Kelly | Valley Grove, WV
Images by Rebecca Kiger
"I have chosen, when I see myself in the mirror, to use words like strong, resilient, and beautiful versus lazy, unattractive, or overweight. The shift in language is so significant. And so necessary. I am raising three daughters, and have hope that their story can be more positive."
"Before this project, there were two parts [to my body story] - both the old - that after 3 or 4 children, my postpartum body indicated to the world that I was inadequate and lazy. The other is a much more recent struggle after postpartum hemorrhage and giving birth to a baby with unexpected physical abnormalities -- things that happened just a couple weeks before beginning this project.
Regarding my older struggles, I want to choose to ignore the voices in my memory from my younger years, from various women in my life, that I was imperfect, that sexuality was to be feared, that my appearance indicated a character flaw or laziness. Regarding my newer struggle, I choose to focus on the positive - that my body is strong, that I gave birth to four babies, naturally, and three at home, that my body is resilient and bounces back quickly, and that, despite abnormalities, my fourth baby is strong, healthy, and beautiful.
I have begun to cultivate an appreciation for what my body is able to DO versus my perception of how it looks. I have focused on the automatic and involuntary resiliency of my body and my mind, in overcoming a traumatic physical event and in dealing with my baby's physical issues with an undercurrent of love, joy, and gratitude. I have chosen, when I see myself in the mirror, to use words like strong, resilient, and beautiful versus lazy, unattractive, or overweight. The shift in language is so significant. And so necessary. I am raising three daughters, and have hope that their story can be more positive. I also wanted to work through my struggle with the physical abnormalities of my youngest, so that if she struggles with them, there will be space for her struggle to be her own with me as support, if/as needed, versus me still struggling with my own feelings of inadequacy after her birth and the risk of my neediness overshadowing her own story. This journaling exercise has allowed me to identify this, and consciously identify opportunities for healing and strength.
Certainly significant is the photography portion of this. I have, for years, had a deep aversion to being photographed, with feelings of vulnerability and dislike of the opportunity a photograph leaves for self-judgment.
Actively, in a more social, outward context, I have three goals:
1. To offer the same kindness to others that I am striving to offer to myself - to not compare, judge, harbor jealousy, etc. regarding my body, or others'.
2. To care for my body in ways I love - primarily making time and space for hiking and walking instead of beating myself up over the dust on my elliptical.
3. To involve myself in my community and projects for the right reasons - because I love it, not to prove that I am interesting, have worth, am creative, or whatever it is I am looking for by way of affirmation because I feel negativity toward my body."
Images of Kelly by Rebecca Kiger.