Viewing entries tagged
normalize

5 Comments

Perfect Imperfections | Embracing and Empowering Positive Body Image | Ker-Fox Photography | Kristi

It's taken 6 years of me being a professional photographer to finally figure out why the good Lord gave me the gifts of photography/creativity/compassion: I truly love people... and the human condition. At my core I love deeply, feel deeply, I give deeply. I think that is why birth photography suited me so well. I've wanted to hang up my camera more times than I can count and just be a mom to my kids. But then someone tells me that God gave me "this gift", or "the Lord has truly blessed you with a talent", etc. If I had a dollar for everytime someone said that to me I genuinely could probably pack my camera away. The penny finally dropped. I can be a wife, a mom, and a photographer... and this gift the Lord has blessed me with is an outlet to glorify Him. He's moulded me through the years to get to this point, to use my photographer FOR something: For Him, for women, for mothers, for healing, for education, for awareness, for giving testimonies, for normalizing birth/postpartum, for redefining beauty... showing beauty in weakness, showing beauty in strength. The Lord has given me this platform, and always to my humble amazement, He's given me an audience that listens, and keeps coming back. So aside from capturing these pure, real, and stunning moments in your lives... know that with each session, in my heart there is greater meaning. I hope that the photos and the experience add something more to your lives than just a few photos hung on your walls. All of this leads me to the reason for this post. The kick off if you will, of these posts with purpose. A few weeks ago, just before Mother's Day I shared a blog post with a project I had been putting together for the last few months. You can see that post HERE. The cliff notes being, it is a project aimed at empowering women to embrace, love, and accept their imperfections, to realize that each scar, each line, each blemish on their body or their heart has made them exactly who they are. It's a bold idea, but I want to be a part of a dialog that is aimed at redefining the cultural norm of what is considered BEAUTIFUL. STRONG. FEMININE.

Not all of these imperfections are made equal and not all of these imperfections are of the physical nature. Kristi participated in this photography project more from emotional scars, unplanned pregnancy, postpartum difficulties, a baby battling horrible colic, all while being a single mom. After participating I wanted each person to write a small excerpt of how the experience of being stripped down to expose their insecurities effected them. Kristi wrote a few great sentences about her experience and the post went live. With resounding positive response the first post in this series was a huge success. Afterwards, Kristi approached me and said she wanted to tell more of her story. The parts that she's never told anyone, the parts that aren't pretty. Each story my clients are brave enough to share could encourage just one woman sitting quietly in her struggles. This is somewhat my mission if you will, my ministry. I feel the Lord has given me a gift of photography and the platform to bring Glory to Him and empower/encourage/support women.

Here is Kristi's story, make sure to scroll down to the bottom to see all of her images:

IMG_5077-Edit

April 29, 2011, I gave birth to a red haired 7 lb. angel. After twenty four (literally) hours of labor, the doctor came in. Placing his hand on my forehead, with tears in his eyes, he said “her oxygen levels are low, we will need to do a C-section instead.” I crumbled with exhaustion and disappointment. I had wanted so badly for it to happen naturally. Four years later, looking back on that moment, I realize it was foreshadowing of how my life would be as a parent. They are their own little people and things happen you don’t have control over. Before having my daughter, I was caught up in an unhealthy relationship, which involved drugs and alcohol. I had lost my way for a long time. My daily routine consisted of sleeping in, working at night as a server and then partying until the early morning hours. I became pregnant with my daughter and things changed. They had to. I stopped everything. I didn’t drink caffeine, I ate healthy, took my vitamins, went to my doctor appointments, and exercised as often as I could. I thought I was doing everything I needed to do to create a happy, healthy baby. I breastfed for about two months, but she had such bad congestion that it was very hard for her to nurse without having to gasp for air. She was colicky and coughed and cried so much, all of the time. Needless to say, I felt like I had failed. This was my fault. She was sick because I did something wrong. Elevate, humidifier, Vicks baby rub. I did everything the doctor told me to do to help alleviate the congestion. I even had her wrapped up in a blanket on top of the running dryer in the middle of many nights to soothe her. There was not any piece of clothing that I owned that did not have spit up on it. We existed in baby vomit. There wasn’t much point sometimes in changing my clothes when I was never safe from getting thrown up on so I walked around, shopped, and ran errands, smelling pukey. The doctor reassured me that she would grow out of it. I wasn’t satisfied with that answer. “When? How does he know? He isn’t with her like me, something else must be wrong” were thoughts that constantly plagued my mind. At five months, she ended up in the hospital from not being able to breathe properly. We were there for 2 days, receiving breathing treatments and medicine. No one had an answer. I still heard she will grow out of it. I was worn out and frustrated. No one had an answer and I couldn’t do anything. It was my job to protect this tiny human being and my responsibility to make the right decisions for her.

