Redemption Baby (Tabitha)

This is a story of redemption. Here’s the story, from the beginning….

I got pregnant for the first time in March of 2005. My first pregnancy was a breeze and we planned to have a home birth with a midwife. I labored for 18 hours at home but due to complications during the pushing phase, I had to be transported to the nearest hospital to deliver our son. He was taken from me immediately to be assessed and because of severe tearing, I had to have a spinal shot and go into surgery. I didn’t get to hold Andrew until an hour after he was born. All of my dreams about his birth (aside from it being un-medicated) were lost. He was, by the way, perfectly healthy, born at 40 weeks and 6 days gestation and was 8 lbs. 4 oz. and 21″ long.

I wanted my second birth to be different. We started trying to get pregnant when Andrew was about three years old and got pregnant on the first try. I was due on December 26, 2008 and eagerly told everyone our news and filled in my pregnancy journal.

It was right before Mother’s Day and I was just 5 weeks along when I started bleeding. I attended church on Mother’s Day, knowing my pregnancy was over, but with peace, knowing God was with me. On May 13th, before leaving home for work, I miscarried. I was actually very relieved.

We gave my body a few months to recover, then my husband was eager to start trying again. We told our friends, family and church family to start praying, even before we conceived. I was stunned when we, again, got pregnant on the first try. I was thrilled to discover that I was due on May 13th, the very day I’d miscarried the year before. I felt like God was at work, trying to somehow “make up for” the pregnancy we lost.

My pregnancy was, again, complication-free. I did have some hormonal issues and anxiety, but the baby and I checked out perfectly at every appointment. I had decreased appetite so I had only gained 12lbs when I went into labor.

I was at 40 weeks and five days when I went into labor at about 8pm on May 11th. I tried to sleep but finally woke my husband up at about 3am, wondering if “this was it.” I worked through my contractions and by 5am, my husband insisted that we go to the hospital. I was checked in at 6am and was already at 7cm dilation, hooray! My contractions were shockingly mild and I felt excited and happy–a far cry from the hours of agony I spent in the bathtub during my first labor.

My doctor was called and said she’d get a quick cup of coffee and I’d be ready to go–she was right. I was ready to start pushing at 8am and Ethan was born at 8:12am. He weighed 8 lbs. 6 oz and was 22″ long and perfectly healthy. Everyone was amazed at how “easy” my birth was. Thank you, Lord!! As soon as he came out, I was thanking my doctor and we were both thanking God!

The nurses handed him to me immediately and we waited for the cord to stop pulsing before cutting it. It was love at first sight and I was able to hold and admire him for an hour before they took him aside to clean him up. I finally got the birth experience I wanted.

We named him Ethan, which means “strong.” Ethan would have been my name, had I been a boy! He came home from the hospital on May 13th, the same day I’d miscarried the year before. That day will always be a happy day in my memory now. God redeemed that day, the baby we lost, and my first birth experience. God’s greatest work is redemption and I am so grateful to have seen it played out in my own life. What a mighty God we serve!

Ethan lives up to his name. He is this exceptionally sweet, happy, adorable baby. Even strangers comment on what an angel he is. He is also very strong and healthy, has hit all of his milestones early and is into everything! He is a tremendous blessing to everyone who knows him and we can’t imagine our lives without him.

Since I gained so little weight during my pregnancy, I was at my pre-pregnancy weight by the time I got home from the hospital and within a month, my weight was lower than it had been in over five years. It was just a “happy side effect” of feeling yucky during my pregnancy–but it sure helped when it came to losing the baby weight!

The henna belly tattoo was from my Blessingway at about 39 weeks along (where I’m wearing the flowers). In the pink bathing suit, it was three days before I gave birth (about 40 weeks and 3 days along). The deflated and faded version of the tree is from less than three hours of giving birth. The red bikini top was from about 1 month postpartum.

Age: 32
Two sons, ages 4 years and 10 months. One miscarriage.

Game Day (Deb)

When she’s out, she can make her own choices. When to eat, when to cry, peas or carrots, Dr. Seuss or Mercer Mayer… which bands to like, which instruments to play, what college to attend, who to marry (or not marry). And yes. One day, the time will come, and she will have to choose whether or not she is a football fan, and which NFL team she will support. But we as parents must always guide our children toward the decisions that are in their best interests. Therefore, I have chosen to interfere while I am able. While she’s on the inside, she swears allegiance to the Who Dat Nation. Happy football season mommas! Geaux Saints.

Age: 36
Kids: 2 (12 years, and 25 weeks in utero)


Thanks SOAM – 6 Months PP (Anonymous)

My Age: 31
Number of Pregnancies and Births: 1
Age of child: 6 months

Pics I attached: The henna belly picture is at 38 weeks, the two naked ones and one of my daughter are 6 months post-partum.

