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Last week I went to an anonymous hotel room to meet a complete stranger, strip down to my underwear, and pose for photos.

This is not something I make a habit of doing, especially not as a happily married lady, but this was a different sort of hotel room liaison.

Last week I became part of the 4th Trimester Bodies Project, and it was in equal parts a humbling and empowering experience. 

The brainchild of Ashlee Wells-Jackson, this project has profound meaning for her and for those of us who are lucky enough to participate:
The project exists because women are judged too crudely on the way we look and are often told we don’t measure up. Because no real person can compete with the tools in Photoshop and glossy magazine covers. And because motherhood is sacred and should be celebrated. 
There is a lot of secrecy around the location and format of each shoot - and rightly so, these are personal and often visceral journeys we are sharing - but Ashlee and her partner Laura are careful to honour them with calm, quiet and safe surroundings. 

Before starting the shoot, Ashlee spent some time interviewing me about my journey through motherhood. The final question she asked is why I wanted to be part of the project.

That was a hard question for me to answer.

The truth is that like a lot of women I have a complex relationship with my body. There are parts I think look fabulous, there are parts I think wobble more than they probably should. 

It’s wrong to say that I don’t care how my body looks because I am human, so I care that I am no longer a gravity defying 18 year old just as much as I am proud to be a gravity embracing 36 year old.

The truth of me is this: I'm a mama who has grown three children, who has a healthy relationship with food, who puts more emphasis on fitness than thinness. 

I work full time, I parent, I write, I live and I love. 

All of these things coexist and demand compromise and all of them form a part of who I am.

I am a woman of worth.

There is as much discussion today as there ever has been around the rightful place of a woman. The internet has brought freedom of expression not only to those of us who recognise that we bear a responsibility in how we use our voice, but to any damn fool with a keyboard and an appendage to poke at it.

The world is a noisy place and, for the first time in history, my children will grow up to the sound track of this never silenced crowd: The feminists, the men’s right activists, the backdrop of systemic gender roles, point and counter point, anywhere, any time. 

My voice is only one.

I remember St Valentine’s Day as a child. Each year I would receive a card and a little token from my mum and each year I remember thinking that it didn't“count” because it was in her job description to love me. My beauty wasn't validated by her, but by the attentions of whichever awkward boy I had in my sights at that time. Boys who, in reality, barely knew I existed and yet who unwittingly held my entire future happiness in their hands. At least for that week.

It’s a privilege of age to look back at that time with a sense of perspective.

Now it is time for me to pick up the mantle of unconditional love for my children and demonstrate that worth is not bound by physical perfection or the whim of others. 

Melissa Atkins Wardy wrote recently about how “the daily, sometimes gruelling work of instilling in our daughters an unshakable knowledge that she has worth. Everything else in the world will tell her otherwise. We have to raise our daughters in such a way that when we send her out into the world she has the heart and courage of a lioness.” 

So what drove me to become part of the 4th Trimester Bodies Project

It’s me, with my one voice, showing my children, with all my heart and soul, as the product of every part of my 36 year journey, what it means to be a woman of worth.

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