What do you think of when you think of a mother? And of her body? Perhaps you immediately see a big rounded belly. Or you picture her carrying a child in her arms. But the relationship of body and self during and after pregnancy stretch beyond the mother-child relationship.

Mothers deal with the most incredible changes in their physical being. From those who develop pregnancy related diabetes that magically disappears after birth to the more permanent marks left on the body by stretching and sometime cutting.

These things leave their marks, but do they define us?

1

Goddess pose

One of the best yoga asanas for pregnancy. The hormone relaxin flows through the body, allowing joints and ligaments to soften, preparing the hips to open wider for birth. Too much opening, though, and you can get hurt. Goddess helps find the perfect balance. Photo by Silvia de Falchi.

2

Pregnant mother

This is Mary F. Mother of three. She's 28 years old and writes about her life and adventures moving with three children from Belfast to Arkansas to Minnesota.

3

Stretch marks

Stretch marks. The permanent badge of pregnancy. Not all mothers have them, but many do. They form as the skin loses elasticity. Shortly after birth, they are bright red, but they eventually fade to white and leave patterns on the skin. The only way to remove them is with surgery or ignore them. Photo by Just My Perspective.

4

Scar marks

Many women feel that they can no longer wear a bikini during pregnancy. Do you agree? Photo by Adrienne Rayner.

5

38 weeks pregnant

Here, Artemis Horton is 38 weeks pregnant. Around this time, the baby begins to grow faster, gain approximately a pound a week and eventually turns head down to prepare for birth. This is the most physically uncomfortable part of pregnancy. Artemis, however, makes it look easy. Photo by Andrew Horton.

6

pregnant travel bloggers women portrait

6.Proud travel blogging mamas Christine Gilbert -- 37 weeks pregnant -- and Kayt Sukel -- five months pregnant in Portugal. They show without a doubt how pregnancy and children do not stop travel or anything else you might want to do.

7

Stretch marks

Adrienne Rayner wonders if anyone else will admire this photo in the same way she does. You see the scars of her first pregnancy over the slightly expanding belly of her second. She doesn't mind the marks left behind, because "they were made with love."

8

Midwife's epidural

They call water the midwife's epidural because of the incredible way a pool or bath eases pain during childbirth. Same applies during pregnancy. You float effortlessly.

9

Post-pregnancy

Almost every woman struggles with post-pregnancy body issues. The photographer of this image says "I don't know what's going on with me, but instead of moving forward and feeling better about myself and my post pregnancy body, I'm feeling very hideous." Photo by Diamond Farrah

10

Scars

This photo smacks of a typically sexual female pose, and yet the marks of pregnancy perhaps change the way we see her. Photographer Bekka Bjorke had been having a hard time dealing with the idea that pregnancy had not been "physically kind" to her. Her solution? "Chronicle the destruction and rebirth of a body."

11

Pregnant mom

Pregnancy teaches you many things. One of which is that your belly does not magically go back to flat the day after your baby is born. The first photo shows was taken at 39 weeks. The second, three days postpartum. Photo by Jaimee Gleisner

12

Linea nigra

Linea nigra , the black line that mysteriously appears down the middle of some women during pregnancy. No one quite knows why. It just is. Photo by Lavendamemory

13

Yoga with Lila

Now to get more personal. This is me with Lila. I've been doing yoga for years and rarely skipped a day even when pregnant. Since Lila was born, I started practicing with her because, well, she wants my attention. I've always thought of yoga with child as the perfect metaphor for parenthood. I may not have perfect form. I may not be able to practice when I want, but I am much stronger and more flexible than I was before Lila. Photo by Noah Edelblum.