Postpartum: Powerful photos show what the very first day of motherhood actually looks like
Any mum will tell you that her very first day of motherhood is a very raw, surreal and hazy experience.
It is at the same time beautiful, yet exhausting. Amazing, yet terrifying. But most of all; utterly and completely filled with love.
Trying to capture this uniquely special day for new mums, and also having a burning desire to reassure pregnant women that childbirth really is nothing to fear, London-based photographer Jenny Lewis, who herself is a mum of two, started her One Day Young project a while back.
The photos, depicting mothers and their day-old babies, aim to show women currently pregnant that giving birth to the babies they are now carrying, is absolutely nothing to fear.
"When I became a mum, I felt a real responsibility to go up to pregnant women and say you’re going to be ok," says Lewis.
"Because all you ever seem to hear about are the things that can go wrong in labour. Before I had my first child, I’d never really heard any positive stories about giving birth, I thought birth was all about epidurals and hospitals. I didn't really consider that it could be something you enjoyed."
But that all changed when a friend gave Lewis a book by an American midwife, of short stories about women she had assisted throughout labor. "These women were OK; they went with the contractions; they managed to squash the fear. I felt this mental shift in my understanding of what giving birth involved", Lewis explains.
"Not many people say, 'You know what? I actually kind of enjoyed giving birth. It was empowering. It was the best I've ever felt.' You never hear that voice, but that voice is out there. That's not to negate the experiences of women who have had a hard time in labour. But those voices need to be balanced with both sides of the story."
And Lewis decided she wanted to be part of that story.
"I wanted to capture that moment after childbirth and show that women are still themselves. I felt a picture would be more powerful than reassuring words, as you can't disbelieve something you can physically see."
The women featured in the photographs all responded to a post on Jenny’s Facebook page, or to leaflets she put up in corner shops and on lampposts around Hackney, asking: ‘Anyone want a free picture?’
"After the first few shoots I thought, this is really something special," says Jenny. "The chemistry in the room is so amazing. It’s crackling with the energy from the woman.
The photos in Lewis's collection feature new mums from many different backgrounds and of many different ages, but one thing they all have in common is their strength, she says.
"In those first 24 hours, it's like this warrior comes out in women. They gain this inner strength to protect the child and you can see it in the photos."
The photos are all taken at home, and captures the warmth and comfort of having your incredibly new baby in your own environment. The mums, with their bellies still round, look beautiful, exhausted, proud, and utterly at ease.
"It’s not just another birth; it’s not just another woman. Every single image is their life; it’s their story. Everyone's got their struggles, but in that moment they manage to put them all aside and be on a level playing field. Whether I’m shooting someone in a mansion or a hostel, the look in a woman’s eyes is pretty much the same, they’re proud of themselves."
One Day Young is an ongoing photo-project. Please visit JennyLewis.net for more info.