When you've just had a baby, the last thing you should be forced to thinking about is losing weight. Yet, society puts a lot of pressure on women to "bounce back" to their pre-baby bodies—something British maternity brand Mothercare is officially over.
Their new campaign, #BodyProudMums, features unretouched photos of 10 women flaunting their scars, stretch marks, loose skin, and swollen bellies, weeks and months after giving birth. Their message is simple: It's time to stop perpetuating unrealistic beauty standards and encourage women to embrace their postpartum bodies as they are.
Photos: Mothercare / Sophie Mayanne
The company decided to take this body-positive approach after conducting a survey where more than 80 percent of moms admitted that they compare their postpartum bodies to women they see on Instagram and in magazines. "Body Proud Mums boldly seeks to normalize women's experiences, spark a positive conversation, and help mums feel confident and proud of their bodies," they shared on their website. "At the heart of the campaign is the belief that all mums are beautiful. After all, their bodies have just performed a miracle."
As part of the campaign, each of the featured moms shared what it meant to them to be a part of this experience.
Harriet, for instance, was photographed 26 weeks after giving birth. She shared that she loved the idea of celebrating postpartum bodies since she's struggled with self-esteem since having her son. "I put on 4 1/2 stone (63 pounds) in pregnancy and have lost about 2 1/2 (35 pounds) so far," she told Mothercare. "How can I hate my body when it has given me my beautiful baby boy? My body has done something amazing, and to me, that's the most empowering thing. I feel like I'm doing this for all the mums who wear baggy tops or cry when they look in the mirror. To say: You are amazing!"
Tina, photographed 27 weeks after having twins, shared how much her body and lifestyle have changed since giving birth. "Before birth, I was muscular and worked out a lot," she told Mothercare. "Now I don't have time to work out and everything feels saggier! I didn't expect to feel suddenly so old and droopy! I know it will come back with time and dedication to exercise again, but right now all I want to do is cover up with baggy clothes."
It's hard for Tina to get past those perfect before-and-after photos she sees flooding her social media pages. "All over social media, it shows these perfect bodies saying they've had children and now bounced back so quickly…I guess pre-children you just have unrealistic expectations. I also put pressure on myself to try and get my body back, but as I slowly transition into motherhood I am realizing that it's actually not that important, and I just need to be OK in my own skin rather than worrying about what everyone else thinks."
Since Mothercare shared their campaign on Facebook a few days ago, moms around the world have been showing their support, saying that the messages and photos truly speak to them. "Seeing this just brings tears to my eyes," one mom wrote. "My little boy is just over 8 weeks old and I've put weight on and have a lot of stretch marks but I am perfectly fine with it. … Being the best mommy I could be is a lot more important than getting back to the pre-pregnancy body."
Another said: "My little boy is 2 in May and my stomach is covered in stretch marks from my first little boy and I still have all my saggy skin but I don't care because I got it from bringing three gorgeous boys into the world."
We applaud Mothercare—and all the moms involved—for celebrating postpartum bodies. Here's hoping that moms everywhere are able to identify with these women and feel more confident with all the changes that motherhood may bring.
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This article originally appeared on Shape.com