you can believe. Build on it every day. Your children’s Queen has every right to be happy and in love with the body that grew them, birthed them, and cares for them every single day. #lareina #selflove #bodypositive #bwfphoenix #camelbackinn
A photo posted by Sweet Pea Births (@sweetpeabirths) on
How about you? How can you embrace your EPICness today? What is one small step you can take towards self-acceptance?
I invite you to be curious – say one thing you love about yourself and hold it inside you today. The QUEEN of the tribe can be as radiant on the inside as she is on the outside. The little people who love you already see you as a shining star – own it – breathe it – live it. See what happens – what kind of epic will you unleash today?