Learning to love your body after pregnancy can be a process. You may not feel quite like yourself anymore or even recognize much of what's in the mirror. A lot changes after those nine months and the weeks or months following birth, and it is important to take time to love yourself every step of the way. This mom's C-section photo is a testament to the importance of self acceptance, and she has an important message for other moms out there.
Emily Houlston is a 19-year-old from Telford, England, who gave birth to twins in November 2017. She recently posted a photo of herself with her two adorable little boys, proudly bearing her tummy. The mother-of-two told HuffPost UK she decided to post the photo after struggling to come to terms with the way her body changed along with motherhood. “It got me in a bad place getting myself down about it," she said. "So I wanted to release a picture facing the reality of carrying babies and how much of an incredible journey we go through." Now Houlston is using her own experiences to encourage other women to resist the urge to "bounce back," and choose acceptance instead.
Houlston posted her photo to Instagram on Friday, explaining that she is now four months postpartum and just beginning to embrace her new bod after 36 weeks of pregnancy and five weeks of breastfeeding. Her caption told of how after a complicated pregnancy that led to an early delivery, her body has been put through the ringer:
Our bodies go through a lot, a lot of change and your body is put through an enormous amount and I am so proud of myself that I carried such beautiful children and gave them food, warmth and most importantly all the love that I never thought I had. With a scar that I will have for the rest of my life is a tiny sacrifice for a lifetime of beautiful memories with my family.
She goes on to share an important message with other moms who are dealing with the new reality of their bodies. She encourages them to embrace their bodies for the miracles that they are:
Your stretch marks DO NOT define you, your scar DOES NOT define you, your flab DOES NOT define you. You are incredible, you are a mother and you are the light of your babies eyes. I wanted to share this to show the reality of our bodies and that it’s okay not to be perfect because in their eyes you are exactly that.
Her followers certainly heard her message. The photo has amassed almost 2,000 likes and hundreds of comments — many of which came from other moms who thanked her for her honesty. One mom shared her own experience with giving birth to twins and her path towards self-acceptance:
I love this post! I am a mom of 14 year old twins. I had them naturally at 39 weeks. It took me forever to be ok with my stomach and the stretch marks I have. This post inspired me to love my body more!!!
Another said that Houlston's message came at a perfect time:
I needed to see this today to remind me that I have a beautiful baby that loves me no matter what my body looks like...thank you for having the courage to post this!!
Yet another mom admitted that self-love isn't always so easy, but Houlston was doing her part to make it a little bit easier:
Your words make me feel a bit better. I have three beautiful kids and I’m so thankful for them. But I find it very hard to accept my new body, especially my belly with all the stretches and the saggy skin. Thank you to share this picture with us, it makes me feel normal and not alone!
Learning to love and appreciate your post-baby body isn't always easy. Margo Maine, Ph.D., author of The Body Myth, told Parenting that it is totally normal to get a little down on yourself after pregnancy. "Times of transition are when negative feelings about your body tend to bubble up," she said. But you have to fight through those feelings and remind yourself just how gorgeous and glamorous you are, "stretch marks and all," as Houlston put it.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.