Germinationem / by Rebecca Tillett

If someone had asked me 10 years ago if I would plan to take self-portraits should I ever get pregnant the answer would have likely been a resounding yes. To document such drastic changes in this vessel I inhabit and be able to add that to my body of work, which was then and still occupied by so many beautiful and various female bodies I've photographed over the years? Well, of course. Ten years later when prompted with that question by several someones, my answer wasn't so certain, maybe even doubtful. 

I have been the subject of my own work and uploading many of those creations to the www since the start of this millennium. Initially, as a blossoming female nude photographer still in her teens it was because I was having difficultly finding models. I never truly wanted to be my own subject. The bulk of my satisfaction came from being behind the camera; a beautiful body that was not my own occupying the viewfinder. As time progressed, while I began finding models without issue (so many of them friends) and especially as digital began taking over film in transformative ways, I began finding gratification in the exploration of my own body, as both the subject and the photographer. It forced me to face some of my greatest insecurities, and helped me to make peace with a fraction of them. Even in spite of the protestations from my partner at the time, and the conflict it would sometimes cause us, I felt pulled by the need to continue. As an artist and photographer, this self-documentation became nearly compulsory for me.

Over the course of the last 4 or 5 years this compulsion has waned for me. My personal life changed in huge ways and perhaps that had something to do with it but really, I think it's this: I am not as bold or confident or new inside this body as I used to be, but I am more comfortable in it. Not comfortable in a confident, fearless, look-at-me way; but in a kind of settling, surrendering and peace that only comes with age way. I can't speak for every woman but my 30s have been quite different from my 20s. Oftentimes, I feel I have completed my artistic journeys of self-exploration and am finally content here now. I have also become much more private than I used to be and very rarely feel I have anything to prove or put on display for the outside world, another common artifact of one's 20s, I assume. Maybe this will shift again with time, and maybe it won't. As artists, our inspiration is critical to our creations, and that inspiration can often transform in both big and small ways over the course of our lifetimes.

Germinationem: mid-15c., from Latin germinationem (nominative germinatio) ‘sprouting forth, budding,’ noun of action from past participle stem of germinare ‘to sprout, put forth shoots,’ from germen (genitive germinis) ‘a sprout or bud’

With all of that said, I decided that this moment in time, my body in this state of pregnancy, is not likely to come around again and I might regret missing the chance to photograph it, through my own eyes as I have done countless times in the past. More importantly though, I think my daughter might feel a little cheated to have so many self-portraits of her mother, except for the 9 months she was pregnant with her.

I am approaching 27 weeks pregnant in these images, the last week of my second trimester, and for honesty's sake, I want to note that like most who have come before me in this bizarre journey of female human transformation, I am tired and ill at ease much of the time, and though relieved that my little girl is growing and developing normally, incredibly apprehensive about the post-natal body that awaits me (how long again until this body becomes something I grow comfortable with?). I also have braces on my teeth (a process I began the year before getting pregnant; I'm due for corrective jaw surgery 5 weeks after giving birth), and have been working with my audiologist to find a new pair of hearing aids that helps me to feel less isolated from the world ($5k I can't at all afford right now but have to face anyway as my old pair on on their last legs; but I'll save the money and insurance bitchings for another day). Earlier this week, on a particularly difficult day in which I felt I might drown the entire city of Denver with my tears and relentless pregnancy-induced emotion, I said to my husband: "I just feel overall very...unattractive and shitty lately...pregnant and fat, with hearing aids and braces. I mean seriously. I’m having a lot of stupid self-pity parties lately." And in his wonderful, beautiful way I am careful to never take for granted, he responded: "I'm sad you don't see what I see, because you'd be shocked. My heart thrums around in my chest like it wants to escape and crawl in your pocket, every day. You're so beautiful I can't stand it sometimes." 

And while I may not see what he sees, especially right now, I surrendered, I settled. I felt comfortable again.