It happened to be International Women’s Day when I entered my sixth week postpartum, having given birth to my second child. I found myself feeling overtly proud of my womanhood and even more gratified that I am a mother of girls. So I sweetly settled into my new role as a mother of two and discovered a different type of peace with being at home in my body.
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During my most recent pregnancy with my daughter Ila, my body changed a lot more than it did with my older daughter. I gained more than 25 pounds, and my stomach turned a much deeper brown than it had been before. It is now kissed with visible stretch marks I affectionately call love lines.
And although I am back to my prepregnancy weight, I am not back to my prepregnancy body. I look different through the middle. My love lines cover not only my stomach but also my calves, thighs and butt. The markings on my brown skin remind me of the way the ocean looks when the sun or moon collides with its surface. In a certain light the lines almost look iridescent. In fact, they look like art.
This may seem surprising to some, but I am okay with my new body. I am fine with putting vanity aside and humbly sacrificing it for the gift of life. How could I not be? It took my husband and me so long to have our baby. At the moment I wouldn’t have it any other way.
The older I get, the more I realize how societal views can shape and shift our personal narratives. We live in a culture that is unhealthily focused on women’s looks and sets unrealistic “snap back” expectations for mothers. As a Black woman raising Black daughters, I know firsthand that it takes radical strength to lean into self-love when everything around us says we are not good enough.
My journey through life has been filled with tough lessons, and through those lessons, I’ve become more resilient, and grown and flourished from every trip, fall, crash and burn.
Growing up I never knew how important my girl power was. And it wasn’t until I had my first daughter that I started to stand in that power—a power that teaches me to be soft and strong with myself without shame or judgment. So today and every day, I give thanks to my body.
I am proud of every stretch mark and scar. Every dimple, roll and imperfection. Without that strength I wouldn’t be here. Whether you’re a parent or not, we all have most likely struggled in some way with body image.
Being a mother this time around has forced me to stand firmly in unconditional self-love. It’s not always the easiest mountain to climb, but I am determined now more than ever to deepen the love I have for myself and for the skin I am in. When I think about it, our unique journeys are quite remarkable. My body has carried me far and wide. It’s grown, nurtured and nourished my children.
Both were born healthy—and happy. All I had to do was take care of my body and put my trust in it doing the same for me. I could not be more grateful now. I want all women to feel at ease in their bodies. No matter the circumstance, we deserve peace, and we are all worthy of self-acceptance, even when the world says otherwise. I’m happy knowing that this vessel—regardless of its size, weight or markings—has held me through my lowest lows, highest highs and everything else in between.
As I walk through life—and as my body continues to change with age—I choose to celebrate my journey, my beauty and myself. I am honored to be on this ever-evolving path of blooming and unfolding in the midst of mess, madness and magic. Healing is never linear, whether it’s physical or emotional. We must learn to be patient with ourselves as we mend—be it from giving birth or something else that transforms us. To my fellow women, celebrate yourself.
Love on yourself. Appreciate your journey and body. Keep blossoming. You are enough. You’re worthy, deserving and capable of moving through this world as you are.