When you think of your postpartum belly, how do you feel?

For many mothers, it’s nothing good.

This is no surprise, considering the barrage of postpartum belly “cures” we see, from skin-smoothers, fitness gear, and surgical weight loss options on TV. We’re so quick to accept these negative messages, the ad companies behind them don’t even bother with much more than a low-budget campaign any millennial could slap together on his smartphone during a cold-pressed coffee break. Even the moms we’re exposed to on screen and across social media (ugh) have figures that don’t quite match what most of us see in the mirror. The fact of the matter is that these moms are actresses or “fitness gurus” who know that the flatter their abs are, the more likely they’ll keep their jobs, and those we see in print are thoroughly airbrushed. For most of us, our job isn’t to have the tightest, smoothest tummies imaginable — yet we still hold ourselves to that standard, and beat ourselves up for not achieving it.

It’s time we get real and understand that our bodies go through all sorts of changes throughout our lives, and be kinder to ourselves — and each other — about it. It’s time we stop assuming that the bodies we see in the ads and on film are the only reasonable options for us. Time to stop assuming that we’re doing something wrong if we don’t look like that.

To get started, I asked mothers to lift their shirts to show what real postpartum bellies looked like – no filters, no excuses, no judgement. It was an emotional process for many of them (most had a negative view of their bodies, unless something drastic happened to make them appreciate the simple gift of being alive), but they understood what I wanted to prove. They understood that I needed to show other mothers that instead of assuming that everyone else out there has something better, that they have something they should hide, we are more alike than one would think at first glance. And my guess is that many of us see ourselves in one of these unretouched photos.

 

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