As we continue our series “Motherhood: More Than Skin Deep,” which examines the physical, emotional, and mental changes we undergo when we become mothers, I am struck by the incredible beauty and strength of the women who participated. Whether they became mothers through biological or adoptive means, whether they fell naturally into the rhythm of motherhood or grappled with the transformation, whether they have struggled with body image or feel comfortable in their skin, each of the women who participated in this series is beautiful. Different and unique, these women join us in celebrating the stages we go through in this journey.
Melissa—two children (ages 3 and 3 months); three pregnancies
Why was it important to you to take part in this photo shoot? Coincidentally, I’d just had a baby (I participated in this photo shoot eight weeks after giving birth to Anna), and I thought it would be meaningful for this project to include a representation of a newly postpartum body.
What is one thing about your body of which you are especially proud? Currently, I can nurse and hold a resting/sleeping Anna against the left side of my chest while snuggling Grace with my right arm and reading her a book—whew!
What will you tell your daughters about their “mom bodies”? I’ll tell my girls to be comfortable with themselves—to eat well and be healthy, but not to worry about having an idealized “Barbie” body—and to enjoy and make the most of life.
Christina—two children (ages 3 1/2 and 10 months); two pregnancies
Why was it important to you to take part in this photo shoot? Post-pregnancy acceptance.
What do you want your children to tell their children about you? That I chose to be happy over all else.
Rayma—one child and one on the way (age 2 1/2); 17 weeks pregnant; five pregnancies
What was the hardest transition into motherhood for you? Emotional, mental, and physical—having children in my late 30s was great, but it is hard to switch gears from being self-centered to not that way at all.
How would you describe your body? Amazing and a work in progress.
Stacy—three children (ages 9, 8, and almost 6)
What was the hardest transition into motherhood for you? I wanted to be a mom for as long as I can remember. From the moment my son arrived—actually from the day I found out I was pregnant—I knew this was what I was meant to do. For me, the hardest part of transitioning to motherhood was balancing work and my yearning to spend every second with my babies. I was active duty when I had my first two children and traveled more than I stayed home. I missed so many of their milestones—first words, crawling, getting teeth, first steps—that when the opportunity arose to take some time off to just be a mom with my third child, I knew I had to take it. I couldn’t miss another moment.
What is one thing about your body of which you are especially proud? Besides making three little people, you mean?! I have always been slow but strong. Give me the option to run five miles slowly versus two very fast, and I will always take the long haul. A few years ago my sister-in-law and I ran our first half-marathon. If you knew how slow of a runner I am or how much of my life I have spent trying to become faster, you’d know this was a huge step for me.
How would your kids describe you as a mom? They’d say I never get enough hugs. They might tell you I try to have fun with them no matter what we’re doing and that I like to take them to new places to experience new things.
Marissa—two children (both age 2 1/2); two pregnancies
How many pregnancies have you had? My answer is two. My first pregnancy was an abortion. I have been forgiven and set free. My second pregnancy resulted in twins. Only God redeems and restores as He believes. This is my reason for sharing: All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is our merciful Father and the source of all comfort. He comforts us in all our troubles so that we can comfort others. When they are troubled, we will be able to give them the same comfort God has given us (2 Corinthians 1:3–4 NLT).
What was the hardest transition into motherhood for you? Mental and physical. I was an independent, career-oriented woman for 34 years. To die to self has been incredibly difficult and yet one of the most rewarding things I have ever done in life.
Brooke—two children (ages 4 and 3); two pregnancies
Why was it important to you to take part in this photo shoot? My body has overcome significant trials. When I was 17, I had a breast reduction, and there was a less than 50% chance that I would ever be able to breastfeed. I nursed my children until they were both almost one. When my daughter was diagnosed with a severe birth defect during my pregnancy, my only option for a safe delivery was a C-section. My daughter is a healthy, amazing four-year-old today. When I was nine weeks pregnant with my son, I had to undergo an emergency appendectomy, putting my pregnancy at risk but without option. Today my son is a healthy, spirited three-year-old. While I was once self-conscious, I carry the scars of these surgeries with pride because I know what each line and mark on my abdomen symbolize.
