7 Women Share The Pain And Joy Of Pregnancy In Tender Photo Shoot

No two pregnancies are the same.
With her "Honest Body Project," photographer Natalie McCain wants to help women of different shapes, sizes and backgrounds feel beautiful and empowered.
The latest addition to the project is a maternity photo series she calls "The Beaty In A Mother." "I wanted to help show how different everyone's bodies look during pregnancy and show that no matter what size you are, pregnancy is beautiful!" McCain told The Huffington Post. "I want to encourage new mothers to love their body and feel comfortable in their skin. "
"The Beauty In A Mother" features intimate portraits of expectant mothers, along with quotes from the photographer's conversations with them. One image and quote from the series that McCain posted on Facebook really resonated with commenters and received over 36,000 likes.
The Honest Body Project/Natalie McCain

I'm 35 weeks pregnant and just last week I had maternity pictures taken to celebrate this horrible, but beautiful pregnancy. For the first time in about 35 weeks I felt beautiful, and was so excited to share this moment with my friends and family. Later that day we got the sneak peak pictures back and I posted them on Facebook thinking my friends and family would think I was beautiful and would love them, however that wasn’t the case. All I received were negative comments about how huge I am, about how unhealthy I am, and about how they think my baby is going to be a 10 to 12 pound baby by the looks of how much I weigh. I literally went in the bathroom and cried for hours. It’s so hard being plus size, pregnant, sick, and getting negative comments about the way I look. If I’m happy and accepting of my body, why can’t everyone else just be happy for me?!

