16 Inspiring Photos Of Postpartum Women In Action

Photographed by Andi Elloway.
Mainstream depictions of motherhood often reduce moms to "types" (frazzled and unkempt or career-focused and cold). It's rare that we see a mom who cares for her kids and also takes time for herself. And badass moms in media? Forget it. Of course, there are plenty of real moms who break this mold every day.

We spoke with and photographed five women who take pride in being physically active while also, you know, raising children. Whether they cycle or lift weights, these women prove that motherhood isn't a limitation when it comes to being an athlete. More often than not, it's an opportunity for self-discovery.

After speaking to these women about their respective journeys through pregnancy and childbirth, one thing that's consistent across their stories is how their passion for fitness enhanced their relationships with their pre- and postpartum bodies — and even changed their approach to motherhood.

We might not see moms like this that often, but that doesn't mean they aren't out there, hitting the gym, competing as Olympic lifters, even training other moms. Click through to meet some seriously badass mothers.

Interviews have been edited for length and clarity. Special thanks to CrossFit Prospect Heights.
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Photographed by Andi Elloway.
Melissa, 33

How old is your daughter and what's her name?
"Her name’s Samara, and she’s 6 years old."

What is your workout regimen?
"Olympic [weight] lifting has kind of taken priority, as far as working out. But I started CrossFitting first, and that’s how I transitioned to Olympic lifting. Also, I run. I’m starting my training for the Chicago Marathon. And somehow I find time to sleep in between all of that."

Were you active before you had a child?
"No, not really, not after leaving school."

Ivy Park bottoms, model's own shoes.
2 of 16
Photographed by Andi Elloway.
How have you been able to find the time to work out?
"I’m fortunate enough to have a huge family, so I’m always able to have someone to babysit her. I know there are gyms that have babysitting services, but it’s just easier if she’s with a relative. If I get home really late, she can always spend the night there."

Did motherhood inspire you to work out?
"Prior to having my daughter, I was an active member at New York Sports Club. I just stopped because it became a routine: I go on this machine, I go on the treadmill, I go on the elliptical, and then I leave. Even though there were tons of people there, I never made friends there, so I just stopped. [Then I found] CrossFit and met so many strong women — and I’ve always wanted to be strong. It changed my perspective on what I could look like... As smart as I am, I’ve always attached looking attractive to who I was.

"After having my daughter...my body didn’t bounce back. I have stretch marks, I have extra skin. It took me some time to come to terms with the fact that my body’s never going to go back. And now she’s seeing images on TV, [I want to] make sure that she knows she’s perfect just the way she is. She doesn’t have to look to be someone else. She’s fine the way that she is. And I think that’s what I get from CrossFit in particular. I see so many strong women and they all look very different. There are no mirrors here, so it’s not about your aesthetics; it’s about what you can do. You don’t find that in the gym. I’ve been able to make genuine friendships here. I want her to see that. Working out can be good. Just being active can be good. It’s something you can make friends through."

How did your body image change after going through pregnancy and childbirth?
"I didn’t want to look at my body for a very long time [after giving birth]. But during the pregnancy, I was excited to finally have a growing tummy. At seven or eight months, I could tell my daughter was going to be a big baby. My stomach just kept on growing. Then came the stretch marks. Everyone else around me was able to enjoy my pregnancy, but I didn’t enjoy it as much as I would have liked to. I kept thinking, What’s going to happen? How am I going to look when she gets here? I really should have just been enjoying the experience of having a baby."
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3 of 16
Photographed by Andi Elloway.
What’s been the biggest physical change in your body since childbirth?
"My midsection, my stomach. I never really had abs before, but I’ve always been pretty petite. After having her, that extra skin never went away, and it’s probably not going to go away. I’m sure there are other parts of my body that changed, but I haven’t really paid attention. It took me years to come to terms with the fact that it’s changed. I’ve accepted it. It’s not for anyone else to worry about. I’ve accepted how I look. That’s that."

