PARENTS

25 Moms Bare Their Bodies And Souls In 'The Honest Body Project'

05/11/2015 01:35 pm ET | Updated Sep 23, 2015

Photographer Natalie McCain hopes that her portraits of mothers will help other moms feel proud of their bodies and show that confidence to their daughters.

McCain's "Honest Body Project" is a series of intimate photographs of mothers, along with meaningful quotes from the photographer's correspondence with them. "The portraits show their joy, their beauty, their imperfections, and their love for their children," she told The Huffington Post. "Paired with their stories, it paints a beautiful, honest picture of motherhood."

The photographer was inspired to create The Honest Body Project about a year ago after seeing a friend struggle with body image and depression. "It opened my eyes to a serious growing issue with young girls today," she said, noting the harmful effects of social media. But McCain thinks that mothers can play a major role in combatting this pressure to look perfect.

"Learn to love your body, and in turn, set a good example and start conversations with your children about how women really look."

honest body project
Natalie McCain and her daughter

This attitude is one the photographer tries to live out in her own life. "My son thinks my soft, mushy stomach is the best pillow in the world. My daughter once told me that my 'muffin top' looked like a pool floatie around my stomach," she said. "I could've been upset and hurt over the comment, but instead I chose to laugh and picked her up and said, 'well let's go to the beach then!' When you change your inner voice, your entire world changes."

Though her subjects were at first nervous about exposing themselves in such a visually and emotionally raw manner, the photographer said they ultimately described the experience as "empowering" and "healing." "The truth is that this has been healing me, as well."

One subject who especially moved McCain was a woman named Geralyn, who had given birth to a stillborn son. "Loss is something we generally do not talk about publicly," the photographer said, adding, "She wants to share her story with the world, and to let other mothers in her situation know that they are not alone."

Making other mothers feel less alone is a key goal in The Honest Body Project, the photographer said. "Everyone has insecurities, whether you are a size 0 or a size 18."

To support The Honest Body Project and view Natalie McCain's photos, keep scrolling and visit the series' website, Facebook page, YouTube video and Go Fund Me page.

