15 Months to Find That Love (Amanda)

This is an update submission, my original post is here.

I feel as though those words cannot be the last thing I say on the matter of my motherly shape. It took me a year to come around to myself and the image if what I ‘should’ look like, to realize, I look how exactly how I am meant look, nothing less and nothing more.
I had this image in my head of a woman who would bounce back and within a year be fit and skinny, no evidence that she had ever given birth.

But after a year, I have realized, why on Earth would I ever want that?

I would be so devastated now if suddenly my stretch marks disappeared and I didn’t have this softer belly, not because I suddenly decided these things were sexy, but because that’s part of my life story. That’s apart of my daughter’s story and I would never want to take that away from her… or me.

A co-worker of mine recently revealed she was pregnant and we were talking about this website. I decided I would reread my post and what I found broke my heart. I was so sad and so unsatisfied with myself. I can feel the hurt, and all I want to do is jump back in time and say to myself “you won’t always feel this way”.

I have no more sadness when it comes to the shape of my body. I eat right and have recently started working out, not to lose weight, but to build strength and stamina. It’s time to respect my body rather than hate the way it looks for something it did, especially when that something it did is truly incredible.

My body made a life. Doesn’t that deserve respect and love? Instead of self-hatred, I have taken to self-love.

These are my new photos. My daughter is 15 months old now and I love my body. It’s the only one I will ever have, so I plan to treat it right.

You can still see the stretch marks, but they are very faded. The tattoos are still ruined, but tattoos can be fixed. My belly is still squishy and loose, but it’s a great place for my baby girl to rest her head.

I hope any women reading this who are struggling who’ve just had their babies know that time will make things better. Sometimes better isn’t about the physical, but how we perceive it.

Age: 29
Pregnancies/Births: 2/1

I Love My Body (Gwen)

I have been so thankful to have found this site; it helped me through a period in my life where the physical changes of my body were difficult to keep up with. My self-image and esteem were in a young, and unstable place when I got pregnant. As much as I have always been thankful for my fertility, and having brought my son into my life, I won’t lie: There have been hard times, where I have been genuinely out-of-sorts about my shape, and the way I changed when I got pregnant, and my body after that.

Women have a lot of bad press that surrounds what we are told we need to look like, and what shapes we need to be. We will most likely have more gains and losses in weight because of motherhood, and hormonal changes, and hosts of other things that we will endure in our lifetimes. Some of the things I have read through this site, from brave and loving women and mothers, have gotten me to REALLY see the reality of what we all think – and never dare to say aloud.

There have been other things that have made me so incredibly sad. Words that women have said about themselves that are not only untrue, but they’re unfair. A body is beautiful not because it is perfectly thin, and the skin is flawless; it’s beautiful because there is NO other like it in the world! It will conceive, nurture, and bring forth PEOPLE! It will create milk for an infant, and warmth to soothe tears, arms for wrapping in loving embraces, and so many more AMAZING things! I find that frequently it’s so saddening to read how women *really* feel about themselves, especially when what *I* see is SO beautiful.

I can’t deny that the weight I’ve lost doesn’t make me feel good about myself on some level; but look at the time it’s taken me. Honestly, I didn’t make this as much of a priority as a lot of women do. I let nature take what it needed, and left what *I* needed to be healthy, and sustain breastmilk, and just be able to have time to experience what I wanted, and not feel the stress and strain of what other people thought I should be doing. My body is not perfect. my breasts hang lower, my thighs aren’t smooth anymore, the flesh of my stomach is rife with faded stretch marks. This is what I’ve got, and dammit I love it.

From day 1, my husband has accepted my shape the way it was (12 mos PP), and loved me unconditionally. This is a love I hope every person has, or will have. He has seem my body at its best, and when it was in the transition of post-birth. The expressions I see from him while we are intimate have never lost their enthusiasm. We have both changed physically, and have worked through the hardships and the ups/downs of how we wanted to see ourselves. Love and marriage aren’t always easy, but he has been my pillar through this journey.