Is there anything you wish someone had told you about your body and how it would change before you got pregnant?
"I have a lot of aunts, so I kind of expected, if my body was going to change, what it would look like. There was a point in time when I was obsessed with watching A Baby’s Story, so I was kind of aware of what would happen, like, ‘Okay, this is what happens in the delivery room, this is what happens when a baby is growing inside of you.’ But I didn’t expect that I would get stretch marks. My mom doesn’t have any. I figured I should be fine."
4 of 16
Photographed by Andi Elloway.
Have you changed the way you talk about your body since becoming a mother?
"It took some time for that self-acceptance. One thing that my aunts and female cousins have is a lot of self-confidence. Being around them, that’s something I’ve learned. It’s not about what size you are, it’s not about what you physically look like. It’s whatever energy you put out. If you draw attention to the negatives, that’s what people are going to focus on. But if you think, 'This is what it is. I think I look good and that’s all that matters,’ that usually works."

Do you think the media shows moms like you very often?
"As far as the celebrity world, no. But with everyday women [on social media], it’s improving. It’s refreshing to see more and more women interested in being strong. It’s not so much about getting ‘beach body ready,’ it’s just about being the strongest version of you. It’s good to see there’s more of a variety of images now on social media. That’s really encouraging to see. Normal people, we look like this!"

Do you have any advice for mothers who want to start being active?
"Online there are so many resources, tools, and groups that you can look out for. And don’t wait until the baby’s here to try to figure it out. You have all that time to get yourself mentally prepared. Because life’s going to be different [when the baby comes], and not every day’s going to be easy."
5 of 16
Photographed by Andi Elloway.
Sara, 38

How old is your son and what's his name?
"Caden, 2 years old."

What is your workout regimen?
"I’m a personal trainer and a triathlon coach. I lift weights, run, cycle, swim in the summer, yoga, and take a few classes here and there. I like to work hard, but I also have developed some injuries in the past two years from pregnancy and childbirth, so I have to hold myself back or I make them worse. I’m in physical therapy right now for biceps tendonitis and a shoulder imbalance"

How have you adapted your workout regimen to motherhood?
"My husband and I used to bike 40 to 75 miles on the weekends. I would run a lot more and was doing half marathons and half Ironman distance triathlons. Now I just don’t have that much time. If I fit in four 1-hour workouts a week, that's great! Although my job gets me moving more than most desk jobs, so I’m grateful for that. We also take my son along sometimes — running with a jogging stroller, hiking with a backpack, biking with a trailer hitch. I’m looking forward to when he can do some of this stuff with us."
6 of 16
Photographed by Andi Elloway.
How did childbirth change your view of your body?
"When I’m critical of my stomach flab, I think about how far it was actually stretched out. Also, I think about the fact that I’m not a young mom, so I definitely cut myself some slack on that."

What has been the biggest physical change in your body since childbirth?
"My legs have gotten stronger — carrying 40 extra pounds around towards the end of pregnancy kept my legs in shape, and I’ve capitalized on that since having Caden. Although my stomach is definitely the biggest change. I used to have a very small waist. It’s coming back, but taking a lot longer."

What do you wish people told you about how your body would change before childbirth?
"I train lots of women who are moms, so I knew what to expect."
7 of 16
Photographed by Andi Elloway.
What parts of your body are you most insecure about since becoming a mother?
"I don’t necessarily think I’m insecure about any body part because I’m a mother. Although I can feel how age is starting to creep in and how I’m just going to have to work that much harder."

How has being a mother changed the way you talk about your body?
"I’m pretty honest with my clients and friends about my body and the things that happened. I absolutely want to set a good example for Caden. I’m basically going to take the approach of introducing him to lots of different physical activities. He can pick and choose the ones he likes. We’ve already tried swimming, soccer, and next month we start gymnastics. He loves running, jumping, climbing, and his scooter, which he is still learning to ride."

What do you hope your children learn from your commitment to exercise?
"I would like him to develop a lifelong love of movement and physical activity."
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Photographed by Andi Elloway.
Michelle, 47

How old is your son and what's his name?
"Edwin, 22 months old."

What is your workout regimen?
"Walk as much as possible. Yoga one to two times a week. Sunday, my mother watches my son so that I can go to yoga. I really look forward to it."

