In our society, so much of the focus on new mothers' bodies has to do with inquiries as to when and how they're going to get their pre-baby shapes back. But what if we instead reveled in the joy of what those bodies have just done? Bringing a brand new human into the world is no small feat, and it deserves to be celebrated. That's why photographer Natalie McCain's series After the Baby Is Born is so revolutionary. The latest installment in The Honest Body Project, it focuses on postpartum bodies for the beautiful things they are and for the wonderful things they've done — with each and every body being completely and utterly unique.
McCain cites as her inspiration the desire to put an end to the pressure faced by new mothers to get their bodies "back" to the way they were before they became pregnant. "Society puts so much pressure on women to 'bounce back' after giving birth and I want to help break that cycle," she writes on the project's website. "These women are baring their hearts and souls to help show the variations of bodies after giving birth."
She also emphasizes that most women don't "bounce back" in the way that magazines and other media would like us to believe. Said McCain recently to the Huffington Post, "Every time you check out at the grocery store, you are bombarded with 'miracle' diets and celebrities that have lost all of the weight within weeks ... Some women certainly do slim down quickly after birth, but this isn't the norm for most mothers." Nor does it have to be. If it is, terrific. And if it's not, well, that's also terrific.
The photos in the After The Baby Is Born series all feature new mothers with their newborns, exploring the struggles they face as newly-minted parents and freely expressing how they feel about their bodies — whether it be positive, negative, angry, or anything and everything else. Said McCain to HuffPo, "I hope that new mothers will see these portraits and recognize that the postpartum period is beautiful and to not be harsh on themselves after they give birth."
Check out five of the powerful photos below, and view the complete After The Baby Is Born series on The Honest Body Project website.
"Being a mother is the most rewarding, exhausting and draining thing I’ve ever done in my entire life and I would never change it for anything in the entire world.”
“The emotional ups and downs can be overwhelming during the first few weeks. I was sorting through baby clothes a few days after my daughter was born, and came across an outfit my son had worn often when he was a baby, and started bawling. Remembering him as a tiny, beautiful, needy baby, and looking at him as a tall, beautiful, self-sufficient child, I just broke down crying. It all goes so fast."
“Being a plus size pregnant woman was very challenging in every aspect. From the body shaming to trying to find clothes that fit. Self confidence was an every day challenge. After having my child I thought that my body would go back to the way it was, which was nowhere near perfect, but I was happy with the way I was. I’m here to say it did not go back to the way it was."
“I honestly feel more comfortable with the way my body looks when I’m pregnant than when I’m not. I have mixed feelings right now… I am amazed at the way my body is recovering from my second C-section, I am a little sad that I have stretch marks on my stomach this time, although with time I hope to embrace these and feel much differently than I do right now. I feel like a goddess each time I breastfeed my baby. I feel older than I think I should at my age. I am in awe at what the female body is capable of.”
“This time I’m learning to accept any help I can get and admit when I can’t do it by myself. I’m very stubborn and the first baby I wanted to do everything myself, even when I knew I couldn’t, and I burnt myself out by always wanting to it all."
Images: Courtesy of The Honest Body Project