What do you think when you see a woman with a newborn baby? We’re led to expect to see someone whose body has completely snapped back to “normal”, someone who is totally in love with her child. Wrong. For many new mothers, postpartum life is scary and this isn’t spoken about enough.
Between the physical impact of birth and breastfeeding on a woman’s body to the mental strain of adapting to life as a parent and simply getting enough sleep, life after birth can be challenging, especially in a health system that can often prioritises checking the health of the baby more than the mother.
In a recent study by the pre and postnatal care app MUTU System, the majority of pregnant women (91%) said they did not feel they were given enough advice during pregnancy about postpartum recovery. Tens of thousands of women are also giving birth each year without a recovery plan in place.
Now the Australian brand Modibodi – the people behind the period pants and period swimwear we’ve previously tested at HuffPost – has teamed up with Getty Images to capture a fresh snapshot of the realities of postpartum life.
The Postpartum Unfiltered photo collection shows different women during the 12-month period after birth in a series of images taken by Getty photographers from around the world. The series aims to widen perspectives from simplistic postpartum narratives of “baby bliss” or “baby blues” to show the full range of emotions and physical realities of being a new mother.
The collaboration started when Modibodi was preparing to launch a range of reusable nappies and leak-proof bras, camisoles and briefs for breast-feeding.
“We found the images available were extremely limited,” explains Modibodi founder and CEO Kristy Chong. “Most postpartum images were disheartening photos of mums scared or frustrated. At the other end of the spectrum were glossy celeb mum and bub snaps. We knew this had to change.”
Chong, herself a mother of four, worries that portrayals of postpartum life in the media don’t show the reality for mothers surfing both the highs and lows.
“I’ve had four different postpartum experiences. Among the intense feelings of happiness and limitless love was a sense that I had to keep the challenging parts like loneliness, cracked nipples, postpartum bleeding, exhaustion and bladder leaks a secret,” she says.
Creating “authentic” images of what is an individual and personal experience wasn’t easy, admits Svetlana Zhukova, director of custom solutions at Getty Images. Photographers “tapped into their own families and friends to capture the very real perspectives from this vulnerable part of many women’s lives”.
Here are just some of the images from the collaboration – and the brands are encouraging you to share your own using the hashtag #postpartumunfiltered.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.