How have you adapted your workout regimen to motherhood?
"Working out less, unfortunately. To go to the gym, I either have to go when my nanny is working, but most of the classes offered by my gym happen early in the morning or after work. I am a single mom, so early morning workouts are out since no one can stay with my son at six in the morning. I miss it and know now that he is older I need to make even more effort to get to the gym."

Fullbeauty top, Lane Bryant leggings.
9 of 16
Photographed by Andi Elloway.
How did childbirth change your view of your body?
"It really did not affect me, except I am still amazed that I made this beautiful being."

What has been the biggest challenge since childbirth?
"Keeping up with a consistent workout schedule."

What do you wish people told you about how your body would change before childbirth?
"How tired you will be but still able to function."
10 of 16
Photographed by Andi Elloway.
What parts of your body are you most insecure about since becoming a mother?
"My stomach."

How has being a mother changed the way you talk about your body? Do you want to set an example for your kids?
"I am who I am. I am a strong woman who decided she wanted to have a baby and went for it. I have never regretted my decision. My son was made out of pure love."

What do you hope your children learn from your commitment to exercise?
"It is part of your life, and never take for granted what you can do today. Enjoy life and nature."
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Photographed by Andi Elloway.
Nancy, 41

What are your children's names and ages?
"My daughter’s 24 and my son is 19. My daughter’s Crystal and my son is William."

What is your workout regimen?
"Olympic lifting, which consists of two movements. One is called a snatch, where you take the bar off the ground straight overhead, and the second movement is called the clean and jerk, where you take it off the ground onto your shoulders and then you jerk it overhead. It’s about perfecting the technique."

When did you get into Olympic lifting?
"When I started CrossFit. This was about four years ago. I started CrossFit and I realized I was lacking in those areas — those movements — so I started to look for a club that specified in just Olympic lifting."

Forever 21 sports bra, GapFit bottoms, model's own shoes.
12 of 16
Photographed by Andi Elloway.
Has motherhood inspired you to work out?
"Yeah, our bodies change so much! Once I gave birth, I didn’t like my body at all. I’d always be in oversized jeans and oversized shirts. I just felt big. Even though my husband would say I looked fine, I knew he’d never look at me in [a negative] light. You start looking at yourself differently, because everything’s not the same. It’s like a shock to your body, like, ‘What happened? Why are my breasts like this? Why is my butt like this?’ That’s how, as a woman, I felt, constantly judging myself. Then you might compare yourself to someone else who just had a kid and snapped back, and you’re like, ‘Why didn’t that happen to me?’"

Do you think a lot of mothers compare themselves to other mothers?
"Yes. We all do. There are women where you’re like, ‘Oh, I want to look like that.’ You’re always trying to look like someone else. You’re never satisfied with who you are. But now, after working out, I feel comfortable. I’m not looking in that direction anymore. It’s also an age thing for me. I’m older. I’m not going to have the same type of skin as a 20-year-old. You start learning your body, ‘This is me and I feel comfortable like this.’"

Has going through pregnancy and childbirth changed your body image?
"I sometimes still can’t process that we’re able to create a human. Sometimes I think, ‘I got these stretch marks because I created two humans!’ But I never saw it as a positive thing. I always thought, ‘Why can’t we just go back to normal?’ (Laughs.) I don’t know, it’s just weird."

What has been the biggest change that you noticed in your body after childbirth?

"I had stretch marks in my breasts and all over my back. I know a lot of women who get them in the stomach, but I didn't have those."
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13 of 16
Photographed by Andi Elloway.
Did your strength or endurance change after childbirth?
"Yes. I had no upper-body strength. I couldn’t do pull-ups, I couldn’t do push-ups. But in my mind, I thought I still had the same strength to pull myself up. What you thought you could handle, you can’t handle."

Is there anything you wish someone would have told you before you got pregnant?
"I wish I had known it all — the change, the stretch marks, gaining weight — how you cannot control your weight after giving birth is amazing to me. I feel like I dieted and tried to exercise and it was just at a standstill. I couldn’t do anything to control it. I guess I was just trying to starve my body."

