Life After Birth Project: More Than Enough
I gave birth to my two children in 2014 and 2016, which was not so long ago, and I can tell you that at that time no one was celebrating their postpartum bodies. At least not publicly, not for me to see and relate to. Not for me to take some comfort from, knowing I was not alone. Not for me to reframe my internal dialogue from discomfort (verging on disgust if I'm honest) toward my own body, to honouring it and celebrating what it had accomplished.
But now, as I quickly approach my third postpartum stage, I know my experience is going to be so very different. Evenings like last night have made me very confident in that.
You see, last night I had the honour of attending the Life After Birth Project opening in downtown Toronto - a travelling exhibit to honour the postpartum journey, created by Knixwear, a Toronto born intimate apparel brand, in collaboration with Carriage House Birth, a global platform for birth and postpartum doulas.
After a hugely successful launch in Manhattan's Soho neighbourhood three weeks ago, the exhibit, which is more or less a portrait gallery, is now taking up an intimate space in Toronto's hippest district, Queen Street West.
"We created this space to build community, to share stories, to celebrate the wild journey that is mother and parenthood and to emphasize that we are all MORE than enough," writes Joanna Griffiths, Founder and CEO of Knixwear.
And the exhibit certainly does do that.
Photos were submitted by Knixwear's community of friends and customers, including notable celebrity contributions from Jillian Harris, Amy Schumer and Christy Turlington. As Joanna walked us through the exhibit she explained that portraits were grouped into different themes, some celebrating birth in all its various forms, to the feeding journey (including nipple shields and supplemental feeding tubes), to postpartum bodies in all their beautiful forms.
Visitors should be prepared to be moved.
Cesarian scars, stretch marks, engorged breasts, cellulite, and squishy tummies are all revealed, and more than that, they are honoured and revered. Walking through the hundreds of images from birth through years into the postpartum journey (Joanna explained that their definition of 'postpartum' is "from birth, until FOREVER"), had the powerful effect of not just normalizing the bodies visitors are confronted with (though it does do that too), but establishing them as beautiful.
And they ARE beautiful. This much I know now, and rather than fear a reflection in the mirror I'll be facing again within six short weeks, I might even admit to looking forward to seeing it. To looking at it with kindness and saying, "Thank you. You are beautiful. You are magical. And you are enough."
The Life After Birth project is open to the public in Toronto from September 18-26. From there it will be travelling to LA on October 24. Visit its Instagram page @lifeafterbirth for more details.