Birth Matters: Postpartum
Last weekend I attended a postpartum doula training at the Center for the Childbearing Year in Ann Arbor. So, for this week's post I wanted to share some amazing projects and instagram accounts that aim to celebrate and support postpartum women.
Our society has an unfortunate relationship with body image, setting standards and expectations that are often unrealistic and damaging. However, recently there have been a handful of photographers attempting to tackle the unfortunate focus and pressure on mothers to reclaim their "pre-baby" bodies.
The Honest Body Project created by Natalie Mccain, was developed to encourage all women to love themselves and their bodies. Additionally, Mccain has created several series of images that address many powerful topics related to motherhood, including misscarriage and depression. Her photo series "After the Baby is Born" shares raw, unedited images of new mothers with their babies. In an interview with Bustel, Mccain explains her motivation behind the photographs: "Society puts so much pressure on women to 'bounce back' after giving birth and I want to help break that cycle (Fischer, Bustel) ."
Natalie Mccain has also created several youtube videos in which she further explains her goals and motivations in capturing these images. In this video she shares images from her extended nursing series and discusses some of the stigma surrounding breastfeeding.
Another amazing woman using her art to normalize the complexity of the postpartum body and experience is Ashlee Wells Jackson, the photographer behind The 4th Trimester Bodies Project. Her beautifully untouched images of women with their children are a celebration of the changes pregnancy and motherhood have on many women's bodies.
Jackson explains:"The project exists because women are judged too crudely on the way we look and are often told we don't measure up...because regardless of how our babies get here we should be proud...because we are beautiful - stretches, stripes, scares and all."
Every photograph is accompaniged by a bio and once you start exploring the gallery, you won't be able to stop!
Jackson has also photographed a "Breastfeeding is Beautiful Campaign", another collection of raw images sharing a diverse group of breastfeeding stories and expereinces.
Another great source, filled with many wonderful accounts of birth and motherhood, is the blog Birth Without Fear. This blog also has a corresponding Instagram that is one of many accounts contributing to the expansive and inclusive birth community on Instagram. Instagram is an amazing tool, especially for a postpartum mother, because it can provide a daily dose of affirmation, inspiration, information and support. The Southeast Michigan Doula Project has just launched it own instagram account! Click here to follow us! Both The Honest Body Project and The 4th Trimester Project have wonderful accounts, and here are some others you should check out:
Let's also remember to celebrate and support fathers during their very own postpartum experiences.
image by Monet Nicole (Birth Photographer and creator of the Cordmamas instagram)
To wrap up this postpartum-themed blog post, I'll leave you with two articles from this week. The first article explores the idea that some babies are just easier than others based on the temperment we are born with. What do you think? Did you have an "easy" baby or did your children have polar opposide temperments? Lastly, Dr. Barbara Almond, a psychiatrist and influence in revealing the complex, emotional experience of motherhood, passed away earlier this week. In her book, "The Monster Within: The Hidden Side of Motherhood", Almond wrote, "I believe that today's expectations for good mothering have become so hard to life with" (Roberts, NYTimes).
*All of these links are meant to inform, create dialogue and provide a variety of perspectives. Birth occurs in many places, through many different paths and what is most important is that informed decisions are exercised, a birthing woman is supported and the experience is empowering. As always, feel free to reach out to us if you need help or resources.