A mother holding a newborn baby is one of the oldest and most enduring subjects in art, a staple of religious iconography and a classic dramatic trope.
But – from the Renaissance through to the glossy magazines of now – the physical effects of childbirth on a woman’s body have always been an aspect of motherhood hidden from public view.
Even in our more open times, frank discussions about the sometimes brutal impact of birth are rare, and instead are still largely dealt with in private, with the media actively celebrating those women who bounce back quickly to their pre-birth figures.
Now, a new advertising campaign from Mothercare that is being trialled across 30 tube stations on the London Underground is bringing a more honest depiction of new motherhood into the spotlight.
Mothercare said in a statement: “Body Proud Mums boldly seeks to normalise mothers’ experiences, spark a positive conversation and help mums feel confident and proud of their bodies. At the heart of the campaign is the belief that all mums are beautiful. After all, their bodies have just performed a miracle.”
Shot by British photographer Sophie Mayanne, the campaign comprises of ten celebratory portraits of women who have very recently become mothers. They’re shown holding their babies close and smiling as the kids laugh, gawp at the camera in bemusement, or, in some cases, scream their heads off.
The photographs have apparently been published without digital retouching, and the effects of birth are evident, yet the scars and stretch marks are not the focus of the portraits. But, equally, they’re not hidden. Each portrait is accompanied with the simple phrase: ‘Beautiful, isn’t she.’