I fervently hope that people keep here keep inspiring each other on this site, and keep supporting each other. I have come to love the honesty, and the raw stories people share about their fears and triumphs, and newly found loves in their motherhood and their beautiful children. The support of women who doubt their own beauty and can reclaim their self-confidence, and share that empowerment with each other is an important boon to one another. The love of our families, husbands, dear-ones, and friends are also just as important because there are those of us who don’t want to open our ears to listen to that praise and love.

Our bodies will change, and life will keep forcing us to adapt. This is the nature of the world we live in. Our bodies have such great capacity for miracles that it is almost wrong that we find the aftermath SO damaging to our minds, and feelings about WHO we are. MY body is not WHO I am, it is what I exist in. This is my vessel, and that BEAUTIFUL vessel carried me through pregnancy and a son who has changed everything I ever knew about love, and about what legacy I will leave this world. I would never make any other choice, if given an option to go back.

Love yourselves, ladies. You are the absolute essence of beauty, and the most important part of who we are as human beings. Thank you, everyone, for everything you share. Keep supporting each other, keep showing each other that this is not something we need to be afraid of, or feel terribly about. THIS is beauty!!

First Photo: 7.5 mos pregnant
Second photo: 12-18 mos pp. NOT my most flattering angle!
Third Photo: Take today, 34 mos PP. 154 lbs.
Fourth Photo: Side
Fifth Photo: Side
Sixth: Side, where you can see I have some belly left. :) It can get hidden in the angle, but I assure you there is no flat tummy here.
Seventh: Full-belly shot. Stretch marks are still there, I promise! They’ve faded away into the rest of me. :)
Eighth Photo: My beautiful son.

Mother of Four (Jerrika)

My name is Jerrika. I am 24, I have 4 children between the ages of 2 and 6.
I gave birth to my oldest son in 2005, I was 18 year old, and felt like I had lost my body before I have even had one.
I soon had my 2nd son at 20, and felt much the same, negative and self conscious.
I gave birth to my twins in 2009 which after 2 natural births, was a C section,
I now had 4 boys and a body that felt like it had gone through a small war.
I even joked with friends that I had been attacked by a bear, and survived with the scars to prove it!
Although I was what I feel to be lucky, I still have issues every day when I look in the mirror and see what I am left with.
I am logical, and realize that I am not badly scarred. Even though it may not seem like much to some people on this website,
lack of confidence has no maximum or minimum requirements.
I am lucky enough to have friends and family who build my esteem for my everyday, but it still eats at me sometimes.
i never even got to have an adult body, so I will never get to know what I “could have been”.

I love my children, and at this point feel a lot better than I did six years, as this is the body I was MEANT to have.
you get what you get, and I know that I have 4 little boys who I couldn’t be happier to have around.

My name is Jerrika, and I am a free lance model. Pregnancy doesn’t end life, or ruin a body… I’ve earned my stripes! haha. Thanks.

They Say it Takes Nine Months (Anonymous)

Previous posts start here.

23 years old
one pregnancy, one birth (an adorable son)
I’m now 9 months postpartum. I have a few dresses: size 6, size 8, size 9. I have several jeans: size 8, size 9, size 10, size 13. I have shirts: S, M, L. I am between an A cup and a B cup. I am five foot seven inches and 160 lbs. My measurements are 36 (34A)-28.5-43. Dark brown hair. Blue green eyes.

What do these numbers mean? What do they make me?
They can’t give you any insights into my character.
They can’t tell you that I can hoist 250lbs+ with my “thunder thighs”.
They can’t describe the work I put in to do pull-ups.
They can’t tell you I have an IQ of 153. Or that I love books. Or that I have a warped, twisted sense of humor and love to laugh.
They can’t describe the lengths I will go to in order to help my friends: midnight phone calls, trips to the ER, “cheer-up” trips, lending money.

