Florida photographer Natalie McCain is back with The Honest Body Project, this time highlighting the emotionally and physically raw moments in the weeks after birth.
When Viera, FL-based new mom, Natalie McCain gave birth to her daughter, she was disappointed that her body didn't, as she put it, "magically go back to how it was before pregnancy." As a young mom, only 20-years-old at the time, she developed some postpartum symptoms and gave herself a hard time with the new body motherhood gave her, instead of the one she hoped would return.
"It didn't help to see all of the messages we see in society about getting our bodies back and celebrities shrinking down within weeks," she said in an exclusive interview with Fit Pregnancy. She struggled with self-doubt and self-loathing until she had her second child, a son. "I was in a much better place emotionally with my body and I had changed my inner voice to self-love," she said.
She wants to send this of message of self-appreciation to all mothers—who might not have trainers around-the-clock or nannies to watch their newborns—with the latest installment of her Honest Body Project, called "After the Baby is Born: The Postpartum Series." These gorgeous and inspiring black-and-white images show women's bodies (and their babies!) three to six weeks after giving birth. "When I photographed these women for my maternity series, I loved how it portrayed the various body types during pregnancy," she said. "I thought about how awesome it would be to photograph them after they gave birth as well, to show the variations of a 'normal' postpartum body."
The result is pretty incredible—women of all ages, sizes and races allow a glimpse into how bodies transform once they become mothers. "Everyone has various degrees of 'bouncing back' and I wanted to show how real postpartum bodies look, without Photoshop and personal trainers," she said. "I hope that new mothers see the series and realize that they don't have to stress about their bodies after giving birth. I hope that they ignore the messages that society gives them, telling them that their imperfections need to be fixed."
Let yourself be inspired by these images, a sequel to McCain's recent series photographing the same women pregnant, and give yourself a break. You not only carried your baby for all those months, but you gave him life and your body is meant to be changed by that experience. And if you ever get down on yourself—which will happen, it's okay—take McCain's personal motto to heart (which we think it pretty wonderful): "Sure, my body doesn't look like it did pre-babies, but I didn't have my amazing children back then, either."
'The body I have is perfect'
"I've been able to really embrace not 'bouncing back' right away with my last 2 pregnancies. There's something really beautiful about the way my newborn's tiny body molds into my soft, squishy postpartum belly. 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!"
'I wouldn't change it for the world'
"I believe it was day four or five that we were home from the hospital and I was still adjusting to becoming a new mother and to the pain that I felt down under. I remember sitting in the dark crying as Bradley was crying. It seems like all day he was crying and he would not stop. He wouldn't sleep, my boobs were killing me from breastfeeding all day, my hair was a mess, my house was a mess, my dogs needed to be fed and I felt like a failure. I remember thinking, How am I ever going to do this, this is not how I pictured it. As I was trying to get him to latch, I looked down at him and I swear he looked right up at me into my eyes and smiled. I know it was an involuntary smile, but that moment of clarity right there just made me feel so complete, happy, and nothing else mattered. The best way to explain it is it feels like everything is just going from bad to worse and then there's that one moment, that moment that makes you forget everything bad that happens, every stressful situation and every sleepless night worth it. 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."
'Practicing self-care keeps me in a good place'
"After this birth, I decided to take care of my sanity proactively, since I knew I could get overwhelmed, touched out or even less kempt than what makes me feel good. I shower daily and change clothes if they get messy, and make sure I'm comfortable before I am 'stuck' for hours, even if it means the baby or babies wait an extra 10 seconds. Practicing this self-care has definitely helped keep my head in a better place than last time."
'I love the mommy life'
"Even though I have no idea what sleep is anymore, I constantly smell like baby puke, I look a hot mess, my house isn't as clean as it used to be and my life consists of dirty diapers and getting peed on, I absolutely love the mommy life and couldn't imagine my life without him."
'It's hard to feel beautiful'
"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 have lost about 26 pounds, I eat healthy, and I try to exercise as much as I can but I'm still not happy with the way I look. I don't want to be skinny. I just want to be healthy for me, my family, and my son, but it is hard. It's hard to feel beautiful with all of the tiger stripes across my body and all the extra weight I've gained."
'I feel touched-out'
"It's hard being touched all the time. My toddler, understandably, has been needier than usual since her sister was born. I'm nursing one or both of them almost constantly, and as much as I really do love it, I feel really touched out sometimes."
'Each labor is different'
"Everyone says how easy your second delivery will be. I just want to clarify that no matter how many babies you have they are not easier, just different. I felt more in charge and connected with my body this time, but it was not easier. Labor may have happened quicker and I was able to cope with it better, but pushing was actually harder."
'I hoped for some tiger stripes'
"I love my postpartum belly! I've been waiting so long to see what it'd look like and had hoped for some tiger stripes, telling me that my babies grew big and spent that much less time struggling to survive. I will never hide my stripes or mushy mama belly for other's sake; this amazing belly has carried my 3 kids in 2 pregnancies, going full-term each time."