  • 1
    The Honest Body Project / Natalie McCain
    "My stretch marks don't bother me-they are a constant reminder of what my body did, and what it did was pretty sweet."
  • 2
    The Honest Body Project / Natalie McCain
    "It bothers me how much attention is being put on the so called 'Mommy Wars.' I feel if you are taking care of your children, that's all that matters. Breastfeeding? That's awesome! Bottle feed? That's awesome, too! Babywear? So cool! Use a stroller? Good for you! Disposable diapers? Cloth diapers? As long as nothing leaks, that's great! At the end of the day, we should celebrate one another for our accomplishments for raising and taking care of our children."
  • 3
    The Honest Body Project / Natalie McCain
    "Becoming a mommy has change me in so many ways. My priorities have definitely changed. Before Lennon came into my life I always said I could NEVER be a stay at home mom... And then she was born. After that (and A LOT of tearful conversations with my very supportive husband) we made the decision that I would get to stay home. Funny how you can be so hell-bent on a decision one minute, and throw that decision out the door the moment your child enters into your life. I am fortunate enough that my husband's job allows me this opportunity, and I wouldn't change a second of the time I get to spend with my baby girl."
  • 4
    The Honest Body Project / Natalie McCain
    "I am beautiful and I know this because it is what I tell myself. Sometimes I will stand in front of the mirror and tell my self I am beautiful. Why? Because I am. My body is beautiful. My body is a sacred space, where 3 beautiful babies have grown. And hopefully a couple more. My husband makes me feel so beautiful, my kids make me feel beautiful. And I am beautiful, even on my worst days."
  • 5
    The Honest Body Project / Natalie McCain
    "I've always wanted to be a mom. Even when I was a little girl, you could find me playing house and taking care of my babies. My mom would so often ask me what I wanted to be when I got older and I would always answer 'be a mom.'"
  • 6
    The Honest Body Project / Natalie McCain
    "Growing up, I was most insecure about my boobs, which were always large. After becoming a mother, I would say my stretch marks and loose skin on my stomach. In thinking about how to answer this question I had to ask myself, why? I think people, whether they intend to or not, judge a book by it's cover, and so maybe I am more insecure about if/when they judge me, will I be able to NOT ALLOW it to affect me?"
  • 7
    The Honest Body Project / Natalie McCain
    "As a child I struggled with anxiety and I have to admit it has followed me into adulthood at least to some extent. I've always been more of a 'slow to warm' type of person and my children remind me so much of myself. Sometimes when I'm telling them that they are safe and to breathe with me, I feel tears come to my eyes because I'm telling myself the same thing in those moments. We are learning together; my children are guiding me as much as I'm guiding them!"
  • 8
    The Honest Body Project / Natalie McCain
    "I regret being so self conscious about my body for most of my life. Even to this day I will find myself in the shower, pulling and poking at my imperfections. I decided to be apart of this project in hopes that I could learn to accept my body for what it is and learn to love myself."
  • 9
    The Honest Body Project / Natalie McCain
    "I've walked a road that has no name. There's no right and wrong, it's just a journey that continues and changes every day. Every day I am faced with a choice of how I am going to remember Alex and how I am going to allow myself to be defined by him not being here. Every day I choose to remember him and I choose to persevere."
  • 10
    The Honest Body Project / Natalie McCain
    "My life pivoted when I returned home with my husband, completely empty-armed. But it didn’t stop me from trying everything in my power to continue to nurture my life without him. I wanted to be able to be the best mother I could be, and embracing motherhood without my baby was my goal, and I never looked back."
  • 11
    The Honest Body Project / Natalie McCain
    "The Honest Body Project is important. We need this. Our daughters and sons need to know what women look like – beyond a Victoria's Secret catalog. We are awesome and shouldn't give a f@%k if we're not perfect. If someone doesn’t like it, they can look away. No one will make them look at these images, and if they look for more than an instant, this project will have served its purpose: they have, consciously or not, realized that every woman's body is a work of art. You are a work of art. You have a story. Be brave, be bold, tell that story. Go down in history. You are radical!"
  • 12
    The Honest Body Project / Natalie McCain
    "Sometimes I feel damn proud of my stretch marks. Sometimes they are a gross reminder that my body will never look the same again. I struggle with the idea that I will somehow return to my former pre child physical self. I look at myself in the mirror and my belly squishes over the top of my pants. I stand up straighter, suck it in, try a couple different angles and then say to myself 'F**k it. This is what I'm wearing today. It is appropriate for my body because I just put it on my body.'"
  • 13
    The Honest Body Project / Natalie McCain
    "I was never comfortable in my body until I became a mother ... Becoming a mother was my saving grace. For a long while I simply found relief in my body doing what it was meant to do, that my curves finally served a useful, wholesome, purpose. Then joy, I am most at home in my own skin when I'm using it grow someone else. Someday soon, I will have to face myself about who I am without my children. I dread that day, but welcome it. I am ready to love my body, I just haven't figured out how."
