Frumpy and Angry! (Anonymous)

Im 22 and have a 3 year old daughter… she wasn’t at all planned.. but my ex wasn’t a very nice person either, I do not regret her she I my world! See this relationship was horrible I was like a possession not a equal human being, I was treat like dirt hit and often made to do sexual things I did not want to.. I never had money to spend on my self such as new clothes or a hair cut..not even a chocolate bar!! As all my money went on his habbit..I suffered from severe depression before I fell pregnant I hated the world I hated myself.. I hated people that I thought should automatically know something was going on..but how can someone know when you put on a fake smile and hide the pain and suffering… Any how. I used to be a fit and healthy looking woman, but since having my daughter doctors have told me im in the “overweight” side of things..I hate hate hate my stomach. .I constantly cover it up even in the bath.. it didn’t help when my ex would state how ugly and manky I looked and how I should cover up! Even though I split up with him over 2 years ago he still mamages to make me hate with the perfect man I’ve been with him for nearly 2 years he’s beautiful to me and always tells me im beautiful. .I still well up inside.. I’ve never been vein and never would be.. I find it so hard to think that I am “ok” or “pretty”… I think im also scared of messing things up in “being a mum” I love my daughter deeply I don’t know what I would do if she was taken from me! Im not the most feminit looking woman but I do want to feel pretty! I love getting my rockabilly look on for certain occasions I love feeling pretty..but on most days I feel hideous and depressed. .I don’t know wether this is because of what I went through for 5 years feeling worthless and inadequate but I do!… I guess what I trully want is to be able to love my self or atleast have some self-esteem and confidence!!

I also want to know..if anyone has gone a diet and felt any better after there goals?!

Ambivalent Body Image – Struggling (Alanna)

Age: 24
1 pregnancy & 1 child
3 year old child

I want to start this off by saying that I have been following SOAM for a couple years now and never felt confident enough to submit my photos. I was in a very unhealthy relationship for 9 yrs with the father of my child. Just before I became pregnant, I was in the best shape of my life, I had never been more confident with my body image. I am a Martial Arts instructor. My pregnancy was extremely stressful, I had a partner who was abusing drugs and other non sense. I’m 5’2 and I weighed 130lbs before I got pregnant. At 9 months with my 8lb baby girl I weighed 185lbs. I wasn’t exercising during my pregnancy and could have been eating in a more healthy way. I wanted to have a natural delivery, but had to have an emergency C-section since my daughter was breech. After delivery, I was so unhappy with my body and i was still in an toxic relationship. I may have been suffering from PPD but I’m too proud for my own good most of the time and felt guilty telling the truth when i was assessed for PPD. I struggled with the pregnancy weight all through the first 2 years, I’m very active but I had to take control of my diet to get to where I am now.

I still feel like I am hiding. No one would believe it when I seem to be the most confident, bubbly and bad ass ( am I allowed to say bad ass on SOAM? Editor’s note: Hell yes you are!) lady that have ever met but I put on a good show. In actuality, my insecurities could eat me alive. My life has changed a lot in the past year as I got out of an abusive relationship and have been trying to find myself again after those 9 years. I just completed my first year of university. I’m a over achiever and a perfectionist, nothing is ever good enough for me. I am getting honors in school but its not good enough. I would consider myself a feminist and I am very aware of the false messages prescribed by the media to men and women concerning what the ideal body image is. I can think about it logically and I have great respect to the women who can take a stand against it but emotionally with myself, inside my own head I cant do it.

I guess I have my good days and my really bad ones. Some days I feel like it is getting better and I’m regaining my muscle definition. Its not my stretch marks that bother me but my loose skin and extra fat does. Everyday I run at least 3 miles and exercise, on top of my martial arts training and some days I feel like I’m seeing progress and other days I cant beat my naked self up in front of the mirror at least 4 times a day. I can take forever to get dressed, trying on pants after pants and hating how my tummy sticks out over top. I count calories obsessively and feel guilty if I don’t run far enough. I want exercise and diet to be a choice of health and not trying to achieve this aesthetic perfection.

Who would think a topless rights activist would be standing nude infront of her mirror eaten alive by her insecurities?

Healing and Hopeful (Kerry)

22 years old
2 pregnancies 2 births
3 years 11 months, and 13 months PP

Most recent post here.

