Postpartum care

10 photos that celebrate and honour ‘imperfect’ post-baby bodies

These bodies gave life, and that's nothing to be ashamed of.

Body positivity doesn’t come naturally to a lot of women. Whether it’s because of the images we’ve long been fed through advertising and social media, or personal hang ups carried over from childhood and puberty, looking confidently into the camera lens can be terrifying—especially after pregnancy. But something is changing. Amidst the filtered-to-perfection photos, a new reality is emerging. Today’s Parent investigated this trend in our May/June 2019 print issue. Thanks to hashtags like #this_is_postpartum and #everywomanisanangel, inspiring images like the ones below are making their way into Instagram feeds—and we’re here for it.

1. “My stomach is still flowered with stretch marks and extra skin. Just perfect for curious little hands to tug and pull.”

View this post on Instagram

Here I am, nearly nine months later. The twins have officially been in my arms a whole three days longer then I was able to carry them in my belly. My stomach is still flowered with stretch marks and extra skin. Just perfect for curious little hands to tug and pull. Some days I struggle to look in the mirror and show my body the appreciation and love it deserves. Those thoughts are almost immediately followed up with feelings of guilt for ever shaming this body which has done so much. I was able to carry twins for 38 weeks despite friends, family and even doctors telling me I would be lucky to make it past 32-34 weeks with my frame. This body may look weak and exhausted, but in reality it’s so strong and capable. All this to say, that if you ever have feelings of shame because your body just isn’t “bouncing back,” I see you. I’ve been you. You are so beautiful!

A post shared by Kara (@twinmamanotes) on

2. “I know there are women who don’t bounce back to slim bellies after pregnancy + cry when they look in the mirror like I did today.”

View this post on Instagram

This morning, I cried as I was changing + looking at myself in the mirror. Since I woke up today, I was just off and feeling some sort of way. But it was like looking at my reflection + seeing this body I barely know was the cherry on top of my bad day. I’ve gained almost 50 pounds in 1.5 years. Between trying to get pregnant + fertility treatments + being pregnant, my body has been through so much. But all day, I kept thinking about the #this_is_postpartum movement I saw on my friend Bethanie’s @thegarciadiaries page. Scrolling through the hashtag feed, I felt empowered to take pride in my body. And even though I feel so vulnerable for putting this out there, I am PROUD of this body that grew a perfect little human being. I don’t know if or when these stretch marks will go away. I don’t know when I’ll be 50 pounds lighter. I don’t know if anyone notices my double chin as much as I do. But I do know there are women who don’t bounce back to slim bellies after pregnancy + cry when they look in the mirror like I did today. I’m trying to be kinder to myself, but it’s so dang hard. I say that I’m giving myself grace and that I’m okay in this body, but most days I’m really not. I’m thankful for a husband that is there for me during my dark days + reminds me WHY my body looks the way it does. Because of Layla. And l wouldn’t trade that old body for this baby girl any damn day. So, fellow mama, hating on her postpartum body, I encourage you to rock your mom-bod + love yourself. Or try to, just like I am. 🧡

A post shared by sarah melito (@sarahjeanmelito) on

3. “I was so concerned about what I looked like that I went as far as getting this ugly tattoo to try to cover it up, to try to cover up evidence of my babies. “

View this post on Instagram

I'm gonna share my story….I had my first kid 12 yrs ago,I was in my 20s and I was young and my body bounced right back and I was amazed then I had my 2nd baby 3 yrs after and this time it wasn't exactly bouncing back and this time I had stretch marks and loose skin and was horrified. I was so concerned about what I looked like that I went as far as getting this ugly tattoo to try to cover it up,to try to cover up evidence of my babies. That wasnt good enough I still hated what I saw in the mirror I began to workout and count calories. Kept a food journal, punished myself for eating… like wtf?!?! I was down to 90lbs yes 90lbs! Everytime I ate I told myself I need to workout I was training 3x a day and eating less than 1000 calories and that is not healthy at all. I became exhausted,depressed,I didn't want to live that way anymore. So I stopped just stopped everything and started enjoying life again. Gained weight and was ok. Fast forward to last yr I had my 3rd baby at the age of 37 and was almost 200lbs at the end of that pregnancy. My heaviest I've ever been! I was so happy to finally have my boy after 2 girls but I became emotional,angry, irrational. I cried so many times behind a closed door over everything. My weight,my life, my sadness. I started talking about it and it has been helping and now I see all these beautiful mamas share their stories and it made me inspired to share mine and stand up for myself and all the other women. Thank you @meg.boggs @thegarciadiaries and all the other women who have shared❤ #this_is_postpartum #honestmotherhood #rawmotherhood #reallife #momlife #motherhood #postpartum #postpartumdepression #igmotherhood #momentsinmotherhood

A post shared by Sarah ☕ (@simplysarahlynnzie) on

4. “The reality is that my body is strong and beautiful.”

