I wanted to share a very open and honest and transparent blog with you. My photography journey started over a decade ago. However, in the past 2 years, I have learned more about myself as a professional photographer than ever before. I found my calling – Boudoir.
I began my photography journey in 2009 photographing all that I could. I lived in the Hill Country in Central Texas and focused on capturing all the beauty I could. In 2012 I moved to Oklahoma and married my amazing husband, Aaron.
My personal journey has played such a large role as to how I have ended up here.
As a lot of you know 8 years ago, in 2011, I had an ovarian tumor that left me so sick and truly fighting each and every day to make it through. I felt betrayed and less than, I definitely didn’t feel beautiful. Nor did I feel an ounce of sexy or worthy of the love that my husband and family an friends showed me. This event put me on a course I never imagined I would have been able to do – I quit going to school for my second bachelor’s degree and moved to Oklahoma. Where in 2013 I began to build my business where I photographed all I could to learn what I loved.
Fast Forward to 2015, I delivered my beautiful daughter at 37 weeks pregnant. I had pre-eclampsia and my body was in yet another fight, not only for me but this time for my daughter. I spent 8 out of her first 10 days of life in the hospital. Barely able to take care of myself, lethargic, and in more pain then I’d ever known. Now, I had a newborn that relied on me and I didn’t know if I could make it through. I struggled with severe postpartum depression and anxiety. I also, made the leap to pursue my photography career full-time as well as be a mom.
In 2018 after building a successful wedding photography business I knew there was so much more out there for me as a photographer. I just neede to find it.
I had always been interested in boudoir but didn’t believe in myself. That lack of self confidence made me believe that I would never be good enough to photograph women and show them just how beautiful and amazing they are.
I then made myself step out of my comfort zone and experience my own boudoir session. I truly needed to learn self-love after all I had walked through. Rather than hating my story and my scars I learned to love myself. I learned to walk confidently in who I was created to be all because another woman, and photographer friend, believed in me.
Now here I am after several major life-changing experiences, happier then I have ever been, and I have fulfilled so much more in the last 2 years then I feel like I ever did before boudoir.
My body isn’t perfect, but it tells a story. I have rolls, and a mom pouch, and stretch marks, saggy boobs, and tired eyes, and I live on coffee and fast food, but you know what?!? I get to look at myself in the mirror and know that I am all that I’m designed to be.
Today, I have a daughter who picks up my bra to try on. She watches my every move and if I don’t love myself how can I teach her to do the same?!? I have found that despite my “physical flaws” I am still perfect in every way. Even though, I am a little beat up on the outside with so many scars from so many surgeries. I still hurt somedays from endometriosis and I still have pain from scar tissue build up from my delivery.
I have days where I physically don’t feel like I am enough. But at the end of the day I see a husband who loves me for who I am. Then, I see a daughter who knows no different. Eden doesn’t see the world’s beauty standard but sees a mom who is present and loves her.
Eden sees the beauty in the way I hold her, love her and care for her. She sees the beauty in huggy buggies, Eskimo kisses, and snuggles at the end of the day. I’m thankful that Eden doesn’t see the extra weight I’ve gained or the scars all over my stomach, or the stretch marks. At the end of the day Eden sees my heart above all.
What Boudoir Means To Me
We have one body. So I’ll be damned if I let someone else define my joy! And ladies, this is what boudoir means to me, it means throwing off every beauty standard you have been shamed by. It is opening up your heart to new possibilities. Saying F-you to every pain you have felt and yes to new. It is saying yes to loving yourself, your body, your scars, and your story as you are. More than anything it is being thankful for where you came from and where you are going next.
We as women have the unique and incredible opportunity to have a real shot at reviving and changing the standard of beauty. Learning to be gentle and compassionate with ourselves so that we can achieve real, deep, healing and growth.
Boudoir is the opportunity for you to define beautiful. It is designed to see yourself as the rest of the world does, that beautiful goddess that you are.
So many times the things we despise the most are the things others love about us. So don’t change a damn thing about yourself because you feel like you don’t meet Instagram model status, because babe, you do. You just aren’t looking in the right places. We see you, we love you, and we think you are gorgeous the way you are.
I want you to fight for loving yourself and to seek new adventures in loving yourself. I encourage you to set new routines that will honor you. Most importantly, I want you to quit comparing yourself to someone else because no one else is you. I truly believe that everyone should have the opportunity to rediscover their beauty and boudoir does just that.
After all is said and done I know that I have no interest in “bouncing back” to my pre-baby weight or who I was before these life changing experiences. She was a less evolved, less awake version of who I am today. Even if this means gaining weight, and scars, and stretch marks.
I want to embrace my wrinkles and the changes my body will continue to go through. Through it all, I am becoming more ME with every day that passes, every challenge I face and every opportunity I am given to grow, expand, and heal. I am learning to love the whole of who I am and celebrate the parts of myself that mark me as a woman and a mother.
There’s so much that I hope to accomplish in my lifetime not to fully embrace the powerful ways in which becoming a woman, and a mother has grown and changed me.
Boudoir has given me this very real and tangible passion to preserve the beauty that each and every one of you has. You see, I want you to finally see the beauty the rest of the world sees in you.
What I want For You
So, let’s envision the future we want not only for ourselves but our daughters. Let’s affirm the worthiness and beauty in one another and make sure. that our children live this truth in our daily lives. Let’s guide the world around us in creating beauty standards that are attainable by everyone. That starts with us, real, everyday women.
Interested in joining our women-only empowerment group? https://www.facebook.com/groups/boudoirhavenALP/
Be sure to check out one of our recent sessions: https://ashleylayden.com/2019/08/brittanys-curvy-babe-boudoir-session-oklahoma-city-boudoir-photographer/