Becoming a mother doesn't just change your lifestyle. It also changes who you are and how you feel about yourself and your body. For some women, that means learning to appreciate and accept the stretch marks, scars, and flabby skin that can result from having a child. The journey to self love isn't always easy, though, when you're living in a society where stick thin and seemingly perfect models are on the covers of every magazine you see in line at the grocery store and every billboard you pass on the way home from work.
Photographer Liliana Taboas hopes to help normalize bodies of all shapes and sizes by celebrating mothers' bodies and the changes they endure after childbirth. In her project Divine Mothering, Taboas takes striking photos of mothers and conducts heartfelt interviews. From breastfeeding, to miscarriages, to IVF, she gives women a platform to share their personal experiences with others. The project shows just how beautiful unretouched postpartum bodies are and gives the women behind them a voice.
"Working through body image issues is something that affects all women," Taboas told A Plus. "Mothers in particular go through a very large shift in perspectives as new parents. There is a new side of our bodies that we witness. I believe that this brings body images issues to the fore front, where we see the immensity of the value and preciousness in our wombs as well as our children. This shift makes us question the beauty standards imposed upon society that tend to minimize or erase the changes that our bodies and hearts go through during pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum. I wanted to help promote a healthier and more complete view of women's bodies. This is my 'granito de arroz' (grain of rice) to add to the many voices advocating for body positivity, diversity, and women's perspectives."
Taboas stresses that while Divine Mothering is geared toward moms, "being a mother is not a requirement for participation, enjoyment, and the empowerment" facilitated through the project. Even kids can enjoy the series, as Taboas has used some of the images to create a children's book written from the perspective of a loving mother.
Check out some of her photography below, accompanied by excerpts from the women's stories:
"Motherhood has healed my spirit and body. Physically I sometimes struggle with my body image because I do not look like the 'typical mom,' I don't have the normal 'mom bod.' I was unable to get beautiful maternity pictures because I barely showed. My breasts did not increase in size (not even during breastfeeding!) I gained a total of 15 pounds, all of which I lost during the birth. I have no 'tiger stripes' or stretch marks on my belly … and yes I do in a way feel left out of motherhood for not having them."
"It's been kind of rough. It took us three years to get pregnant ... We were working with the OBGYN. At first we worked with my hormone levels, then they told me I had to loose weight. I knew I couldn't do it on my own so I decided to get Gastric Bypass Surgery. That's what these scars are from."
"It's my reason for being. My husband tells me all the time that I was made to be a mother."
"I was very hesitant about breastfeeding. I didn't want to do it. My husband is a nurse and he convinced me that I had to at least give it a try ... I was surprised at how naturally it came for us. It's probably the most natural thing I've ever done."
"It's hard to remember sometimes … that what we're doing is awesome. I want to remember, it's easy to forget."
"Motherhood has been the biggest sacrifice I have ever made in my life. Giving up my military career to be 'just' a mother was a journey that was very hard to acknowledge. Surrendering everything in my life to provide a sole focus to my children was never an undertaking I planned on. It was not my previously planned life path. Though my life has taken a course I never thought it would, I now have full acceptance of my role as a mother, wife and my postpartum body. My body now has curves for a purpose!"
"With my first I wasn't too confident. I didn't have help. With this child, I've had so much support and encouragement with breastfeeding."
"I vowed to never say anything negative about myself in front of them. Nothing. I don't want them to learn that from me."
"Breastfeeding still feels taboo in my country (Venezuela) and in the states (USA). I want to help change that."
"I can now appreciate my body for what it's given me.This is who I am now, I was given the gift of life ... I'm a better version of myself. I can see the world through another set of eyes."
"I was so determined with my first. They were going to be fine, they were going to be great. I wanted them to reach their milestones early; rookie mom mistake. With this one I didn't even want to put him on the ground."
"It's hard. People say it's hard, but you don't realize how difficult those hard moments are. I think the hardest part for me has been coming to grips with all the changes. The changes in my life. The changes in my marriage. The changes in my body. It's been hard for me. That's why I wanted to do this. You have to love your body. I feel hypocritical. I tell everyone how postpartum bodies are so magical and they did something amazing, but when it comes to my own … I hate it. But I tell myself, you can't love everyone else's bodies and hate your own. That's crazy. We're so self critical."
"I had my first two children with my ex-husband, and then I got married again. We decided we wanted to have children in common. I thought, why not just one more. But then it felt so good, we tried again! I think I'm very fertile ... My first two pregnancies were easy, I had no problems and I lost the pregnancy weight pretty quick. My last two pregnancies I had pregnancy diabetes. I didn't feel sick at all, but my glucose test didn't come back good."