When Elise Grossman discovered she still looked pregnant several days after giving birth to a baby girl named Willa, the mom of three decided not to shame herself and instead took to Instagram to spread body positivity.
She asked a photographer to take pictures of her in her "rawest and most vulnerable state," in which she would display her postpartum body, covering her breasts while still showing her protruding belly, LittleThings reports.
Grossman subsequently posted the photos to Instagram, captioning one with: "Let’s talk postpartum bodies! ... Elated to have welcomed our beautiful girl and so empowered and proud of what my body and I had just done! It’s a strange feeling to look down and still see a bump, even though you’re holding your baby in your arms, even after doing it three times. It’s not easy to go home with a baby and still have to wear maternity clothes."
Grossman explained how she expected her body to "bounce back" after having her first child.
"No one told me the reality of the fourth trimester," Elise wrote in another Instagram post. "I had no idea you could still look so pregnant even after giving birth. Just like many women do, I too used to look up to the media, celebrities who would show off their supermodel like post-baby bodies just weeks after giving birth! I thought thats how it would be for me too.”
Grossman said she gained several pounds and more stretch marks after the birth of each of her three children.
"I used to feel the need to cover up in this newborn stage, I didn’t want to see my body in this state, so why would anyone else?" she wrote. "It’s taken me three babies, but I’ve finally [realized] this postpartum body isn't something to hide! I am beyond proud for what this body has given and [sacralized]. I am thankful that my body is able to carry and birth babies naturally."
Grossman, a local of West Australia, encouraged other women to celebrate their postpartum bodies and to not be ashamed of them. She also posted photos of Willa breastfeeding to help women become more comfortable about feeding their children.
The photos garnered a mostly positive response.
Grossman also posted a photo showing her body before and after giving birth with the caption: "38 weeks in, 13 days out! Embracing this new body of mine, greasy hair and milk stains (if you dare zoom in) Thank you for all the love on my postpartum post last night! Every time I go to reply I burst into tears ... I'm just so darn proud of women and mothers everywhere and the amazing things our bodies do!"
Several women feel unprepared for the postpartum period and are depressed with the level of care they receive after birth. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists patient information page includes the answers to 40 frequently asked questions on pregnancy and only three on postpartum period, otherwise called the "fourth trimester," Quartz reports.
Some women are trying to break this mold of traditional maternal care and give women more information about the time after pregnancy. Kristin Tully of the University of North Carolina's 4th Trimester Project says the project's goal is to "improve what information is provided and when, and how support is provided."