My dear husband asked me a few months ago if I would take pregnant belly photos. I immediately thought of the artistic and nude pregnancy photos I’ve seen. While I really think those are beautiful shots, and generally the private areas aren’t shown, I wasn’t sure I could pose like that.

Over the next weeks I kept looking at various galleries from various artists. I admired the women, in different states of dress, who embraced their bodies and pregnancy. Truly beautiful.

I thought of the women I’ve known who truly hated what pregnancy did to their bodies. I thought of those that loved it. I thought of how I’ve been handling the changes to my body. Every pregnancy is different and while I’ve had rough spots, overall I have enjoyed being pregnant.

I surprised myself when I realized I actually liked my body. Like most women I’ve dealt with my own image and self esteem issues throughout my life. The thoughts that I had as a young girl didn’t vary much into my teen years or into my 20’s and now 30’s. What I did do as I became an adult was rationalize my thoughts and put my feelings into perspective. I accepted long ago that only I could make any changes necessary in my life to make me feel better about me. Accepting and asking for help through any of this was also something I accepted. Overall I knew, and know, it starts with my own desires and determination.

As I continued to ponder taking maternity shots I came to one sudden overwhelming truth. While I’ve always been taught about pregnancy and what it would do to my body, I was never told it was beautiful. Of course I was told about the glow and radiance of it, but never heard the word beautiful. My husband has always said he thinks pregnant women are absolutely beautiful, but I admit I never really listened to him. I figured it’s his job as my husband to say such a thing. I thought this because truly no woman in my life has associated beauty to pregnancy.

This is when I knew I would pose for the pictures. First and foremost, if our Baby is a girl, I want to show her how beautiful she made me during pregnancy and teach her from the beginning how beautiful pregnancy is, or can be. Second, for boy or girl, I want to show our child how much love we already had for him or her before birth. Third, so I could share these pictures and my thoughts of beauty with other pregnant women, or those who want to become pregnant.

Every woman deals with her self image and self esteem in her own way. While I’ve been able to embrace pregnancy, I know many women who don’t. This is completely okay. By no means do I think those women are wrong. Pregnancy is truly miserable for some. It’s completely okay to admit this and shout out that you really dislike, even hate, being pregnant. I do hope my sharing my experience that pregnancy, stretch marks and all, is beautiful will help someone who is struggling.

At Week 38 I and my husband did a maternity shoot with James Long, a friend of my husband. I had decided I would pose in any state of dress as long as the shots were tasteful, not vulgar. I was surprised when my husband told me he didn’t want any nude pictures, not even the ones where the pose itself covered the breasts and pubic area. He told me all picture decisions were mine, but by the end of the shoot I chose not to do any nude shots. The shots we had done captured the beauty I wanted for myself, for our child, and to share with other women.