Birthing a human is no small feat. And while the finished product can bring incomparable joy, the physical and emotional pain that it often causes in the process can effect a mother long after the baby is born. The pressure on women to “bounce back” with their bodies after baby is immense: superhuman supermodels appear to have never been with child at all when they re-emerge on runways, and celebrity post-baby bodies are celebrated on airbrushed magazine covers without a single trace of cellulite or stretch marks.
When photographer Jade Beall gave birth to her son Sequoia nearly two years ago, she experienced intense body anxiety that stemmed from her teenage years.
“As a teenager I suffered from feelings of deep unworthiness,” she said. “I had acne and I was unable to look in a mirror for nearly three years, unless it was by candlelight. … I gained 50 pounds with my pregnancy and that added to my personal history of oppressive self-loathing in a culture that praises mostly photoshopped images of women in media.”
Jade was inspired to take a series of semi-nude self-portraits centering around her post-pregnancy body and shared the photos on Facebook. The response was overwhelming and women from all over the country began to praise Jade’s small showcase. They wanted Jade to capture their imperfect after-baby bodies too, just as they were, without any airbrushing.
Beall started a Kickstarter campaign in order to fund free photography sessions for interested moms to be celebrated and collected in a book with their pregnancy stories. To date, she is nearly $15,000 over her goal and has been using the excess money to help fund travel expenses for women to come to her Arizona studio. Of being photographed for the project, yoga therapist Michelle Marks said,
“I had exposed myself to Jade — not just my flesh, and typically hidden parts, but the angles, and lines and aspects of me that came with being a mother. The exposure called to light remembrances of how my body changed shape over two different pregnancies, and two births, and the stories that my body has stored from the act of surrender to motherhood and the unexpected life that has become mine since taking the leap of faith into motherhood.”
Jade Beall’s book, A Beautiful Body, is due out in January 2014.
Featured image via Jade Beall