Women who have just given birth should go easy on themselves, ignore social pressures and feel proud of their bodies. Mums of every age need to be featured in the media – in all their un-airbrushed, post-pregnancy glory.
Kesia Archer says it’s been surreal to see images of herself on billboards and across social media. As one of ten new mums featured in Mothercare’s aptly named Body Proud Mums campaign, she’s pictured with her baby son, Eli, just 17 weeks after giving birth, displaying her post-pregnancy body — stretch marks and all — with pride.
It took a while for me to see myself in the mirror and think: This is how I’m going to look now.
“I wanted to show women there’s nothing to be ashamed of,” says Kesia. “Most of us have stretch marks — they’re completely normal. But it took a while for me to see myself in the mirror and think: ‘This is how I’m going to look now.’ A lot of new mums must be thinking exactly the same.”
Kesia, 21, also wanted to take part in the campaign to represent younger mums and feels they should be better represented in the media. “I think older mums are used more because that’s what newspapers and magazines think people want to see,” she says. “Actually, people want to see real mums, no matter their age. Look at us. None of us are models.”
Accept and celebrate your post-pregnancy body
Her favourite thing about being a mum — the bond she enjoys with Eli — hasn’t anything to do with age. “I don’t see too much difference between being older or younger,” says Kesia. “I’ve just started my journey into motherhood a bit earlier, that’s all.”
There might, however, be an unrealistic expectation that younger mums can more quickly return to their pre-pregnancy shape. “That’s an extra pressure,” she agrees. “But there’s already so much pressure on women. My advice to mums of any age is: ‘You’re looking after a child, and that’s the most important thing. Give yourself a little bit more time to adjust and embrace your new body.’ Some days I’ll try to get back into my old jeans and it can be really frustrating. But then I remember that it’s only been six months and my body has been through so much, so I’ve decided to go a bit easier on myself. It’ll happen when it happens.”
Feedback on the campaign from family and friends — and from women and men on social media — has been very supportive, says Kesia. “I’ve had messages from other mums saying how they’ve been inspired by the photos to feel more confident about themselves. I’ve also had comments from new dads saying they wish their partners would stop seeing their body as a negative and that they are so proud of them for carrying their child. It’s been overwhelming.”