work life balanceImagine having a baby and then baring your postpartum belly for all the world to see. Sounds like a nightmare, no? Sure, some women bounce right back and would gladly show off their assets, but most moms I know are insecure about that loose skin that just won’t go away no matter how many crunches they do or how much weight they lose. Oh, motherhood.

You can now feel better about your own postpartum belly thanks to a group of working moms-slash-bloggers in Connecticut who have boldly appeared before the camera in nothing but a sports bra and yoga pants. Their aim? To show what real women’s bodies look like and encourage moms to embrace their post-baby bods – stretch marks and all. (It looks kind of like a Dove campaign, but here there’s no giant corporation behind the project.)

The photos are worth checking out for the diversity of body types alone. The seven women, all part of  CT Working Moms – an online community for women balancing work and family – are all in their 30s and with kids ranging from 8 months to 8 years old. We caught up with Michelle Noehren, one of the brave moms pictured (she’s on the far left), to get the inside scoop on what postpartum bellies really look like and the thinking behind the project

Mommyish: What prompted you to participate in such a bold initiative?
Michelle Noehren: We talk a lot about how hard our society is on women’s bodies, especially women who have recently had babies. Seeing celebs that look like they never even had a child can make other moms feel badly about themselves. We felt like doing something to combat our country’s unattainable beauty ideals so we decided to bear our own bellies in order to be a positive example for other moms. We spend way too much time each day hating our bodies – and our bodies did an amazing thing by growing one or multiple human beings.

Mommyish: What were some of the challenges involved in posing in a sports bra and posting the photos live for all the world to see?
MN: Every single one of us felt a little nervous about taking off our shirts – even in front of each other! But once the shirts were off all the ladies were giving each other compliments and we felt great right away. For me, I’ve never even worn a bikini to the beach before so showing my tummy was (and is!) a big deal for me.

Mommyish: What do you hope to accomplish with these series of photographs? What message are you hoping to send to women?
MN: We want women to feel supported. Even if you are looking to lose a little weight, we should still be proud of our bodies as they are, right now. The vast majority of us do not look like the models we see in magazines and we don’t have access to the same type of support that celebrities do. We want moms to embrace their post-baby bodies, stretch marks and all!

Mommyish: What type of feedback have you received so far? Any negative response?
MN: It’s funny, people have been critical from both sides. Some people think we are not heavy enough – that we somehow found the time in our busy schedules to “train” before snapping the photos, and others think that several of us are fat (nice word, right?).

So many celebrity moms – everyone from Beyonce to Victoria Beckham – snap back into shape the minute their baby pops out (never mind those Victoria Secret models!). Is this setting unrealistic expectations for regular ol’ moms? What type of negative effect is it having on women?

Lots of people will say that women should just know that celebs have access to support that regular moms don’t – many have personal chefs and personal trainers – so we shouldn’t compare ourselves to them. But the reality is that women are affected by the media. We see images of celebs and models dozens of times a day, even if we’re trying to avoid it. The media’s influence spreads far and wide and the media sends the message to women that unless we are thin we aren’t beautiful.

I honestly believe, and can say from personal experience, that many of us spend way too much time each day hating our bodies. We might accomplish great things in our family lives, in our careers – but we are still hard on ourselves about the way we look – to the point that it can take away from other successes. We can’t allow this to continue!

Mommyish: What’s amazing about these photos is the range of body types portrayed. Was that a deliberate move or more of a happy accident?
MN: It truly was a happy accident!