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Why We're Loving These Photos of Postpartum Moms

Thanks to #takebackpostpartum aimed at celebrating the post-baby body, a growing number of new moms are adding their voices to the chorus of self-acceptance.

pregnant woman applying stretch mark cream AnikaNes/
The best I ever looked in my life were the months right before I got pregnant. How's that for irony? When I found out I was expecting, I mourned the usual -- sushi, brie, wine -- but also reluctantly kissed my toned self goodbye. I had no idea what the next nine months would do to me, but I had a feeling it would involve stretch marks and saddlebags. And it did, a little. Having a baby also changed my boobs (not for the better), my hair (ditto) and even my shoe size (sigh).

That pregnancy throws a monkey wrench into our already complicated relationship with our bodies is no surprise. (My colleague Alesandra Dubin touched on it in her excellent essay on postpartum fitness.) But what few of us manage to remember in the throes of the fourth trimester is that it also makes us crazy strong. I know that seeing firsthand what my body is capable of doing has made me feel invincible, like some kind of warrior who's been to the front lines and has lived to tell about it. And that has translated into an unexpected boost in self-confidence. So I have a little extra softness around the hips and a stretch mark around my belly button. So what? I created life, for pete's sake!

Other moms are apparently feeling the love, too. Hilary Duff, Zoe Saldana, and Pink have recently spoken out about learning to embrace their new shapes. Earlier this month, Rachel Hollis, a mom of three, shared a bikini pic (caption: "Flaunt that body with pride!") that promptly went viral. And thanks to a new online movement aimed at celebrating the post-baby body, a growing number of women are adding their voices to the chorus of self-acceptance.

Related: 6 Postpartum Body Issues -- and How to Recover

The movement, #takebackpostpartum, was created by Texas mom January Harshe, who was fed up with seeing the hashtag #postpartum used in ads for stretch mark creams and weight loss remedies. The weeks and months after baby is born are tough terrain for a new mom -- instead of focusing on getting toned, why not celebrate where she is now? To that end, she called for moms to take to social media (like InstagramTwitter, and Facebook) with shots of their changed bodies and lives. Stretch marks, lumps, sagging, wrinkles -- in other words, all the stuff that magazine art directors would erase with a click of their mouse -- are embraced for what they are: part of the journey of childbirth and motherhood. Every time I look at these photos, I can't help but feel a sense of pride and respect for my fellow mamas -- and myself. Here are a few of my favorites:

@lilmamabirdd, "I've spent the last 12 years of my life hating my body and constantly criticizing myself for any pound I would gain. I've struggled with eating disorders and self harm to the point where I didn't think I would live another day. I always wanted to have children, but I never imagined it would feel like this. Even though Ava is only 8 days shy of being one month old, I've never felt so loved by a human being. Every time she looks at me, I feel so grateful that I always lived to see another day. I'm grateful for the stretch marks that swarm my belly and hips because my body changed so drastically to house her and make her grow into the healthy baby she is. I embrace all of my scars even more, especially my c-section scar. I'm grateful that her favorite place to sleep is on my chest and squishy belly, even if it means I don't get the best rest. I don't know what I would do without Ava, and I can't imagine life any other way." #postpartum #takebackpostpartum #motherhood #selflove #bodypositive

A post shared by @ takebackpostpartum on

I want to hear from you: How has having a baby changed the way you feel about your body?

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Bonnie Gibbs Vengrow is a New York City-based writer and editor who traded in her Blackberry and Metro card for playdates and PB&J sandwiches—and the once-in-a-lifetime chance to watch her feisty, funny son grow up. Follow her on Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.

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Images courtesy of @TakeBackPostpartum via Instagram