A Kentucky mom's powerful blog post is offering a new perspective in the conversation about postpartum body image.
Photographer and blogger Ashley Glass wrote a post titled, "Thunder Thighs or Skinny Mini: The Truths Behind Body Shaming," in which she shares her own personal body image journey and offers some advice to her fellow moms and society as a whole.
Explaining that she's always been "the small girl," Glass begins her post with descriptions of the unkind labels and nicknames people always used to describe her "surfboard" figure. She then describes how her body changed with pregnancy and the birth of her now-3-year-old son.
"Having no idea what a legit post-baby bod would look like, I was a bit traumatized that I had a miniature basketball belly still there, even after he came out," she wrote.
Though she shed the additional pounds, trouble began when the mom continued to lose weight uncontrollably, her hair started falling out in large clumps and her heart rate skyrocketed. She also started feeling extremely sad and emotional over very small matters.
"I felt judged and like all eyes were on me, but there was nothing I could do about it," she said. "Rumors spread at work that I was anorexic; co-workers monitored my lunch-eating habits. I started to hear comments about how 'sickly' I looked and how I needed to put on weight."
After a few doctor visits, Glass was diagnosed with a rare condition called postpartum thyroiditis. Soon after, she learned that she was pregnant with her second child.
The mom's second pregnancy brought more bodily changes like stretch marks and back pain, and now that her little ones are toddlers, she still grapples with body image sometimes.
"I may be the skinniest I have ever been but I have to admit that when I look in the mirror, I do it so quickly that I dodge certain parts of my stomach," she wrote, adding, "Postpartum Thyroiditis caused me two years of an emotional roller coaster. And back-to-back pregnancies caused me saggy skin; skin that is difficult for me to wear."
At the end of her post, Glass looks more broadly at body image for all women.
"I am wondering when it became okay for others to body shame each other," she wrote. "If a woman is too heavy she is called 'fat,' and if you're in-between, maybe you've been called 'average' and if you're skinny, people tell you 'eat a sandwich.' No matter what size you are, how your skin looks or doesn't look, isn't this you? And shouldn't we put our arms around the women in our lives and tell them that they are freaking rock stars, child bearing or not?"
The mom concludes with a call to put a stop to body shaming:
"While I myself struggle to accept it, we are given these bodies one time. Of course they are going to change as we age; they will tighten and droop and re-tighten. And the bodies we had two years ago won't be the bodies we have tomorrow. We will all strive for different things, but can't we all work our asses off for one thing: to avoid the universally accepted process of body shaming and instead challenge our hearts to seek good in each other?
Glass told The Huffington Post that she "completely hesitated" to share this personal blog post, as she feared the many hurtful and judgmental comments that saturate the social media sphere today.
"Because I am 'thin' I think there have been many women who don't believe that I could (or even should) struggle with the way I look," she said. "It's not fair to assume that because I weigh a certain amount on the scale means that everything is hunky dory."
"The loose skin and stretch marks haven't been something that I can easily look past and I don't think this makes me a bad person, I think it makes me human," she added.
Glass was ultimately motivated by her passion for writing and a single goal: "to give a fellow mom or woman some inspiration, hope or courage."
"We all choose a method on how to raise our children; a sleep method or feeding method -- cloth diapers vs. disposable, breastfeeding or formula. We choose one of these and then we run with it. We do it how WE want to do it," she told HuffPost.
But, she continued, it's hard to get past the tendency to compare your feelings and choices to what you see around you.
"The same rings true for our bodies," the mom said. "I bet some women look at my stretch marks and think, 'She's worried about THOSE? She hasn't seen MINE!' but that's not what this is about. This is about trying to encourage women simply to love one another."
"We are all so different, we've been through so many different things, your story will never be mine and vice versa; so why not just be supportive and encouraging instead?" she added.
For Glass, modeling a sense of positive body image for her children is a major goal.
"My husband and I want our children to find value in MORE than their body image," she said. "If all our daughter Reese feels as she gets older is that 'she's beautiful,' we did something wrong. We want to teach them that it is OKAY to be skinny or curvy, short or tall, beautiful or not; it's what is on the inside that matters."
As she told HuffPost, raising kids who are "kind, respectful, loving, and considerate" is what it's all about.
That's a message parents can certainly get behind.
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