5. “I’m sharing so that you know it’s ok to share too.⁣”

View this post on Instagram

Can we truth speak for a minute?⁣ ⁣ I don't share these photos because I want some sort of validation that I'm "ok". I actually quite know I am! I didn't always, and that's cool too. ⁣ ⁣ Honestly? It's not about me at all. ⁣ Brave? not really.⁣ But important? yes.⁣ ⁣ Because I believe in the power of sharing.⁣ I believe in women believing in THEMSELVES.⁣ I want you to feel normal in your body, even if it means sharing a little loose post-partum, post-weightloss skin hanging down so we can all just smile and go "ha! life!" and move on with our days. ⁣ ⁣ I want you to believe that you are actually really incredible and lovely and desirable and unique. I want you to KNOW you're not alone so that this BEAST of negativity living in your mind constantly telling you that you're not enough, ugly, gross, weird, can go suffocate and die in our waves of positivity and love.⁣ ⁣ I want you to UNLEARN the things that society has taught you.⁣ I want you to tap into a new stream of consciousness that just honors your body for a hot second or two and doesn't get hung up over things that should not define you.⁣ ⁣ I'm sharing so that you know it's ok to share too.⁣ And by share, I don't mean you have to go and take pictures and post them on the internet. I mean, you can (please tag me if you do so I can throw some "holla" hands up in the comments).⁣ But by share, I mean…even just for you. Take a moment and just run your hand over it, smile, give it love. Stand proudly in the mirror. Honor your freaking badass body and move on with your day, with your memories, with your very important things that ARE NOT THIS.⁣ ⁣ I'm sharing so that you don't waste the precious moments of your day and life and thoughts wrapped up in feeling like less because your body did a thing and showed for it.⁣ ⁣ I think we're doing just fine. ⁣ Our bodies, doing things, showing for it, but still showing up and being our badass selves that we DESERVE to be. ⁣ ⁣ *CONFIDENCE* my friends. Eat it for breakfast, wear it all day long.

A post shared by Sarah Nicole Landry (@thebirdspapaya) on

6. “No I’m not ugly, no I’m not gross… No I refuse to think I don’t work hard enough.”

View this post on Instagram

Self. Consciousness! The. Whole. Truth. As if there aren't already enough pressure on how I should feel about myself, I worry about what the world says about me…. Or think about me. I'm holding my soft squishy belly thinking "how much harder do I need to work at this?"…. And you know what I already work hard enough. I already give it my all. This morning while I was feeling my lowest from struggling mentally and in this space I was told "gosh you're beautiful" by a complete random stranger. I instantly remember my words from last week; knowledge a compliment. I blushed and said "thank you so kindly" with a smile. The "old me" would have said: what? I have no makeup on… I haven't washed my hair in days and I wearing the biggest (only) sweater since I ran out of clothes cause my dryer has been broken for days… And I feel bloated af cause I haven't had a normal 💩 in days. TMI? Well…. The "me" holding my belly vanished almost immediately… It didn't matter. It was all in my head… No I'm not ugly, no I'm not gross… No I refuse to think I don't work hard enough. YES. I'M. BEAUTIFUL! So there… I may have low moments but know that I always find a way back to being my beautiful self and I'll continue to show you both sides. Biggest hugs my friends. #teamself #postpartum #thisispostpartum #this_is_postpartum #postpartumbody #postpartumdepression #honormybody #honestmotherhood #motherhoodsimplified #motherhoodunplugged #motherhoodunhinged #ig_motherhood #inspirepregnancy #takebackpostpartum #shape #transformationtuesday #postpartumfitness #postpartumbelly #postpartumhealth #postpartumsupport

A post shared by Anupa King (@denupzter) on

7. “This is for you. This is for us. You are seen. You are worthy. You are enough.”

View this post on Instagram

This skin grew and stretched out many years ago. Then it shriveled down as much as it possibly could when it had every fad thrown it’s way. Not long after, this skin grew and stretched out once again to create room for my favorite tiny human to grow. And here is that same skin now. Accompanied by marks and rolls and cellulite. It isn’t the kind of skin you’ll see in ads. And most likely not on any magazine covers. When and if you do, it will spark controversy and send the internet into a frenzy. Forcing anyone who looks like this to feel less than and like they shouldn’t be allowed to be anything but invisible. But we’re out here living. Women and mothers like me. Searching for the key to self-love and accepting our bodies without being forced to morph into the ads and magazine covers. And searching for the healthy balance of changing our bodies without reaching a point of hating it into that change. So for the woman and mama who doesn’t see herself in the ad. Or on the magazine cover. Who struggles looking in the mirror. Who beat herself up after having the dessert. Who didn’t bounce back. Who missed her workout. Who didn’t reach her goal this time. Who decided not to go because of the swimsuit. Who cried in the dressing room. Who just doesn’t feel like herself lately. This is for you. This is for us. You are seen. You are worthy. You are enough. You are so much more than the way you look. #this_is_postpartum

A post shared by Meg Boggs (@meg.boggs) on

8. “I’ve decided to love myself completely because I’m not defined by the loose skin or the stretch marks.”

