this body can do anything {guest post Jill Smyth} #4thTrimesterBodiesProject

I have a special radar for earth mamas, so when I spotted the Smyths at the farmers' market among the retirees, I just knew we were meant to be. We had a glorious community garden together one summer, which hasn't been the same since they moved out west to chase adventure. 

This post is beautiful, just like my favorite strawberry blondes. Make sure you check the links, too. You don't want to miss a shot.

This photo of me is exactly what my experience of motherhood is. One eating, the other waiting. Underpants. A little exasperated, a little impatient--happy overall and a whole lot of love.

When my daughter was born I rejoiced in her perfection. Starlight eyes, strawberry hair, rosebud smile and skin so fair. My beautiful, perfect Ada was shaped exactly as I am. Same hips. Same hair. Same booty. Those nine pounds of perfection grew from within me. My body made an ocean for her to grow in, then delivered her. It comforted and sustained her. I wondered how this baby girl could be so perfect and I anything else? If she is perfect, so am I.

The truth is that each of us is inherently perfect.

Don't believe me? Think of the ocean. Imagine the sound of the waves. The feeling of sea breeze. The brilliance of the sun over the water. Now, try to imagine what you might add to or take away from it that might make it more perfect. Is it not already perfect? Just as any ocean, you were perfect and complete from your first breath.

I chose to be photographed for the 4th Trimester Bodies Project because I believe this.

Like everyone before me, my body changed with pregnancy. I loved my body the entire time I was pregnant with that angelic little girl you see there. My body was creating life, and I was proud of the changes. Once she was born and my first fourth trimester began, I felt uncomfortable in skin I had usually felt confident in, and suddenly, I was someone I did not recognize.

My belly, which had always been squishy-but-shapely was now unwieldy. My joints that had allowed for impressive flexibility were now loose. My shoulders carrying the weight of my worries were suddenly very real obstacles in my path to successful breastfeeding. I realized I had no idea how to relax. I found that contrary to what I had believed prior to birth, I was useless on no sleep. I forgot to eat or drink water. Any bits of identity I had before I met that precious girl were shredded, and I was left as sets of pairs: arms for holding, breasts for feeding, and lungs for breathing.

At first I felt angry, and then I felt sad. After that guilt and later regret. So I waited. I prayed. Little by little, my resistance to the changes broke apart and floated away to make space for something else. I certainly didn't get my pre-pregnancy body back, because that body had been physiologically rewired to protect and nurture, to unleash the mama bear. With the radical transformation of my old body came unbounded possibility.

You guys, this body of mine can do anything.

This body learned an entirely new style of communication and how to relax at the age of 26. This body moved an entire family across the country on faith and a shoe-string budget in a Honda Accord. This body cooked and cared for a family with a sprained spine. This body runs two businesses on top of mothering and housekeeping full time. This body created a son, who was delivered at home into his daddy's hands. This body hikes miles around this city and rides the Trimet while keeping track of two children. This body gets up and down off the floor thirty seven times a day. This body is mine, and I am more thankful for being in it right now than anything else.

Ashlee Wells Jackson is daring to change the world by photographing mothers. Mothers feeding their children, mothers with their mothers, mothers courageous enough to stand alone. If we can learn to accept and love ourselves, we too can enact enormous change in our lives and the lives of people who know us.

[For more info or to donate, visit the 4th Trimester Bodies Project.]

Jill Smyth is a lady settled (for now) in the Pacific Northwest.

I manage a household, cooking most meals from scratch. This is both tedious and rewarding. I unschool a little lady, normalize breastfeeding, and gave birth to my little sun at home in the shade of an oak one morning in June. I freelance graphic design while my children are sleeping and constantly look for ways to spend time with my code ninja husband. Parenting has been a path to awakening, and I marvel with gratitude at the ways in which my life is blessed.

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