I’ve posted a few entries in the past, here is one, the last one was almost 2 years ago. Reading back on my posts I read the things I was trying to convince myself to believe, but wasn’t quite there yet. I thought if I wrote it and saw my pictures I might start believing it. Truthfully though, I hated my body. HATED it, though I so desperately wanted to feel beautiful. I was apprehensive about posting all of this with my name, and my face, but it is who I am.

As you can tell, if you look at the pictures in my old posts, I yo-yoed with weight, from saying I felt fabulous at 165, and then dropping 40lbs by my final entry. I’ve been wanting to write a new entry for a while now, since I started healing. So here it goes :)

I got pregnant with my second child in April 2011 (10 days after weaning my son!) we practiced NFP but he was home for 1 day in between trips and “in the moment” hormones took over. I hadn’t wanted a second child because the emotional roller coaster that happened as a result from my first pregnancy, birth, and bodily change was so horrific that I wasnt sure I would be able to handle it again. I had PPD for the first 10 months, which went untreated because I did not want to acknowledge failure, which is what I felt it was.

My husband was never that great of a guy, I had had him arrested for domestic violence and every apartment we lived in I had to patch and fix before we could move out; he had quite the temper, along with substance abuse. He had wandering eyes and blamed it on me, my lack of sex drive (3-4x a week was not enough) and my ruined body and lack of desire to get in shape to turn him on. I was told about all the beautiful girls he had been with, and since I was ruined I was lucky to have him and even if he left me I’d never find a man who would find me attractive. I didn’t want to bring another kid into the mix, I hated the fact that my son had to know this life. When I was 4 months pregnant he admitted that he had been cheating on me with my co-worker/best friend, I left him that week. I packed up what I needed, and moved my two year old son and myself into a room in my parents house. Leaving an abusive, controlling relationship was the hardest thing I ever did. I wanted so badly to go back,” I was comfortable with it, I could put up with it.. it wouldn’t get THAT much worse” thankfully I held firm and after 7 months of going to counseling individually and as a couple with elders from my church, without seeing a change on his part, I filed for divorce. God blessed me with an amazing family, and church family that supported me and encouraged me every step of the way. I had an amazing second home water birth, 4 hours of light labor and 10 minutes of intense labor. My daughter was born at 41 weeks exactly, perfect in every way :) I never got PPD after her birth, I had my placenta encapsulated and took that, but I think more of it had to do with the fact that I was in an encouraging, loving environment this time around. Fast forward a year and here I am. I’m still living with my parents, but I am a full time student going for my RN, I have two beautiful kids who are safe and do not have to see that life. I am so thankful, God is good!

That process was the beginning of my healing. Discovering that I might just be a worthwhile human being who might just be beautiful, who might just have a brain (I am maintaining a 4.0 GPA!), and who, someday, someone might truly cherish. I took the power back. I continued to eat healthy and stay active throughout my pregnancy, quitting work as a CNA at 35 weeks. I felt awesome after she was born and started the couch to 5k program when she was 3 weeks old. I was doubtful, I just wasnt a runner… I wasnt made to run. I completed my first 5k within 9 months :) I started doing crossfit when she was 7 month old and it’s pretty safe to say I’m hooked! I absolutely love working out. It’s no longer something I feel I have to do to try to look attractive, or that my body is so disgusting that its the only solution. I’m strong, I’m powerful, I’m good at what I do and I get such enjoyment out of it! Last week I deadlifted 226lbs, I failed at 130 6 months before, needless to say I was pretty happy, not stopping here though! After giving birth I lost the weight pretty quickly, and settled at 133, where I have been for the last 9 or 10 months, I eat clean (though the occasional bag of almond M&Ms and lattes have to be snuck in ;) ) I am not interesting in losing any weight, I like where I am at and feel awesome. Just love challenging my body and getting stronger and faster. I am signed up to do the Tough Mudder in May. The idea of getting married again some day and a man seeing my body still makes me a little apprehensive, not going to lie.. and I find myself second guessing things like wearing a two piece because my belly will show, but I am reading This Momentary Marriage by John Piper and there was a chapter on being naked and not ashamed, and how it was not due to perfect bodies. It doesn’t mean no stretchmarks, or “perfect” measurements, or straight teeth.. but that the love of a husband (or wife) does not see and pick apart those imperfections, but loves the spouse as a whole. I was floored. I felt hope.

