The first time I took sexy lingerie shots I was eighteen years old and pleasantly enjoying my fresh rack of DDs which had sprung into life following a Microgynon prescription and an addiction to McDonald’s cheeseburgers dunked in barbecue sauce.
I had decided that whilst yes, it would be very lovely to go to university and further my education like everyone expected me to, it would also be very lovely to scream FUCK YOU ALL and become a glamour model.
I’d invited a couple of mates over and we took turns posing in our new La Senza lingerie sets whilst we sprawled ourselves across a leopard print fleece blanket.
Then we tottered down to our nearest photo shop, paid 39p an image to get our fave ones printed off, and then let all the boys at sixth form leaf through them.
My mum carried them around in her handbag for weeks afterwards, proudly showing off her corset-clad daughter to strangers in pubs.
(The glamour modelling dream was a short-lived one, over the minute I was called down to a ZOO photo shoot and realised how little I wanted to get my nipples out in front of complete strangers in a sticky gay bar at 10am).
But those photos were taken an entire decade ago, and hell, things have changed a lot.
So I asked my friend Chloe to take these photos of me.
Clothes can distort a body, clever angles can distort a body, and you’re never really getting the full picture.
So this – this is me.
When the WeTransfer email landed in my inbox, I was slightly hesitant at what I was about to see. Chloe had curated me a little edit of her fave photos from our shoot. She’d cropped them and brightened them and taken out some of the yellow tones.
And I opened the downloaded folder early in the morning as I was sitting at the dining table in my nightie with a tea and a slice of blackcurrant jam-laden buttery toast.
There is something quite surreal about seeing yourself almost naked in the pure light of day, of seeing yourself the way everyone else sees you – without posing hand on hip in the mirror to make your body look more ‘flattering’.
But here I am, eight months after having a baby.
I weigh three stone more. My boobs are bigger and saggier. I have rolls not just on my front but on my back too. I have real cellulite and not just the cellulite that teenagers think they have. But – bigger than all of that – I have grown and birthed an actual other human being.
I am someone’s mum.
A GROWN-UP MUM.
And that has absolutely changed everything about my body.
Four days after I left hospital, as I changed from one pair of breast milk-soaked pyjamas into another, I decided to take the first brief glance of my naked body.
I was obviously a bit apprehensive, so I did that thing you do when you don’t really want to see something. I kinda held my eyes half open, squinting almost, so I could just make out the vaguest details of the woman looking back at me in the mirror.
And as I started to focus back in – allowing more and more details to seep into my eyes and my brain, I noticed a criss cross of tiny deep purple lines all over my tummy.
I did a double take at first, assuming the pattern was simply an imprint of a too-tight pyjama waistband.
Instead, there was an explosion of stretch marks that had waited until the baby had vacated my body and we were safely home to announce themselves.
Obviously I cried.
Big, meaty, sleep-deprived tears that wouldn’t stop.
And then a week or two later I did my first glance at my c-section scar.
My midwife encouraged me every time she popped in with phrases like ‘honestly Hannah, it does actually look very good, you should just look at it.’
(I had quite a lot of trust in her opinion given that she once told me she really loved watching Say Yes To The Dress).
But it’s a weird one isn’t it?
It feels a bit like waking up one day Lindsay Lohan in Freaky Friday-style and realising you don’t recognise anything you see. That you are in fact living in somebody else’s body.
And I was mildly petrified to start discovering this new home of mine because as someone who had always struggled with liking their own appearance, I wasn’t sure how I’d taken to a new one which society had geared me up to believe would be less beautiful than the one that came before it.
My scar was fine. Absolutely 100% fine. I wanted to flash it to you so you could see, but turns out they slice you much lower down than I’d anticipated and you’d get quite the pube-y eyeful.
It’s also much smaller than I realised and actually quite discreet.
The stretch marks have gone down too. Fading into little silvery slithers that you’d maybe only notice if you were studying my naked form in intense detail for an A-level Art still life class.
But this is me.
I don’t look anything like I’d imagined I’d grow up to look but y’know what? I’m happy. For the most part – when the exhaustion doesn’t try and cloud my judgement – I am deliriously fucking happy.
So thank you body for all you do, you’re my hero.