After three pregnancies, I'll admit it's a (big) struggle to fully embrace my postpartum body. That my breasts didn't have stretch marks. That I had the firm, tight figure I (so) took for granted in my early 20s.
When I get down on how I look now, I'll try to take a step back, and think about everything this body has accomplished. It's nourished and then birthed three beautiful, amazing children, I love more than life itself. That's no small feat.
Recognizing that fact, I'll take a deep breath, and stop beating myself up over the "pinchy" part of my tummy, underneath my belly button, for not being good enough. And instead, I'll remember that even if I don't look the same as I did a decade ago, I'm still beautiful in so many new and hard-earned ways.
Of course, given the seemingly never-ending stream of pressure on women to spring back postpartum, it still isn't easy to embrace my body after baby. That's why I love photographer Mikaela Bodkin's Love Your Postpartum photo series, which features over 30 moms who are celebrating their tummies, and breasts, and all their other postpartum parts, instead of hiding them in shame.
Mikaela told our site that the project "was inspired by a momma mentioning to me that she'd love to do a shoot to embrace her new postpartum body." The Ontario-based photographer loved the idea, and sprung into action, starting a Facebook group to invite moms to participate.
"I want to encourage moms to love their postpartum bodies," Mikaela told us about the raw, and deeply-moving images from her series.
Here are more honest and brave postpartum photos from the project.
In the end, I have to believe the more we show the world what real women's bodies look like, instead of simply being bombarded with images of perfect Hollywood celebrities, the more we an learn to love the skin we are in. Even with our squishy parts and stretch marks.
And the more we see women celebrating those so-called imperfections, the more we will see them for what they are: Badges of honor. Proof that we did something far more important than look Instagram-ready in a crop top. We made humans. So, roar.
Learn more about the Love Your Postpartum project on Facebook, Instagram, and on Mikaela's website. And thank you to all the courageous women who bared their bodies for these truly impactful photos.
This post was originally published March 12, 2017
Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.