Davina | Montreal, Quebec
Self-portraits by Davina Kudish
"My hair was a mess, my face was blotchy, I had an empty little pooch of a baby belly... and I smiled at my reflection. I thought, 'Yes! This woman just had a baby and she is amazing!' I have never been more in awe with my body, or had more respect for it than I did in that moment. For the first time in my life, I truly felt like a woman."
"The week before I gave birth to my son, I saw a photo of a woman with nice hair and makeup in a hospital bed holding her new baby on Pinterest. The caption read: 'Yes! This woman just had a baby and she looks amazing! I hope this will be me when it's my turn.' A few hours after I gave birth, I remember sorely making my way into the bathroom and observing my reflection in the mirror. My hair was a mess, my face was blotchy, I had an empty little pooch of a baby belly, and I smiled at my reflection. I thought, "Yes! This woman just had a baby and she is amazing!" I have never been more in awe with my body, or had more respect for it than I did in that moment. For the first time in my life, I truly felt like a woman.
Being petite, I have often been described as cute and tiny. But womanly, not exactly. Throughout my pregnancy I faced comments like "how will you carry a baby, you're so little!" Or "Are your hips going to be wide enough for that baby to pass through?" Well, the answer was "heck, yes." 10 months of pregnancy, 26 hours of natural labor, and a mere 10 minutes of determined pushing... my body DID it. And it continues to do it. It makes food and brought my son back to his birth weight in an impressive 4 days. My body may have looked "better" before I got pregnant, and it may never look that way again, but I love it and respect it so much more.
When I embarked upon the photography portion of this project, I asked myself: What is a portrait? I determined that it was a timestamp of an individual, and should therefore reflect the beauty and uniqueness of that person at a specific moment in time. In order to accurately make a series of self-portraits at this time in my life, 4 weeks after giving birth, I needed to go beyond pretty, smiley photos of myself. My body needed to be represented, in a very intimate and very real way. So I included portraits of the most imperfectly perfect parts of my body, and included my son, who is also a part of me, in the other portraits.
The day I made the image of my postpartum belly, my husband Daniel noticed that I still had my linea nigra running down my belly. "It's sexy," he said. "It means you had our baby." I’ve always thought that if I could see myself the way he sees me, I would never have body image issues again.
The image of my breast was a difficult one to create. I had to convince myself that my stretch marks were to be celebrated and highlighted and not hidden or photoshopped out. They are a direct result of the incredible feat my breasts have undertaken: creating actual food for the small human my body grew and put out into the world (it still blows my mind to think about it!). So I was struggling to make an image that would accurately pay homage to my nursing body... and then my son started crying and the image made itself!"
Self-portraits by Davina Kudish.