Stripping it all down

heather standing with her back to the camera in a lace bra, white dress shirt and jeans

Wow. That title. If that didn't immediately make you want to click I don't know what would.

All jokes aside I wanted to take some time and compose my thoughts about a recent experience I had that was beyond liberating. Many weeks ago I was somewhat tipsy, playing cards with friends when I got the bright idea that it was time to do something bold. Something I have never done before, something that some would think is quite naughty. I booked a boudoir photo shoot. I DM'ed a local photographer, Amy Donovan Photography, and set a date for a shoot. You could say it was liquid courage, but for me it was so much more than that.

Since moving away from everything that was familiar to me I also needed to move away from some toxic and too familiar ideas I had about myself. I had always held onto this idea that I needed to be anything other than what I currently was in order to be: accepted, loved, sexy, beautiful, fit...and sadly the list could continue. I had for too long carried this notion that I was not enough. That this body was not enough. This thinking hurt more than just myself. It hurt my marriage, my friendships, my sex life, my family. See what I was unconsciously doing was telling other people I wasn't worthy. Which can often lead to others feeling that way about themselves. I would look at food and say "I can't eat that it's bad" I would skip a workout from being too tired or sore and say it was a "cheat day". Or how about the line "I'm going to need to work this off tomorrow". These words inflict pain on myself and others and for that I am so sorry. I am sorry if my words ever felt like you need to shrink yourself. I am sorry to the little girl inside of me that always felt "chubby" and like she would never be as pretty as the other girls.

Over the year of living here I can say that I am truly on a journey to loving myself. This isn't the body positivity or body acceptance movement, which was and still is actually centered for Black women's bodies to be celebrates in all forms, but more of a new approach to the way I look and talk to myself.

It was with this in mind that I finally said FUCK IT ALL and booked my session with Amy. This session was about a month and a half away and automatically I started telling myself that I needed to tone up, slim down, eat more salad... shrink myself. What is wrong with me right? I finally said the ultimate F you and now I'm right back to the loop of terrible thinking. That said I did make a more conscious effort to workout but I refused for it to be about looking a certain way. I made it about my strength. My hopes for longer harder hikes, my hopes that I am pushing the boundaries of my disability aside. The hopes that I could find a way to move my body that wasn't a punishment and instead a celebration. There was no miraculous body transformation instead it was all changing inside.

As I write this I am looking at my photos and I want to cry. I want to cry for that little girl who got picked on. For the little girl who couldn't find clothes long or big enough. For the woman who couldn't find a turtleneck in any store last year that would actually fit over my chest and arms. It was because of all of this that I was worried about what I would wear to my shoot. I ordered a few items online and when they didn't arrive in time I thought maybe I should just cancel. Instead I pushed my shoot time to the afternoon and booked it to the closest La Vie En Rose (who now carries 40DD) to find something, really anything to wear.

When I got home I tried it all on and stared at myself in the mirror. I shook my booty and spun around to inspect myself. All the stretchmarks, dimples, bruises and scars were no longer hidden and I was ready. Amy and the makeup artist Heidi instantly made me feel comfortable. I showed them the outfits and we decided together. Heidi added a bounce to my hair and a natural eye look with a pop of colour on the lips and I was ready for the first outfit. A white lace bra, my husbands white dress shirt and jeans. I have always seen this look in magazines and loved it so now it was my turn.

After several poses standing up it was time to lie down... but what about my tummy, well it was still there and wasn't going anywhere so it was high time to say fuck it again and roll around. After this outfit came a more casual body suit made of grey ribbing and a mint lace. I love this suit still. It feels cute, sexy and bonus it's actually comfortable. Again Amy helped pose me as her and Heidi showered me with compliments and Lauryn Hill crooned in the background. It was honestly magical.

My last outfit was the "raciest" of them all. A black lace bodysuit with a sheer lace wrap. I was pulling out the big guns on this one. Though some of the poses were a little awkward to maneuver into or stay in, overall I knew I was safe in Amy's hands. She made me feel comforted, relaxed and above all beautiful throughout the whole process.

a cropped photo of heather wearing black lace lingerie

A few weeks later we met to look through her selection and on the way I had a very deep conversation with myself. I told myself, out loud, that I was going to be kind to myself. That I wasn't going to cut myself up, that I would love my body. That I would respect everything it has done for me. It has survived, it has nourished, it has triumphed, it has endured, it has walked me down the aisle and carried me through sickness. My body deserved to rejoice in all that it was and is currently.

The meeting was wonderful. We chatted of course about the photos and I ultimately chose 10 to keep. But we also talked about ourselves and some of the torment we had endured and the celebration of where we are now.

It took me stripping down in front of two strangers and a camera for me to really see my body and myself as a strong, beautiful and sexy woman who deserves every joy and pleasure. I had never seen my body as sexy before. When I showed my husband he was excited and proud of me, now I could finally see myself the way he always has.

If you at all like tik tok you have likely seen the "shave your head videos" where a woman is telling you to just do it. Well the same audio can be said for a boudoir shoot. JUST DO IT. Find a photographer that you feel comfortable with and do it for you. Do it to show yourself how proud you are of your body. That it is enough and more. That you are one sexy and strong woman who deserves it all.