Photo Series Shows That 'Having A Baby Often Permanently Alters Your Body, And That Is OK'

"Pregnancy and childbirth are the most amazing, scary, wonderful, life-altering moments of any woman's life."

A woman's body goes through an amazing number of changes during pregnancy and after childbirth. Yet, the media has us believe that it is possible for most women to bounce right back into their old bodies just weeks after giving birth. Not only is this totally unrealistic for many people, but it sends the message that a woman's postpartum body, with all its changes, is not worth celebrating.  There are more people rejecting such unrealistic standards, and showing what new mama bodies really look like in honest, unedited photos. It's a body positive movement that has been championed by new moms, celebrities, and through various social media campaigns.  

In a series called Celebrating The Postpartum BodyGeorgia-based photographer Julie Worthy of Petite Cherie Photography, aims to send the message that postpartum bodies should be celebrated, not hidden. 

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Courtesy of Julie Worthy/Petite Cherie Photography

Worthy explained to A Plus via email that she came up with the series from her experience as a newborn photographer. "I spend a lot of time creating family portraits that show waist-up shots of a happy, smiling mom. I tuck in their bumps, buff out the blemishes, and present to the world this perfect portrait of a new mother," she explains. "Reality, however, is so much rawer."

"New moms have scars, stretch marks, and leftover baby weight, and it's so important to me that my clients (and all new mothers) know that their imperfections are every bit as beautiful as their perfect portrait, and more," she says.

Courtesy of Julie Worthy/Petite Cherie Photography

The mom-of-two also touched on the pressure many new moms experience after giving birth. "I feel like all mothers — myself included — feel so pressured by today's society to return to norm. I remember trying to suck in my tummy and put on jeans a week after a C-section for our own newborn photos so that everyone could see how great I looked," she recalled. "You hear so much about post-baby workouts, fitting into those old jeans, how breastfeeding burns calories. I feel like it really creates a stigma that your body 'goes back to normal,' when the reality for most of us is much different."  

Courtesy of Julie Worthy/Petite Cherie Photography

For the celebratory postpartum shoot, Worthy explains that most of the women featured were people she had photographed previously. She also posted a call-out on Facebook for women to model for the shoot.  Many responded, and Worthy says she "quickly had a list of amazing women willing to share their journey."

When it came to shooting the photos, Worthy says the models had a range of emotions from apprehensive to excited. There was even one who backed out, but rejoined after a few weeks. 

"A lot of my models wanted to see themselves in a new light. They wanted to feel beautiful again," Worthy said. "It was allowing them to see themselves as these beautiful strong women, despite the changes that took place, that gave me the most joy."

Courtesy of Julie Worthy/Petite Cherie Photography

"I hope through my love and passion for photography, I can show how beautiful the postpartum body really is," she wrote on the Petite Cherie blog. "These photos are real, they are raw, and they are powerful just like you!"

The postpartum body series shows moms posing in their underwear with their bodies proudly on display. The photos reveal stretch marks, scars, stitches, and postpartum stomachs. They also highlight the love between a mom and her child and showcase each person's confidence.

The photographer also encouraged people to spread a message of love and body positivity by telling others they are beautiful and appreciated.

Courtesy of Julie Worthy/Petite Cherie Photography

After the shoot, Worthy says she received numerous emotional messages from the models as well as from other moms who connected with the images. "It brought acceptance to a lot of people and a feeling of togetherness, as well as knowing that they were not alone in the postpartum journey," she stated.

Worthy told A Plus that she hopes people viewing the series change their attitudes toward women's bodies, and change their expectations of what they are supposed to look like postpartum. 

"I hope to convey through this series that having a baby often permanently alters your body, and that is OK."

"Pregnancy and childbirth are the most amazing, scary, wonderful, life-altering moments of any woman's life and most of us come out different on the other side, both mentally and physically. Your postpartum body is beautiful; it is a reminder of the changes you went through to give life to another person. It should be celebrated, not hidden."

Courtesy of Julie Worthy/Petite Cherie Photography

"Every mark, pound, and wrinkle is a result of growing and nurturing those sweet babies you hold in your arms. Be proud and embrace who you are," Worthy sums up on her website,  "... Your imperfections are perfect."

(H/T: Scary Mommy)

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