I started lurking here before my husband and I were even trying to have kids. I have to admit; at first some of the photos were a bit shocking. I’m a victim of this culture just like anyone else, and it was sometimes uncomfortable to see exactly what women look like through pregnancy and motherhood. I started checking for new posts daily, and it didn’t take long for me to find the beauty in every single photograph. It’s amazing how social norms work – for or against us sometimes – and it took some exposure and familiarity – and soon I realized how inspiring each mother really is. Thank you for teaching me what it looks like to become a mother. It changes each of us inside and out – and there is something stunning about the power and strength of what our bodies can do. For me, visiting this site helped me prepare just as much as any book I was told to read when I got pregnant. I am in awe of every woman who posts here. We all go through pregnancy and birth on our own journey, and each of us struggles in some way or another with whatever changes come with that path. My husband, bless his heart, said he thought I would make people jealous if I posted on SOAM. (God, I love that man!) I had to explain to him that I struggle with the changes in my body just like all the other women who post here, and he really missed the point of what it means to share images here. I am part of this club, even if I didn’t get stretch marks. We are all “normal” – whatever that word means – with whatever degree of change or level of comfort we have in our own skin. The point is to do our damn best to celebrate each other as women and shed light on the beauty that comes with so many shapes and sizes of motherhood. My body is just a vessel for what is really inside of me, and I’m proud it served me well to grow and nourish a healthy little girl. I’m still working on truly accepting some of the changes, but I wouldn’t trade being a mama for anything – and it’s so worth it.

More Changes (Sarah)

Since I submitted my story and pictures all that time ago I have been pregnant another two times. The first of those was stillborn in the middle trimester and recovering some sense of my body not being broken is very hard! I’m now pregnant again (my 6th pregnancy) and not far off due.

So much has changed, and changes day to day, it’s hard to know where to begin. But right now, I’m so grateful for all of the good – even though I still have hyperemesis through my pregnancies, even after losing three children, after *everything*. My two girls are amazing (they are four and two years old respectively). I’m looking forward to tandem nursing. And I love this bump, stretch marks and all. :)

16 Weeks PP, 2nd Baby, 38 Years Old (Anonymous)

This site has made me feel so much better about my post-baby body. I haven’t struggled as much with body issues after baby #2 although I still have 15 pounds to go and haven’t lost any weight since my 1 week checkup despite breastfeeding-baby is now 4 months old. I don’t personally experience much in the way of weight loss with breastfeeding-if anything it seems the opposite. I weighed 148 at my checkup and have been 151 since a month pp-I gained 28 lbs.. I tried working out for a while but I just was absolutely exhausted. I know I’ll get there eventually and I know that the weight will come off eventually-even if it takes longer at 38 than it did at 33. 9 months on, 9 months off has been true for me. The thing I’m having a hard time with is that we’ll be visiting my husband’s family abroad in about 10 weeks, and I know nothing much will change in that time and they’re very critical. I’m trying to just let it go and focus on my joy in my baby because I struggled so much to get her here: 4 miscarriages, a blood disorder I had to take daily injections for, gestational diabetes and a c-section due to concern over irregular (and life-threatening) attachment of the cord to the placenta. We are lucky. She is healthy. I wish I was not so hung up on losing this 15 pounds already. Everytime I eat anything my inlaws will cluck at me, I know it. I want to be a good role model to my daughters and not buy into the body facism we live under. First pic is my belly 2 weeks prior to delivery. the rest of my photos: 1 week pre-delivery 5 months preggo 3.5 months postpartum 4 months postpartum.

Not just stretch marks… (Anonymous)

Notice the deep bruising along the bottom of my belly? These bruises (and the red marks) are from the anticoagulant injections I must take while pregnant to prevent blood clots. I’ve always been envious of those who can show their bare belly (even an inch of it) during pregnancy. This was a good, low-bruise day for me… and I was on the “good” medication (Lovenox) instead of the “less good” (heparin — which I take more frequently AND produces worse bruises).

