I won’t lie: The first time I looked at my postpartum body, a few days after my first baby was born, I was pretty freaked out. My belly sagged so low it almost touched my thighs. My stretch marks were just as red and angry as they’d been when the baby was still inside. And all that cottage cheese (er, cellulite) that had housed itself on my thighs during the pregnancy hadn’t budged at all.
Simply put, I was horrified. Horrified because I half-believed the notion—plastered across every magazine, and celebrity website—that it was possible to “bounce back” within days of giving birth. Horrified because I wasn’t sure how long this postpartum look was going to last. And horrified because there was already so much about being a postpartum mom that felt out of my control, and I really didn’t need another thing to add to the list.
At the time—over ten years ago—there was no such thing as people sharing their postpartum pictures on social media. And as much as we all love to begrudge social media and the stress it can cause new moms, there is something to be said for the way that sharing raw, honest portraits of new motherhood can make us all feel less alone, less ashamed, and well…normal.
All of this was why I was so thrilled to see a social media movement emerge on Instagram called the #celebrating_my_postpartum campaign. The hashtag was originally started by Hayley Garnett, a photographer and mom of three. And the campaign is as simple as it sounds: post an honest postpartum pic of your body after baby, and celebrate the incredible, life-giving mama goddess that you are.
Garnett’s call to action came in the form of her own gorgeous and empowering Instagram post in which she shares and celebrates her postpartum body.
“Today I’m super excited to be sharing with you a recent passion project of mine — which is celebrating our postpartum bodies!” writes Garnett. She then goes on to candidly share some of the struggles and triumphs she’s had as a mom who has birthed and fed three amazing children, including her twin baby girls, who appear in the photo.
“For me, embracing the change hasn’t been the easiest journey but it has been the most powerful mentally. It’s so much nicer to be able to look at myself in the mirror without wanting to turn my head,” Garnett writes. “The excess skin, the stretch marks, the horrible diastasis [sic] recti — it’s part of who I am and by golly I’m going to love and celebrate myself for this physical journey that motherhood has taken me on!”
Unsurprisingly, Garnett’s hashtag totally took off, with over a hundred other moms banding together and sharing the beautiful truths of what real postpartum bodies look like. These mothers’ pictures and words are so raw and breathtaking they will make you teary-eyed. Truly, these women are so damn beautiful and inspiring.
Like many of the women who shared pics, @emmy_liz, shared not only her own postpartum belly, but the sweet children who cuddle so affectionately with it. “My body isn’t magazine perfect,” writes @emmy_liz . “[W]hen I look in the mirror,” she continues, “I SEE A MOM / & there is no / Greater honor, / Love or blessing.”
Several of the moms who shared their pics highlight the truth that there is actually a reason behind the transformation that their body has undergone—you know, the fact that they have gestated and birthed an entire human being. It’s so obvious when you think about it, and yet so easy to forget.
“These are reminders of the 40 weeks plus 3 days I carried her. Battle scars I earned from the 36 hour labor and birth we fought through together,” shares @dominikagrand. “This body is a testament of the countless days and nights I spend breastfeeding, rocking, carrying, soothing, playing, teaching and most importantly, LOVING her.”
OMG, can you pass the tissues, please and thank you? I’m going to need the whole box.
Other moms have been more candid about how they’ve struggled to embrace their body after baby—because we all know it’s not as easy as deciding to be body-positive, and then suddenly falling in love. It is a journey, a process.
“Dear Hope Wounds,” writes @thefortintrio, addressing her stretch marks and other postpartum markings. “You are kind of ugly. It feels like you sag to my knees. You’ve taken away my belly button. You roll over every kind of jeans, pants, shorts, or skirt I wear. You are gross. You are the cottage cheese that seems to cover my entire belly.”
She goes onto share her struggle with infertility, and how her “wounds” actually are signs of hope, because they signify her sons’ entrance into this world—the sons whom she longed so deeply for. “Hope wounds, You are a miracle. You are perfect. You are beauty. You show how much I went through to bring my darling hope triplets into this world,” she writes.
*cue ugly cry #23,453*
Other moms remind us that celebrating our postpartum bodies means posting the pic no matter how much fear or self-doubt we had about doing so.
View this post on Instagram
This body. This 21 weeks postpartum body. Full of stretch and curve. Full of love and yet full of self doubt. You did so well creating this beautiful baby girl, this beautiful human. You amaze me with what you have done. You have changed, but I will do my best to embrace you. And with time, nourish you back to the healthiest version of you. . Before I decided to post this photo, I honestly had lots of doubt. Sure, I have stretch marks and extra skin to show from this experience called pregnancy. But I also have fat. What piled back on to me after two years of getting it off pre-pregnancy. It came right back on to my body. I couldn’t tell you which stretch marks are from my previous lifestyle and which ones came during pregnancy. That doesn’t matter though. Every body is different. Unique. Special. And so powerful. From the ones who had the smallest changes to the ones who had the biggest. And some may not like this photo. Some may say it’s not your typical postpartum photo because there’s more than loose skin and stretch marks, that women like me should lose the weight since it’s not just loose skin. But women like me exist. Women like me are trying. Women like me have feelings and are real. And we are allowed to honor and love our bodies just the same. And that’s beautiful. So my self doubt and worry began to disappear. And I hope yours will too. Even if it takes one day at a time. #this_is_postpartum
It means never letting our insecurities about our bodies stop us from living our best lives, for ourselves or our kiddos. And yes, it means getting in the damn bikini if we want to, no matter what insecurities we may have.
And most of all, it means snuggling up with our babies at the end of the day, and remembering that, to them, all of that postpartum sagging and softness makes for even better cuddles. Because when it comes down to it, to our babies, we are as perfect as can be. And maybe that is what matters most of all.