As we celebrate the final group of moms who participated in our “Motherhood: More Than Skin Deep” project, we want to applaud and thank the brave women who joined us in this journey. These courageous women bore their bodies and souls to show how prevalent and normal these feelings of transformation are. The common thread that links all of these women together is that motherhood changed them. It might have been hard; it might have been emotional; it might have left its marks and scars; but it was—and is—so worth it.
Rebecca—three children (ages 21 months, 21 months, and 7 months); no pregnancies
Why was it important to you to take part in this photo shoot? I am 26 years old. I found out shortly after I married that I suffer from PCOS and, because of it, infertility. My husband and I went through a few painful years of infertility treatments before finally giving up. We didn’t have the money for an adoption agency (most run $30K and up), so we just resigned ourselves that we weren’t meant to be parents. A mutual friend put us in touch with a young mother who had given birth to twins and wanted to place them for adoption. We started the long and stressful process of fighting for these two tiny babies four hours away in Houston. Without ever seeing them, I began to fall in love. They were born at only 25 weeks, micro-premature, and barely over a pound each. They were born to a young mother with substance abuse problems, and she couldn’t take care of getting herself well and caring for them. They were two babies who needed a mother and I was a mother who needed a baby. We were the perfect match for each other, and I will never really know who needed whom more (though I suspect it was me).
I suspect most of the moms who participated were poking stretch marks or pinching baby rolls and not loving their bodies. I look into the mirror and wish for them. When the twins first came home, I can’t even count the number of times I heard, “You look GREAT for just having twins!” and I would die a little inside. My body always felt broken. I could not do the one job that a woman is supposed to do.
As the twins grew, the more they loved me and the more I loved them, and they healed that broken place in me. I didn’t grow or create them, but I love, care for, and raise them. Through the twins’ birth mom, I met her sister and adopted her baby 14 months later. Now we were a family of five when two years earlier I thought I would never have children. You don’t have to be able to grow a baby to be a mother; you just have to love one. My body can’t grow babies, but it can rock them to sleep. It can’t produce milk, but it can have formula spit up all over it and still love every minute. This body can carry two tired toddlers up a flight of stairs. It can lift triple strollers into and out of cars, and it can baby wear with the best of them. My body can’t create life, but it can give life to these babies, and for that I am learning to love my body with the invisible flaws.
Melanie—two children (ages 8 and 5)
Why was it important to you to take part in this photo shoot? To share the reality of motherhood.
How would you describe yourself as a mom? I am always learning about being a mom, but I never stop loving it.
How do you see your own mother in your mothering style? Ha! All over it. And I feel like I understand her more.
What will you tell your future daughter-in-laws about their “mom bodies”? “Your body will change, and that’s OK. It doesn’t change who you are as a woman.”
Candice—five children (ages 15, 8, 8, 8, and 1); three pregnancies
What was the hardest transition into motherhood for you? Letting go of feelings of failure. We are never going to get it right 100% of the time. We all have different ways of mothering, and just because we do it differently doesn’t mean we are doing it wrong.
Use one word to describe your body. Awesome.
Is there one part of your body that changed significantly with motherhood or of which you are particularly self-conscious? I once took great pride in my toned tummy. Then I gave birth to triplets who each weighed 5 1/2 pounds. My tummy now resembles a deflated balloon, but I wear it with great pride. After all, it once held and nurtured three lives at once.
What do you want your children to tell their children about you? That they knew without a doubt that I love God and trust in His plan for our lives. That I prayed with them every day. That I told them “no” often and for their own good, and that I deserve a trophy for my hide-and-seek skills.
Margaux—one on the way; seven months pregnant; one pregnancy
Why was it important to you to take part in this photo shoot? I think being pregnant is one of the most beautiful things! I love it.
What is one thing about your body of which you’re especially proud? I’m totally amazed that my body can support another life.
Sarah & Elizabeth—one on the way; six months pregnant; one pregnancy
What was the hardest transition into motherhood for you? So far, the changes to my body and feeling a living being kick inside of me.
Use one word to describe your body. PREGNANT!
Why was it important to you to take part in this photo shoot? To show and represent a different perspective on being a mother.
What do you want your children to tell their children about you? That I am loving and strong.
How do you see your own mother in your mothering style? I will be patient and let my child be who he/she is.
Michelle—two children (both ages 21 months); one step-daughter; two pregnancies
Why was it important to you to take part in this photo shoot? I’m having a hard time accepting my body. I weigh less than I did before I got pregnant, but everything has shifted.
What was the hardest transition into motherhood for you? Mental and emotional. Postpartum depression, exhaustion, and feeling a loss of identity.
What will you tell your daughter or your future daughter-in-laws about their “mom bodies”? “It is capable. It is strong.”
Catherine—three children (ages 9, 9, and 6); two pregnancies
Why was it important to you to take part in this photo shoot? To be proud of my journey as a woman.
What do you want your children to tell their children about you? “My mommy is a strong, independent woman.”
What will you tell your daughters about their “mom bodies”? “Be proud of who you are and what you have done. It’s a wonderful JOURNEY!”
Katie—one child and one on the way (age 15 months); 11 weeks pregnant; two pregnancies
What was the hardest transition into motherhood for you? Getting pregnant was hardest physically with years of fertility treatments; after that, pregnancy was relatively easy. Since becoming a mom, the mental part has been hardest. It’s no longer about me.
What is one thing about your body of which you are particularly proud? My body has fought hard through and bounced back from multiple surgeries, shots, treatments, and pregnancy.
Meredith—two children (ages 2 and 3 weeks); two pregnancies
What was the hardest transition into motherhood for you? I know some mothers have to return to work full-time and even sooner than 12 weeks. They must be so strong! I was grateful to return to work three days a week when my son was 12 weeks old. However, it was still devastating to me. It absolutely broke my heart to leave him. My husband worked long, irregular hours, so working, pumping, and caring for my son was difficult. I hated paying someone to do a job that I wanted to do more than anything in the world. The chronic sleep deprivation is challenging, too. It is all so worth it, and I am so honored that I am able to be a mom and have these challenges.
Use one word to describe your body. Powerful.
Is there one part of your body that changed significantly with motherhood or of which you are particularly self-conscious? Without question, my heart has changed the most and for the better. Each time I give birth, I feel like I am reborn with a new gratitude and heart. It’s amazing how our hearts can care for and love our babies so much. It seems impossible to love them any more than I do, and then I pick them up the next day and love them even more. Mommy heart is real!
My impressive varicose veins are not my favorite new feature, but they are so worth it and will probably get worse with future pregnancies. I’m OK with that.
Jennifer—two children (ages 2 and 6 months); three pregnancies
Why was it important to you to take part in this photo shoot? Because I realistically wanted to represent what motherhood looks like. I used to do a little modeling before I had my children, when I was much smaller. I wanted to show what my body looks like now after having two children. I have been working on losing weight, but I want others to know that even though I will never be the same small size I was before, I’m still beautiful.
Use one word to describe your body. Transitioning.
A big thank you to ARG Photographs & Mewborne Photography for donating their time and talents to this special project. If you are interested in a photo shoot showcasing the beauty of your post-baby body (moms only, no children please), both photographers are offering a special mini-session rate of $125 through June 2015.