A friend of a friend was looking to do a pregnancy photo shoot, and my growing gut and I were asked if we'd be happy to oblige. Of course we would! Who wouldn't want to be immortalised at a time when you have all the sprightliness of a morbidly obese mammoth suffering from haemorrhoids?
The lovely and talented photographer, Kristina, determined that we would channel the iconic Annie Leibovitz/Demi Moore collaboration for Vanity Fair. Her task was to marshal her talent to capture my enigmatic earth mother fecundity; mine was to turn up clean and hairless in all the right places.
The lead-up to the shoot saw minimal preparation from me. With 20 minutes to go, I examined my collection of Bonds and Woolworth's undies, wondering which ones looked the most photogenic (least moth-eaten). Fifteen minutes later, my checklist – fix eyebrows, wax legs, paint nails, purchase nice underwear that fits, look less ugly – was whittled down to: get in car now.
Accompanied by my partner as chaperone and muse, I arrived at the cavernous studio with its polished timber floorboards, white curvy backdrop and big satellite-dish lights. The wraparound windows revealed a city skyline twinkling prettily in the distance. This was the business! Ushered to the change room, I beheld a rack of satiny/lacy/gossamer-like materials. This was no change room: this was a chrysalis from whence the resentful office drone with mild scoliosis would emerge as shimmering Greek (well, North Melburnian) goddess.
Kristina set about patiently helping me to prepare. She asked if I wouldn't mind putting some makeup on (I thought I'd already applied a full face of slap), then asked if I had an eyebrow pencil. No, I replied, wondering if she had a spare biro or white board marker. She encouraged me to comb my hair; I asked if she had a fork. Then I realised I'd forgotten the crucial prop – my nude g-string, the flesh-coloured fig-leaf behind which I would hide my lady garden (though in truth it was more impenetrable Amazonian rainforest than English garden).
Ho hum. An excellent start.
My next task was to shoehorn my way into a long satin dress. I popped it over my head, but then couldn't make it past my not-particularly-generous chest area and it ruched up. I was trapped. My head and neck were modestly covered, while my chest, bulging womb and rainforest were on full display. I tottered around the dressing room, blind, arms outstretched in search of help.
Thankfully I was guided to a more forgiving stretch material dress and we headed out to the studio. Beneath the bright lights, I did my best to follow Kristina's clear and sensible instructions – chin up, head down, leg up – with all the spatial awareness of a dyslexic bull in an antiques shop. It was at this point that I remembered incontinence could be an issue for pregnant ladies, and I prayed it wouldn't be an issue now. Not while I was representing motherhood in Kristina's dress.
Then we progressed to the underwear shoot. This was the shot. Never mind that my underwear would have been tight on someone three sizes smaller and the underwire was escaping and jabbing dangerously into my spleen; one must suffer for one's art. Bending one knee, I grabbed my gut and heeded my mum's best advice for photographs: keep your eyes open.
The final shot involved me cavorting about topless with a gauzy sheet of shimmering gold fabric. As it was all about movement, a wind machine and music from Black Swan was employed to inspire me.
As Kristina encouraged me to "Move with the chiffon", and shouted out encouraging lies such as "Gorgeous! Beautiful!", I suddenly felt like I was at the Year 9 disco. Holding the fabric stiffly in front of me, I tried to think of some appropriate moves … any moves really, though it's hard to twirl when your elbows and knees have mysteriously locked. Tetanus? Please god, not now.
As Black Swan music swelled around me, I swayed from side to side like a reed. I thought about clapping, though decided against it. Then I thought pointing my toes might look a bit sophisticated, so I did that. Not quite emulating the vulnerable grace of Natalie Portman, I did evoke the elegance of a well-meaning side-stepping yeti.
By the end of shoot I was spent and this Earth Mother nourished herself and her unborn child with fistfuls of nature's finest sour cream and chive chips.
Thank goodness I remembered to shave my armpits. And that Kristina – a true alchemist – could mask knotted hair and pitiful dance moves with her exceptional photographic skills ... and just a little bit of Photoshopping.
And ta da - here's one of the results of the shoot (by the amazing Kristina of Kristina Kingston Photography) ...