They don’t give you any idea of the pain I’ve felt in just the last nine months: my grandmother dying, an old friend writing me a good-bye e-mail and committing suicide before I could do anything, another friend lost both legs and an arm in Iraq, I worried about another friend possibly committing suicide, I worried about my own health postpartum, I worried about my relationship with my husband, I worried about my own body and attractiveness.

Those numbers won’t do you any good in telling you how I’ve battled an eating disorder for over a decade, or how I overcame the desire to self-injure years ago.

They also won’t do any good in telling you that I love comedy, drama, action, animals, psychology, running, swimming.

They won’t describe the incredible relationship I have with my husband or the overwhelming love we both have for our son.

THESE NUMBERS DON’T tell you anything IMPORTANT about me.

They say it takes nine months for your body to “go back to the way it was.” I respectfully disagree. My body is different, not less attractive nor more attractive. It’s very close to how I was pre-pregnancy, but I recognize the subtle differences in my curves and various lumps and bumps :) I looked in the mirror yesterday morning and saw my body as a whole instead of the usual random conglomeration of body parts haphazardly sewn together like some kind of disproportionate frankenstein. I am not the sum of round arms, chubby legs, lovehandles, thick calves, and a soft-but-toned stomach. I am just ME. And I say take ME as I am, because I don’t want part of any friendship or acquaintance with anyone who thinks a person can be summarized by a small, narrow scope provided by a few numbers.

I am beautiful. And my stretch marks and scars only add to my beauty and uniqueness as a person. I am happy with myself, and I hope that all you ladies on this site can find your own beauty too.

I Finally Feel Sexy Again (Babs)

Original entries here, here, here and here.

This was my fourth pregnancy and birth, and both were extremely difficult. I suffered with moderate hyperemesis gravaridum throughout (helpHER.org), lost a significant amount of weight, muscle and nutrients and was on the edge of hospitalization and IV feeds throughout (even with extensive medicating). I also suffer with a spinal disease called ankylosing spondylitis which caused my vertebrae to fuse together from my coccyx up to my mid-back; it also causes very painful nerve damage in my hip joints and legs due to those bundles of nerves being trapped in the fusions.

The way my body changed over the course of this pregnancy felt very different than the other times: I was tired, and in a lot of pain and very sick. Toward the end I was mostly bedridden and had to push myself hard to get in a short walk a few times a week. I felt like I was falling apart, and was beginning to really hate my body: it was big and awkward, desperately sick and so, so painful. Through the last months of pregnancy I had to walk with a cane, which left me feeling very self-conscious and extremely unattractive. I felt like this pregnancy had stripped me of my femininity and sex appeal… and for the first time in my life, even with a disability diagnosis for years, I really felt disabled. On top of that, I’d had a relapse of an eating disorder shortly before becoming pregnant and was struggling hard with maintaining positive body image even before all that crap. As a result of that, I requested to not be weighed throughout my pregnancy, nor have weight used as a judgment of my health since it was such a fresh trigger. (Numbers alone are not a good, accurate diagnostic tool: your health is a big picture, and can’t be judged by a flawed BMI calculator or tiny range of “healthy pounds”. Big or small, your overall health is what is important to take care of and there is so much more to it than standing on a scale! Even with the diagnosis of hyperemesis, being weighed on a regular basis was not necessary to monitor my health and nutrition. You may have to argue with your care provider a little, but if scales and numbers are a trigger for you during pregnancy, you CAN avoid them so you can stay strong and supported).

Just three days ago now, 9 days past my due date, I gave birth to a beautiful baby girl. My hard and fast (two hour!) labour was very difficult with the spinal fusions, and very painful, but I made it through with the wonderful support of my midwife, doula and my husband. With their love and care I was able to achieve a second home VBAC, even with my disabilities. I have to say, waterbirth helps a TON for moms with chronic pain, or spinal disabilities!! I don’t now if I’d have been able to do it without the pool.

