'Some women will cry, and I cry with them': Mother’s self-love captured in photography project


Photographer Jaime McLauchlan is capturing women for her Celebrate Postpartum Bodies project....
Photographer Jaime McLauchlan is capturing women for her Celebrate Postpartum Bodies project. Photo: Supplied via Ashburton Courier
Ashburton photographer Jaime McLauchlan has been packing a punch with a not-for-profit photography project, Celebrate Postpartum Bodies.

The project encourages mothers from around the country to celebrate their bodies and the mental and physical changes during and after pregnancy.

Behind the lens, Jaime uses simple but vivid black-and-white photographs to capture the figures of different mothers, focusing on the stomach, hips and breasts where changes are most often visible.

Jaime said she chooses to shoot in black and white because it eliminates the distraction of prejudice views related to different skin tones or shades. “It’s a very powerful way to look at a body,” she said.

Accompanying the photos are statements from the women, some sharing heartbroken truths about having not yet learned to love their body, though they appreciate the phenomenal work it did to grow another human being.

Jaime shares thought-provoking captions online.

Images from the Celebrate Postpartum Bodies Instagram account. Photos: Supplied
Images from the Celebrate Postpartum Bodies Instagram account. Photos: Supplied
They include the words of mothers who have experienced everything from joy and pride to heartache and embarrassment.

“I didn’t have any expectations for postpartum,” wrote one participant. “But I didn’t expect to hate it and love it at the same time.”

The individual voices and journeys are important, highlighting not only the stress the body goes through during pregnancy, birth, and postpartum, but also the hormonal and mental toll these changes take.

For most women, their bodies will never return to how they were prior to pregnancy.

“It’s a very emotional experience,” Jaime said. “Some women will cry during the photoshoot, and I cry with them.”

The focus of project is acceptance, enabling women of all shapes, colours, and sizes to embrace the changes their bodies go through and learn to love and respect every inch of themselves.

Jaime said feedback from women involved in the project is very positive. “They say it’s confronting, but also empowering. They felt seen. And they’re able to see themselves in a different light.”

Jaime has photographed over 130 women from Ashburton and surrounding areas so far, including herself.

Each person has their own journey, battle, and victory to share.

A mother of two, Jaime struggled with accepting her own postpartum body following an unplanned cesarean.

The heartbreak of not being able to birth her baby the way she had hoped did not just leave a mental scar, but a physical one, too.

“I didn’t look at my incision for weeks. It held a lot of emotional trauma for me and I decided ignorance was bliss.”

Jaime has shared her journey with others recognising the need to normalise the conversation.

“I can’t promote the acceptance of other women without accepting my own body. It’s not confidence, I don’t have confidence. I put it out there knowing it will help someone else.”

Photos: Supplied
Photos: Supplied
The idea behind the project first developed when Jaime became a new mum and realised a lot of other mothers she met harboured negative opinions of themselves and were nervous about how people would view their bodies.

“Social media shows you these pregnant women with perfectly round bumps and mothers with six-packs in yoga tights. It’s not real life.”

Jaime wants to change what is perceived as the taking to Instagram and Facebook to share her photos and show people motherhood cannot be defined by a single shape or size.

“It’s important for people to see all bodies out there. It’s important for everyone, even women who haven’t been pregnant, to see what postpartum is really like.”

Originally intended to be a coffee table book, Jaime would love to pursue an exhibition to help fund the dream, but for now is happy seeing the positive impact her project has on people struggling with their body image.

“Wear your stretchmarks and postpartum body like a badge of honour,” writes one of the project’s subjects. “Not everyone can have the privilege of growing a human.”

The next project shoot will be on September 18 from Jaime’s private home-based studio in Ashburton.

Bookings can be made via the CPPB Facebook and Instagram pages, and cost $20.

-By Indi Roberts



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