An overwhelming majority of the public discourse surrounding one's body after birth is wildly — and harmfully — inaccurate. In tabloids and the media, returning to one's pre-baby body is regarded as a necessary triumph, the final chapter in every new mother's story. However: attaining one's pre-pregnancy weight is not only hugely, dizzyingly difficult, but it also reflects and reinforces a hideously narrow standard of beauty and an assumption that a woman's chief responsibility is to look conventionally attractive.
Pinup and boudoir photographer Ashlee Well Jackson is trying to change that. She's currently shooting a photo series called the 4th Trimester Bodies Project, which is meant to normalize, embrace, and glorify women's post-pregnancy bodies. As she told the Huffington Post:
I see beautiful, inspiring, real women on a daily basis who struggle with their body image because they don’t feel they measure up with who the media tells them to be. I feel like this is even more poignant in mothers who often feel like their bodies have been ruined when they should instead be respected for creating, sustaining and nourishing life. So much more needs to be done in our society to embrace body positivity and normalize breastfeeding.
Other projects and blogs have been working to achieve this goal, but, in a world in which women are expected to start "flaunting a slimmer frame!!!" the instant they push a newborn into the world, the repetition of this message is both welcome and necessary.
Jackson is raising money for the project through Fundrazr; she hopes to photograph women across the U.S. and publish a book of vignettes and photographs in conjunction with a gallery show. In the meantime, you can look at her online gallery of stunning images here.