Woman's Candid Photo Celebrating Her Post-Birth Body Goes Viral

If you've never had a child and only read the tabloid press and celebrity gossip sites, you might have a strong impression of what a "post-baby body" looks like. The supermodels and Hollywood A-listers that dominate the media are praised for their taut, lithe physiques that look virtually identical to their pre-baby frames.
But one mother, who was blindsided by the reality of her own body after giving birth, wants to debunk the myth that every woman magically "bounces back" straight after labour.
Elise Raquel, from west Australia, posted a candid picture of her belly following the arrival of her daughter, Willa, to "celebrate postpartum bodies, in all their glory" and challenge the shame many women feel about theirs. The image shows Raquel, who also has two other children, in her "rawest and most vulnerable state."
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"It's a strange feeling to look down and still see a bump, even though you're holding your baby in your arms, even after doing it three times," she wrote to more than 31k followers. "It's not easy to go home with a baby and still have to wear maternity clothes."
She added that while she had been adamant that her body would just "bounce back", it has never returned to what it was pre-baby and she's learned to be proud of it. "With each baby I've gained a few more kilos and a few more stretch marks."
Raquel continued: "I used to feel the need to cover up in this newborn stage, I didn't want to see my body in this state, so why would anyone else? It's taken me three babies, but I've finally realised this postpartum body isn't something to hide! I am beyond proud for what this body has given and sacralised."
After realizing her image, originally uploaded in July, had gone viral earlier this week and been largely celebrated, Raquel posted a series of images and answered some of the questions she'd received about the photo.

My post labour photo has been shared a few times on the internet this past week. And although I received a huge amount of support and had so many mothers share their own postpartum stories, I also saw many people question my decision to share such a personal photo publicly on the internet. So I thought I'd explain why. When I was pregnant with Peyton I really had no idea what post birth was really like, and you don't fully understand until you actually have a baby! I was one of the first of my friends to get pregnant, so I didn't have that support group to ask all those TMI questions about pregnancy and birth. My doctor was more concerned about setting a medically unnecessary induction date rather than explaining to me what post birth would be like! No one told me the reality of the fourth trimester. I had no idea you could still look so pregnant even after giving birth. Everyone told me I was young, I would bounce straight back, and I believed them. Just like many women do, I too used to look up to the media, celebrities who would show off their supermodel like post baby bodies just weeks after giving birth! I thought thats how it would be for me too. So when I went home from hospital four days after giving birth, still looking six months pregnant, I thought I must have done something wrong. How come I didn't look like they did post baby? How come I didn't bounce back straight away like everyone said I would? How come it took me a year to fit back into my pre baby jeans? Well, because for many women, and for me, this post baby picture that was painted in my head just wasn't realistic! There's so much pressure from society and from ourselves to look a certain way post baby, but for many that's not the case, and that's ok! I posted that photo because I wish someone had posted a photo just like mine when I was pregnant. I wish that someone had told me what realistically might happen to my body and to my mind. The fourth trimester is such a taboo topic. I want other mums also walking in my shoes to know that they're not alone. That whatever their postpartum journey may be, it's ok, it's normal and it should always be priaised! I did it for me, for you and for her!

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"No one told me the reality of the fourth trimester," she wrote. "I had no idea you could still look so pregnant even after giving birth. Everyone told me I was young, I would bounce straight back, and I believed them."
"Just like many women do, I too used to look up to the media, celebrities who would show off their supermodel like post baby bodies just weeks after giving birth! I thought that's how it would be for me too. So when I went home from hospital four days after giving birth, still looking six months pregnant, I thought I must have done something wrong."
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The media's portrayals of women's post-baby physiques is unrepresentative of most women's realities, she continued. "There’s so much pressure from society and from ourselves to look a certain way post baby, but for many that’s not the case, and that’s ok! I posted that photo because I wish someone had posted a photo just like mine when I was pregnant."
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