May 15, 2014 -- A Chicago-based photographer wants to ease the pressure on women to snap into shape after giving birth by showing off the post-baby bodies of real women -- flabby, stretch-marked bellies and all.
“It's that 'Fit Mom' mentality, which is just so damaging, unrealistic and hurtful,” said Ashlee Wells Jackson who founded the 4th Trimester Body Project after a difficult second pregnancy in which she lost one of her twin girls. “Having a baby shouldn’t be about hitting the gym and picking yourself apart.”
Jackson is referring to Maria Kang, the mother of three better known as "Fit Mom" who sparked a social media firestorm last year when she posted a picture of her toned abs on Facebook with the question, “What’s Your Excuse?”
Jackson views Kang’s comments as unacceptably judgmental, especially coming from another mother. She said she wishes Kang could celebrate motherhood rather than spending her time cutting down women for falling short of her view of perfection.
“Some of our mothers are in great shape some are not in the best of shape,” Jackson said. “We want to celebrate where they are right now and push the accepted norms of beauty.”
Kang did not immediately respond to ABC News’ requests for comment, but she has previously said that many women use pregnancy, genetics and a busy schedule as excuses for not exercising and eating right.
Jackson said she's received tens of thousands of comments about the project on social media, the majority of which have been overwhelmingly positive. What little negative feedback she's received has come from women who, she says, don’t understand her message.
Jackson said she has high praise for Kate Middleton, who caused her own stir by showing off her rounded “mummy tummy” in a public appearance the day after giving birth.
“Bless her for not shielding herself and being a real person," Jackson said. "It showed so many people that even if you’re fit and slim, it takes time for your organs to sink back down and the bloat to go away."
The project’s website currently features more than 400 women stripped to their skivvies and embracing their children. Jackson said the first of several coffee table books featuring moms from all over the world is due later this year.
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