The standards of beauty and the pressure of society are suffocating for any woman: the constant demand for us to always be “in shape” makes many women suffer and feel obliged to seek standards that are impossible to achieve. Accepting and feeling good about your own body is not always simple in this context; the fight is daily.
For women who have just gone through a pregnancy, this burden can be even more difficult to deal with. During pregnancy, it is normal for the body to change a lot — after all, carrying a new being in formation will certainly bring changes. Weight gain, stretch marks, bumps and other signs are common and completely natural. However, pressure (external or self) makes many women feel ashamed of their postpartum body or feel obliged to regain their former appearance.
But not every postpartum experience is the same. While some women struggle to get back to their usual weight, others happily accept their new body. An example of this is Ana Paula Marcato, who has a two-year-old daughter. “The best experience I’ve ever had was being a mother. It’s a love so great that I never imagined I could feel for someone. A love that didn’t let me worry about the weight I gained in pregnancy. The belly grew and the joy only increased,” she shares.
This perspective is important and helped Ana Paula feel free and empowered at this stage. A first-time mother, she says that she did not feel pressured to regain her old weight and faced her new body with pride: “I was not too worried about losing the weight I gained during pregnancy, I was losing it little by little and a few pounds still accompany me until today. But I’m not sad about it, because I know that it was all because of the greatest treasure I have: my daughter”.
Thinking about the mother’s different relationships with the postpartum period, the American photographer Natalie McCain created The Honest Body Project. The project aims to photograph mothers to inspire and empower other women.
On her website, Natalie says she wants to help the new generation of women have images of healthy bodies. “We will showcase what women look like without Photoshop and empower moms everywhere to be proud of their postpartum bodies. Show your kids that the size of your pants doesn’t change how much you love yourself.”
Photos and testimonials – The Honest Project
Below, you can see ten images from the Honest Body Project and get to know a little about the experience shared by these women.
“Honestly, I feel more comfortable with how my body looks when I’m pregnant than when I’m not. I have mixed feelings right now… I’m amazed at the way my body is recovering from my second c-section, I’m a little sad that this time I have stretch marks on my stomach, although I hope to embrace them in time and feel great. different from how I feel now. I feel like a goddess every time I breastfeed my baby. I feel older than I think I should feel at my age. I am ecstatic at what the female body is capable of.”
“I’ve been able to really embrace the idea of not recovering quickly with my last two pregnancies. There’s something truly beautiful about the way my newborn’s little body molds itself into my soft postpartum belly. While having tight abs is something I want in the future, I’m very pleased that this isn’t my reality right now. The body I have is perfect for snuggling my baby!”
“I loved feeling round and curvy when I was pregnant and I dressed to accentuate every curve. But then it’s a struggle to hide the belly that isn’t flat, the arms that look a little more saggy than before and the legs with varicose veins that are still a little swollen.”
“After this delivery, I decided to proactively take care of my sanity, as I knew I could be overworked or less clean than what feels good. I shower daily, change clothes if they become misaligned, and make sure I’m comfortable before I’m stuck for hours, even if it means the baby has to wait another ten seconds. Practicing this self-care definitely helped keep my head in a better state than the last pregnancy.”
“Even though I have no idea what sleep is anymore, I am constantly smelling like baby vomit, my appearance is a mess, my house is no longer as clean as it used to be and my life consists of dirty diapers and peeing. , I deeply love the life of a mother and could not imagine my life without my son.”
“I have the kind of body that other moms hate and they tell me so openly. I didn’t have any problems with my postpartum body. Last week, I worked at a bikini event, four weeks postpartum. I’m still four or six pounds over my normal weight, so I definitely feel more self-conscious than usual. But to deal with it, I’ve been going to the gym for the past two weeks to get back to my normal weight faster than just breastfeeding. Most people can’t believe how quickly I got in shape with my second baby, but this is what I do for a living, I’m sure my body knows I can’t be out of shape! I’m not going to get hired for any modeling job if I’m not in shape – that’s the harsh reality of how things are.”
“One morning, I got out of the shower, stood in front of the mirror and really looked at my body. The purple streaks on my belly were such a blow that I was startled by how loudly I said ‘WOW’ involuntarily. I didn’t have any stretch marks with the birth of my first child. I knew that in the last few weeks of pregnancy the stretch marks had appeared, but it’s different now that the baby is born and the skin isn’t as tight anymore. I called my husband and showed him. ‘Look at those stretch marks,’ I said. ‘Cool!’, he replied. And he genuinely thought it was cool and started running his fingers through them. ‘I had a flat and firm abdomen, remember?’, I asked him realizing that my abs would never go back to the way I remembered. Without hesitation, he replied, ‘yes, but we didn’t have two wonderful children back then’.”
“The hardest thing I’ve had to deal with postpartum is maintaining patience. Overall I would say I’ve done a great job, but it takes a lot of awareness and intention. Most of the time it is a minute-by-minute self-regulation exercise. Patience with myself as I physically recover from the limitations of my elective C-section. Patience with myself as I learn to be a mother of two children. Patience with my son who is approaching three years old and getting used to having a new baby in the house. Patience with those who have been helping me around the house with tasks that I was used to doing alone.”
“Being a plus-size pregnant woman was very challenging in every way. From body criticism to trying to find clothes that fit. Self-confidence was a daily challenge. After having my baby I thought my body would go back to how it was before, which wasn’t perfect anymore, but I was happy with it. I’m here to tell you he hasn’t gone back to the way he was. I’ve lost about 12 pounds, I eat healthy, and I try to exercise as much as possible, but I’m still not happy with how I look. I don’t want to be thin. I just want to be healthy for myself, my family, my child; but it is hard. It’s hard to feel beautiful with the stretch marks all over my body and the extra weight I’ve gained.”
“I love my postpartum belly! I waited a long time to see what she would look like and hoped she had some stretch marks that told me my babies were growing and that they spent less time struggling to survive. I will never hide my stretch marks or my soft belly from other people; this wonderful belly has already carried my three children in two pregnancies, filling up both times.”
It’s worth emphasizing that no woman is obligated to do anything and that your body should just be healthy and make you feel good — whatever it looks like. Get inspired by the stories of these women, embrace your body and love yourself! That’s what really matters, for you and your children.
With Knowledge Comes Wisdom
Walk comfortably in both Darkness and Light with these digital Books of Shadows: