Natalie McCain from Rockledge, Florida, photographed the women three to six weeks after they gave birth for her new series After the Baby is BornThe images are a part of The Honest Body project, which Natalie started as a way to end body-shaming and promote self-love.
A group of mothers are celebrating their post-baby bodies in a powerful series of black and white portraits meant to encourage women to love their figures – without feeling any pressure to ‘bounce back’ after childbirth.
Natalie McCain from Rockledge, Florida, photographed a group of women between three to six weeks after they gave birth for her new picture series entitled After the Baby is Born; the images are a part of The Honest Body project, which Natalie started as a way to end body-shaming and promote self-love.
‘Society puts so much pressure on women to “bounce back” after giving birth and I want to help break that cycle,’ she explained on her website. ‘These women are baring their hearts and souls to help show the variations of bodies after giving birth.’
Each photograph in the series is accompanied by quotes from the model, who is posed with her newborn and wearing a simple black bra and underwear.
And many of the women discuss how they have adjusted to their new bodies and having a newborn in their lives.
One woman recalled recently getting out of the shower and being shocked by the ‘purple, jagged stretch marks’ on her stomach, which she never had after the birth of her first son.
‘I knew in the last few weeks of this pregnancy that they had shown up, but it was different now since the baby arrived and that skin wasn’t so tight anymore,’ she explained. ‘I called my husband in to show him.
‘”Look at these stretch marks,” I said. “Cool!” he said. And he genuinely meant it as he ran his finger across them. “I used to have amazing, tight abs… do you remember?” I asked him, realizing that they would never look like I remembered. Without hesitation, he replied “Yes, but we didn’t have two amazing sons back then.”‘
Another mom who recently gave birth admitted that she no longer feels the pressure to ‘bounce back’ like she did after her first two pregnancies.
‘There’s something really beautiful about the way my newborn’s tiny body molds into my soft, squishy postpartum belly,’ she added. ‘While rock hard abs might be something I aspire to someday in the future, I’m really glad that isn’t my reality right now. The body I have is perfect for snuggling my baby!’
Meanwhile, one mother said being a ‘plus size pregnant woman was very challenging in every aspect’.
‘I don’t want to be skinny. I just want to be healthy for me, my family, and my son, but it is hard,’ she explained. ‘It’s hard to feel beautiful with all of the tiger stripes across my body and all the extra weight I’ve gained.’
And one woman, who is a professional model, admitted that she has ‘the kind of body that other moms hate’ because she hasn’t had any issues getting her figure back, however, she noted that her career depends on her getting back in shape.
‘I just worked a bikini event last week at four weeks postpartum,’ she said. ‘I’m still 10-15 lbs over my usual weight, so I definitely felt a little more self conscious then usual. But to cope with that I’ve been hitting the gym the last two weeks to get myself back faster than with just breastfeeding.
‘Most people can’t believe how fast I’m back in shape again with baby number two, but it’s what I do for a living, so I’m pretty sure my body just knows I can’t afford not to be! I won’t get hired for any modeling work if I’m out of shape- I mean that’s just the harsh reality of how it is.’
Other women spoke of the difficulties they have faced as they try to balance motherhood with the rest of their lives.
‘The newborn hasn’t been the overwhelming part – it’s everything else!’ one mother noted. ‘Newborns just need to be snuggled and nursed all the time, which is honestly a joy, but it makes doing anything else – taking care of her older siblings, keeping the house from descending into chaos, spending time with my husband – a challenge.’
Another woman explained that she had a ‘very dark time’ after her first son was born. She cried daily and was wracked with guilt because she didn’t want to pick him up/
‘It took months, the support of my husband, encouragement from my sister, and talk therapy to get myself to a happier place,’ she said.
Next chapter: All of the mothers who posed for Natalie’s After the Baby is Born series were photographed pregnant as part of The Honest Body Project
The mother also noted that a lot of her emotional pain came from the trauma of being induced at 41 weeks and going through labor without medication for nearly 13 hours before she had to have a cesarean section.
‘Going through all of that and then not even getting to be the first one to hold or see my baby boy absolutely crushed me at my core,’ she recalled.
‘I haven’t had anywhere near the same feelings or sadness with the arrival of my newest son, and I attribute a lot of that to having much more of a say in what my birth experience was like this time as well as an amazing therapist I continue to see weekly and have been going to for nearly two years now,’ she noted.
Meanwhile, one woman confessed that she spend her entire pregnancy worried about her toddler was going to handle having another baby around – only to realize that for the most part her daughter loves being a big sister.
‘She even tries to do diaper changes on all her stuffed animals and breastfeed them,’ the mom explained. ‘When the baby is crying she comes up to me and says, “Baby wants a boobie.” It’s pretty entertaining having a toddler around to help out with the normal mundane baby duties throughout the day.’