16 Honest Photos Show A Full Spectrum Of Post-Baby Bodies

Photographed by Liliana Taboas.
Update: Liliana Taboas has collected many of the beautiful images in the Divine Mothering series in a body-positive children's book, I Will Always Be Your Mother. The book, available now, continues the original project's aim of promoting the acceptance and celebration of unedited bodies.

This story was originally published on September 1, 2015.

Liliana Taboas describes herself as a naturally chatty person. But as much as the 27-year-old photographer wants get carried away conversing with her subjects (all women with powerful stories of pregnancy), she knows the resulting photos are more powerful if she just allows the women to be completely themselves. That celebration of total honesty runs all the way through her ongoing project, Divine Mothering.

So far, Taboas has photographed over 20 new mothers for the series, individually and in small groups. She posts the photos on her site alongside the women's intensely personal stories about every aspect of their pregnancies. She hopes the project will normalize the amazing variety of both pregnancy experiences and the women who have them.

In our society, the "post-baby bodies" we see publicized are most often those of celebrities who have been sequestered for weeks before debuting their once-again-toned figures. And while that experience is possible for some women, it's not so realistic for others. Taboas says many women are left perplexed or disappointed by their own bodies after giving birth.

And that's why she wants Divine Mothering to show the full spectrum of mothers' bodies. "It has become something so private and intimate that we literally don't know what our bodies are supposed to look like," she says. "But there is a large range of 'normal,' and you don't have to fit into this tiny box that we’re being sold." It's not that there's one perfect post-baby form that we should all strive for; rather, all postpartum bodies deserve to be celebrated.

But, Taboas says, that tiny, dishonest box undercuts our true strength. "There's so much fixation on the female body for materialistic purposes — like selling products and blockbusters — that it takes away from the stuff that makes us really strong," she adds. "We're powerful creatures."
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Photographed by Liliana Taboas.
“It’s hard to remember sometimes…that what we’re doing is awesome. I want to remember; it’s easy to forget.”
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Photographed by Liliana Taboas.
“I’m trying my best every day, and I wonder…if it’s still enough.” —Annie
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Photographed by Liliana Taboas.
“I don’t think being a mother defines who I am, but it has made me a better person.” — Amber
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Photographed by Liliana Taboas.
“It’s been kind of rough. It took us three years to get pregnant.”
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Photographed by Liliana Taboas.
“We were working with the OBGYN. At first we worked with my hormone levels; then, they told me I had to lose 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.” — Anna
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Photographed by Liliana Taboas.
“I want empowerment for women struggling with their bodies. It’s about being able to feel good about yourself. Knowing that what you’re doing is important.” — Gabrielle
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Photographed by Liliana Taboas.
“It’s been a wild ride. I started with twins. They were born eight weeks premature, emergency C-section, preeclampsia. I almost died… It was crazy. And then they were fine!" — Amy
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Photographed by Liliana Taboas.
“I want my daughter to grow up to know that she’s beautiful, that when she has kids, she might change, but she has the right to feel beautiful and sexy no matter how big, how little, how stretched.” — Erin
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Photographed by Liliana Taboas.
“I was only 19 when he was born; my husband was not my husband yet. It was different then. I hadn’t finished college yet, we weren’t even living together... I’m 24 now, and I still feel like people look at me like the teen mom.” — Colleen
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Photographed by Liliana Taboas.
“The message I received when I was growing up was that girls can do anything they want to do — especially if it was something that was traditionally dominated by men. In many respects, the message I absorbed was that traditionally masculine activities were somehow better than traditionally feminine activities.

“Now, two births, two miscarriages, and a 15-year career later, I have completely reversed that belief. I am proud and grateful for my time as a physics student, active-duty Air Force officer, reservist, and engineer, but I now believe these activities pale in comparison to the miracles that are reserved only for women." — Danielle
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Photographed by Liliana Taboas.
“She’s the longest I’ve breastfed: five and a half months. I’m really proud. My other two I only breastfed until eight and 12 weeks. This one, she wouldn’t take the bottle until four months! My goal is six months.”
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Photographed by Liliana Taboas.
"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." — Michele
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Photographed by Liliana Taboas.
“My husband tells me all the time that I was made to be a mother —it’s my reason for being... It’s a great feeling. I can’t put it into words." — Teresa
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Photographed by Liliana Taboas.
“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." — Heather
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Photographed by Liliana Taboas.
"I want to dispel the notion that you have to look a certain way to deserve to feel happy, loved, or supported. Or that the postpartum body is something to be ashamed of." — Liliana Taboas
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Photographed by Liliana Taboas.
"That’s what boggles my mind the most — we’re shunning something so intricate to our lives. We’re all here because someone was pregnant with us and gave birth to us." — Liliana Taboas
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