New Moms Post Amazingly Honest Photos — No Airbrushing or Filters

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A mom of two bares her post-baby body for the empowering Instagram account called Take Back Postpartum. Photo: Take Back Postpartum/Instagram

It’s no secret that many women struggle with weight loss and poor body image after giving birth. And the Internet isn’t always the most friendly place to seek comfort. But a recently launched Instagram account called Take Back Postpartum aims to remind women that a mother’s body is beautiful.

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The Instagram-account-turned-body-positive-movement was started earlier this year by January Harshe, a 36-year-old mother of six (her youngest was born in February) from Austin, Tex., who was frustrated to see advertisers using the #postpartum hashtag to market weight-loss products to women. “How in the world did this happen?!” Harshe, who also created Birth Without Fear, a conference series on empowering pregnancies, wrote on her blog. “It’s like there has been a sneak attack in the middle of the night. Well, I’m outing it right here and now…LET’S TAKE BACK POSTPARTUM. We are mothers and strong women. Our collective voice is so powerful that we can shake the entire world. Why a hashtag? It’s a start. It’s a movement. It’s a way to speak up and say this is not OK.”

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Instagram account creator January Harshe with her baby daughter. (Photo: January_Harshe/Instagram)

Harshe asked her readers to use the hashtag #postpartum each time they uploaded photos of their bodies or children. “That first day, 2,500 people responded with the hashtag,” Harshe tells Yahoo Parenting, adding that she created the hashtag #takebackpostpartum after her followers coined the phrase. Now the Instagram account has more than 15,000 followers who regularly share their rawest, most personal photos — stretch marks, soft stomachs, C-section scars, and all.

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“It can be scary to post these types of photos but they’re important to see because everyone is insecure about something, and that includes thin women, who we can’t exclude from the body-positive conversation,” says Harshe. “I want to take back the word ‘fat’ and give it new meaning — the other day my 5-year-old daughter said very matter-of-factly, ‘Mommy, your stomach is huge!’ In the past, that would have hurt my feelings but I answered, ‘Yes it is, because I created six human beings.’ Fat doesn’t have to be bad.”

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Photo: Take Back Postpartum/Instagram

That’s a message that Harshe, who never steps onto a scale, tries to instill in her six children. “I want to normalize the variations in motherhood for them,” she says.

It’s much-needed encouragement in a sea of negative messages about body image. On Monday, singer Pink shot back at online commenters who remarked that she looked “fat” in a recent paparazzi shot. “I feel beautiful,“ she tweeted to her 26 million followers. She underscored her message by sharing an anecdote about her daughter: “Willow said to me the other day whilst grabbing my belly - ’mama-why r u so squishy?’ And I said..’b/cuz I’m happy baby.’” Meanwhile, online companies sell baby onesies that read “I Hate My Thighs” and apps that mock eating disorders, such as “Rescue the Anorexia Girl” (pulled from Amazon in April after public outcry).

But women like Harshe are leading change. In March, Rachel Hollis, a 32-year-old mother of two, posted a photo of her bikini-clad “permanently flabby” body to Facebook. In the caption, she described her “saggy” belly button and stretch marks, then wrote, “They aren’t scars ladies, they’re stripes and you’ve earned them. Flaunt that body with pride!” Hollis’ photo went viral with thousands of moms praising her honest depiction of motherhood and sharing snapshots of their own postpartum bodies on social media.

And in March, the Internet cheered when blogger and mom-of-four Joanna Venditti shared her body image struggles and posted un-retouched photos of herself before, during, and after carrying twins. “It’s shocking to me that this is a new conversation,” she told Yahoo Parenting. “It seems almost barbaric that it’s such a novel concept to stop and give our bodies credit for what they’ve been through.”

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