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'Life After Birth' Photo Exhibit Shows What Giving Birth Is Actually Like

They're not the kind of newborn photos you'll see on Facebook.

If you’ve never given birth, the dominant picture you have of bringing a baby into the world probably involves a smiling mother, tired but serene, cradling a calm and angelic child in her arms. Everyone looks ethereally healthy, and the lighting is probably great.

Of course, that isn’t the reality, and it’s so far from the truth that it can lead postpartum women — already dealing with physical pain, hormones run amok, and oh yeah, a newborn baby — to feel isolated.

That gap between expectation and reality is what the travelling Life After Birth photography exhibit is trying to combat. (Not to be confused with HuffPost Canada’s equally excellent but entirely unrelated Life After Birth video series.)

The exhibit, on now in Toronto until Sept. 26, features photos of more than 250 women postpartum, in all kinds of different post-birth situations: pain, joy, pride; baring their cesarean scars, weight gain, and diastasis recti.

A photo from the Life After Birth photo exhibit.
Arelys Hernandez / Life After Birth project
A photo from the Life After Birth photo exhibit.

HuffPost Canada had the chance to speak to two of the exhibit’s founders, Knix founder Joanna Griffiths and doula Domino Kirke of Carriage House Birth (who’s also the sister of Jemima Kirke of “Girls” fame), as well as doula and photographer Heather White.

Watch the video above to see our discussion about why so many experiences of pregnancy, birth and postpartum life are still shrouded in mystery, and how significant it can be to get them out in the open.

The Life After Birth exhibit is on display at 630 Queen St. W. in Toronto until Sept. 26, with portions of the proceeds going to CAMH’s treatment of postpartum depression. After leaving Toronto, the exhibit will go on to Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle, Dallas, Austin, Denver, and Minneapolis and Vancouver. They are still accepting submissions.

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