Photo: Courtesy of Knix and The Empowered Birth Project
"You're not a goddess, I'm not a goddess—and we don't have to be," said Girls actress Jemima Kirke recently at a dinner in New York. "Postpartum is not a day, a week or even a year. It's forever. And I can assure you, you're all doing good enough."
The actress and mom of two was a special guest at the launch of The Life After Birth Project, a travelling exhibit of real and raw postpartum photography from more than 250 women, including Amy Schumer, Ricki Lake, Jillian Harris, Christy Turlington and Kirke. The project was inspired by Knix founder and CEO Joanna Griffiths, who was struck by how damaging it was to have her social feed filled with images and messages about diets and workouts days after giving birth. Surveying her clients, she discovered that more than half of them experienced postpartum depression and 76 per cent felt the pressure to “bounce back” post birth.
Griffiths teamed up with Brooklyn-based doula service Carriage House Birth and the Empowered Birth Project, an online initiative celebrating the post-birth experience, in an effort to change the message to postpartum moms. "You are perfect as you, you are supported, and you are seen."
The exhibition will travel across North America this fall with one Canadian stop in Toronto from September 17 to 22.
Take a look at some of the images from the exhibit below:
"Love your beautiful postpartum self through the normality and chaos of new motherhood. Find your strength while chasing this concept called balance. Postpartum might be one of the hardest parts of being a mother, but women were made to prevail, and powerful we will always be.”
"Do I like my postpartum body? Not particularly, but I am so proud of it. That it was able to carry twins to term and now it provides what they need. Every single day. This is work, and there have been days I was ready to quit. Then I remember how amazing it really is."
"I was barely producing enough milk for my son. I had to take a double dose of Imodium so I didn’t have stomach flu diarrhea all over the white studio backdrop. The day before, a nurse friend came over to give me IV hydration because I was so weak and losing breastmilk. My body felt absolutely defeated."
"Being a mom in the military is tough. It means spending 12+ hours away from your kids almost every day and savoring those few minutes you get every night during story time. It also means sacrificing a career to be a better mom, fighting for your right to pump, and fighting for equal parental rights."
"Motherhood: stretch marks. Each stretch mark could be felt. Each stretch mark internalized. Each stretch mark represented the strengths and struggles of providing all the necessary resources for creating a new life. Stretch marks: motherhood.”
"When I found out I was pregnant with triplets, I wondered how my small body would actually carry 3 babies at one time. My body stretched and stretched. It transformed into something new and wouldn’t be the same. It's a daily effort to change my perspective and find the beauty that is right before my eyes because it is there.”
"It takes time, you’re not born a parent. If someone would have prepared me for how overwhelmed I’d be and how ill prepared I was because of my own upbringing, I wouldn’t have spiraled as hard and fast as I did. I needed someone to normalize that immediate postpartum phase for me, tell me about it in a way that I couldn’t find in any book or hear from any elder.”
"I look back at this picture and remember it being one of the best moments of my life. I’ve never felt so content with my body, my relationship with Justin, and my life. I think about how full my heart was that day. How hard I worked growing the baby, carrying the baby, and then delivering our sweet Leo. Fast forward a few years and my pregnancy with Annie couldn’t have been more different. I had debilitating exhaustion, feelings of depression and a lack of interest in almost everything. I just wanted the pregnancy to be over. Every morning you wake up with a bursting feeling of love and appreciation and by 10 o’clock you’re on a caffeine overdrive with nothing in your stomach and ready to run for the hills!”
"I took this photo during a hospital visit with a lactation consultant three days postpartum. She told me my breasts were the same size and just as hard as "soccer balls" and handed me two ice packs to help with the swelling. Elsewhere across town in those same few minutes, a teammember stood in for me as we were honored with one of our biggest industry awards to-date. Mentally it was a battle. I could build a company, but I was struggling to feed my child. I felt like such a failure. The nurse provided me with nipple shields, something I knew nothing about but saved me during that first month. Every image of breastfeeding I had seen the women looked natural, at peace and happy. I shared this photo and my sentiments on Instagram and was overwhelmed when over 100 people responded with their own struggles. In that instant, the idea for the Life After Birth Project was born. In that moment my eyes were opened.”