As every mom knows, embracing your postpartum body is a tricky thing. Some women admit to hating their bodies after giving birth, while others actually love their postpartum body. And then there are moms who are just plain tired of talking about their postpartum body at all.
What began as a simple project to empower women to love their postpartum bodies—and everything that comes with the journey—has turned into a passion project with photos of more than 70 moms in just four months, according to Self.
The 22-year-old photographer says that she's not yet a mom herself, but she found inspiration for the project after mothers that she worked with before pitched her the idea for the series of raw, beautiful photos showing women baring their bellies and bodies after baby.
"Everything I do is about loving yourself, so it seemed perfect," Shannon said.
The Ontario-based photographer first decided to share the photos in a mom Facebook group, whose members quickly "went nuts" with encouragement and support—and began to sign up for additional photo shoots themselves.
The photos feature a variety of moms posing proudly with their stretch marks, scars and bodies on full display. Often, they're also holding their children and sometimes breastfeeding or bottle-feeding their little ones. The moms themselves come from all walks of life, showing off tattoos, older kids (as well as their babies), some personality through their choice of clothing and always lots of love.
But that doesn't mean that the photos are easy or that every mom is naturally comfortable enough to have these intimate portraits taken. While on set with these women, Shannon says that they are often nervous at first but that goes away quickly.
"I really try to make them feel comfortable and try to get to know them" in the process, Shannon told Mom.me.
And it all seems to be paying off! Since starting the series, she has received a lot of positive feedback from the mothers she has photographed.
"I’ve had moms say that they shared their photo and someone [who saw the photo] was empowered to wear a bikini because of it," she said.
Meanwhile, other women who posed felt that it was a cathartic experience.
"Some of the moms posing have just had miscarriages and some of them have had stillbirths, and they feel like it’s kind of final closure."
Not only that, but Shannon is also hoping that the photo series gives mothers a new sense of self confidence. Whether they pose for her themselves or simply viewed the pictures on her Facebook or Instagram, she wants people to be happy and stop the mom-shaming.
"They're doing the best for themselves and their children," she said, "And I want them to embrace that and accept what they choose and never feel judged."