I stood in front of the mirror naked and sighed.
My body just isn't what it used to be, I thought sadly.
There was no denying the reality staring back at me – after giving birth to five children I'd put on weight, had stretchmarks, scars and the skin on my stomach was permanently wrinkled.
"I feel like my body has been stretched, tugged and pulled in a million directions," I sighed to my hubby Isiah.
"You know I love your body just the way it is though, right?" he replied.
He genuinely didn't care about my new lumps and bumps, which was sweet.
But us women are always tougher on ourselves than our partners are, aren't we?
Which is why when a friend suggested I take part in an online challenge a few days later, it got me thinking.
She encouraged me to join other mums in posting an unedited picture of myself on Instagram, as part of a series of snaps called This is Post-Partum.
At first, I wasn't sure.
"What do you think?" I asked Isaiah.
"You should go for it," he smiled.
So I took a deep breath and did it.
I set up my iPhone on a tripod and posed wearing a white bra, trousers and a big smile.
My children all gathered round me and held signs that read: This is postpartum.
When I looked at the picture, I gulped.
My wrinkly, flabby tummy was spilling out over my trousers.
Before I could think too much about it, I tapped onto Instagram and posted the photo.
Almost immediately I started to receive messages from other women.
You look great, one wrote.
Thank you for posting, wrote another.
It's wonderful to see another body that looks like mine.
Feeling encouraged, I posted another snap of myself, this time in a cropped grey t-shirt with my wrinkled tummy on show.
Once again I was swamped with compliments from other mums praising me for showing the reality of motherhood.
But not everyone was impressed.
Every now and then, along with the positive comments came some negative ones – mostly from men.
That's not beautiful, one said. No one wants to see that.
Keep it covered! Spat another.
It got me thinking.
All I'd done was post a picture of myself, an honest one, of what I really look like; what a lot of women looked like after they'd had children.
Why should I cover it up?
"It's all very well seeing images of women with perfectly toned bodies everywhere but what use is it if most women don't actually look like that?" I seethed to Isaiah.
It made me feel defiant so I continued to post more pictures of myself.
Thousands of likes and messages flooded in, with women all over the world getting in touch to thank me.
Any negative comments just spurred me on to post more.
My message was: it's ok to be who you are.
The most rewarding part was helping mums who felt like I used to.
Thank you, they told me.
You've given me back my confidence.
Now I have over 30,000 followers on my page, she_plusfive.
I love hearing from other mums.
It gives me such a buzz.
They tell me they look like me, and so when they say that my photo is beautiful it makes them realise they are beautiful too.
It took me five pregnancies, two caesarean births, three unmedicated VBACs (vaginal birth after caesarean), and five beautiful healthy children to realise the depth of strength and beauty a woman's body has.
Becoming a mother has helped me realise that to my children, it doesn't matter what my body looks like, they see me for who I am inside.
They know my heart and to them that's enough.
I want to love myself how they love me.
Of course we all have days when we don't feel as confident about our bodies and that's OK.
When that happens I usually stop and think what my body has done for me: grow five healthy, gorgeous humans inside me!
When I change the focus I thank my body instead.
My family, especially my five kids Victoria, eight, Veronica, six, Samuel, five, Vanessa, three, and Benjamin, ten months, remind me how amazing my body is.
They love my wrinkly tummy and call me chunky, which is a positive and affectionate word in our family.
We talk about why my tummy looks the way it does, and about how looking different isn't weird.
It takes a lot to change perspectives, but I think we should focus on the parts we love about ourselves, rather than the parts we hate.
Society might want to sit behind a screen and label us as 'flawed' but I want to remind all mummies that, to our children, we are perfect.
They see behind the stretchmarks and lines.
They see us for who we truly are.
They know our hearts and love us unconditionally, and that's all that matters.
Now, if I ever have a wobbly moment I stand in front of the mirror and say: "Your body is amazing. Your body is beautiful. Your body is powerful. Your body is strong. Your body made you a mother. Not everybody has that privilege."
- PuzzlesThe Australian Women's Weekly July Issue Online Entry
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