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Keleigh

I’ve been meaning to submit to Shape of A Mother – what a fantastic project! I’ve done some writing about body image for mothers through my work as a henna artist and several people have recommended this project to me. I would be honored to participate.

Three children – pregnant from April 2003 to June 2005 (with a couple months between each) – two full-term births – tandem nursing still 2.5 years later. My body has been through SO much, nearly as much as my heart and mind. I like to think of my stretch marks as “natural tattoos”, and to try to celebrate them as intentional marks that represent my inner strength and journey. This has helped a little, but even more powerful for me has been body art. I did my first henna design on my own stretch marks (henna is a temporary plant stain that has been used for at least 4,000 years as body art). I wanted to celebrate them overtly, to really SEE them and trace their lines. It helped so much to transform my self-hatred and non-acceptance into admiration. I still struggle, and will continue to perform this body art every year around the time I gave birth. Someday I’ll put on a crop top or a bikini and show the world!

I didn’t take a photo of that first design, but it inspired me to begin a henna body art service just for mothers (www.BellyBeautifulHenna.com). I wanted to be able to share the power I discovered with women during their own transformations. I wanted them to feel beautiful, special, pampered, and honored. I will not post my clients bellies here without their consent, but they have given their permission to have their images on my site.

Since beginning my henna body art I’ve done henna on my own breastfeeding breasts and found just as much power in that experience (perhaps even a bit more). Not only that but my little nurslings appreciated it as well (“Look, momma’s nummies have ff-owers!”).

Henna is a critical tool in my journey to accepting my changed body. Not only is it an opportunity to do something specifically for me and relax and lay back for a while, it’s an ancient tradition that connects me with thousands of years of women who have passed through this same transformation. Henna is a little sloppy, imperfect, organic, and beautifully unique. It is not crisp and tight the way ink tattoos are, and it doesn’t have the associations with young, toned bodies. It gradually fades over several days, leaving a lasting reminder that my body IS beautiful in its own way.

May each of you find your path to acceptance.

in Before Pregnancy, Belly, Belly, Breast or Body Art, Breastfeeding, Breasts, Postpartum, Second Pregnancy, Submissions, Twins

18 comments… add one

  • Jillian Wednesday, January 10, 2007, 7:20 pm

    I have a question for everyone… Has anyone else ever developed stretch marks on the top of the vagina, like in the hair? Just curious, because so far, I’m the only one of all of my friends. Please, if you could ask readers or even respond yourself, that would be great. Thanks so much.

  • BirthJunkie Wednesday, January 10, 2007, 7:21 pm

    Wow, even without the pictures you are a beautiful woman.

  • Andi Wednesday, January 10, 2007, 10:28 pm

    I absolutely love that last image. Nursing is such a beautiful thing.

  • Crystal Wednesday, January 10, 2007, 10:37 pm

    Beautiful post…thank you for sharing :)

  • Manic Mom Thursday, January 11, 2007, 8:58 am

    How beautiful!

    I almost want someone to trace all my markings to create a work of art! That sounds so neat and probably offers a world of self-discovery!

  • autumn Thursday, January 11, 2007, 6:34 pm

    the last photo is absolutely AMAZING. i can’t get over how gorgeous it is.

  • Keleigh Friday, January 12, 2007, 8:43 am

    Thank you so much, ladies! You are so kind. Jillian I wanted to say that I definitely have wide stretch marks down into the top part of my public hair. I think it’s probably even visible in the postpartum belly shots above. You are not alone!

  • Persephone Saturday, January 13, 2007, 8:35 pm

    Wow! I love your hennaed breasts! And I went to your site, and it’s beautiful too! I wanted to get my belly hennaed when I was pg, but it never happened. Instead, I painted it. A phoenix, using my stretchmarks as the outline for the wings. I should post my own entry on this blog sometime.

    -P

  • Heather Sunday, January 14, 2007, 9:39 pm

    what gorgeous pics, especially that nursing one.

    and to jillian, i have stretchmarks in my pubic hair, too.

  • Angela Tuesday, April 10, 2007, 6:54 am

    I just love the pic of you with the baby (baby seems to be pointing to your belly, saying “yup, I did that!” The breastfeeding pic is just beautiful!
    Oh – and I have stretchmarks in my pubic hair – totally normal (we all stretch in different places ;)

  • thistle Sunday, April 20, 2008, 6:15 pm

    gorgeous.

  • Brandy Friday, June 20, 2008, 3:54 am

    Thanks for the beaty of these photos.

  • Corissia Wednesday, August 13, 2008, 7:09 pm

    Fantastic. You look beautiful and I love the henna. I feel a little inspired to try something like it myself. Your daughter is so cute, those eyes are amazing.

    Jillian, I’m pretty sure loads of women get them in there pubic hair. I have one really large one down the middle. I’ve always thought of it as an arrow as if for say “this is where the babies come out”. *laughs*

  • linda Thursday, September 4, 2008, 2:08 pm

    Jillian Says:
    January 10th, 2007 at 7:20 pm
    I have a question for everyone… Has anyone else ever developed stretch marks on the top of the vagina, like in the hair? Just curious, because so far, I’m the only one of all of my friends. Please, if you could ask readers or even respond yourself, that would be great. Thanks so much.

    i did. big purple ones too. and they used to itch real bad. i thought i was the only one too! good to hear im not alone.

  • crystal Sunday, March 8, 2009, 1:36 am

    answer for jillian YES! :)

    keleigh
    such beautiful photos! you are a true inspiration :) thanks for sharing your story. i love the henna! i live in nz, only wish we had some form of henna workshops or something here. i might have to look into it :)

    sending you much love support and respect x

  • Michelle Sunday, December 27, 2009, 1:44 pm

    YES in answer to your guestion I too gave birth to twin boys 1 year ago i have streach marks there too!!!

  • karen Sunday, January 3, 2010, 9:06 pm

    I also have stretch marks near my vagina as well it is not only you,

    I really loved your henna flowe around your breasts beautiful

  • Courtney Thursday, October 20, 2011, 11:26 am

    @ Jillian: YES! I got some really deep painful stretch marks just above my pubic bone, in my pubic hair. I could actually feel the skin ripping. I had pubic symphisis as well, so my pelvis was very unstable and there was a lot of pressure there which I’m sure contributed to the skin tearing.

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