The women in the photos represent many different experiences, from health scares and fertility struggles to postpartum anxiety and body image issues.
"Pregnancy is a time in a woman's life when everyone feels open to speak about your body," McCain said. "They comment on your size, shape, weight gain, insist you have another child hiding in your stomach, etc. It can be really hard for a woman to come to terms with the changes her body is going through and having strangers make these snap judgements can really wear you down."
The photographer hopes her photos show moms-to-be around the world that they are not alone in their struggles. She also wants to encourage people to share their stories and support one another and themselves. "The next time you start to talk negatively about your pregnant body, take a deep breath and try to change your inner voice," she said. "Instead of saying the negative thought, try to turn it into a positive. Tell yourself how beautiful you look."
Keep scrolling and visit The Honest Body Project website to see the women's photos and read their reflections on motherhood.
Captions have been edited and condensed.
The Honest Body Project/Natalie McCain
The Honest Body Project/Natalie McCain
“I love hearing my husband say I am an amazing mom, even when the house is a mess and I burned dinner, it means more then you’re sexy, smart or beautiful.”
The Honest Body Project/Natalie McCain
“Advanced Maternal Age. Later Childbearing. These are terms I directly relate to pregnancy, as I have fallen into these categories since first giving birth at 35 and now at 38. I never thought we would wait 'so long' to have our first child, or that the routine practices which go along with older pregnant mothers would be the only way I would know.”
The Honest Body Project/Natalie McCain
“I love my body, I love my baby bump, my tiger stripes, my curves, my imperfections, my loving man, my supporting family and friends, and I’m done letting others influence how I feel about myself. I am beautiful, strong, and intelligent.”
The Honest Body Project/Natalie McCain
“I feel beautiful when I am pregnant! Normally I’m self conscious about my body, but during pregnancy, when I know that I am growing a beautiful new life, it’s easier for me to embrace my curves and appreciate my body for what it is able to do.”
The Honest Body Project/Natalie McCain
“It’s okay to mourn not having the birth you wanted. A [physically] healthy mom and baby isn’t ‘all that matters’. With my second delivery coming soon, I’m afraid I’ll have regrets again or disappoint myself, so I’m going to work hard at making myself proud.”
The Honest Body Project/Natalie McCain
“I cried and threw up when I saw the positive pregnancy test -- my life literally flashed before my eyes and I cried like I lost a giant piece of myself forever. I couldn’t imagine even being happy about having a baby. The second time I found out I was pregnant, my first baby was … just that still a baby, still needed me. I still needed her. I cried because I wasn’t ready to give up my time to another yet. I just wanted to hold onto her being a baby for as long as I could and I spent every moment with her like it was my last."
The Honest Body Project/Natalie McCain
“My favorite part of pregnancy is after labor is done, and they hand me my baby. After all my struggles, I am extremely grateful that I can get pregnant and have my healthy babies. That does not make me hate pregnancy any less. I find it miserable, and if I had the money, I would pay someone else to do it for me.”
The Honest Body Project/Natalie McCain
“It's hard walking around and looking at all these skinny pregnant women that look like they have a perfect baby bump, and I’m just sitting here looking like I exploded into a house. Don’t get me wrong, I love my baby bump and my boyfriend tells me I’m beautiful everyday, but it still is a constant struggle between what society keeps telling me, how I’m not beautiful, and how I feel. ... Let’s face it, making a human being is so hard and we deal with enough stress and body changes, we don’t need or deserve strangers, societies, or others negative comments about our bodies during this time. We need to support and embrace our beautiful curves.”
The Honest Body Project/Natalie McCain
“After my son was born, I experienced secondary infertility for several years, then the loss of a long awaited and very much wanted pregnancy. Those experiences have colored the way I’ve felt about subsequent pregnancies. I fell in love with my son, unreservedly and completely, the moment I saw the second line on the pregnancy test. I remember talking to him often while I was pregnant, telling him how much I loved him and how excited I was to meet him."
The Honest Body Project/Natalie McCain
“Everyone has an opinion on how you should deliver and raise your child, but only you know best.”
The Honest Body Project/Natalie McCain
“I feel like it’s not out there enough in the never been pregnant community, how uncomfortable the whole nine months can be for many women. Sure there’s some moms that love it and escape misery, but it often comes with a lot of limitations and discomforts, on top of the worry, anxiety, excitement, stress.”
The Honest Body Project/Natalie McCain
“No one tells you how scary it is to poop after a vaginal delivery and that you leave the hospital still wearing maternity clothes.”
The Honest Body Project/Natalie McCain
“I never wanted to allow myself to have such deep feelings for another -- loving someone more than life itself and sacrificing whatever it takes for them. I was always scared and kept it out of reach ... Becoming a mother has forced me to feel again, the deepest most raw form of love and has forced me to open myself up and accept the happiness I never thought I deserved to know … the love of a mother.”
The Honest Body Project/Natalie McCain
“Something I have found particularly amazing -- much more so with this pregnancy than with my first -- is the support I’ve received from the community of women in my life. Especially my friends and family who are also mothers. The first time I was sure I knew it all and was very stubborn to take advice and compassion. This time, I feel so comforted just being around my tribe, who have also been through this rite of passage."
The Honest Body Project/Natalie McCain
“Seeing my baby looking in my eyes for the first time was the scariest moment of my life, facing true love and not being able to control my intense emotions for this little creature I was holding. I never would have imagined the intense bond we were to share and the love and internal need she has for me and me for her.”
The Honest Body Project/Natalie McCain
“I never truly focused on the things I put into and on my body until I became pregnant. Lotions, deodorants, processed foods, etc. Not a second thought of how they might affect my health. ... The moment I learned I had a child growing inside of me, I became very aware that the choices I was making for myself would have a lifelong impact on my child(ren) as well."
The Honest Body Project/Natalie McCain
“My daughter was a C-section after 5 days of labor. 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.”
The Honest Body Project/Natalie McCain
"I’ve always been scared to love with everything I have, but motherhood has made me face the ultimate love a human can have for one, the kind of love I have been running from my entire life and the feelings I have been avoiding feeling for so long are now forever at the forefront of my mind controlling my every instinct, move and thought process. All that matters to me is being the best mother I can be and giving my children everything I have."
The Honest Body Project/Natalie McCain
“Early in this pregnancy, I experienced bleeding and cramping. After an early ultrasound didn’t show a heartbeat and blood tests showed that my HCG levels were rising, but not very fast, I was sure we would lose the pregnancy. Thankfully, we saw a tiny, beating heart during a follow up ultrasound a week later, and I am so grateful to now be 34 weeks pregnant with a healthy, reassuringly active baby.”
The Honest Body Project/Natalie McCain
“After I had a miscarriage at 12 weeks in late October, I was devastated and did not even believe it was possible for me to be pregnant again, let alone 30 days after my D&C ... But Bradley my “Rainbow” baby and “tough guy” decided he wanted to join the world and come as a Christmas present to us. I was beyond excited and nervous, but was trying to stay positive. Little did I know, the next nine months of my life would be a living hell and push me to my breaking point multiply times. At eight weeks I was diagnosed with HG or hyperemesis gravidarum. Every single day, I puked at least 30 times and I would get so dehydrated I would almost faint. The hospital seemed to have a room just waiting for me to show up.”
The Honest Body Project/Natalie McCain
“My husband joined me at the first ultrasound. Before the doctor could even say anything, we both could quickly see that there were two! We were taken aback, but weren’t totally surprised with having so many risk factors, quick symptoms and a very high hCG. Regardless, it was still hard to really grasp and accept that there were two!"
The Honest Body Project/Natalie McCain
“In 2009 they found a growing mass in my abdomen. My left ovary was extremely large and due to a history of ovarian cancer needed to be removed. I was later diagnosed with endometriosis. Due to the severity, we weren’t sure if I would ever be able to have kids. A year later I was getting married and trying to get pregnant. It took Clomid and six months to conceive and the pregnancy ended at 16 weeks. After recovery we started trying again, and after seven months, and more medication, we succeeded once again. I lost that pregnancy at 12 weeks. After another 15 months I got pregnant with my daughter. I was in the high risk office monthly getting screens and she was perfectly healthy. We had our baby girl! Never in a million years did we expect seven months later we would find out we were expecting our second little girl! She is very healthy also. So after four years and two miscarriages I will have two little girls 14 months apart, and it blows my mind!”
The Honest Body Project/Natalie McCain
The Honest Body Project/Natalie McCain
The Honest Body Project/Natalie McCain
The Honest Body Project/Natalie McCain
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