When friends started congratulating Desiree Fortin on her "baby bump," she was taken aback: The proud mom of 18-month-old triplets Charlize, Sawyer, and Jax isn't currently pregnant.
Hurt by the unexpected comments, Fortin took a moment to think about the ways her body had changed since she gave birth to the triplets in August 2015. Ultimately, she realized, she couldn't help but be proud of her body for the amazing feat that it had accomplished — especially considering she had struggled with infertility for years before having the triplets.
So Fortin took to her blog, Our Journey to Parenthood, to celebrate her meaningful and hard-earned scars. She shared raw photos of her post-pregnancy body, named her stretch marks and loose skin "hope wounds," and encouraged other moms to learn to love their changed bodies just the way they are. She wrote:
Despite my "baby bump" when I look into the mirror, I see so much more beauty than I've ever seen before because my hope wounds, which are with me forever, have far greater meaning to me than I ever knew they would. Even though I may have a little extra pooch and lots of tiger stripes, I longed for wounds like these. My hope wounds are the change my body never saw coming, but my heart desired so deeply. They are reminders of the excruciating pain and grief infertility caused my heart... They are pure beauty because they represent my miracles.
Fortin also noted that physical changes aren't the only thing that she's struggled with post-pregnancy — she's also been dealing with postpartum depression and anxiety. In the earliest days of motherhood, she says, she took medication to manage panic attacks, which made her feel ashamed and lonely.
"When I first realized I was struggling with PPD and anxiety, it was very difficult for me to admit because I had longed so deeply to be a mother and I felt so guilty and ashamed for not experiencing all the mommy joys I thought I would," Fortin told TODAY. "As mothers, we need to have grace for ourselves."
Fortin's experiences reflect those of many new moms who struggle with post-pregnancy body image and mental health issues, and she hopes her words will help them remember to love their bodies, take time for themselves, and ask for help when they need it.
"I hope you will also be inspired to love and embrace your postpartum body because behind those wrinkles and wounds is a beautiful story and woman of strength who brought life into this world," she wrote.
Hear that, #StrongMoms? You're beautiful just the way you are.