How would you describe yourself as a mom? A work in progress. Some days I finish the day feeling really good about the work I did as a mom—I made time for snuggles, laughed with my kids, saw joy in my children, and felt joy in myself. Other days I feel like I’ve totally failed—I was short and snappy, yelled, or just too tired to give my all. I’ve learned to give myself grace, and I hope that in the end my children remember more days of joy than days of failure, and that, most of all, they know they are loved.
Jackie, Tori and Meagan
Jackie—two children (ages 30 and 31); two pregnancies
Why was it important to you to take part in this photo shoot? To capture the three of us together after each has experienced motherhood.
What do you want your children to tell their children about you? “She was devoted, loving, and always there for her children.”
Tori—one child and one on the way (age 3); 36 weeks pregnant; two pregnancies
Why was important to you to take part in this photo shoot? This was a very important photo shoot for me, as I believe these photos assist in redefining the beauty of a woman’s body. As women, we are deeply self-conscious about our bodies, and unfortunately, we live in a culture of judgement. This provided us an opportunity to be proud of all of our stretch marks, wrinkles, lines, and other “imperfections.” I’m currently almost eight months pregnant with the last child I will ever carry inside my body, and my swollen belly awes me each and every day. To be able to capture it in such a beautiful capacity was a true honor.
What is one thing about your body of which you are especially proud? I’ll always be proud that my body had two children live and grow inside me. That is SIGNIFICANT. All those extra marks and “cushion” that I have mean that I was blessed to carry my babies. That’s a privilege not everyone gets. It’s no small thing to bring life into the world, and it truly does change not only our bodies, but our souls.
How do you see your own mother in your mothering style? My mother was very hands-on and did anything and everything that she could for my sister and me. I’m very blessed to say that I see a lot of my mother in myself. There’s a certain consciousness to mothering that my mom had that I think I’ve inherited. She mothered with a purpose. Whether it was developing us spiritually, educationally, socially, emotionally, etc., she was constantly striving to help us become good people. And throughout, her “purpose” was love and childhood fun. To participate in this photo shoot with both my mother and sister was incredibly special. Our bodies each have similarities but are so different in many ways. We were proud to participate, and it will be an experience we never forget.
Meagan—one child (age 5 months); one pregnancy
Why was it important to you to take part in this photo shoot? Because we are all different and should celebrate our differences and our similarities.
What was the hardest transition into motherhood for you? Physical. Parenting, working, and being a wife is a lot of work and leaves very little time for yourself.
How do you see your own mother in your mothering style? I see her in everything. I’m the spitting image of her.
Kristin—two children (ages 4 and 6); two pregnancies
How would your kids describe you as a mom? I asked them. They said, “A runner, nice, and generous.”
Is there one part of your body that changed significantly throughout motherhood or of which you are particularly self-conscious? My breasts completely disappeared. Poof! Gone.
What will you tell your daughters about their “mom bodies”? “Don’t be afraid of getting a ‘mom body.'”
Courtney—one child (age 1); three pregnancies
What was the hardest transition into motherhood for you? Emotional. Spending time, getting time, and getting over not being able to experience a home birth.
What is one thing about your body of which you are especially proud? It always rebounds. My body is so strong.
What will you tell your daughter or future daughter-in-law about her “mom body”? “Inner peace is outer peace. If you are happy with yourself, your body will reflect that.”
Kristen—two children (ages 2 1/2 and 10 months); two pregnancies
Is there one part of your body that changed significantly throughout motherhood or of which you are particularly self-conscious? I grew up with a very humble bosom and was definitely unsure about nursing. I knew I wanted to breastfeed, but I didn’t know how I would handle it. Well, my itty-bitty boobies turned into these awesome life sources for my two hearty boys. I nursed my first until about 15 months and lived in nursing bras all the time. Now we’re almost to a year with my second, and it is finally clear I need to toss my pre-mama, size A brassieres in favor of my new Ds! I’ve heard with each child you nurse past nine months you may go up a cup size, and while I may not love them when I’m exercising (hello, double sports bra!) or when I’m 70, I will always feel blessed that my body changed for something greater than myself, my off-the-growth-charts baby boys. I grew to help them grow—and grow they did!
Use one word to describe your body. Strong!
What are some things about your body of which you are especially proud? It feeds, comforts, nourishes, consoles, holds, kisses, washes, carries, rocks, drags, hugs, and loves my boys.
To see Part One of our “Motherhood: More Than Skin Deep” series, click here. We look forward to featuring another “Motherhood: More Than Skin Deep” post next week.
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.