  • 14
    The Honest Body Project / Natalie McCain
    "Society has this misconception that raising a child with special needs is isolating, lonely, and sad ... that we spend most of our time grieving. This is not truth. This child, with his special needs, makes me crazy happy. He is amazing. There have been moments of grief and sadness, but it's not our daily reality. Our reality is love and happiness ... it's blissful to a point of feeling like I might burst."
  • 15
    The Honest Body Project / Natalie McCain
    "I never expected my dreadlocks to be such a spiritual journey for me. I realize now that I had a really irrational attachment to my hair. It was long and straight and beautiful and I think I hid behind it for a long time. When I put in my dreadlocks, it was terrifying. And liberating! It made me realize that I am who I am, and my hair or my skin or my body has nothing to do with the person that I am inside. Take me or leave me, but I love who I've become. "
  • 16
    The Honest Body Project / Natalie McCain
    "Being mom to all boys is an adventure. And terrifying. What I say and do will shape their view of women for their whole life. So mamas of baby girls, pray for me, I'm doing my best."
  • 17
    The Honest Body Project / Natalie McCain
    "My daughter was a C Section after 5 days of labor. I'm in several groups, and there is a lot of talk about wishing our bodies didn't fail. How a "traditional" birth would have been better, and how did we wind up here. I can tell you I didn't plan on a C section. I didn't want a C Section....but my body didn't fail. This body that has seen surgeries, tumors, and incredible loss didn't fail one bit. I may not have had some ideal birth, but any body that can make such a beautiful, funny, smart, blue eyed baby girl like the one I have been blessed with, did everything I needed it to. She's alive, I'm alive, and no scar or procedure will take that away from me."
  • 18
    The Honest Body Project / Natalie McCain
    "When the pressures of motherhood are piling up on me, I try to take a deep breath and remind myself that if at the end of each night my kids feel loved and supported, then I am succeeding."
  • 19
    The Honest Body Project / Natalie McCain
    "I got my first stretch marks not during pregnancy but when I was ten years old ... The stretch marks showed up on my thighs and my backside as my curves began to take shape at this early age. As if the physical marks weren't enough to make a young girl start to become self-conscious, it was around this time that older boys in school with me started making comments about my body. Comments inappropriate for a 10-year-old girl by anyone’s standards. Over the next several decades I have finally come to embrace those curves and accept them as part of who I am. In fact, those curves are something my husband absolutely loves about me. I try now, as a mother, to talk about my body with kind words, in hopes that my sons will grow up to be respectful of all women, no matter their shape."
  • 20
    The Honest Body Project / Natalie McCain
    "My children are all so different. Sometimes I wonder how it is possible to have created 3 people with such very different personalities. I find myself learning from them on a daily basis. Asher teaches me about grace and mercy, Walter teaches me about patience and sanctification, and Henry teaches me how to enjoy a moment before it passes and how important it is to slow down and be present. We always praise our parents and say how much we appreciate them when we are older, but now I believe it is us, the parents, that are truly the blessed ones."
  • 21
    The Honest Body Project / Natalie McCain
    "Becoming a mother, I would say, has not changed me (don't get me wrong...it has definitely changed my life), but it has amplified my true self. The process of crossing over the threshold from maiden to mother has taught me my true physical strength and endurance, my mental and emotional capacities and has caused me to evolve and grow spiritually because of those things. One of the biggest changes in my life this crossing brought about for me, was a shift in perspective regarding what I would allow for myself, the way I would allow myself to be treated, and it gave me the strength to let go."
  • 22
    The Honest Body Project / Natalie McCain
    "This beautiful body has extra padding around the hips, which is actually perfect because my son loves to be held on my hip. I have the perfect amount of cushion to hold him and do 10 million other things without throwing my back out. He always loops his arm around mine and settles in so sweetly against me."
  • 23
    The Honest Body Project / Natalie McCain
    "I used to be embarrassed to say I used formula. I would go out of my way to avoid mixing a bottle in public because I was afraid I would be looked down on. Then I came to my senses. Why should I be embarrassed? I'm feeding and nourishing my child and he's happy and healthy. That's all that matters."
  • 24
    The Honest Body Project / Natalie McCain
    "[Meeting my husband and having our baby] have changed me in profound ways. I am softer; heart and body … and it’s okay. It’s like all of the layers of protection I had carefully constructed have been peeled away and I’m exposed. It felt very uncomfortable for a while, but I love this person. I love the person I’ve become; deep feeling, empathetic, and vulnerable. I am not only capable of loving others; I am finally capable of receiving it. That is so much more important than I ever realized. Being open to receive love from others and from myself knowing that I deserve it, has been life changing for me."

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