Sorry this is so long, I still struggle with my saggy breasts, and stretchmarks from time to time, and Im not sure if those struggles will ever be gone for good, but I feel real, and I feel alive, and most days I feel beautiful. Over the last two years the biggest transformation is not of my body, but of my mind and soul. I cant stop smiling on the inside, or just saying “God is good, God is so good!” I am healing :) I hope that my story reaches out to at least one woman out there who can take encouragement from it.

pictures 1 & 2 are from my daughters birth
picture 3 is me deadlifting 226lbs
picture 4 is my stomach presently

It’s not “no big deal.” It’s domestic violence. (Anonymous)

Pregnancies: 3
Births: 2
1.5 years postpartum

I have been married for over 5 years. My current husband found me when I was only 15, and he was 19. By the time I was 16 and he was 20 he got me legally emmancipated and we moved in together. By 18 I was pregnant and we were married. I have never know anything else. Besides a brief 6 month period where I escaped in 2006 I have been with him every day of my adult life. During that time, I was completely manipulated, and severely abused. It seems surreal to say that now. During the relationship, I never saw myself as a victim. I didn’t see his behavior as abuse. It was like a cult. To the people in the cult, they don’t realize how crazy it is, they go right on drinking the koolaid. He was very persuasive, charismatic, and very good at manipulation. I belived this behavior was normal. I belived he was only ‘playing around’ when he would slap me across the face for no reason, punch me in the leg, slap my back, rear end or legs hard enough to leave welts so severe you could see every pad of every finger. Kicking was just joking. Throwin things at me was to get my attention or prove a point, and he SAID he didn’t mean to hit me in the face. He was aiming next to me, and missed. He didn’t MEAN to break my nose with that snow shovel out of the blue, he was trying to joke with his friend next to me. It was an accident. I believed I was fortunate to have a husband that wanted me home with the kids, and didn’t want me to go to school or get a job. I belived the perfectly logical explanations why I didn’t need a drivers license, or a debit card, or a car. I didn’t get my license until I was 20, when he had been unemployed for so long I HAD to go to school and work to pay the bills. That was the period of most freedom. I was allowed to get a car from my friend, I was finally allowed to get a drivers license, I started going to the community college and working on campus. It’s only years later that I realized this was the period of time where he was involved in a serious, year long affair with my ‘friend.” It started when she was only 17, if I remember right. He needed me out of the house, and the bills paid. Once he got another job, he talked me into dropping out and quitting. And it all sounded logical. It all sounded reasonable. When I found out about the affair, he told me that ‘until death parts us’ is a lifelong vow, and if I ever want a divorce I had better kill him first, because he would take it as an invitation to murder me. And somehow, that sounded romantic at the time. He had us get matching ‘until death’ tattoos.
After the affair, I became pregnant with our second son, who had a congenital heart defect. I went into premature labor, and had to be flown across the state to the major hospital, where they managed to stop labor and keep me pregnant. I was stuck there until he was due, and after he was born, while he had two major surgeries. During that time, he was at home with our preschool son. He became incredibly, innapropriately close with the babysitter, who was also his ‘squire’ in the medieval reenactment group he was in. She was only 16. While I was out of town, he got her drunk, possibly drugged her, and sexually assaulted her. She was too afraid to say anything, she couldn’t remember most of it, and he told her if she said anything I would never leave him, I wouldn’t believe her, and she was just going to loose a friend. She kept quiet, and just stopped hanging out. I had my suspicions, but no way to prove the terribly ugliness I suspected. A few weeks later, she found out she was pregnant. She was incredibly relieved when her daughter was born, the spitting image of her ex boyfriend, and not my husband.

And all along, the slapping, kicking, biting, punching and screaming obscenities continued. And all the time I minimized it as he did, justified it, ignored it or just went with it. I rarely complained. After all, it may hurt really bad when he randomly bites you hard enough to bruise, or shoves you and forcibly dry humps you while laughing in front of everyone to humiliate you. But if you argue, or fight back, it is just so much worse. Then he is mad, before he was joking, but now YOU are the one who must be ‘cranky.’ and then he is angry and yelling and it makes it much worse. Better to just not give him the attention, like a child throwing a tantrum. After all, when he gets mad, he makes people suffer. Once, he got in an argument with the other members of his medieval club. They chose him to host an event, but they wanted to use a different park than the one he chose, so the people coming from out of town could use the showers. When he didn’t get his way, he marched right down there and burned those to the ground, just to spite them. He covered it in random gang graffiti, so no one would suspect it had anything to do with the medieval reenactment group that rented the park the next day. He not only bragged about it, but demanded I immediately wash his gasoline covered clothing and duffel bag.

