It’s no secret that women face a lot of pressure when it comes to how their bodies look. According to the media and many fashion houses, there is a specific way women need to look to be considered “beautiful”. As we all know by now, that is utter nonsense, and women are slowly but surely starting to embrace their bodies just the way it is – especially after giving birth. Nothing changes your body more than pregnancy, and it seems that the stigma surrounding postpartum bodies is finally being addressed too.
Postpartum bodies should be celebrated
It’s sad that women feel insecure about their bodies after childbirth. They should feel proud – they gave life to a little human, and for nine months, their bodies were the safe place that little baby grew and lived in. So why feel ashamed of the changes that caused in your body? It’s life, it’s the way it goes. Postpartum bodies should be celebrated, not scrutinized, and that’s exactly what 27-year-old photographer Julie Worthy is trying to show.
According to Today, Worthy’s mission is to show women that accepting their bodies is true empowerment. She wants women to take a moment to realize what their bodies created, because that is the key to accepting your new, altered body. Women need to realize that the scars and stretch marks are proof of the life they created. When you look at it that way, how can you not start to love your amazing body?
Struggling with acceptance
Worthy speaks from experience – having spent several years serving in the U.S. Navy and exercising like an elite athlete, she also found it hard to accept her postpartum body. She was never even happy with her body before getting pregnant, so accepting all the changes that came after pregnancy was hard. Gaining 60 pounds during her pregnancy, along with stretch marks, was hard to deal with. She recalls that that was the heaviest she had been in her entire life, and when the baby was born via C-section, she had a scar to add to the growing list of things she didn’t like about her body.
“They cut through my muscles. I have all that flabby skin down there that’s never going to be tight again, no matter how many sit-ups I do. I’ve come to understand that your body never returns to what it was, period. Some women can ‘bounce back’ and return to their goal weight, but that just isn’t the story for all women.”
Showing how beautiful postpartum is
After welcoming her second child into the world, Worthy was internally criticizing herself more than ever. It was during this time that she launched her maternity and newborn photography business in Augusta, Georgia. She quickly noticed that all the new mothers who came for shoots struggled with the exact same issues she did. All of them would ask her to photoshop their pictures so they would look more “smoothed-over”. This was when Worthy realized that even though she was giving them the perfect picture of themselves, it wasn’t real, it was not a realistic depiction of what postpartum looks like.
Helping other women feel empowered by their postpartum bodies
Worthy changed her focus from taking the “perfect” picture of new moms, to taking pictures of the real, true thing, showing postpartum bodies in all their beauty. Now, women who come to her studio strip down to their underwear, and she photographs them with all their stretch marks and scars – and it’s beautiful.
Those who have done the shoots describe it as a liberating experience. Alexis Hubbard of Augusta, Georgia said that she was a bit scared of the shoot at first, but actually felt really good during it: “It makes you feel good about yourself, that it is OK to have stretch marks and scars and everything that comes along with motherhood.” Kimberley Cooper, also from Augusta, backed this, saying that it was an empowering experience: “When you’re posing for the photos, it feels empowering. It feels honest. I wanted to be photographed because I wanted other moms to know that you’re not alone.”
Many women are starting to embrace postpartum
Worthy is not the only one who is a great ambassador for women to embrace their postpartum selves. Four moms who have worked together on an online project to help new mothers accept their bodies posted a picture of their own postpartum bodies online, showing off their different body types and physiques, driving home the point that all body types are beautiful. The picture quickly went viral.
Women who are in the spotlight have also spoken out about dealing with the insecurity they felt after pregnancy. Former TV news reporter and anchor Janie Porter also started to make an effort to share “real” photos of herself online after giving birth to her four kids. She believes that we should use social media to show reality, instead of using it to post misleading images that don’t make anyone feel good about themselves anyway. She is a big fan of women starting to “normalize normal bodies”.
Acceptance is a beautiful thing
After making so many women feel empowered by their postpartum bodies, Worthy is finally starting to accept her own. It just goes to show once again that we can help ourselves by extending our help to others.
Postpartum bodies rock – women shouldn’t be ashamed of it. Yes, it can be hard to accept all the changes, but when you take a minute to realize that all those changes needed to happen to create a new life, you can’t help but start to be more accepting of them – and even start to love them. Here’s to all the mamas out there who gave life – you are amazing, your body is amazing. Appreciate all it did to bring a new life into this world. Your body is living proof of a miracle. You gave life, and it shows. It’s a true blessing to be able to show it to the world.