The Huffington Post featured a great piece by Emma Mustich About a photo project started rather accidentally by photographer and mother, Jade Beall. The project focuses on the celebration and empowerment of mothers and their postpartum bodies. What started out as a healing process for herself, has turned into a healing joyful process for many others.

Babies. Fresh innocence. Toothless grins filled with wonder and joy. The sweet smell of baby wipes or talcum powder. The awe of what two people have managed to create – a brand new life – that is TOTALLY DEPENDENT ON YOU! OMG what have we done! As much as we love them, even when we’ve planned the whole thing out, that thought usually crosses a new parent’s mind at least once, even if it’s fleetingly. For most of us, it’s fleeting, we jump right in and within days can’t believe that our house was ever a home without this bundle of baby that just seems to trust us so easily. We put them first, ‘I’ just doesn’t seem so important, at least for a while.

And then, eventually, through all the diapers, spit up and drool (hugs, kisses, cuddles and snuggles too) we mom’s finally get a shower and look in the mirror. Most of us, no matter how beautiful we know we are, or others know we are, have to admit – we don’t look quite the same. Regardless of what the differences are, most of us do find differences. Whether it’s stretch marks, sagging or lopsided sore breasts, wider hips or bags under our eyes, we now need to reacquaint ourselves with our own bodies.

Some mothers are totally comfortable with the changes, others not so much. Some changes are more dramatic than others for moms. Some get off “easy” – they bounce back to their former selves, but a huge percentage of us don’t. Sometimes we put the pressure on ourselves, sometimes we perceive that pressure coming from our partner or from society around us. After all, in today’s society, we’re all supposed to be super moms.

I remember after I had my children that I was a little annoyed for all the reading I’d done, all the questions I’d asked, little was ever really said about what to expect from your own body. It was touched on but the theory of the day was – your breasts won’t sag, you don’t have to have stretch marks, your body can bounce back with little effort. Now maybe it was because I had my first child at 34 but, my body didn’t bounce back – it was decidedly different. People commented that I looked great after kids, how I’d lost my baby weight. I did look good, I was “lucky” – but my body wasn’t the same body it had been 9 months before. After my second baby 2 years later, it changed more. I’m not trying to say any of this is a bad thing – it’s part of the process of life, and truthfully, bodies change with or without babies helping them along. But regardless, my body was different and I needed to get used to that, I needed to learn to love my body the way it was now.  I needed to love myself including my body, and that was much easier said than done.

What struck me about the pictures that Jade Beall has taken is the natural everyday beauty of every subject who has and is experiencing life. It’s a beauty that goes far deeper than the exterior, the changes in the body. I finally realized that the beauty is blossoming from within and is visible in the joy in their eyes, their posture and the way they embrace their children.

I think the photos are beautiful, the women are beautiful, and Jade Beall’s approach and process is beautiful too. Watching Jade on the video interview from Huffington Post Live I felt her passion and sincerity.

It’s no wonder that she has us Rising Like Air and Seeing Beautiful all at once.

Jade has also posted some video about the project.

When asked if her project was in response to the many comments and judgements made about celebrities bodies during and after pregnancy, she replied,

“I’m not one who needs to point fingers, I just want to empower what I like to call my sisters, other women to feel authentically irreplaceable.” Like yes there are millions of beautiful women and I love to page through Vogue, it’s gorgeous, and I also feel like I have a right to feel beautiful even though I have acne, even though I’m a plus size…. I too have a right to feel beautiful.”

Wow, not worrying about pointing fingers, focusing on the beauty in all it’s forms and letting the rest take care of itself. I love how Jade can balance the fashion style of beauty and the natural style of beauty effortlessly.

If that isn’t enough to make a person feel like smiling she takes these beautiful portraits free of charge. It all started with one picture, one story and it has evolved into many wonderful, beautiful, inspiring stories captured in a portrait.

Jade Beall and her subjects gently challenge us to see beauty, motherhood, femininity and our bodies as they truly are – truly beautiful; even if these bodies may never grace the covers of a magazine like Vogue. Then again who knows for sure. Maybe one day they will. I hope so. It would be nice to think that society may embrace beauty that is real and natural rather than giving such importance to an ideal beauty that is for the most part elusive and quite often simply fantasy. I have no problem with fantasy, but I don’t want it to hide the beautiful reality that is right in front of me either.

Sadly, not everyone is able to embrace their own beauty or others. Jade blogged on July 18th that one of her beautiful subject’s own mother was unable to see not only her own beauty, but that of her daughter. Thankfully her daughter can see their beauty and is surrounded by other supportive people who can as well. I truly hope that Jade’s book project A Beautiful Body, helps people see the real beauty around them, in all it’s wondrous, miraculous and different forms.

We are all beautiful, we just have to choose to see it.

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