The Honest Body Project is back—and this time celebrating the beauty of pregnant women's bodies. Here's why photographer Natalie McCain turned her lens to the bump.
Just like you have visions of what your child may grow up to become, when you first find out you're pregnant, you also have ideas about how your bump will be. You might worry about stretch marks, wonder if you'll carry high or low and just how many cup sizes you might go up.
But one thing no one should ever experience, is being body-shamed by your own family while pregnant. This is what happened to this gorgeous mother when she shared her maternity photos on social media.
"We got the sneak peak pictures back and I posted them on Facebook, thinking my friends and family would think I was beautiful and would love them, however that wasn't the case," the new mom writes. "All I received were negative comments about how huge I am, about how unhealthy I am, and about how they think my baby is going to be a 10 to 12 pound baby by the looks of how much I weigh. I literally went in the bathroom and cried for hours. It's so hard being plus size, pregnant, sick, and getting negative comments about the way I look. If I'm happy and accepting of my body, why can't everyone else just be happy for me?!"
The mom-to-be decided to take matters into her own hands and take part in a photo series showcasing just how beautiful—and different—pregnant bellies can be. The Honest Body Project, from Viera, Fla.-based photographer Natalie McCain, is back, this time highlighting expecting women of all shapes and bump sizes.
"Pregnancy is such a momentous time in a woman's life. You get this new body and when you look in the mirror, you no longer recognize yourself," McCain told Fit Pregnancy. "I wanted to help pregnant mothers see the beauty in their bodies, no matter what size or shape they are, and know that these new changes are something to celebrate!"
McCain added that pregnancy was hard on her—she suffered from back pain and was put on bed rest due to preeclampsia, and though she wasn't, she felt alone in those struggles. She hopes this series will help other moms-to-be facing issues to realize that all pregnancies have struggles, but are incredible, nonetheless.
"Loving your pregnant body can be hard, especially when this new body comes with stretch marks, pains and growing out of your favorite clothes. You have to learn to appreciate the strength and beauty of your body that grows your children," she says. "You can start by changing your inner voice: compliment yourself! Stop the negative comments and replace them with positive ones."
McCain says the experience of shooting these photographs was so special: "It's hard to pin-point, but any maternity photographer would agree. The joy, the anxiousness, the excitement, the beauty—it all exudes in them."
We have to agree. Here are some of our favorite photos from the series, with the quotes that accompanied them...
'I am so grateful'
"After my son was born, I experienced secondary infertility for several years, then the loss of a long awaited and very much wanted pregnancy. Those experiences have colored the way I've felt about subsequent pregnancies. I fell in love with my son, unreservedly and completely, the moment I saw the second line on the pregnancy test. I remember talking to him often while I was pregnant, telling him how much I loved him and how excited I was to meet him. I never really felt that connection to my older daughter in utero, and I was really worried about it while I was pregnant, especially as her birth approached. The moment I saw her tiny, perfect face after she was born, my heart was flooded with the same love that I had felt for my son. Bonding with my daughters during pregnancy has not been as easy or effortless as it was with my son, but they are no less loved, and I am so grateful to be their mother."
'I love my body'
"I love my body, I love my baby bump, my tiger stripes, my curves, my imperfections, my loving man, my supporting family and friends, and I'm done letting others influence how I feel about myself. I am beautiful, strong, and intelligent."
'I want the best for you'
"I never truly focused on the things I put into and on my body until I became pregnant. Lotions, deodorants, processed foods, etc. Not a second thought of how they might affect my health. Until I was pregnant. The moment I learned I had a child growing inside of me, I became very aware that the choices I was making for myself would have a lifelong impact on my child(ren) as well. No, I didn't go completely 'crunchy granola mommy' (love you ladies!), but I started reading ingredients. And learning what they meant and did. And thank goodness. What a powerful force pregnancy has on a mother's mind. I have no doubt that some of these changes I've made could have possibly saved my life. Thank you, sweet babies of mine, for helping me take better care of myself simply by wanting the best for you."
'No one told me...'
"No one tells you how scary it is to poop after a vaginal delivery and that you leave the hospital still wearing maternity clothes."
'My life flashed before my eyes'
"I cried and threw up when I saw the positive pregnancy test—my life literally flashed before my eyes and I cried like I lost a giant piece of myself forever. I couldn't imagine even being happy about having a baby. The second time I found out I was pregnant, my first baby was...just that still a baby, still needed me. I still needed her. I cried and cried because I wasn't ready to give up my time to another yet. I just wanted to hold onto her being a baby for as long as I could and I spent every moment with her like it was my last. I didn't think it was fair that I would have to split time that my first child deserved to have all to herself. How could we do this to her? I liked it being just me and her every day."