The night after giving birth I was laying in bed with my husband watching TV shows on my laptop with our new baby sleeping between us. I was laying there, mostly naked, and looked down over my new postpartum body all squishy and deflated and realized that… I felt really good. More than that, I felt sexy! This pregnancy that was so hard on my body and made me feel stripped bare, this birth that was so hard to get through and had me screaming at the top of my lungs, they’ve both been such huge challenges but by making it out the other side I feel strong and capable and SEXY! When I went out in public earlier I didn’t feel like sucking in my stomach and hiding my middle in loose-fitting clothes. I even went out wearing a form-fitting top, proudly showing off my squishy new postpartum body so I can proclaim to everyone, “THIS is beautiful!”. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to look at my body in such a truly positive way. Even with a disability, with a history of struggling with an eating disorder, with severe illness and a very hard year that left me with a very changed body… I can be sensual and feminine and amazing. Four babies have passed through this body and left their footprints on it with stretch marks, cesarean scars, milky breasts, love handles, cellulite and weight gain… but today, just three days postpartum after my fourth birth, I feel sexier than I ever have.

I’ve posted to this site before, several times, but I never thought I’d ever have the guts to submit any images of myself fully nude. Even while I took these images through pregnancy, hoping that I’d eventually find the courage to submit (anonymously, maybe with my head cut off and my tattoo obscured! PS. that’s why my head is cut off in a bunch of these!) I didn’t really believe I’d be able to, so it brings me a lot of joy to post these (albeit still a little nervous…) and say, “I FEEL GREAT!”. Now I feel like encouraging everyone to do the same thing. Take pictures of your body, and not just any old pictures – put aside some time and experiment with taking some really nice photos. Go get some boudoir photos done if you don’t want to or can’t take your own, but whatever you do don’t neglect capturing some of your beauty… even if you feel crappy about yourself.

Despite I felt like absolute hell and hating my body through most of my pregnancy, I’m really grateful to myself that I pushed through to document my changes. I think it’s in us all to learn how to appreciate how amazing our bodies are in all their power. Just look at the incredible things they can do! Thanks to this site I found the motivation to nurture that, and I’m really glad I stuck to it.

(As a note: I’m a professional photographer, so these were taken by me with professional gear. Even though you can’t see them very well there are stretch marks and scars there, though I don’t have the type of genes that get a lot. Good quality, even lighting makes a big difference in how your skin appears in pictures. For anyone curious to experiment with their own lighting, I included a “behind the scenes” photo to show how everything was set up to take these. I used a Nikon SB800 flash mounted on a stand with a home-made beauty dish made out of a planter and some spare parts for about $12 total (instructions here: https://davidtejada.blogspot.com/2008/04/beauty-dish-for-sb-800.html), and a desk lamp pointed at the corner of the wall behind me to reduce some of the shadows. From there just experiment with the settings until you find something that looks good! I triggered my light with a radio controlled device called a Pocket Wizard, but you can just use a sync cord or one of many other inexpensive options and get the exact same results. You also don’t have to use a big fancy flash either, any will work including the cheap Vivitar 285V which runs about $90. :)

My Story (Anonymous)

At 19 I found out I was pregnant. My boyfriend (now husband) and I were scared and shocked but we knew we wanted our little Angel. I worked for the first 7 months of my pregnancy as a Driver at a plumbing company. This kept my body in great shape and know one could even tell I was pregnant. Then we moved to PA to be with my family. The last two months I did not do much of anything. As a result my weight sky-rocketed from 135 to 179. I got stretch marks everywhere, thighs, belly, calves. Thankfully I have my sides tattoed with a Phoenix. This helped to hide some of the stretch marks. I also, stupidly left my belly ring in. It is not destroyed. I wear an over the top one simply to hide what damage it did from leaving it in. I had my son vaginally and every part of me felt worn out and ugly. I didn’t want my husband to touch me because I just felt disgusting. Thankfully I did not get postpartum depression very bad. The only thing I was unhappy with was the radical changes my body had endured. At 22 now, my son is 2 1/2 and he is healthy and I have struggled with my weight for quite some time. It was hard to get used to the fact that I was never going to look the same again. Finally I accepted it and decided that although my stomach might not be firm like it used to, my breasts will never be perky like they used to, and the stretch marks will always be there, I decided I didn’t care. I decided that I was still beautiful. I started to slowly work out so I could at least feel healthy again. I am now at 129 and I feel wonderful and I feel sexy again. A feeling that I have been missing since my son was born. This site has helped me to realize that I am not the only one with stretch marks as bad as they are, and I am not the only one thats breasts will never stand like they used to and it doesn’t matter because we are all beautiful and we are all mothers. Thank you so much!!!

