Name: Elaina Bellis
City: Los Angeles, CA
Livelihood: Art director and occasional model
“I just really hope I have the tools to give my daughters the feelings of feeling enough.”
Elaina Bellis is many things: mama to angel baby Lincoln, who passed just over a year before her identical twin girls Quincy and Rowe (now 1!) were born, an art director and occasional model, and a woman with as much strength as she has style. She uses her Instagram account (@laylaygibson) as a platform to share her stillbirth story and support other parents who’ve experienced the painful loss of a child.
Where in your life do you feel like there's freedom or still a lack of freedom?
With motherhood, I think there is freedom but you’re losing a lot of it because you’re giving all day long. I guess where I feel free since becoming a mother is free of insecurity, of negative thoughts about my body, of not being enough. All my children need is me, I’m enough for them.
That’s the best thing about Lincoln though. It’s been almost 3 years since I said goodbye to him and, still, he gives me so many gifts that I don’t think I ever would have learned without him. He’s definitely taught me that being who I am and being free and confident with myself is the best gift I can give anyone.
What is it you feel has been important to you in your journey as far as connecting with other women in order to feel more yourself in motherhood?
After having Lincoln, I’d never really been around women who had lost a child. I had heard of women having miscarriages but it was like “we don’t talk about that, we’re not going to talk about that.” And then it happened to me and I didn’t understand why I couldn’t talk about it. This is my experience and this happens and I should freely tell my story so other women can freely tell their stories.
My doula, Kate, said she had a friend who had a stillbirth and she called me — a complete stranger — and we talked on the phone for like 5 hours, relating and understanding that we’re still mothers. It doesn’t look the same, but we are. I just felt like that experience really gave me the freedom to be okay with stillbirth and okay with talking about it and making it a comfortable thing because it’s lonely.
What is the thing that you feel most passionate about when it comes to women’s freedom?
I’d never used birth control until after I had Quincy and Rowe and that’s because we had a scare that I was pregnant when they were 3 months old. I just couldn’t fathom getting an abortion after losing a child...I'm like how ungrateful would that be if the universe is handing me another baby. I wasn’t pregnant but just the thought of going through that hardship was enough. With everything that’s going on right with Trump and birth control potentially not being an option, that I could pick what was best for me and get an IUD is a form of freedom.
It would kill me if my daughters couldn’t have that same right. No one should take that freedom away from anyone.
Have there been times when you didn’t feel free as a woman?
From the moment I started dating, I would define who I was through men. I got so wrapped up in my relationships and finding my center in men. I was so co-dependent. If they broke up with me, my world would end. I only felt rocked if they made me feel rocked. I felt good when they were loving me. I felt shitty about myself when men were being shitty to me. I just never knew who I was because I defined myself on how men viewed me.
That’s not freedom; it’s feeling trapped within someone else. The second I stepped away from that and put the work into being who I was as a person and not needing to validate myself through other people I felt the freedom to be who I am and to feel good about it.
I feel like in life you’re handed all of these experiences and lessons and you have the choice to take from them what you want. I just really hope I have the tools to give my daughters the feelings of feeling enough — and feeling free to be who they are.
I hope I have that now.
Where do you think we, as a society, need to change for your daughters to feel free?
From when I was 19 to 23, I was in the entertainment business. I walked off set because they had me modeling in a thong. I remember thinking this isn’t who I am. I think society sexualizes women and creates a stigma that we’re just here to have sex or be moms or cook. Well, I love to cook. But I’m passionate about creating a society where there’s not that stigma around women.
I want my daughters to know that women can be whatever the hell we want to be, whenever we want to be it, however that looks.
Photo Credit: hazel & pine