A few months ago, one of our writers, DW McKinney, wrote a beautiful piece about learning to embrace and love her post partum body. I turned to Google to find a powerful image for her vulnerable piece. I was at a loss for words. Every image of postpartum bodies I found on Pinterest and Google were those of predominately white women, almost all of them a size 0 or 2. I was shocked by how little body representation there was available online. It was an eye-opening experience. I turned to our Instagram Stories to express my concern. My intent to encourage marketing executives and photographers to prioritize body diversity in upcoming shoots quickly turned to me planning a post partum shoot. With just a few days of planning, we were able to pull it off and I couldn’t be more excited to share these beautiful photos with you all! We still have a long way to go to be more inclusive when it comes to body representation, but my hope is that these photos make women feel proud of their post partum bodies. It’s time we celebrate and honor them.
Thank you to our lovely photographer, Anita Cheung, and Saje Wellness for offering their space to host the shoot in, but most importantly, thank you to the women in this shoot for being vulnerable and brave enough to be apart of the change. I am in awe of each of you and I am honored you chose our platform to share your story with us. Down below are some words from the women in the shoot.
My journey to motherhood was not the one I envisioned. I pictured myself leisurely window shopping for baby clothes while sporting a cute little bump. Instead, I spent 8 excruciating months throwing up countless times daily. My “cute belly” became an enormous heavy weight as I unexpectedly was having twins! And in the midst of all this suffering, I faced another unexpected challenge. I was to do this journey alone as my husband of 7 years decided to jump ship. My pregnancy is the most difficult thing I have ever gone through. I gained 80lbs. The skin on my belly split and bled from stretching so much. My hands, fingers, feet & back all gave out from carrying two growing babies. Emotionally, I felt defeated from the physical assault, but also by the abuse caused by my now ex husband, who although had left, was now harassing me. Fast forward 5 years and I’m proud mother to strong and silly identical twin girls. They were worth every day of heartache & anguish. My body today is soft & squishy but strong. I go to the gym daily but I can’t run or move the way I used to. I will always have my “twin pouch” belly. I embrace it. I earned it. I will teach my daughters to love their mind and body in all stages of their lives. I will teach them they are not defined by their shape, weight, partner or children and that they are much much more.
I loved being pregnant, besides the morning sickness, being sore and tired. What I loved about it was the smiles from strangers, the feeling of my body growing a human, and how I didn’t care how big I was or what clothes I could or couldn’t fit into. I felt powerful and strong.
I have had a difficult time embracing my new body image. I don’t feel like myself. I feel like a beautiful balloon that has been deflated. The worst thing is that I feel guilty for feeling this way. I want my daughter to be proud of herself and body for her whole life, and I can’t even do that.
That was the main motivation for me to do the photo shoot. To push myself out of my comfort zone and surround myself with other moms who, individually and collectively look beautiful in whatever stage of postpartum body they are in.
Since following the respectful parenting modality, I’ve been faced with the reality that I haven’t been respectful to myself. That critical voice that says I’m a parent imposter, that says I’m not thin enough to be a cool mom, that says I should be a cool mom, and that says I am damaging my children because I birthed children who are not from my ethnic background. It’s fear-based. I fear rejection. I’ve recently discovered with the help of a therapist that I believe there’s something wrong with me and that I don’t deserve to be loved. I’m slowly showing myself that I deserve to be loved. Starting with loving my body as it is. Starting with believing that I am a good parent.
I was pregnant with my first, and loved every moment. The big belly, the aches and pains, even having gestational diabetes. When my baby finally arrived, and my body deflated, I was really disappointment to see that it didn’t “bounce back” to what it used to be… not even close.
A few more years, and a couple more babies later, I came around to accept what my body is today. When the kids ask me, “why does your belly look like that mama?”, I tell them because that’s where they lived before they touched down on earth. One piece swimwear is now my jam and I’ve been known to rock Spanx now and then. I wanted to do this shoot because this is real life. This is what my body is after kids, and I think we don’t see it enough. Hell, I know we don’t see it enough because that’s why I was so disappointed when I didn’t “bounce back” after kids.
36. That is the number of years it’s taken me to finally say “I love my body’.
It has taken years to the undo and unlearn Vogue magazine’s size 000 beauty standards of tall, thin, white, thigh gap beauty; celebrities “bouncing back” to bikini bods 4 weeks after having a baby (my tummy was a pool of jello for 12 months); a breast reduction because I couldn’t bear being in a bathing suit (let alone fit in one) and have all those eyes staring at my bulging heavy chest, it’s taken years of dumping crazy diets or exercise regimes.
But most of all it has taken motherhood. I was meant to have a daughter. For all the times I called my body fat, ugly, too short, gross, shameful… I’m sorry. I take it all back. I’ll never do this again. Because I get to break the chains for my daughter. To love her skin, to love her body, to honor the vessel that has the ability to create life itself. To celebrate real beauty as a reflection from the outside in and the inside out. To nurture your womb, your breasts, your squishy soft skin with words of tender care. I am the demonstration. I am the one. When I revere myself, she will always return to reverence. Always.
I suffered from a traumatic birth experience and was diagnosed with Postpartum Depression & Anxiety. I got the help I needed, and continue to spread resources and honestly through the mom group I created to gain online community & support, called Connected Mommas.
The reason I did this photoshoot was to put myself, my post partum body, and my story out there to help other moms feel connected to me and themselves through seeing real images of real bodies. I wanted to surround myself with other moms who were willing to bare it all in order to create positive dialogue and body image for post partum bodies as they are naturally.
I struggle with accepting my new life, my new post partum body and my mind after a traumatic birth and having PPD/A. I have had many challenges accepting what is now and by no means has motherhood been a natural journey for me. It has only surfaced childhood trauma, abuse and has forced me to continue to advocate for my needs and continue to get the mental help I need in order to parent my son from a full and supported cup. I have worked very hard to create boundaries and mindfully choose to keep those who want to share and support my journey in becoming the best mother I can be while still holding my needs in priority.