Powerful images of a mother who has been through multiple surgeries for aggressive endometriosis and three c-sections to hold her precious babies in her arms is delivering an important message to all women who have walked a similar path.
US photographer Natalie McCain photographed and interviewed mum Jacqueline for her Honest Body Project, in the hope that it would encourage mums who feel they are somehow less than because they missed out on a vaginal birth to realise that their body has just done something miraculous.
“Your body didn’t fail”
Natalie first photographed Jacqueline in 2015 and has since published images she has taken of the mum-of-three after her third c-section with her newborn bub.
“These were taken the night before her staples were removed. Her body didn’t fail. Your body didn’t fail. I hope these images touch the hearts of those who struggle after giving birth via c-section,” writes Natalie on her website.
Natalie, a mum of two herself, was moved by how Jacqueline celebrated her scars and didn’t view them as a mark of failure, something that many other mums she has met expressed feeling.
Jacqueline, whose kids are aged 2, 1 and less than a week old, shares her story below.
Diagnosed with aggressive endometriosis
“When I was 24, doctors found that my left ovary was extremely enlarged. This led to months of tests, doctors, oncologists and surgery. I have a family history of ovarian cancer and they couldn’t tell exactly what it was, or why it was growing so fast. My surgery ruled out cancer and I was diagnosed with aggressive endometriosis. I have a scar from my belly button to my pelvic bone, one less tube and ovary, and what tissue the doctors couldn’t get out.”
“We decided to beat the clock and try for kids”
“My boyfriend (now husband) and I were told that if we planned kids it might be hard, if at all possible, and with as advanced as my endometriosis was, I may be faced with losing my other ovary or need a hysterectomy one day. A year later, and just before my wedding we decided to beat the clock and try for kids. We decided on four kids, as the endometriosis is there like a ticking time bomb, and I don’t want to have any regrets.”
A four year journey to motherhood
“It took 4 years to get our oldest daughter, and after five days in labor we wound up with a c-section. I hear a lot of talk from other moms about wishing our bodies didn’t fail. How a “traditional” birth would have been better, and wondering how we wound up here. I can tell you I didn’t plan on a c-section. I didn’t want a c-section … but my body didn’t fail.”
Where two scars meet
“This body that has seen surgeries, tumors, three c-sections, and incredible loss didn’t fail me one bit. My baby is alive, I’m alive, and no scar or procedure will take that away from me. The scar that almost determined my future, dead ends at the scar that gave me my future.”
A mum and photographer on a mission
Jacqueline isn’t the only incredible mum who Natalie McCain has photographed. In fact, it is a regular gig for Natalie, who started the Honest Body Project to help women learn to love and celebrate their bodies after childbirth.
“I photograph these amazing women, and have them write to me to tell me their stories. I ask them to speak from the heart, no limitations. The raw stories they provide are the backbone of this project. The portraits show their joy, their beauty, their imperfections, and their love for their children. Paired with their stories, it paints a beautiful, honest picture of motherhood,” she writes.
These images and interview have been republished with permission.