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20 Powerful Photos That Show What Postpartum & Breastfeeding Really Look Like

In even the best circumstances, the postpartum experience for a birthing parent can be — is, we’d argue — overwhelming. Pregnancy and childbirth, however it happens, change our bodies in awe-inspiring and painful ways, hormones rule, and then there’s a tiny human who suddenly commands our full attention and captures our love. And as the birthing parent, it’s so easy to suddenly feel lost.

That’s just one reason why Life After Birth: Portraits of Love and the Beauty of Parenthood, a gorgeous new book from Knix founder and CEO Joanna Griffiths and Carriage House Birth founder and doula Domino Kirke-Badgley, is so welcome. The book is a celebration of the postpartum experience — and through breathtaking photos and touching personal stories from parents (including Ashley Graham, Amy Schumer, America Ferrera, Hannah Bronfman, and more), it sheds light on the entire spectrum of what that actually entails.

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Over email, Griffiths and Kirke-Badgley shared the book’s origin story, why it’s necessary, and what they hope to achieve by sharing these stories.

SheKnows: Can you share the impetus for this book with our readers? How did the idea come about, and how did it all come together?

Domino Kirke-Badgley: The book was born out of a need to connect. People wanted and needed to share their experiences of postpartum and beyond. We wanted to start a larger conversation about the reality of postpartum, off the screens!

Joanna Griffiths: ​​I first came up with the idea for Life After Birth when I was three days postpartum with my first child, Cole. Amidst a cloud of postpartum depression, I was seriously struggling with breastfeeding — all the while wear-testing nursing bras that my team had designed. The irony was not lost on me. When I went to my personal Instagram page to share my struggles I was overwhelmed by the hundreds of messages I received in return. It turns out I wasn’t alone. In a world of picture-perfect selfies, adorable Instagram babies dressed as little animals and the cringeworthy #blessed we had masked the real postpartum experience. We so quickly forget that in those precious few moments of birth, you’re introduced to someone else entirely new. And it’s not your baby — it’s you.

Life After Birth didn’t start as a book, but rather a photography exhibit in Soho, Manhattan. Never in our wildest dreams could we have anticipated the response. There wasn’t a dry eye in the house — ours included.

We wanted to find a way to commemorate these stories for a lifetime … In many ways, this book follows the path of the exhibit that started it all — a journey through hundreds of stories that takes you down the beautiful, messy, humbling, and transformative road that is life after birth.

SK: As a society, we place a great deal of focus on birth, and less, it seems, on the postpartum experience. Can you both talk about why that was an important aspect of this book?

DKB: I always liken it to getting married. As a society, we are obsessed with the wedding and the party, but so few think about the marriage. Postpartum is forever! If more people thought of it this way, we feel there would be a lot less isolation and depression. We would have less shame and put far less pressure on ourselves to “bounce back.”

JG: We created this project to change society’s postpartum narrative. Magazine headlines are dominated with stories of celebrities “bouncing back” and maternity leaves are shorter than ever. We talk about the “fourth trimester” but in doing so, are limiting that part of the journey to a mere 12 weeks. We believe in a different postpartum experience. Instead of viewing postpartum as a matter of days or weeks or months, we honored the experience for what it truly is and recognized that we are postpartum forever. We believe that the power of storytelling can help us change this narrative.

SK: I love the book’s aim “to normalize, celebrate and honor all postpartum and birthing experiences” — is there a particular experience you felt was especially underrepresented and thus important to showcase?

DKB: Real bodies. All ages. All thresholds. Life and death.

SK: What do you both wish more people knew about birth and the birthing experience, that you hope this book helps shed light on?

DKB: That giving birth and being postpartum has a lifelong impact. It’s not 9 months, then 6 weeks to recover, and then you’re done. We’re forever changed.

JG: We want people to understand that no journey and no experience are the same and yet they are all beautiful. They are filled with highs and lows, which culminate into a transformative experience that leaves you forever changed. Parenthood can be a very isolating experience and it’s easy to feel like you aren’t doing it right. We created this book to help build a beautiful community full of sacred stories that normalize, celebrate, and honor postpartum experiences.

 

Excerpted with permission. Life After Birth: Portraits of Love and the Beauty of Parenthood by Joanna Griffiths and Domino Kirke – Badgley © Rizzoli New York, 2021.

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