In a recent photo shoot, Redbook asked five women—five moms—to step in front of a camera, wearing nothing but a bikini and a smile, to talk about how their bodies have changed since giving birth.
These women not only agreed to the photoshoot, they rocked it.
Representing a range of shapes and sizes, Arielle, Farrah, Stephanie, Kanya and Brittany seem to share the same sense of pride in knowing that there is a bigger picture than the one being shown in the photographs. Basically, it's is how every mom should feel. And how society (including women's magazines) should encourage them to.
Arielle, who never had stretch marks before gaining 50 pounds with her pregnancy, said that she used to be extremely vain but now knows that looks aren't everything. "I have more confidence than I've ever had," she told reporters. "I want to teach my daughter to love and appreciate every inch of herself, even if you feel weird about it, even if there's something you don't like."
Farrah, who is all of us, said that she became depressed after losing the baby weight only to discover that everything was saggy. "I would never stand here in a bikini, ever, unless I looked really on point," she said. "But my body is a survivor. It survived childbirth, crazy hormone spikes, hours and hours of labor. It survived."
Stephanie confessed to being arrogant when friends warned that her body might not recover as quickly the second time around. "In my head,” she began, “I thought, maybe for you it's hard, but it won't be hard for me—the first one was so easy. And then I had my second, and things just aren't where they used to be."
Even so, she says she is proud of her body because it made two wonderful children. "It really doesn't matter how beautiful you are or how your hair looks or how you fit into a bathing suit or a pair of jeans," she said. "If you don't love yourself and feel confident, then you have no true, real beauty that lasts."
Then there was Kanya, who said she lost weight when she got pregnant but then gained it all back (and then some) the minute she started eating for two.
"You have these myths—you're supposed to gain weight while pregnant, you'll lose it when breastfeeding—that set you up to fail because people who don't have that experience start to think badly about themselves."
When asked if she was proud of the way her body changed after pregnancy, Brittany's response was nothing short of perfection.
"I kinda am. No, I am a lot," she said. "Before I had my daughter, I was extremely, extremely skinny, like really, super skinny. So now I kind of feel like she has given me these womanly curves that I embrace and praise them."
Whether we avoid them or not, mirrors don't lie. They show every flaw that ever was and serve as a constant reminder of what may never be again, but the trick—as these 5 women have so eloquently put it—is to alter our way of thinking and embrace the inner goddess.
Because each of has one, and she truly is divine.