When my youngest turned one, we bought a house. First time home owners. There was a period of relative peace. Then after about 6 months he starts disapearing all the time. Won’t tell you where he is, won’t tell you anything, just leaves. After a few days of this, you come home to find him drunk, asleep on the couch, and some woman’s belt on the coffee table. Turns out he has been secretly talking to a lawyer about divorce. He spent those days hanging out at the babysitters work. Oh thats right, she just turned 18. He would wait there until she closed with his friends, then insist she come over to hang out with all her old ‘pals.’ She comes over, thinking everyone will be there. but it’s just him. He pushes her to drink, she gets frightened, and leaves.

I called her, and finally got the whole story. When confronted with the allegations of statutory rape and adultery, he goes crazy. Tells me I can keep the house or the kids, but not both. Tries to kick me out of the house. Then apologizes. Then makes obscene and frightening requests sexualy, says he is just not satisfied. Then Tells me he has been having dreams of burning everything down, that he dreams about killing me, that he just wants to hurt someone all the time. He says he feels he is being called by god, that the apocalypse is coming soon, he can feel it. He says he has a duty to fulfill, and he can’t be a husband and father and a soldier of god as well.

Now I am really scared. I beg him to take the guns out of the house, he has a small arsenal. 2 AK 47’s with 200 round drums, a 9mm, a double barrelled shotgun, a 410 shotgun, a 22 rifle and a high powered hunting rifle. He has a permit to carry at all times, and he refuses to get them out of the house. I beg him to go to treatment, but he says they will see him as a danger and refuses, concerned about his gun permit rights. I start calling the hotline, and develop a safety plan. I take the kids out of state to my sisters for two weeks, hoping he will calm down. When I get back, he isn’t even home. He spent that time out of town at his sisters house, hanging out with her 17 year old step daughter. When he gets back, he acts like nothing happened. Then he unceremoniously dumps me, via text message. The same day we were going to spend the weekend with his family, and the 17 year old.

He won’t move out, says he can’t find a place he can afford and pay child support. I go back to school full time, trying to keep busy. I start the process of getting state liscnesced to open a day care, so i can pay the bills. I am almost done with my degree in Early Childhood Development. I give him 3 months to move out. The violence escalates. He tells me I am no catch, that just because I have good grades doesn’t mean I am smart. He tells me no one really cares about me, that everyone only pretends too, but everything I tell them they report back to him he says. He says no one would put up with me the way he has. He is cruel, and humiliates me often in front of his cronies. He always has a group of his friends, who I THOUGHT were also my friends, hanging around, laughing at his jokes. The cult. He gets the 17 year old emancipated, just like he did with me, then moves her into my house. I try to warn her, I try to help her. he was even bragging about how he was going to get with her to me, over text, which I show her. She swear she will be careful, but when she moves into his moms house (becasue she is now disowned by her family) he moves in with her. Now they are shacked up together. I finally call the cops on him a few days before he moves out. he bit the back of my hand so hard, out of the blue, to get a glass of egg nog I was holding, that I had to go to urgent care. I was worried the tendons were permenently damaged, the hand swelled up like crazy and bruised really bad. He is furious with me for going to the doctors, he told me not to. As soon as I get home he starts hitting me with a cup against the back of my head, where it wont leave marks. Then he tells me I am a terrible mother, and that I left a pair of childrens scissors out while I was gone. He shows me a picture of our baby holding them. He must have given them to him for his little pose. I argue that they were put away, up high, in a closed container, in a closed shelf. They are safety scissors, and blunt tipped. He tells me to hold out my hand, and I do, assuming he is going to give them to me. Instead, he puts my hand in the scissors and crushes them closed, to cut the side of my hand. “Told you they were dangerous, if you ever open your business kids are going to die.” I run to my room in tears and call the hotline. They tell me to be sure he can’t hear me. I am terrified he might have overheard me calling them. I go downstairs, and he slams the front door. I immediately hang up. He suddenly says “Come on kids, we are going for a ride!” with an evil glare in my direction. I am panicking. I ask him where he is going, he wont tell me. he just says ‘on a little drive.” I ask him when he is bringing them back, their bedtime is in half an hour. He wont tell me, he just says “We’ll be back when we are back.” I am so afraid, but the kids are so excited, and I don’t want to scare them. He leaves in a huff, and I call the police. I explained the situation, they came and took a statement, took pictures of my bruises, the cuts, the scissors. They tell me to file for an order of protection then, But I know if I do there is no going back. He will kill me.

