When we hear the phrase ‘post-baby body’, it’s often associated with celebrities who miraculously returned to their pre-baby size just months after giving birth.
But for most mums, that simply isn’t realistic.
When Melanie Varney had three babies in one year (a son in March, 2013, and twin girls in March 2014) she found herself struggling with how her body had changed.
“Once the twins were born my confidence in my image was gone,” she told The Huffington Post. “I was on top of the world with what my body had just produced, but the reflection of myself in the mirror was that of a stranger. ”
“I remember googling ‘twin mums postpartum’ just trying to find similarities in my body to theirs,” Varney said. “Of course, as mothers, we all agree that our babies are completely worth the skin, the stretches, and the lumps and bumps, but just as we are mothers, we are still ourselves,” she added.
"Becoming a mother was the best thing I have ever done. It's all I ever wanted to do," she said. But still, she couldn't escape feeling uncomfortable with her body. And she wanted this to change.
So when photographer Trina Cary posted a call out online for a couple to participate in a sensual photo shoot in a lake, Varney, along with her husband Gabby Mason, volunteered.
For Varney, the ultimate aim was body acceptance. And this is what Cary wanted to capture in the photoshoot.
"I wanted to highlight the way [her husband] sees her and thinks she is still as beautiful as she was when he first met her," Cary said.
"Also the acceptance she has now for her body with all of its new stretch marks, extra skin and wrinkles."
The results are raw and honest, and have resonated with women all over the world.
Much to his surprise, Mason found the shoot as empowering as his wife did.
"I think initially he did it thinking it would be something that would help me, but he told me the day after the photos were released that he thinks he may have gotten just as much out of the shoot as I did," Varney said of her husband.
She says that men have body confidence issues too, and can worry about how their partners perceive them.
They believe the shoot was an incredibly important moment for their relationship, with Varney commenting, "having multiple children can take a huge toll."
"Gabby and I drifted, but we never lost sight of our love."
The photos are a humbling reminder of the power of women's bodies. While not all responses to the photoshoot have been positive, both Melanie Varney and Trina Cary are aiming to inspire body confidence by sharing the images.