Real Photos of Postpartum Bodies Show Reality of Life After Birth
A few hours after giving birth to her first child, Joanna Griffiths was greeted by a bunch of relatives who were all eager to catch their first glimpse of baby Cole in the hospital. Amid the excitement, Griffiths was taken aback when one family member asked her how much weight she’d lost in the delivery process. Griffiths started doing the math—her son Cole was 9 1/2 lbs., the placenta probably weighed a couple, and she thought to subtract the blood and fluid.
“Then I stopped in complete disbelief that I actually allowed myself to go there,” recalls Griffiths, the founder of CEO of Knix, an intimate apparel line which recently launched a maternity collection featuring leakproof nursing bras and postpartum underwear.
Like many moms, her road to having her rainbow baby wasn’t easy. But instead of focusing on her blessing, Griffiths was reminded about the weight she’d put on during pregnancy. Scrolling through social media in the weeks that followed didn’t help either. There was information about meal delivery and weight loss apps, along with sweet and peaceful images related to breastfeeding. “In short, the complete opposite of the challenges that I was experiencing,” she says. “My early days of breastfeeding were filled with tears, pain, and were emotionally draining.”
Her experience inspired the Life After Birth Project, a photo exhibit showcasing the reality of what women go through postpartum. She partnered with Carriage House Birth (a birth doula support company) and Empowered Birth Project (an online platform educating and inspiring moms) to collect photos of real women in their postpartum journey. “My hope is that we can create a ripple effect that changes the conversation around women’s bodies and the postpartum experience,” says Griffiths. “I want people to know that they aren’t alone, that they are seen, and they are heard.”
'I was struggling to feed my child.'
"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 team member 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.” - Joanna Griffiths, founder and CEO of Knix
'Day one at home as a new mom.'
"This is me pale but still smiling on day one at home as a new mom. Though I’d lost two liters of blood post-delivery, I can’t remember being more tired or more happy to have my baby girl in my arms after 42 weeks of pregnancy.” - Christy Turlington Burns, actress
'I felt content with my body.'
"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. Luckily with that pregnancy and delivery everything was perfect. 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. Luckily with both children I never experienced any postpartum depression or anxiety. However, motherhood can be a roller coaster of emotions. Every morning you wake up with a bursting feeling of love and appreciation and by 10 a.m. you’re on a caffeine overdrive with nothing in your stomach and ready to run for the hills!” - Jillian Harris, TV personality and interior designer
'My postpartum body nourishes twins.'
"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. Nursing twins is not easy. It is not often the magical, wonderful thing you hear breastfeeding mamas rave about. This is work, and there have been days I was ready to quit. Then I remember how amazing it really is. The fact that I have been able to continuously nourish two humans with this stretched, saggy, and scarred body of mine, since conception. And for that, I love my postpartum body.” - Anonymous
'My hope wounds tell a story.'
"When I found out I was pregnant with triplets, I wondered how my small body would actually carry three babies at one time. My first doctor told me I would have an unsuccessful pregnancy and advised me to selectively reduce. I had to find a doctor to support me and I did. My body stretched and stretched. It transformed into something new and wouldn’t be the same. My stomach is covered in loose saggy skin and stretch marks. I call them my hope wounds and they tell a story that brought me my children, three absolute miracles. It's a daily effort to change my perspective and find the beauty that is right before my eyes because it is there.” - Anonymous
'The immediate postpartum phase.'
"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.” - Domino Kirke, co-founder of Carriage House Birth