He brings the kids back, and is angry that I was even upset.

He finally moves out. The day he does, he shoves me in the shed and locks me in. I pound on the door. The 17 year old lets me out. I don’t call the police, because he is finally LEAVING, and I just want him to go.

The next week, he steals my cell phone. Uses it to intercept messages from the DV advocate.

I file for an order of protection, but since he has been tipped off, he shows up that night and takes the kids before I can file. He forces his way in the door, in front of my girl friends who had come over to help me paint my living room. He screams threats, even has his mother come to the door and scream at me. That i am a ‘drama queen’ and a ‘stupid bitch.” my friend called the police, because even she was scared, and her 2 year old was with us. I thought because he didn’t live here he couldn’t force entry. The police tell me he has every right to come here whenever he wants, day or night, while I am sleeping even, because it is marital property. They tell him to leave, but he already has my kids, and he can come back.

I have friends stay in shifts so I am not alone. It’s the weekend, so I can’t get my protection order until monday morning. He never brings the kids back. He ignores calls, hangs up on me, hides them at friends houses, keeps my older son out of school. I am sick with worry, my oldest is autistic, and that kind of thing is so hard for him to handle. First thing monday I am in the courthouse, but he FOLLOWS ME THERE. I was so afraid, I called security and asked them to escort me to my car. He tries to file one against ME the same day! He says I injured my hand when I ‘backhanded’ him! That I cut MYSELF with scissor in an argument! That I am neglecting my children, and partying all the time (I DON’T drink, at all.) and that I am not feeding or dressing them. The judge signs both, but orders custody to me until the hearing. Finally, the police go and collect my kids, and bring them home.

Now, I don’t know what to expect next. they denied his order, but only extended mine for 7 days. They said I needed a mutual restraining order, not an order of protection. But it doesnt get enforced the same way, and is only good until the divorce is final. I finally get a pro-bono lawyer, because I have no resources. He says we need to fight for the order of protection, and not to file for a mutual restraining order. They order that his visitation be supervised, at least until his trail for DV assault. I am so afraid I will leave my next hearing with no order of any kind. He day after the hearing is his next pre-trail court appearance for the assault against me. I can’t believe he is going to try and say I did those things to myself. He always said, no one would believe me. And he is trying his hardest to make sure of that. I am trying my best, but the long hard journey of custody and divorce is imminent, I filed for divorce the same day. I have an escape plan, I have a suitcase packed in case I need to evacuate. I have code words to call 911 with family. I am having my kids stay safely away from the house for the hearing, in case he comes straight here. If I leave that courthouse with nothing, I am gonna pick up my kids and go straight to the shelter until I have something that will at least force the police to arrest next time he comes here screaming threats and breaking in. I am afraid all the time. I am afraid everytime I see an unfamiliar car parked outside. I am afraid everytime I hear someone drive down the alley. I am afraid every time my phone rings. He came to court with his mother, the 17 year old, and two of his cult members. All people that have SEEN him hit me, kick me, throw things at me and bite me. And he swears in front of a judge that he never has, right in front of some of the only people that witnessed the times he is being charged for. I am afraid for my kids. I am afraid my house if going to be burned down. I am afraid my tires will be slashed. I am afraid my car will be stolen, and I won’t even be able to report it because the registration for that one is in his name. I am constantly, constantly afraid. And on top of all this, I am still going to school full time. I still have bills to pay. I still have two kids to take care of. People keep telling me I will be stronger.

I don’t feel stronger.

