Becoming a parent is life-changing in all the best ways. But the "postpartum body" is still a sticking point for many women who feel pressured by society to "get their body back" after giving birth. Which is why two Canadian photographers put out a call to over a dozen women to participate in a postpartum photoshoot that focuses on both the mom and the new baby.
Aimee and Jenna Hobbs, both moms and co-owners of Hobbs Photography in Alberta, Canada, noticed a disturbing and all too familiar trend among some of their clients. The two specialize in family and birth photos, but started fielding requests from women asking to be Photoshopped to look a little thinner or just removing themselves entirely from the pictures. Which is crazy.
They work to please, of course, but because of those requests, they started thinking of a way to celebrate postpartum bodies instead of hiding them.
Jenna, a 32-year-old mom of four children and one on the way, told People:
Instead of hiding the emotional and physical flaws of postpartum women, we wanted to celebrate them. The tired circles under the eyes, the scars from a cesarean section, the stretch marks across the bellies where our babies grew. We wanted to show women that it is beautiful, that it is enough, that it should be celebrated.
The resulting photo series, called "A Mother's Beauty," are stunning and might even make a new mom want to book a trip to Canada just to get in on these glamour shots. The photos are honest and empowering.
Here's just a sampling of images from the most recent shoot — which features a few photos of each of the 14 women and their children — as well as some moving quotes from the women themselves.
I’ve never been overly self-conscious with my physical shape, it’s been more of me feeling my body has failed me which causes the most anguish. From my ruptured appendix, to scar adhesion pain, to 36 hour labor turned emergency c-section, and now still dealing with scar adhesion pain, I have many low days hating and blaming my body for failing me. I’m still working on trusting my body.
… Since Chloe was born I have felt pressured to “get my body back” from family, friends and media. It made me mad to think I should be expected to hit the gym when all I want to do is soak up every moment I can with my baby while I can.
Being pregnant and then during postpartum with my first son was difficult because I was uncomfortable with what had happened to my body. Then it hit me. My body is beautiful. What it had just done, created a human, was absolutely amazing. So amazing that I decided to give it a second go. I loved my growing belly more the second time. I planned and embraced my birth choices instead of being scared.
I wanted to show my daughters that being beautiful and confident is more than what you wear, or how you do your hair. I hope that my daughters will be confident and comfortable just the way they are.
For each of the clients, the experience is a positive one, though it can be difficult at first. Women (and men) are often socialized to look in the mirror or at a selfie and pick themselves apart. Settling into a postpartum body, though, is a unique experience, and different for every person. It's not always easy to see what other people see when they look at you.
Aimee told People, "We have had a couple [clients] say they were hard to look at initially as they’ve spent so much energy hiding those things that we make a point to photograph, but I think the support and positive feedback from so many women really lifts them up.”
She added, “The moms really realize that no matter what their journey has been, their images and words are resonating with another woman somewhere.”
That might be the best message from the photo series, now in its fifth year. Every body is different and comes with its own challenges, both physical and emotional. But it feels good to share with each other and support everyone's choices.