View this post on Instagram

Has anyone ever hated their stomach? ⁣ ⁣ Because, I sure have! 🙋🏻‍♀️⁣ ⁣ My journey of finding self love has been crazy to say the least. Never in a million years would I have EVER thought that I would be comfortable in this body. ⁣ ⁣ But here I am five months postpartum and I’m loving and embracing who I am! ⁣ ⁣ I’ve decided to love myself completely because I’m not defined by the loose skin or the stretch marks. ⁣ ⁣ Of course I’m not going to sit here and pretend like I still don’t struggle with myself. ⁣ ⁣ Of course I do!⁣ Who doesn’t? ⁣ ⁣ It’s taken so much time and so many tears. But what matters is that I got here. I survived the self hate and you can too.⁣ ⁣ Just because your body has changed doesn’t mean your worth has changed.⁣ ⁣ That’s all in the inside. ⁣ ⁣ I’ve realized so many things in this journey of finding self love. I’ve realize what truly matters. ⁣ ⁣ I’m an awesome mom and wife! I love my daughter and I went through hell and back to bring her into this world. I’m so freaking proud of the person I’ve become because of it. ⁣ ⁣ The stretch marks are just marks.⁣ The skin is just skin. ⁣ ⁣ Take today to realize how truly beautiful your mom bod is! If you can’t love it for yourself, love it for your baby. ❤️⁣

A post shared by 𝐓𝐎𝐑𝐈 𝐌𝐂𝐂𝐀𝐈𝐍 ⋒ (@tori.mccain) on

9. “Seeing more “real body” posts = normalizing.⁣”

View this post on Instagram

Recently I had someone leave a comment on a post saying something along the lines of “it was cool the first few posts but now it just seems like everyone is doing it now for the likes. It’s a bit much”. ⁣ ⁣ Sooooo they mean they are suddenly seeing a lot of women unabashedly share their body truths?⁣ ⁣ They say that we are doing it for the likes—for the love we get on these posts?⁣ ⁣ This, my friends, was a comment I was happy to receive!⁣ Do you know why ? ⁣ This is normalizing at it’s finest.⁣ 👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼 ⁣ ⁣ Seeing more “real body” posts = normalizing.⁣ ⁣ Women reaching out to celebrate their bodies journeys and receiving support from their community in way of likes/comments = normalizing. ⁣ ⁣ The more we share, the more we FREE ourselves and each other ! ⁣ ⁣ When I share my skin I do it for so many reasons. ⁣ For myself. ⁣ For my daughters-and my son. ⁣ For my own mama who wants to see me love my normal.⁣ For this community.⁣ For all postpartum mamas.⁣ For anyone struggling with body acceptance. ⁣ ⁣ Hell yeah, guys! ⁣ We are going to help free so many hearts and minds.

A post shared by 🍃h a y l e y. g a r n e t t🍃 (@th3littlestavenger) on

10. “It didn’t happen overnight but I love my stretch marks and this body that held my incredible son.”

View this post on Instagram

Felt so inspired by @thebirdspapaya and the post in objection to the comments made by an executive at @victoriassecret. I get that they want to maintain the tradition of their fashion show and that is their choice but what I have an issue with is the insinuation that women that don’t look like their angels aren’t a “fantasy”. That somehow they don’t quite measure up. Nobody is desiring you. Which is not true at allll. And that is a dangerous thing for people to believe about their bodies. Your body is so powerful and smart, it being sexually appealing to close minded *ssholes is the least captivating thing about it. And if plus/trans women with no stretch marks/cellulite can’t be a fantasy then I don’t want to know what they think about this stretched out, soft mama belly…mostly cause I DONT GIVE AF. It didn’t happen overnight but I love my stretch marks and this body that held my incredible son. That’s what matters. F*ck your fantasy. #everywomanisanangel

A post shared by @ autumneveryday_ on

Read more:
Revealing photos of ‘mom bods’ is a trend we should all get behind
Body beautiful: Celebrating the postpartum body

Stay in touch

Subscribe to Today's Parent's daily newsletter for our best parenting news, tips, essays and recipes.