Last summer, photographer and body love evangelist Jade Beall told HuffPost Parents that society faced "an epidemic of women who feel unworthy of being called beautiful," and shared her dream to cure this confidence crisis.
The Arizona artist was using Kickstarter to fund a book project; she hoped to publish a volume of images showing the natural beauty of mothers' nude and semi-nude bodies. Her crowdfunding campaign was extremely successful -- raising nearly three times its goal amount -- and now, the book is here. The Bodies of Mothers: A Beautiful Body Project, featuring portraits and accompanying personal stories, will be published on Mother's Day.
The date is fitting, since so much of Beall's work documents how women who give birth come to accept, appreciate and love the body changes associated with nine months of carrying a child.
In the introduction, Beall recounts a history of discomfort with her own appearance -- and explains how, after much soul-searching, pregnancy ultimately helped her see her body through fonder eyes. Her son, Sequoia, is now 2.
She told HuffPost over email this week that she has photographed hundreds of women for the project, and most of them were petrified. "But [they were] fully committed to redefining our culture's concept of what is truly and truthfully beautiful: diversity," Beall says.
Negative feedback has come in too, of course -- but the photographer embraces criticism, saying it helps her grow. The main concern she hears is from people who question whether showing women in this way actually objectifies them in the style of less sensitive media she rejects.
"For the message I want to give, which is 'you are beautiful in the skin that you are in,' I need women volunteers who are comfortable and completely OK with showing skin," Beall says in response to those critics. "This does not mean that I don't equally honor my sisters who do not wish to show their skin. I just want to show the irreplaceably beautiful story of our skin."
Asked for the one piece of body image advice she'd give pregnant women who have yet to experience childbirth, she offered encouraging words:
Your body is a masterpiece and deserves to be praised by all humanity! You are exquisite and if your body changes a little or a lot after birth, celebrate your change! It's an honor that thousands of other women can only dream of having. Relax into your perfection and be kind to yourself! Being a mother is challenging enough without despising our beautiful and powerful bodies.
It all comes back to Beall's fundamental message: "In a world that desperately is in need of leaders of compassion," we must celebrate our fellow humans of every shape, style and philosophy -- beginning with ourselves.
Tattoo by Melanie Nead, Icon Tattoo, Portland, Oregon.