Hannah and Lizzie, Christmas Dinner

Hannah is a trade union lawyer who talked to me openly about personal space and body image, during and after pregnancy.

"There are various aspects to the idea of “wanting your body back” after giving birth. You’re aware throughout pregnancy of this thing growing inside you, feeding off you, and actually controlling your body. In the case of the health profession, they poke and prod and stitch and cut and from the word go, you are just an object, your body just a machine which they have to make sure is working in the right way.  Complete strangers feel that they can comment on your shape and condition.

You have to learn to let go of control of your body, which I think might be part of the process of preparation for motherhood, letting go of a large part of your old life.  I’ve learned pretty quickly, since Lizzie came along, that I’m not in control anymore.

So although it would be nice to “get my body back,” perhaps what I was really afraid of was that I would not get my life back. But I know that I’ve had more laughs- more genuine, joyful belly laughs- since Lizzie’s been born than I’d had in the previous 36 years of my life."

Photographer Ali Smith has spent the past eight years exploring the reality of how women live their lives as mothers in modern western society. Her resulting project, entitled Momma Love; How the Mother Half Lives, explores the varying degrees of support that mothers receive from partners, lawmakers, employers, and each other. Momma Love is not only about the love a mother shows; it’s about the love she is shown, by herself and the world around her.

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