Body Image, Bulimia, and a Beautiful Baby Boy (Katie)

I struggled with my weight all my life. I struggled with a viscous eating disorder that ruled my every moment, and nearly killed me. I was 106 pounds, and had no menstrual cycle to speak of, fainting spells, seizures, ulcers, and heart problems. Eventually I got more confident, thanks to my (now) husband, and started getting healthy. I got to 120 pounds, started ovulating again, stopped drinking, and got happy. After 3 years together, he asked me to marry him. Shortly after that, we got pregnant. Getting pregnant with my baby boy was the most miraculous thing to me. As a teenager, I had a miscarriage. I was not in a place in my life where I could have handled parenthood. I was irresposible, immature, and unhealthy. Regardless, that was MY baby, and it was gone. I was haunted for years about the baby that might have been. I was devastated. when we got pregnant, I was so afraid that it could happen again. My mother had 6 miscarriages before she got pregnant with me. I threw out any lingering eating habits that threatened my child, and put my baby above all else. I had gotten healthy and my binging/purging had mellowed out, but I was still trapped in the cycle. As soon as i knew I was pregnant, however, I threw a wheel in the gears and stomped on the brakes. Part of letting that go was eating frequently, and being comfortable with food because it was for my son. I snacked almost constantly, and refused to let myself throw up. after that many years, it was a hard thing. It was a shock, I had a few panic attacks, and a few crying fits. But i was adamant. It was all in the name of my baby, and that gave me all the strength I needed. I was five months pregnant when we were married. we had to set the wedding ahead, because my great big beautiful belly was so big doctors first thought i was having twins. I gained over 70 pounds during my pregnancy. I went from 120, to 190 the day I gave birth to my beautiful boy. He was my miracle, and every tiny inch of his perfect little life was worth every pound I gained and more. After he was born, I lost 30 pounds almost right away. between hormones, breast feeding, and lack of appetite, they just melted off. But once I got stronger and more active, the weight just stopped going away. my clothes stopped getting looser. It just slowed to a halt. I was upset at first, and in denial. During pregnancy I had been able to snuff my insecurities with my confidence that my body knew exactly what it was doing. I guess I just expected my body to take care of it, and when It didn’t I didn’t know how to handle it. I held as hard as I could to my new found confidence in my figure, and how it had all been for an amazing cause, and there was absolutely no reason to fret at all about my body image. However, bit by bit, I couldn’t help feeling self conscious with my deflated figure, and became really depressed. I realised later that I became self concious and embarrased with my body when we got television. Every bony hip, flat tummy and twig-like appendage beat down my confidence and love for myself. Then, I found this site. I felt embarrassed then. Not for my body, but for ever having sold my soul to the ideals of a SOCIETY with an eating disorder. This whole country, and the entire nations media, has an eating disorder. I feel ashamed that I ever let that influence creep back into my life. I have an amazing, beautiful son who is so smart and happy and loving. I have a great husband, who is nurturing and strong where I am not. I have an amazing family, I LOVE my life, and I vow to never, ever ever put any pressure on food, body image, or that hunger for approval in my children or my own life. I read that article “save our daughters” and all I have to say is if I can protect my family from every “suck in your gut” i will forever be grateful-and all i can hope is that i can raise my children with more strength of character than I had.

Updated here.


I’ve been meaning to submit to Shape of A Mother – what a fantastic project! I’ve done some writing about body image for mothers through my work as a henna artist and several people have recommended this project to me. I would be honored to participate.

Three children – pregnant from April 2003 to June 2005 (with a couple months between each) – two full-term births – tandem nursing still 2.5 years later. My body has been through SO much, nearly as much as my heart and mind. I like to think of my stretch marks as “natural tattoos”, and to try to celebrate them as intentional marks that represent my inner strength and journey. This has helped a little, but even more powerful for me has been body art. I did my first henna design on my own stretch marks (henna is a temporary plant stain that has been used for at least 4,000 years as body art). I wanted to celebrate them overtly, to really SEE them and trace their lines. It helped so much to transform my self-hatred and non-acceptance into admiration. I still struggle, and will continue to perform this body art every year around the time I gave birth. Someday I’ll put on a crop top or a bikini and show the world!

I didn’t take a photo of that first design, but it inspired me to begin a henna body art service just for mothers ( I wanted to be able to share the power I discovered with women during their own transformations. I wanted them to feel beautiful, special, pampered, and honored. I will not post my clients bellies here without their consent, but they have given their permission to have their images on my site.

Since beginning my henna body art I’ve done henna on my own breastfeeding breasts and found just as much power in that experience (perhaps even a bit more). Not only that but my little nurslings appreciated it as well (“Look, momma’s nummies have ff-owers!”).

Henna is a critical tool in my journey to accepting my changed body. Not only is it an opportunity to do something specifically for me and relax and lay back for a while, it’s an ancient tradition that connects me with thousands of years of women who have passed through this same transformation. Henna is a little sloppy, imperfect, organic, and beautifully unique. It is not crisp and tight the way ink tattoos are, and it doesn’t have the associations with young, toned bodies. It gradually fades over several days, leaving a lasting reminder that my body IS beautiful in its own way.

May each of you find your path to acceptance.