Julie is 35 years old and works as a secretary in a secondary school. Passionate about photography, Julie was a model for many years before turning to photography. She was one of the clients selected to take part in our Elia shoot. In this article, Julie talks about her relationship with her cycle, the way she lives her periods and self-acceptance.
Why did you decide to take part in an Elia shoot?
"I'm taking part in the Elia shoot today, because it's already a challenge for me. After putting on quite a bit of weight following back surgery, I wasn't very comfortable in my body, and this is an opportunity to m'accept myself a little more. It's another step towards accepting myself. What's more, the atmosphere is great, it's a family team. It's great fun, and it's also a chance to have a bit of fun".
How did you experience motherhood and how do you live it today?
"I had my first child when I was 22, I was young and not psychologically ready. I had a child for the wrong reasons, it was more selfish, I wanted to feel less alone. It was a bit complicated, it was a long road. I wasn't ready, I grew up at the same time as my son. It's true that things were very different with my 3rd, whom I had at 28. I was much more ready, I experienced motherhood much more serenely, I made my own choices, I listened less to others, I listened more to myself. It was much easier. It only takes 5-6 years for motherhood to be experienced in a different way. It's true that it wasn't easy at first."
Do you think there are any taboos around motherhood?
"I think there are taboos around motherhood, which are varied. For me, there's one thing that m'struck me: we're not necessarily ready to be mothers, and there are some really difficult moments, and I don't feel I had the right to say it. Because there are indeed people who find it hard to have children, and it's true that it's dramatic. But you have the right to say that at times it's not easy, not that you regret it but that you're really in difficulty, sometimes you'd like to leave everything, even if you always want to come back. It's not easy to say "I'm cracking up, I can't do it, I wasn't ready to be a mom".
Do you have any books, podcasts or people to follow that you'd recommend for s'informing yourself on this subject?
"So personally I'm not into podcasts, not into books and so on. I learned to be a mom thanks to a great network of forums, it was the generation where forums were very active. We created a network of moms, there must have been a hundred of us at the time, and some of us are still following each other 14 years later. It's been a great support through all the different stages of motherhood: pregnancy, childbirth and raising children. It m's really made me grow, it m's taught me a lot about myself, it was really very very rich, and we're still talking to each other now. The great thing about taking part in moms' forums was that we followed each other month by month. We followed each other step by step, at the same point in our lives, experiencing the same things, at the same time. It was really rich, we could answer questions in the moment T, it was a goldmine of information because we were all facing the same things at the same time."
Your body has undergone some major changes following back surgery. Can you tell us about them?
"2 years ago, I started having back pain, I've always had back problems since I was a teenager, but then I had a pain stronger than the others, I told my husband "don't worry, in 3 days it'll pass" as usual and then in fact it's been over 2 years now, I've had a herniated disc operation when I had three, and they m'removed one of them, which m'gave me partial relief. But I have the back of a 75-year-old grandmother, and my back has aged twice as fast as mine. So I'm still in a bit of difficulty, I still have pain every day, it's become a handicap. This mprevents me from moving around a lot, which means my body is changing."
Has your body undergone any changes as a result of your pregnancies?
"During my pregnancies, I ended up losing more weight than I gained. After my pregnancies, I had a rather harmonious body in my opinion. A body that I liked quite a bit. I put on about ten kilos in three months because I couldn't move because of my back problems, I was bedridden, I couldn't do much. To my great despair. It mmade me change physically very quickly. It was very, very hard for me. For months on end, I was very self-conscious. But as time goes by, I'm trying to tame this body and learn to live with it, telling myself that I can't really change it radically anyway. I've got the body I've got, and that doesn't m't stop me from being pretty, sexy and feeling good about myself. In fact, it's all in my head, because in the end, other people tell me that I'm fine the way I am. It's really a matter of reeducating the brain more than the body."
Do you have any books, podcasts or people to follow that you recommend for learning to s'accept?
"So still the same I'm not very book, podcast etc, on the other hand I am very Instagram. And instead of following people who push us to go for perfect bodies, that's the current criteria, I tend to follow people like Céleste Barber who uses irony and makes really cool videos, which show that we're fine the way we are and that we can assume, that we can laugh about it all. It's people like that that I like to follow."
Getting back to the subject of menstruation, how do you feel about your cycle?
"My history with my cycle has been a little complicated in recent years, because after my pregnancies I was on the hormonal IUD, and I was very happy not to have my periods anymore. I preferred to stop taking hormones, especially when I gained weight, and I thought that might be a factor. I switched to a copper coil. I was delighted to have my periods back. The first question was contraception, which was the least worst in my eyes. I wasn't really sure whether I was going to go back to tampons, or whether pads would suit me. So I got interested in menstrual panties. I'm not totally comfortable with these concepts yet, and period pants seems to me the simplest, healthiest and most ethical solution. But I'm still not totally comfortable with the idea of wearing a period pants at work, so it's still difficult on that front. And in terms of my cycle, I'm not comfortable either because I have a very short cycle, so I feel like I have my periods all the time. It's a real pain in the ass."
What do you think of Elia's menstrual panties?
"For me, Elia menstrual panties are the best I've tested, I've tested a few on the market. They're the ones I feel best in anyway, in terms of materials and cut, which I find very pretty as well as being very comfortable, and they're also the ones I thought were the best ethically, in terms of their relationship with associations, the fact that they're French, that they're made ethically and, above all, by a company I've been following on the networks for some time, that I find really nice, that communicates in a really nice way, so I thought it was important to support a company like this."
Do you have a piece of advice or a mantra you'd like to share?
My mantra since I was a teenager started with a joke with my father: "soi toi-même" ("yourself yourself"), which I used to write all over the walls. I was tagging when I was 11, I was a bit of a rebel. I wrote that everywhere for years, it was also part of my pseudonyms on forums, I had little letters to say "soi toi-même". In fact, I've come to realize that I never applied lmyself until two or three years ago. I've finally managed to really become myself. It's a liberation. In fact, I realize that no matter who you are, what you do, people will always have something to say about it, so you might as well do the things you really like. You might as well just be yourself, and then you'll feel better, and other people won't change no matter what."
If you had to sum up your portrait or your struggle in one word?
"If I had to sum up my portrait in one word, I think it would be perseverance."