We never dreamed when we first asked expectant moms to write 5 words or less on their bellies and send us the picture that we would get 450 creative and wonderful submissions in just one week!
The images were truly captivating, ranging from incredibly poignant to passionate, silly to sublime -all of them carrying a heartfelt message of love and hope for the future.
America loved them too; over 11,000 people voted on their favorite baby bump - and many voted once every day. We watched, amazed, as first one picture would take the lead, then another. Sometimes 2 photos would jockey back and forth for the #1 spot over several days - while we each secretly cheered on our personal favorites!
In the last few days we got to know the "Real Moms Behind the Baby Bumps." Suddenly the messages on their bellies took on new meaning, as we began to understand the real story behind image.
We learned the hands in "Your Dreams Will Inspire Generations" actually belonged to 3- all joining together as a single family to welcome this baby into the world.
We wanted more than ever to applaud "America's First Woman President."
And our hearts went out to "Struggling But Lots of Love," when we learned that this young mother had been homeless and pregnant - alone in the world - before moving home with her family to give birth to a beautiful little girl.
As photographer Anne Geddes says of the women she photographed for her new series "My Pregnancy: A Woman's Story": "There is no…one story. This is every woman's story."
And now - the voting is over. The results are in. And we couldn't be more thrilled to introduce the 3 top vote getters in order:
Waiting to meet my hero
Abby Loomis recently moved home to Mequon, Wisconsin, to be near family as she awaites the birth of her first child. Her husband, Army Sgt. Jason Loomis, is stationed at Ft. Hood, Texas, and will join her before the baby - their first child - comes in February. "(W)e struggled with infertility for a couple of years. This little baby is our HERO, and my husband is my HERO as well!
May you stay forever young
Allison Dearstyne, a 9 th grade history teacher, lives with her husband, Richard, a Starbucks manager, in Dunkirk, Maryland.
"Our niece Jolie provided the little hand in our photo. The Bob Dylan lyric, "May You Stay Forever Young" has been a classic song from my childhood."
And then on Monday December 5th at 4:17pm, little Clara Noel came into the world. She was a bit of a surprise; the couple both expected a boy (they didn't want to know in advance).
I want to hold your hand
Kitty Martin and husband Bryce of West Milton, Pennsylvania welcomed Liam in November. "Throughout the pregnancy, Isaac, 2, would inquire about his baby "brudder," and ask to feel him move. Many nights Isaac and I would fall asleep with his one hand on my belly and his other holding mine. This has been one of my favorite parts about motherhood, walking hand-in-hand with my little "bubby" and his daddy."
Congratulations to all!
Each of the 3 finalists will receive a year's supply of Huggies diapers - as well as some great gifts Disney Baby is providing to all 12 of the semifinalists.
And in January, photographer Anne Geddes will select the grand-prize winner, who be fly with her partner to Australia for a rare private portrait with her newborn taken by Geddes - just in time for Mother's Day!
But in the end, the real winners for the Imagine Me and You Contest are mothers and babies in the developing world.
When we close our eyes and "Imagine Me and You," these are the women we think of: The women who are dying in pregnancy and childbirth - one every 90 seconds- almost all of them in developing countries. Yet experts say that more than 80% of these deaths are preventable, and that we can also save the lives a million babies who don't survive childbirth each year.
The Million Moms Challenge has partnered with leading organizations that are working to help mothers and babies around the world.
In recognition of the first 100,000 people who like the Million Moms Challenge on Facebook or sign up, Johnson & Johnson and Baby Center pledged to donate $100,000 to the Million Moms Fund - all of which goes to our partners.
Disney Baby, part of our parent company Disney, has also agreed to generously donate $50,000 to the Moms Fund.
We want to say a "Thank You" to our sponsors and to all of you who joined the Million Moms Challenge.
Whether you sent in your picture, or just voted, you have made a difference - one that will be felt thousands of miles away by women and girls who share the same dream every mother has for her child: a healthy pregnancy, a safe birth, and a baby who will survive and thrive.
As we approach the New Year, we wish you all a joyous and healthy holiday!