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'Stop censoring motherhood': What bodies look like after childbirth

September 19, 2013|By Alexandra Le Tellier

Is there anything crueler or more repugnant than calling a pregnant woman fat?

There are a number of unpleasant circumstances that come along with being pregnant, and I’m not just talking about morning sickness and “pregnancy brain.” Some women also have to contend with pregnancy discrimination, and those who don’t may still worry about it, which is why too many women conceal their pregnancies for as long as possible.

And on top of that, there are those two-faced people who compliment a woman’s pregnancy glow to her face but then mock her cankles behind her back.

Shouldn’t women be allowed to simply embrace their pregnancies so that they can care for their bodies and the growing lives inside of them without the added cultural pressure?

Shame should have no part in a woman’s pregnancy.

And the commentary doesn’t stop after the baby is born. Then, women’s post-baby bodies are scrutinized until the weight is gone. Not losing the weight is tantamount to failure. Worse, women internalize this added stress when they have much more important things to be concerned about: Like taking care of a baby. As Jean-Paul Sartre said, “Hell is other people.”

That is why it was so refreshing to see Kate Middleton, Duchess Of Cambridge, proudly introduce baby Prince George to the world with her post-baby bump in full view. “Given the microscopic level of scrutiny of this young woman’s body over the past nine months, one could hardly have blamed her if she had held the baby protectively in front of her to shield her body from the cameras, but no. This thoroughly modern royal was apparently determined to lend a helping hand to women everywhere who have just given birth, and shatter one of the last taboos of pregnancy: the post-baby belly,” wrote the Daily Beast’s Tom Sykes at the time.  

Kate’s feminist move was a boon to women. But then the media attention shifted back to how long it would take her to lose the baby weight, blah, blah, blah.

To which Chicago-based photographer Ashlee Wells Jackson says, “Stop censoring motherhood.”

“I see beautiful, inspiring, real women on a daily basis who struggle with their body image because they don’t feel they measure up with who the media tells them to be,” Jackson told the Huffington Post’s Emma Mustich when discussing her 4th Trimester Bodies Project, which showcases what  bodies look like after childbirth. It’s a dose of realism to raise awareness, to create realistic expectations and to take pressure off women. 

Jackson continued: “I feel like this is even more poignant in mothers who often feel like their bodies have been ruined when they should instead be respected for creating, sustaining and nourishing life. So much more needs to be done in our society to embrace body positivity and normalize breastfeeding.”

Jackson says the project will culminate with a book, which she’ll pair with a gallery show and online community. She’s currently photographing women (wouldn’t it be great if she could get Kate Middleton to pose?) and will be in L.A. Oct. 3-7 to take photos of willing participants. “Our only guideline is that you are a mother and are willing to (tastefully) bare it all in the name of honest beauty,” she says.


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Follow Alexandra Le Tellier on Twitter @alexletellier and Google+

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