I just feel scared. And stupid. And stressed. And alone. And like no one will believe me, that everyone will lie for him. I can’t event take the kids and hide except for a shelter, because legally I can’t change the residence of the children, the only exception is the shelter. I can’t get a new apartment and hide, I have no real income besides social security and student loans, and it would be a violation of the court order when you file for divorce to stay with friends, even if I was willing to put my autistic 5 year old through that.
The scariest part is, this isn’t even the most dangerous time.

The most dangerous part will be when the divorce is final. He hasn’t violated the protection order yet, because he still thinks he can take the house and full custody. When he doesnt get what he wants (and my lawyer assures me I have nothing to worry about in that department) and he fells he has nothing left to loose, that is when I am in the most danger. He was ordered to surrender his firearms, but he told the judge he sold them to pay for a lawyer. Which really means they are sitting at his friends house. I know exactly where, and I know he still has access to them. He probably wont use those, too traceable to him. No, he will probably break in through a window since I changed the locks, and kill me with one of the 100’s of knives he has collected. Or maybe just mutilate my face the way he fantasized about. Or burn my house down with me and the kids in it.

They said I would be safe, that if I reported him and got out and filed for divorce and got an order of protection, that they would protect me.

But they aren’t. I don’t know what to do. They say I am doing everything the right way, by not doing anything illegal, and following through with they system. But I might walk out of court tomorrow with no piece of paper to protect me, and have to run. He convinced me I was helpless, and I sure feel like it now.

One picture is of my hand, after he bit me. One picture is of my, trying to take a picture of the ‘until death’ tattoo on my wrist. Ironically, the same hand he cut.

My Story (Anonymous)

23yrs old –postpartum 8 months.
Angel Jae born to heaven, mum of girl and boy, step mum of girl and boy.

I found myself thinking back as I watched my sick child in deep slumber in the early hours of this morning. I couldn’t remember the life I had before one, then three, then four little lives were following in the footsteps of my own life and experiences. Waking after the little amount of sleep I got that night has brought me to the place I am right now. A million memories running through my heart and my mind. My story is one of emotion, happiness in the birth of my children, the horror, abuse and fear of my past and the excitement and wonder of where my life is going.

I am a mother of an angel and four… well sort of.

I suppose to do this correctly I need to start from the very beginning. I am a young mother. This is Jae’s story. I was almost 17 when I had the flutter of nerves and excitement waiting for that pregnancy test to say yes or no. In my head if it said yes I was already a mother. I come from a good home with loving parents and I was in a stable relationship that I had been in going on 5 years by this stage. So a baby was not something I was scared of, in fact I wanted nothing more. There it was those two little lines ‘Pregnant’. What do I do? Who do I tell first? How will they react? My fiancé… Anger, rage, hurt. 19 weeks in, we’re having a boy. He snaps. He’d hit me before, I should’ve known he’d do it again. Three broken ribs, two black eyes, a broken wrist and My precious Angel Jae watching over me forever more. I still think about him and miss him each and every day. The pain is still as raw as if it were new.

He was sorry, He didn’t mean to hurt me. He wouldn’t leave, I couldn’t escape.

One year later, I’m late. Crying, alone and terrified at the possibility. I was in the dirty bathrooms at the local shopping centre, my hands shaking as I ripped off the wrapper. The next five minutes seemed to last for an eternity. There they were, clear as day… those two little lines, ‘pregnant’. This is Rose’s story. He is furious this time, “Get rid of IT before I do”. 14 weeks, My escape! He’s a cheater as well as a woman beater. The ‘other woman’ probably saved my life. I’m petrified with every strange feeling and my ever expanding belly. He found me. The threats and torment continued from him right through my pregnancy, “I will get you. I will kidnap and kill it rather than pay for it”. The stress bringing on contractions and high blood pressure, but my Rose she is strong and she is safe. She was born by emergency caesarean after complications weighing almost 10pounds. She is a beautiful child living with a disability. She is the reason I ate, slept, moved. She is the reason I survived.

We call my stretch marks “Mummy Marks” and believe you me I have mummy marks all over! And my “Smile” is a little bit wonky but Rose says that it’s the smile God gave me because the one on my face wasn’t big enough to show how much I loved her. My “smile” is My Breasts – the eyes that in her eyes only a mummy has. My stretched and misshapen belly button is the nose, which she loves to tickle and finally my wonky caesarean scar makes my smile. The smile that God gave me in the hands of the surgeon that brought my child safely into the world and is a permanent reminder of the memory that makes me smile and fill to the brim with so much love that the smile on my face just wasn’t enough.

