Though most of us know that our bodies will go through a lot of changes during and after pregnancy, it's still hard to be prepared for what happens — especially if your birthing experience is more difficult than you anticipated.
After a particularly difficult delivery, mom Ruth Lee is sharing a photo of her stomach that she says "horrified" her. In a powerful Instagram post, Lee wrote that she's sharing an uncensored, unfiltered look at motherhood for anyone else who might be struggling with their body image after giving birth.
"I took this picture a few days after I gave birth, when my [postpartum depression] really first reared its head into my life. I took this and actually was horrified," she wrote in the caption. "I couldn't believe it was me. I'm sharing it because I know in my heart that there are people out there that struggle with inadequacy."
Lee explained that prior to giving birth, she followed several pregnant models who "photographed themselves pool-side 5 minutes postpartum," thinking that the same would happen to her. Instead, despite being 25 when she gave birth, staying active in the gym during pregnancy, and using "every kind of stretch mark prevention you could think of," she wrote, she still experienced a traumatic labor and ultimately developed postpartum depression.
"I STILL ended up with a traumatic labor, cesarean section, scars, stretch marks, and unfortunately the inability to breastfeed long term," she wrote.
Though she says that "the pregnancy and birth of my little girl was the most amazing thing I’ve ever been a part of," coming to terms with the more difficult parts of motherhood was a struggle for her. After scrolling through her social media feed and feeling bombarded with photos of "perfect" women, she told the Huffington Post, “I ended up on my bathroom floor, crying. I felt that because my body didn’t look like theirs, somehow maybe my worth was less."
However, she told HuffPo that she hopes that her honesty will inspire others to be kind to themselves and their bodies.
"Our bodies are not ruined after pregnancy," she said. "We need to stop letting social media contort our views on what is ‘beautiful.’ Motherhood is beautiful. Scars are beautiful. Stretch marks. Imperfection. Loose skin."
And as she wrote in her Instagram post, your scars, both physical and emotional, don't mean that you are "ruined," or any less worthy.
"Be kind to yourself," she wrote. "And know that you are not alone."