In those moments, I had no idea what I could do for her besides just be there to comfort her. Gratefully, the doctor was right. She did grow out of it. She is a very healthy, thriving, loving four year old. She is loud, stubborn, curious, independent, funny, and gives the best hugs and kisses. I will tell you that going through all of that and still what comes unexpectedly now, I would do it all over again. Saying that, it still took its toll on me and honestly, it came out of nowhere. Physically, emotionally, and mentally. Looking back, I did what I needed to do but I had no release, no outlet. I was like a gerbil in its cage, going round and round, no time to think about what I was doing, no time for self-reflection.

About two years ago, it got to be too much for me. I had just gotten a good paying job and we were doing alright, I thought. I was marketing for an imaging center, calling on doctors. I would be in the field all day long. I found myself losing track of what I was doing, headed in the wrong direction and not remembering where I was supposed to be. I would start to cry for absolutely no reason and not be able to visit my offices, as I sat sobbing in my car. I would call my sister and I could never tell her the reason of my outbursts because I had no idea why I was crying. I wanted to sleep. I had no motivation to do anything. I had to use all of my energy to get up on the weekends and take my daughter out to do something fun. I was exhausted. I lost more weight than I should have. My temper was quick and I started arguments with loved ones blaming them for things when in reality, it was me that felt inadequate. My self-esteem was at an all -time low. When my daughter went to spend the weekend with my parents, I took this as an opportunity to find my release in going out and drinking. Needless to say, this never made me feel any better. I never wanted to harm myself. However, I did start to daydream about what would happen if something tragic happened to me. I became obsessed with thinking too much about what would happen to my child if I wasn’t here anymore. My head took over and I was consumed with negative energy I couldn’t shake.

A friend of mine suggested I go and see my family physician. He put me on a mild anti-depressant. I was apprehensive about being put on medicine. He understood my concern but thought that this would help. I knew that, for me, there was another way of handling what was going on. The same friend suggested that maybe I should go and talk to a professional. This woman came to be one of the most influential people in my life. She doesn’t like me giving her too much credit and I am aware there are many factors involved. However, the whole experience and me allowing it to be effective, brought me to a place I had never been before, both spiritually and emotionally. Allowing myself to give in and be vulnerable and using the tools that I was given has been beneficial in my healing. I now am confident in myself as a mother and as a woman. There are still bad days, of course. There are days when I just want to lock myself in my bathroom and have a moment(s) of silence.

There are days when I am overwhelmed with the responsibility of taking care of this beautiful child. My daughter’s eyes are always on me. I am her greatest influence. It scares the crap out of me but at the same time, it is a great honor that I have been blessed with. My life is only better because she came into it. She wasn’t a planned baby in the conventional way but she wasn’t a surprise to God. He knew what he was doing when he placed her in my anxious arms. I did this project for the reason that the past four years have been a great learning experience for me. Now, I have never felt more confident in myself or been at ease with my responsibilities as a mom. There are tougher days ahead but I have been given the tools to handle them and I know that we will be just fine. I want my child to see that I am trying to be the best for myself so that I can be the best for her. This was an amazing opportunity, for me, to celebrate how far I have come. I also wanted to share my story to mothers who may be struggling more emotionally than physically, post children. I want mothers to not be ashamed to seek outside guidance. It shouldn’t be a taboo thing and no mom should feel embarrassed of it. It is not an admittance of defeat, only an acceptance that you are courageous and want only the best for yourself and your children.

Kristi, your willingness to not only want to share this, but your transparency and honesty is so so brave. I commend you for acting, for listening to your heart and sharing your testimony. I pray it encourages someone out there, silently in need of these words!

 

5 Comments

2 Comments

Perfect Imperfections: Embracing and Empowering Positive Body Image | Ker-Fox Photography | St. Francis Midwives | BirthSource

  Ker-Fox Photography Perfect Imperfections-46

Sometimes an idea, a thought, a life changing moment is so complex it seems impossible to put into words... well this is exactly that. I sit here as if in front of a blank canvas, unsure how to truly explain everything.

For the last 9 months I have struggled with my postpartum body. Unlike with my first pregnancy, in which I bounced right back and in fact liked my body more, with my second pregnancy I barely recognize this new body I'm living with. My abs are separated from my pelvic bone to my sternum, I have an umbilical hernia in need of repair, and I'm currently in physical therapy due to back problems stemming from my abs being weak. I have stretch marks. I have sciatic nerve pain in my bottom. All this came out of left field after my perfect first pregnancy.