Time kept passing as it always has. I met a man. Could I trust him? Will he hurt me? Will he understand what I’ve been through? Most importantly… Will he accept my child?

He has children too… two of them. A girl, Mary and a boy, Robert. Slowly and cautiously things move forward. He proposes, a carefully planned event with all the children playing a part, at my favourite restaurant in front of a full house of diners. Just like from the start of our relationship he was treating me as if I was the most important thing in the world, as if I were a princess. We move in together and almost immediately there they are again those two little lines ‘Pregnant’ but this time it’s different. It’s exciting and happy and I can share it. What a valentine’s present that news was!

We’re having a boy. 22 weeks in, there’s a car accident, where is the bleeding coming from? Is my baby alright? Phillip’s story. 23 weeks and we are in birth suite being told to get ready. 4cm dilated, Wait – Stop everything! My body and I believe the grace of God stopped everything. We heard the galloping of 10000 horses and we cried together. He’s alright, he’s safe tucked in tight beneath my heart. I stayed in hospital and every day got longer and longer and it was hard to cope. 8 trips to birth suite, drugs… oh the drugs steroids for baby, blood thinners, pain killers, dyes, contrasts, anaesthetics and last but not least epidural and caesarean. We made it! 35 weeks. 5pounds of amazing baby boy in my arms.

It’s funny you know, for as long as I can remember I have always wanted to be a mother. I have always wanted four children. I could never in my wildest imagination describe what it feels like inside when I look at my children. All four of them, because they are mine each and every one of them. I love them. The shape of a mother to me is not only the physical but the emotional. What makes a mother whole – her children. They are a part of her living independently outside of her own body.

I don’t know if this is a story for this site, but it is my story. I am a woman and I am strong. I am a survivor. I am a mother and I live for my children. I’m not ready yet to let my face be seen. There is always fear in the back of my mind and my greatest concern is protecting my daughter from the threats made against her.

Will I ever feel beautiful? (Catherine’s Mommy)

Age: 21
# Pregnancies/ Births: 1/1
Catherine is 2 1/2 months old.

I’ve read some wonderful stories about finding yourself beautiful AGAIN. But what do you do if you’ve never felt beautiful. I started feeling terrible about the way I looked at age 5. My father who was very mentally and physically abusive always said, “You are too ugly and useless to ever find someone to love you.” My whole life I’ve been mistreated by men. I’ve never been respected and there for have never really loved myself. Not once have I ever looked in the mirror and thought, “I look pretty today.” When I was 19, just 2 years ago, I married the guy I dated from the 2nd week of 10th grade. He cheated on me from day one, but every time I thought about leaving he said he loved me and I stayed. I knew I didn’t love him, but just not being alone was enough for me. Right after we married the physical abuse started and I stayed for awhile after that. I figured I deserved it and wouldn’t find any better. After all that’s what he told me. He would say,” You’re fat, ugly, and useless. No one else would ever want you. You’re used goods.” So I stayed with him for 3 months after we got married. Until I went to work one day and some of the guys I worked with saw a choke mark on my neck. They told me I was moving out that night. They helped me move out while my ex was at work aka at his girlfriend’s house.

I moved back home and 9 months later I found an old friend on myspace and we started talking. My friend and I were raised as practically family. His aunt was my mom’s best friend for about 16 years. When I found him I immediately planned a trip to see him. Even though we hadn’t seen each other in 6 years, because he was in the Air Force something was just telling me I needed to see him. Even though it was an 8 hr drive I had to do it. I visited him March 27th, 2009 and we’ve been in love every since. On July 25th, 2009 we started trying to have a baby knowing we were getting married August 8th. He was so cute about it. He even got on the computer and made out our baby making calendar. He had figured out my ovulation schedule and told me which days we could and shouldn’t have sex. We married on August 8th, 2009 and exactly one week later we found out I was pregnant. I knew about 3 months prior to our ultrasound that we were having a baby girl. Our little Catherine filled my dreams every night(the little that I slept). I was scared we were having a girl. I’m even more scared now that she’s here. I don’t want my daughter to feel the way I do. I want her to love herself and see herself as beautiful. How am I supposed to teach her to love herself when I can’t love myself. I have the most amazing husband in the world. He loves me unconditionally. He still finds me attractive,and he tells me all the time how beautiful I am. Unfortunately I just don’t see how he thinks that. I’m so lost at what to do. How do you decide to love yourself and the way you look?

