I’m not entirely sure where I found the courage to stand, mostly naked, on a public beach with seven other women.
We gathered on the sand at Crystal Crescent Beach in Nova Scotia as the sun was setting over the North Atlantic. We brought our children, who nursed, made sandcastles, and dipped their toes in the water.
My three-month-old son lay on a towel while I quickly pulled off my tank top. My eyes darted around, scanning self-consciously so as not to undress more quickly or more fully than the others. My hands slid over the foreignness of my abdomen, where I had new stretch marks and a different shape to get used to now that I had birthed my second baby.
Not all of us knew each other, but somehow the thought of taking off our clothes in public, and the fact of our shared motherhood, galvanized an instant bond.
I was inspired by the #WomenintheWild project by Erin White, a photographer who has made it her mission to share beautiful photos of breastfeeding mothers, to bring this group of friends and acquaintances together.
The idea of using photography to celebrate my motherhood was one that I had broached several times over the previous months. I had previously worked with the photographer Samantha Ryer to capture powerful prenatal images, as well as the water birth of my son. I was elated to have a permanent record to remind me of a time that I was filled with strength, courage, and divinely feminine energy.
And so, we came together with Samantha on the beach that evening to be a part of something that could serve as a reminder, to ourselves and to the world, of the power and wonder of women’s bodies. No matter what circumstances surrounded our motherhood, whether we breastfed or formula-fed, we wanted to celebrate the strength of our embraces, the legs that chase after toddlers, the hips that carry our babies, and our all-encompassing hearts.
What we didn’t expect was the catharsis of standing side by side with our sisters in perfect imperfection, digging deep for acceptance of our new bodies, our new lives. What surprised us was the bond that we felt, instantly, over the shared experience of motherhood.
Self-consciousness transformed into celebration that night as the shadows lengthened across the beach and the sun glowed an impossibly golden hue. Nervous giggles had become boisterous laughs of joy as we dug our toes into the sand and felt the freedom of the air on our skin.
We had shared our vulnerability, and in the process discovered confidence, triumph and sisterhood.
Photo Credit: Samantha Ryer Photography