The days would ebb back and forth between grieving my previous physique, to truly understanding and battling to find strength in the fact that I've grown two babies in that body. One baby growing so quickly I can barely wrap my arms around her, the other baby wobbling as he learns to stand... each day taking them further from my womb, further from this place they used to call home. I'm still not there, not fully 100% in acceptance of this new body, but the days pass and I forget the details of that elusive pre-pregnancy body, and I cling to these moments with my babies that need me. One day I won't be needed anymore, little by little it's happening each day. My oldest's newest phrase, " Let me do that, I can do it by myself." My youngest nurses less with each passing month, and gains new motor skills that take him one more step away from me. One day they will stop reaching for my hand, they won't need me to kiss their boo-boos,  before I know it I won't be needed anymore. But these lines, these battle scars of life... I will carry them with me until the day I die. I see myself 20-30 years from now, resting my hands on this soft tummy of mine, sitting in an empty house remembering this season of my life, and with age and wisdom, the bigger picture will have played out and these insecurities I feel now will be but a laugh under my breath.

This project is not intended to just focus on Motherhood, I see it having many chapters, with several characters all with differing stories to tell. I would even love to see some men participate in the future. Obviously women are more apt to be the victim of body shaming, or the seemingly rampant epidemic of mommy wars. But we as humans all have insecurities and we are all scarred, imperfect and flawed in some way physically and emotionally. Standing on the other side of this first endeavor into this project, I'm convinced people of all ages, genders, and races, people with differing reasons for struggling to find acceptance of their body image, could benefit from this. I want to see more diversity next time: postpartum, weight gain/weight loss, cancer, amputees, paraplegics... I could go on and on.

As the weeks, months, years continue on from this inaugural post, I pray this project grows into something even better than anything I can dream up at the moment.

Before going any further I want to thank the Midwives of the Women's Hospital of St. Francis and BirthSource for helping me get this first leg of the project off the ground. Many of the ladies came to an informal meet and greet the Friday before their sessions were scheduled. The Midwives sponsored it, and Melissa even came out to enjoy getting to hear the women's stories and reasons for signing up. The underlying theme that most of the women had in common was wanting to show their children that their bodies are beautiful, that these lines that mark their curves are normal, and the unique signature left on their skin by their pregnancies. Some women had fertility struggles, others were currently pregnant and living in that temporary space between the past and the future, there were stories of adoption, insecurities with weight: too skinny, too heavy, while others processed scars left from c-sections. A couple of women had stories of breastfeeding issues, from babies with tongue ties, and exclusively pumping, to medically having to wean with no warning, battling to feed her child on donor milk for over a year. Lastly we had our youngest participant at 4 years old. Her mother signed her up to capture her daughter now, in her spunk and innocence, an angel among us with spina bifida. She wants her daughter to know that she can do anything she puts her mind to, that she is strong and never to be defined by her disability.

Below is just scratching the surface. They've included a very brief comment on what this experience was like, from fears on the front end, to strength on the other. Over the course of the next few weeks I plan on giving each of them their own blog posts to really delve into why they did this, in hopes that it will lift and inspire someone else who may be fighting a similar battle.

The support for Perfect Imperfections FAR exceeded anything I could've ever imagined when I started planning this back in January. I set out to get 12 people, I've photographed 16 this weekend. I pulled two 12 hour shifts, one on Saturday the other on Sunday, and still have another 10+ women wanting to participate. I am simply blown away, humbled, grateful, and truly blessed by each of you. I sat out to take my own photo and start my healing process, but meeting you all, hearing your stories, seeing your courage, have nourished my heart and placed bandaids on parts of me I thought would take much longer to heal.

I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for trusting me. I felt immense anxiety and pressure going into this... there is no greater weight of responsibility than to have a woman in her underwear, stripped down to her soul, standing in front of you, hoping to feel beautiful on the other side of my lens. Knowing that you blindly trusted me with your most precious stories, your intimate and sensitive histories, I will never be able to convey how much that means to me. I pray I have done you justice. I pray you see yourself through the eye of children, they know no insecurities, no judgement. They know love, and they think you are beautiful. If only the rest of the world could see that way too.

Lastly, and equally as amazing... thanks to all for participating we raised $3000 for the two local charities: Sound Choices and Clement Arts. I imagine that number to only increase once I get these other 10+ in the studio.

Without being redundant you can read more about how this project came about by clicking HERE. I also want to thank 4th Trimester Bodies and Jade Beall, and January Harsh of Birth Without Fear for being the trailblazers, the innovators, the women who are singlehandedly changing the dialog of what is normal, what is beautiful, what real women look like. The ladies just mentioned are my inspiration, in no way do I want to take credit for this concept, I simply want to be one more voice in the chorus.