After all that you’ve been through, do you feel a deeper sense of self-love now?
"I do. I accept my body 1000% more now and appreciate it more now than I did before."
14 of 16
Photographed by Andi Elloway.
Do you try to avoid being too negative about your body around your children?
"I try not to talk about my body. If she sees me getting dressed, she’ll be like, ‘You look so nice in that,’ or something. I accept it but don’t really make it an issue. I don’t want her to think that her body is bad. I tell her, as we get older, we have to maintain our health. It affects us much faster than when you’re young. But I feel like, because I know so much now, she’ll come to me if she’s having a problem."

Are you glad you can set an example?
"Yes. I had posted a photo of me doing Olympic lifting a few months ago, and my daughter’s boyfriend was like, ‘Oh my god, I’ve never seen someone’s body do that. I see photos in magazines and I think that’s fake, but then I see your mom, and it’s so amazing and inspiring.’ I almost teared up because someone else actually said that about me. It felt so powerful. He actually called me to tell me that. I wanted to cry."

Is this the kind of mom you envisioned yourself being?
"I never thought in a million years. I just wanted to be, you know, ‘the runner’ who’s fit. I never thought I would be lifting weights. Never in a million years. Now I just look forward to it. I can’t wait to lift two pounds more than that. It’s almost like an addiction. Instead of 135 pounds, I want to do 145 pounds. Every day is a challenge."

Do you have any advice for mothers who may want to be more active?
"It’s like everything else. You have to make time for it. I encourage my kids to be active. Don’t stop living because you have a child, especially if you want to change. It’s a long process."
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Photographed by Andi Elloway.
Moha, 34

How old is your son and what's his name?
"Viraj, 16 months old."

What is your workout regimen?
"Three to four days a week, I go to the gym at Chelsea Piers Athletic Club. Most days are a combination of cardio — elliptical, step machine, running, bike for 25 to 35 minutes — resistance training — circuits of three to four exercises like lunges, deadweight lifts, balance ball abs, planks, squats — and stretching. Once a week I try my best to go to fitness classes. Barre is my favorite, and I try to go at least once a week, otherwise zumba and TRX or yoga."

How have you adapted your workout regimen to motherhood?
"Since I work full time, I make it a priority on my days off or shorter working days to get to the gym. I also try to walk around the neighborhood or go to the beach with the baby when the weather is nicer, especially if I don’t go to the gym that day.

"I pay more money than I would like to for an athletic club with pool, fitness classes and babysitting, but I’m glad I do, because otherwise I probably wouldn’t be as motivated to go to the gym and exercise as frequently."

How did childbirth change your view of your body?
"I felt extremely insecure about my body after I got pregnant. Throughout the pregnancy and after having a baby, I felt unappealing every day. Even though I exercised and ate a healthy, well-balanced diet, I felt like I had failed as a woman and as a wife, since I didn’t look how I looked a couple of years ago. Childbirth made me so anxious about how my body looked physically.

"Over the past year, I’ve slowly realized how amazing my body actually is — my body nourished my baby for 10 months in the womb, had a vaginal delivery, and breastfed my baby for six months. Now in retrospect, I am actually thankful for having a healthy body that has supported my baby’s early days in the world."

Model's own leggings and socks.
16 of 16
Photographed by Andi Elloway.
What has been the biggest physical change in your body since childbirth?
"My abdominals and waist have become much larger and flabbier than I anticipated, and it takes me longer to actually maintain a healthy weight with exercise and diet."

What do you wish people told you about how your body would change before childbirth?
"I wish people would have told me how hard it would be for my body to get back into shape, and how difficult breast-feeding would be."

How has being a mother change the way you talk about your body?
"When I would talk to my husband about my body, I had such an unhealthy, negative attitude after having a baby. Last year, I used to make a daily ritual of getting dressed for work or going out — I'd complain about how I looked, how nothing would fit me, and how I would never be attractive again.

"Now, I think twice before I complain about my body. I am trying to suck up some of my vanity and buy a bigger size, and I spend less time focusing on how big I am. I also realize that I am too busy and too tired to count calories and track inches!

"I like to spend more time figuring out how we can make healthy choices, like healthy eating, and healthy habits, like taking the stairs or getting outside when we have nice weather."

What do you hope your son learns from your commitment to exercise?
"I hope my son learns that exercise can be really fun, and that exercise not only makes you feel better on the inside, but also helps you with self-confidence, and it's a great way to bond with your family."
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