Everyone knows that pregnancy can take a toll on a woman’s body, but few in the media portray this. Perhaps this is because the news is saturated with celebrities looking slim and svelte within weeks, sometimes even days, after birth. For most women, it’s not quite that experience. For one thing, everyday women don’t have the luxury of having a cook, trainer and/or nanny to help them get back to pre-baby shape. And even if they did, they don’t have the artistry and air-brushing that typically happens on photo-shoots with new celebrity moms. When women who are of normal weight become pregnant, they are encouraged to gain 25 to 35 pounds. A quarter of that is baby, a few pounds of placenta, amniotic fluid, enlarged breasts, and increased blood volume, but seven or eight pounds is expected to go to fat stores for lactation purposes. Those are the pounds that most women have trouble shedding.
One photographer wants to normalize that fact — to make women feel beautiful about the fact they’ve just given birth to a whole new human. Arizona-based Jade Beall says she wanted to change the way women perceive their postpartum bodies.
“I hadn’t seen any celebrated post-birth bodies that were the ones that didn’t bounce back. I gained 80 lbs. and lost 30, so I was 50 lbs. overweight – heavier than I’d ever been. I realized that I had this different body that I could photograph to celebrate a different shape. I didn’t realize that people would like it so much and that it would be an emotional catalyst for a lot of women once I posted them.”
Little did she know the impact the photos would have. They quickly went viral, with both women and men alike commenting on the beauty of the bodies. The 35-year-old photographer was inundated with requests for her to photograph women after they’d given birth.
“I had hundreds of emails flying in from women asking if I could photograph them, so I started with women here in my town and then started photographing women from other cities. There’s so many mothers who feel like failures if they are changed, if they have trouble getting the weight off, if they have stretch marks.”
Beall is proud of her project, stating she’s happy that she can help women see themselves in a new light.
“Photography is really seeing yourself as you are. You actually don’t need to erase anything off your precious body to think it’s worthy of being called art or beauty.”
[Photography by Jade Beall]