FYI: White dress is a year before I got pregnant. Red dress is a year after I had my son, at my wedding. The rest are all current as of now since I have been working out a little more.

Pregnancies: 1
Age: 22
Children 2 1/2 yrs old

I am just starting to like myself ever. (Alice)

24 years old. 2 pregnancies 1 live birth 1 abortion
My daughter is 5 years old in 2 months. I am almost 5 years pp.

I got pregnant with my daughter a week before my 19th birthday. I was in love with a boy who was “out of my league” but it seemed he was interested in me. We were together for 8 months before we got pregnant. Before that I was constantly trying to keep his attention any way I knew how, but he would flirt and cheat and it made me hate myself and my body.

I am 4’11” and pre-pregnancy I weighed 130 pounds. It was the thinnest I had ever been and I was struggling to be skinny for my boyfriend after being overweight my entire life. I gained 55 pounds during my pregnancy and hated myself every minute for it. After I had my daughter I worked quickly to lose all the weight I had gained but my boyfriend turned husband left me for a 90 pound girl 3 years my junior. I hated myself even more. I then promised myself that I would lose all the weight plus some to show how beautiful I was. After 3 years I decided I was losing weight for the wrong reason and I needed to love myself before anyone else could love me. I changed my diet and lifestyle and I wanted to be healthy rather than skinny. When I started getting my confidence back and stopped looking for love in the wrong places I found my now fiance. He told me he loved me no matter what I looked like! Stretch marks and all! I am proud to say that I am down to a healthy (not starved) 107 pounds. We will be trying to have another baby after we are married and this time I will stay healthy and happy for my baby.

picture 1: 8 months pregnant
picture 2: 1 month pp
picture 3: 4 years pp
picture 4: 4.7 years pp still stretch marked but feeling better about me

The Beauty of Natural Childbirth to a First Time Mother (Anonymous)

Age: 22
Number of Births: 1
Age of my child: 8 months

The first time I found out I was pregnant I was scared but excited and looking forward to bringing a new addition into the household. Unfortunately, I miscarried in the first trimester. I was completely devastated and for months it was the only thing I focused on. My husband and I went on to get married a month after the miscarriage and after a few months I was able to get back to my normal self. That was when the magic happened! I found out the day after Halloween of 2009 that my husband and I were expecting again. I was nervous the first few months that I would lose this baby as well, but the pregnancy went perfectly. I gained a total of 26 pounds taking me from my original 127 to 153 when I gave birth. We both wanted me to give birth naturally because we personally feel that it was the best choice for me. We watched lots of videos like The Business of Being Born and read up on many articles on the internet. I became very comfortable with the idea of a natural birth. The rest of my pregnancy was a breeze. The only stretch marks I received were a few small ones on the sides of my breasts, I only had about 4 weeks of morning sickness in the beginning ( although it felt like an eternity ha ha). My husband walked with me every evening to get some fresh air and exercise, and I had no swelling of the hands or feet. Finally, the day came for my daughter to be born. I was 38 weeks and my water broke at roughly 2:40am in the morning. We packed up a few things and made it to the hospital by 3:00am. Once I got settled in the room I started having very strong contractions. I knew that labor was going to go quick. I wanted to give in a few times and opt out of the natural birth my husband and I had planned because the pain became unbearable, but my husband was wonderful and talked me through it. Also, when the nurse checked me it was too late. I was 8cm and very close to giving birth. A few painful contractions and some pushes and an episiotomy later I gave birth to a beautiful 6lb 12oz baby girl at 5:10am. I feel in love with her right away and apparently bawled my eyes out (so hubby says). I breastfed her right away and still do to this day, although I do supplement baby foods as well. I think the breastfeeding really helped to shrink my tummy back up. I took pics of my postpartum from about 1 week post to 6 months post. It’s amazing how your body changes! But with some healthy eating and a great workout plan like what I’m doing….you are sure to get your sexy back ;)