 

PERFECT IMPERFECTIONS:

KRISTI E. For myself, the whole experience was symbolic in seeing how far I have come not only as a mother but also as a woman. Coming to love myself the way that God intended has taken some time and lots of self reflection.  I have had a tremendous four years of learning lessons and  I could not be more grateful for having experienced it all.  I want to be the best for myself so that I can be the best for my daughter.

Ker-Fox Photography Perfect Imperfections-1

 

 

JENNY H. I was so nervous to do it, Especially after the meet and greet and I saw all the  other beauties participating. (I don't know why women compare ourselves to each other that way). I felt pretty comfortable during the shoot, probably because I could not see myself. I so enjoyed loving on my sweet babies and I am so happy that there will be pictures of that. After all, it is the way women are capable of loving that make us beautiful.  You never see a better example of that then a mom with her babies.

 

 

 

AERIN K.

 

 

 

AMANDA R. I wasn’t actually nervous before hand, excited actually because it was so different.  However there was a moment or two during the shoot where I thought “oh wow this is for real, I am having photos taken in my underwear”.  Neely was wonderful at making the environment relaxed and making me feel amazingly beautiful any nervous moments were very short lived.  I am 33 (almost 34), I have wanted children for a decade and I never thought that I would be pregnant.  I also don’t assume that I will have any more babies so this will be the only time I will ever be pregnant.  I wanted to do something to remember this time in my life and to be able to embrace how beautiful I am while carrying our son, when I found out about this project it seemed perfect.  I did this for myself initially but I do hope that it helps others see pregnancy as beautiful especially for other pregnant women to see themselves as beautiful.

 

 

 

COURTNEY G.

 

 

 

RACHAEL S. I was nervous walking into a shoot with someone I didn't know but Neely immediately made me feel like a sister, we talked and laughed and I instantly felt at home, she treated my daughter like her own all of this put me at ease to be "uncovered".  I walked out of the shoot with my head held high with a new confidence I didn't know I had in me. From glancing at a few of the shots on the camera, I saw more beauty than I expected, confidence in being a mother (the kind my mom told me she see's in my mothering but I couldn't picture and was really unsure of) and most importantly that my daughter loves me because I'm her "ma-ma" and that love is indescribable- she doesn't care about anything else and her smile and mine in the photo say it all!

 

 

 

TAYLOR W. It's so hard to put into words how this experience has made me feel. If I had to sum everything up in 1 word it would be influential, this is something that I hope will have an impact on my daughter and her own body image for years to come!

 

 

 

ASHLEY O. Once I got pregnant, I was sure I would have no problem getting back to pre-pregnancy weight...which hasn't been the case. But my life is full. I have the sweetest little chunk who fills my heart. I have a partner who is supportive and loving. I work. I play. And I am loving life without obsessing about being a size 6 one month postpartum. I want other women to be healthy, and well, and love life too without pressures of fitting an idea of beauty.

 

 

 

ROSLYN B. I have struggled with body image basically since puberty. After leaving the shoot I had a sense of confidence I've never experienced before. I called my husband on my way home, and was telling how awesome the shoot was, and how great I felt. I absolutely loved being a part of this very important project, and I'm so happy my girls were able to experience it too.

 

 

 

KENDALL B. Kendall has an awe inspiring personality that is shown through her bright smile and determination to keep beating the odds. This project has given us the opportunity to share with others that she is beautiful and her disability doesn't define her. I pray that when Kendall is older and struggling with being different she will look back at these photos and gain strength to continue to be who God created her to be. The pictures are absolutely breath taking! Thank you for following through with the passion God gave you!

 

 

 

CASEY G.

 

 

 

RACHEL M. This experience is a step forward for me, in hopes that one day I will accept my changed body, Exposure Therapy if you will.  I begged and pleaded to God to allow me to carry my babies, and I am reminded daily of what I went through to have them.  One day, my babies will be grown and the rest of my body gone, but I will always have these photos to remind me of the miracle of the two lives that I was able to carry.  I will have these images to share with other women that imperfections can be beautiful, no matter what society says.

 

 

 

ERICA B. I was so nervous to be a part of this project. I have always been a bigger woman and have never seen myself as beautiful. Since having my son, I wanted to do this to show him beauty comes in all shapes and sizes. I wanted to do this for myself too. I felt so comfortable and beautiful during the shoot. I will never forget this experience.

 

 

 

KACIE C. I did this shoot for me and my children. I’ve always struggled to accept my flaws, but after giving birth to my daughters, those flaws seem more like beautiful marks of our journey together. I hope that my daughters look back on this and know to judge themselves based on who they are, and not what anyone says or thinks about them.

 

 

 

DANA B. I am honored to have taken part in such an amazing event. Doing so helped me to accept and embrace my "new" body after having Peyton. After all, he is our Rainbow after the storm...and for that I am eternally grateful!

2 Comments