By Nathalie Bonney @nathaliebonney
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Videographer / Director: Eva Moss
Producer: Nathalie Bonney, James Thorne
Editor: Grant Hanson-Vaux
Having been slim all her life, Whitney Dwyer struggled with how her body looked post pregnancy.
After two successive pregnancies Whitney’s stomach stuck out so much people kept asking if she was pregnant – in fact her protruding stomach was caused by a diastasis recti.
Fed up with the lack of images of 'real life' mums, the 33-year-old decided to create her own website mypostbabybody.org that shows just that whilst championing women’s bodies in tasteful lingerie shoots.
Featuring herself as the first model on the website, Whitney, a mum of two, from Oakland, California is now proud of her post-baby body and is determined to flaunt it.
Whitney told Barcroft TV: “I’ve yet to see a stomach like mine in a magazine.
“If I’m wearing tight clothes and you can see my belly that’s okay.
“Sometimes, I’m just like ‘F’ it. So I wear a bikini then I let it all out.
“Most women do the project to re-claim their bodies. And really just own it. ‘This is who I am. This is my body. This is the state it’s in.”
Prior to giving birth to her and her husband Anthony’s two children, Brendan, age six, and four-year-old Grayson, Whitney never had to worry about her weight. In fact she lost weight after her first pregnancy and expected to do the same after her second.
Whitney said: “I thought I’m going to breast feed and then the baby is going to suck all the fat out of me and I’m going to look the same way I did before I had him, and after a few months I noticed that that was not happening and my body, though I didn’t weigh a lot; was shaped drastically different and my stomach popped out further than my boobs, which was something that I began really feeling self conscious about.
“I was continually looking like I was pregnant, one to two years after having a child”
Whitney’s protruding stomach was a result of diastasis recti, a common result of two close-together pregnancies where the abdominal muscles stretch and separate during the pregnancy, causing a bulge at the point of separation.
On top of her stomach sticking out, Whitney had a large amount of saggy excess skin, covered in stretch marks, on her stomach that no amount of crunches was going to get rid of.
“In the back of my mind I was hoping I’d lose my weight but I was also aware that my mother was overweight and she attributed this to when she had me,” she said.
Wanting to see what other women’s bodies looked like post-pregnancy, almost all that Whitney could find was images of perfect-looking celebrities with no visible clues they’d given birth.
She said: “I Googled post-baby bodies and all I found was workout tips and dieting tips and wraps - all these things that women are expected to do to their bodies no one would ever ask a man to do, when was the last time someone asked a man to wrap themselves in anything?!
“And then I did find a site that had post-baby bodies but their heads were cut off, it was just their bodies and it's like: ‘You can see my body but I don’t want to be associated with it.’“
For Whitney, coming to terms with her new shape was extra difficult because out of the few images of non-celebrity women post pregnancy, there were even less of women of colour.
She said: “That really inspired me to start this project.
“I think we would love to say that we’re not affected by the media and it doesn’t impact us, but, it does! It does.”
Realising there would always be a beauty standard she didn’t fit in to and saddened by what she saw – or more specifically what she didn’t see – Whitney decided to create a website for women to share their own stories as well as photos of themselves in their underwear.
Alongside her day job as a high school teacher, Whitney arranges the photoshoots, which feature new mums, mothers with children in their 20s and those who have gone through abortion, and post partum depression.
Whitney said: “Studies show that just being around women raises your serotonin level. Women being around other women makes them happy. And in our photoshoots women are talking about their babies. Talking about their experiences. They are meeting other women. It’s great!
“And that in itself made me want to do more in terms of postpartum depression.
“I was a first time mom. I was freaked out. And I basically cooked up a whole recipe for baby blues, I was never diagnosed postpartum depression. But now that I have done more research, I definitely had some symptoms of it.”
Admitting it was a case of ‘fake it until you make it’ - she had to look at the photos she took of herself in her underwear at least three times before posting them - by launching a body positivity blog, Whitney persuaded herself to wear a bikini again
“After my second son, I didn’t really know what to wear at the beach and then once I started doing by post baby body, I was like I’m going to wear bikini,” she said.
“I was super nervous about it.
“I remember getting to the beach and I took my cover-up off and no one cared. No one was paying attention. No one cared about my stretch marks and my extra skin or my flab.”
As a teenager, Whitney’s slender frame caught the attention of model scouts but the schools she attended were predominately African American, where girls wanted to look curvy and thick. Whitney used to deliberately try and eat more in an attempt to gain a more womanly shape.
Whitney said: “Growing up as a thin person, being African American was sort of complex.
“When I was a teenager I got asked to be a model: I knew that ‘out there’ I was considered attractive but I was teased at school for being too skinny and I was envious of the other girls and their curves.
“I wasn’t really ever happy with myself. Wanting to gain weight, then wanting to lose weight, wanting this to be different, wanting that to be different.
“I have been everywhere between a size 0 and some places I am a size 12. Although, I really feel I am a size 10.
“And right now I just realised in the last years, it’s really a mental thing less what state my body was in and more what state my mind was in. And now my mind is in a state of being happy and satisfied with my body and doing what I want to with it.”