Just some rambling,
Catherine’s Mommy

Loving Myself (Tarah)

I am 31
3 wonderful daughters!

I had my first child when I was 19. Always overweight and insecure with myself, my first pregnancy did not help. I gained quite a bit more weight. The father of my child would abuse me regularly. Never leaving bruises on the outside, just on my heart. I was in labor over 24 hours with her. A C-section was performed and they realized her cord was around her neck twice. If I had pushed I would have killed her. Scarred and alone I raised her for 2 years with only the help of my family. I rushed into a marriage when she was 2, convinced that no one would love a fat 21 yr old single mom. I then got pregant with my second daughter. More wieght gain, more unhappiness. Another C-section, compounding the scarring. It was a lonely time for me compounded by the fact that both my father and grandmother died suddenly. Feeling utterly alone and worthless, divorced with 2 children by 2 different men, I fell into a horrible depression. Then I met my current husband. He never hesitated to tell me I was beautiful, that my girls are beautiful. He loves me no matter what I weigh or how bad my body is scarred. I got pregnant again with my third daughter. Again, more weight, worse stretch marks. My husband never once said a negative word about my body. He is the first man I ever let touch my belly who wasn’t a doctor. At first it was strange, never in all my life had a man ever held me and loved me and my big stretch mark covered belly. He would rub my belly and talk to our daughter, sing to her sometimes even. When she was born had no choice but to have another C-section. I was lucky enough to have the same doctor for all three deliveries. He told me that I will never have a flat bikini belly. I should just give up, and realize I will always want to cover it. When I gave birth to my last child I weighed over 200 lbs. I hated my body no matter how much my husband said I was beautiful. Now my youngest is almost 2, and I have taken charge of my body. I’m not ashamed of my belly or my scars. I made a promise to myself to take care of my body better. I now have lost 45 lbs. which is good, but I have lost the mentality that my worth is measured by my “beauty”. I love myself now, and love my husband more for never making me feel bad about myself. I am lucky enough to be in a community of people who love me for me, not my body. Who cherish the stretch marks and celebrate women in all forms! Thank you to my wonderful extended family!! Thank you for this site to show others what a mother’s body really looks like! Mostly though, thank you to my wonderful husband, for loving me and my body no matter what!!

My thoughts, fears, and joys of being a mother (Stacy)

Age: 26
# of pregnancies and births: 5 pregnancies (currently pregnant), 2 births
My children are 6 and 2, and I am 10 weeks pregnant with my third child

I became pregnant for the first time at 19 years old. It seemed like the MOST horrible time for it to happen. I was not in a great relationship, and when my son was 6 months old, I married his father. I wanted the complete family, even if that meant marrying someone I was sure I wasn’t completely in love with.

Needless to say, after the pot shots from him about the way my post baby body looked, not being able to have friends, and other verbal and emotional abuse, and finding out he was neglecting my son while I was at work, I left. And I left with a severe complex about my body. I called my mother and she came the next day and picked up all of mine and my sons things, and I left.

Almost a year later, I re-connected with a friend I wasn’t allowed to speak to while I was married, because he was a male. Later on, we started dating. He was so good with my son, and my son loved having a role model. We were married 2 years later. I had two miscarriages before getting pregnant with my daughter, but she was so worth the wait! I now have a wonderful husband and two beautiful kids, but I still have this overwhelming urge to cry when I see myself naked in the mirror. My husband says I am beautiful and he is still very much attracted to me, but if I am not happy with myself I should do what I can to try and change it. He has offered to work out with me. Now I am 10 weeks pregnant with our third and last baby, so I have to wait to start a vigorous workout routine.

I know that I should be proud of what I have done, but I can’t help thinking I shouldn’t look like this at 26 years old. I am so proud of my kids, but I am not proud of what I look like. I don’t show my stomach, I wear a bra all the time to keep my breasts up where they are supposed to be, and when I change my clothes, it’s a chore to find something I think looks right on me. I don’t wear a bikini, and I am so uncomfortable in my own skin I get nervous when I am with my husband in bed. I have tried to think differently, but I’m not sure how to fix this.