I now weigh 120 lbs…7 pounds less than my pre-pregnancy weight

Pictures as followed:
#1 Pre-pregnancy
#2 30 wks Pregnant
#3 38 wks Pregnant
#4 At the hospital with contractions
#5 My daughter at one day old
#6 1 wk Post Pregnancy
#7 2 wks Post Pregnancy
#8 3 wks Post Pregnancy
#9 6 months Post Pregnancy side view
#10 6 months Post Pregnancy front view
#11 My little girl at 7 months
#12 My little girl and I at 8 months

Winter Update (Vi’s Mama)

Hi everyone.
I posted an entry here over the summer, but a lot has changed since then.
I’ve been continuing to struggle with my body image. I constantly obsess over it, and i don’t want it to rub off on my daughter. Recently i got my belly button pierced and a tattoo designed by my friend on my hip.
I don’t know what it is, but suddenly i feel more confident about my body. Maybe it’s because i feel that the piercings and tattoos take away from the stretch mark scars. Either way, it’s such a relief to look in the mirror and be okay with what i’m seeing.
I hope someday soon i can be okay with my belly with or without decoration. Until then, whenever i feel insecure all i have to do is look at my beautiful daughter and it all feels worth it.
Thanks for listening :)

Accepting Change (Anonymous)

Age: 26
Number of pregnancies 3, Number of births: 2
Kids ages: 10 and 4 months
4 months postpartum

I was 16 when I had my daughter. Before I had gotten pregnant I was 116 lbs. Quickly after I gave birth, I returned to 116 lbs. I got a few stretch marks and dealt with it. It took years for me to be comfortable in my skin but I was glad that I was able to overcome it. Fast forward 10 year later, I gave birth to my son during my 39th week (my weight peaked at 154 lbs). It was a quick, but grueling labor. My son was born weighing 6 lbs 15 oz (my daughter was 6 lbs 6 oz) so he was kind of small. I remember the day I came home from the
hospital and I had a friend come by to see the baby. First thing she said when I opened the door for her was “You sure you don’t have another one still in there?”

As a new mom I wanted to cry, but I sucked it up. After she left I came to the realization that this weight loss progress isn’t going to be easy. Before I had my son I was 5’2 in height and about 124 lbs. Now at 4 months postpartum I am 130 lbs. I know some people might not think that it isn’t that much, but it
is still a change. Lose skin, stretch marks, uneven breast is what I am dealing with now. For the past few weeks exercise has been my best friend. At times I feel like giving up, maybe cause I am not getting the results as fast as I would like them. I have also started to count calories. That takes a lot of self
control because I still have the appetite of a pregnant woman….I WANT TO EAT EVERYTHING =)

I feel very fortunate that I have a wonderful man in my life. Sometimes I feel ashamed to be naked in front of him. Surprisingly, he doesn’t mind my flaws. He’s always touching and rubbing my stomach. I think as women we are self conscious about our appearance, and I blame the media for that. Beauty comes in
all different shapes & sizes though…..we are all beautiful because we were created by God!

I stumbled across this website through a google search, but I am so glad I found it. I appreciate each and every one of your stories. As moms, we go through many sacrifices but each one of them are worth it. I feel privileged and honored that God chose me to carry HIS kids.

First pic- A month before I got pregnant with my son
Second pic- Me and my daughter, dressed for my baby shower, I was 7 ½ months
pregnant with my son
Third pic- Last picture I took while pregnant with my son
Fourth/fifth pics- 3 weeks post partum
Sixth/seventh/eighth pics- 4 months post partum (The eighth one my stretch marks
are really visible)
Ninth pic- my babies =)