Interview: Celebrating the Raw Beauty of Women’s Postpartum Bodies with Natalie McCain
Florida-based photographer Natalie McCain highlights the raw beauty of mothers’ bodies in The Honest Body Project, an ongoing series dedicated to celebrating women untouched by Photoshop. McCain, a mother herself, understands all too well the struggles of practicing self-love in a society that, by glorifying certain physical ideals, often ignores women whose bodies have been transformed by pregnancy and childbirth. This project, started in May, is a way for her to give a voice to women through revealing portraits and touching stories shared on her website.
“As women, we judge ourselves harder than anyone else ever will. Our bodies are strong, capable, wonderful and amazing things…but we still aren’t happy when we look in the mirror,” McCain says. “Having children changes our body in ways we never expect. This change is BEAUTIFUL. Appreciate your stretch marks, they show you grew a child inside you. Embrace the once tight and now loose skin, it shows you birthed this amazing child. Love your postpartum breasts, they show your body created milk to nourish your child. LOVE YOURSELF.”
We had the chance to ask the photographer a few questions about her motivations and passion for the empowering project. Scroll down to read that exclusive interview.
When did you start “The Honest Body Project,” and what inspired you to create it?
I started the project in May of this year. I was inspired to do so after seeing so many women struggle with body image issues. I want to help the next generation of women we are raising to be proud of their bodies and have a healthy body image.
What messages do you hope to convey about motherhood and body image through this project?
I want to help show that women don’t need to “fix” their so-called imperfections. What a boring world we would live in if everyone could magically erase what makes them unique! I want women to love their bodies and feel comfortable and confident in them.
How do you find your subjects?
I first photographed good friends of mine. After posting them on social media, I received so many requests to join in the project from local mothers in the area. It is amazing how it has grown, and the support is wonderful!
How do you get your subjects to open up to you in such an emotional and physical way?
I find that most women have a story that they want to share with the world. A lot of the women have different reasons for being a part of the project, whether they want to help inspire other women who have had similar experiences or help give them more confidence. Sharing your honest body with the world is very freeing and an amazing thing!
Was there ever a time in your life when you really felt the pressures of body image and body-shaming bearing down on you personally?
When I was a child I was always bigger than most of my friends. I wasn’t overweight until I was an adult, but as a child, I was frequently teased for being fat. I remember when I was 13, I was told by an adult that if I just lost 20 lbs, I would be a better athlete. If I had lost 20 lbs, I would have been underweight. It always stuck with me, especially because the adult was very overweight himself. Why do we feel like we are allowed to criticise women’s bodies, no matter their age?
After having my daughter, I struggled with accepting my postpartum body. Once I stopped feeling the pressure to slim down right away, I began to love my body again. There is so much pressure on new moms, and I hope that my project helps to alleviate some of that.
Do you have any advice for women who are struggling to love themselves after a lifetime of being taught otherwise by societal pressures and mass media?
Body acceptance is a choice you can make. You can choose self-love and speak kindly to yourself. It takes a lot of practice and you really have to “fake it till you make it,” but it will start to come naturally. When you begin to put yourself down or have a negative thought, try to replace it with a positive one. Lift yourself up. You would never say the things you say to yourself to your best friend, because when you see your friend, you see her beauty. You have to learn to see this in yourself and not be critical of so-called “imperfections” that you may have. You’re so beautiful, and it’s time to stand up against the pressure put on women by society to fix everything about ourselves that we don’t love.