After the birth of her daughter about 14 months ago Glastonbury mom Michelle Noehren was surprised that she couldn't find one central place with all the information she wanted as a new mother.
"I had a really hard time finding a local resource for working moms. I could find info about childcare in one place but had to look other places for information about breastfeeding, child development and the like. Working moms are so busy that I wanted to create a one-stop-shop where moms could find everything they need."
That led to the creation of her blog, ctworkingmoms.com. A few months later, while meeting with friends in Essex, she and her female buddies got on the topic of media images of women (spurred by a photo of Beyonce's near-perfect post-baby body) and the group decided they'd had enough of such unrealistic images.
A Trumbull native who works for the state's Permanent Commission on the Status of Women as an events and special projects manager, Noehren said she and her friends decided to expose their own post-baby bodies and bellies in a professional photo shoot, and post the photos on the blog.
What followed surprised them.
"Within a week of posting the photos we recieved media attention from the HuffingtonPost, The Daily Mail, the TODAY show, Good Morning America and Fox News. To me, the fact that our story went viral so fast shows that women world-wide relate to us. People want to see real women's bodies and they want to see women supporting each other in a non-judgemental fashion."
One of those friends and fellow-blogger on the site, Berlin native Marie DeSanto Schweitzer, saw the post-baby photo of entertainer Beyonce and thought that was not what most moms looked like just months after they give birth.
She was part of the group of moms who blog on CTWorkingMoms and shared her feelings with her fellow bloggers. After that conversation and a few glasses of wine, several members of the group decided to do the photo shoot to show what "real" moms looks like a few months after giving birth.
Besides Schweizer and Noehren, the group included Dena Fleno of New Britain, Katie Schunk of East Hampton, Kate Street of Essex, Mary Grace Peak of Manchester, Marie Schweitzer of Berlin native and Patty Girard of Simsbury.
"Now don’t get me wrong, those women probably worked really hard to take the baby weight off and more power to them, but we average non-Victoria Secrets models do not have the luxury of Photoshop, airbrushing, personal trainers, private chefs, nannies, or several pairs of Spanx," DeSanto Schweitzer said. "As the wise Katie Schunk stated, 'I would be in mad shape if my paycheck depended on it.'"
DeSanto Schweitzer had son Jake on Valentine's Day with her husband Michael. She is fit, running a 5K when she was five months pregnant and running a half marathon before she had Jake. She has vowed to run another half marathon after his birth.
The photo gallery, taken by West Hartford photographer Jean Molodetz/iView Photography, were posted on the website and caught the attention of several national media outlets.
"It just took one of us in a sports bra and it has been the most empowering thing I've ever done," said DeSanto Schweitzer, who graduated from Berlin High School in 1998, Merrimack College in 2002 and Quinnipiac University Law School in 2007. "This has been the craziest experience of my life and every time we think the attention has stopped, something else comes up."
"It was a completely liberating moment. Some of us started out a bit nervous and shy, but encouraging comments and catcalls from the other ladies, and let’s face it, the wine, made it easier. For me, I know I am far from what I may ultimately want my body to look like, but I know I have never felt more beautiful and accepting of my body than I did that night," Fleno said.
The highlight of the experience was a trip to The Today Show.
"They came to us, to one of the women in the photos, Kate Street, who lives in Essex," DeSanto Schweitzer said. "They spent a lot of time with us up here. Then they sent a van for us and had us on the show. We were interviewed by Natalie Morales, who used to be on local TV here. We were there on the same day as Channing Tatum, who was so nice and is in the movie 'Magic Mike' right now. The show put us up in an amazing hotel, the Essex House and we got our hair and make-up done for us. We all felt like movie stars."
DeSanto Schweitzer said the photos were simply made to make new moms feel more comfortable in their own skin.
"We don't have trainers and nannies to help us after we have a baby," she said. "We had a professional photographer come in and she captured the personality of each of the people. They were tasteful shots and we have had people respond in a lot of different ways."
DeSanto Schweitzer has been dubbed the "six pack mom" by a disc jockey on 95.7 FM.
"I am hearing from people I haven't heard from in years when they see the photos or hear about me on the radio," DeSanto Schweitzer said. "I have heard from friends from high school and my dad is hearing it from the guys he works with. Now I blush when I hear it. This was my celebrity moment."