As a first-time mum, 25-year-old Ruth Lee was vigilant about taking care of her body while pregnant. She exercised, she used "every kind of stretch mark prevention you could think of" and took "the best prenatals", all while keeping up with the journeys of pregnant models on Instagram.
Posting on social media last week, Lee said the images of these svelte new mums posing poolside post birth left her thinking: "Wow! I hope that happens to me!"
Instead, Lee says she has been left shocked by the changes to her body after seeing a photo of her stomach postpartum. Sharing the image to Instagram, she wrote: "I took this and actually was horrified. I couldn't believe it was me."
The young mum, from Utah in the US, also shared that she was putting the image out there in a bid to "stop censoring motherhood" and remind others who may be going through similar feelings of inadequacy that "what you see presented on social media isn't necessarily the reality for everyone.
"Don't let social media taint your view of what is beautiful, what is REAL," she wrote. "And above all, know that if you are struggling, I am here."
I'm posting this tonight with tears in my eyes. I can't help it. The pregnancy and birth of my little girl was the most amazing thing I've ever been a part of. Some people don't want kids, and I respect that. Really, I do. But for me, You see, I always have. When it finally happened though, it was so hard to fully comprehend. Pregnancy and babies, I mean that's common. It's everywhere. But when it's YOUR body and YOUR baby, it's so different. You literally feel like it's a miracle. Because, when it happens to you, it is. What brings me to Instagram tonight, is the post-baby. I followed SO many pregnant models during my pregnancy. And when they photographed themselves pool-side 5 minutes postpartum, I thought, "wow! I hope that happens to me!" I was 25 when I gave birth. I was healthy. I was young. I stayed active during my pregnancy. I took the best prenatals, went to the gym, used every kind of stretch mark prevention you could think of. I took hours of birthing classes, read every book under the sun, and studied natural childbirth my whole pregnancy. I STILL ended up with a traumatic labor, cesarean section, scars, stretch marks, and unfortunately the inability to breastfeed long term. I took this picture a few days after I gave birth, when my PPD really first reared its head into my life. I took this and actually was horrified. 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. That might think they are not beautiful, that they might be ruined, less worthy, or not good enough. Yours might not actually be physical scars, but maybe, a failed relationship, a difficulty in your career, a mental struggle, money issues, or just feeling lost in life. Be kind to yourself. And know that you are not alone. Comparison is the thief of joy. Don't let social media taint your view of what is beautiful, what is REAL. And above all, know that if you are struggling, I am here. I have an open inbox or (if you actually know me) an open door. #stopcensoringmotherhood #nofilter A post shared by Ruth Lee (@baybayruth) on Feb 23, 2017 at 10:32pm PST
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Lee, who lives with her husband and now four-month-old daughter Perry, has since spoken to The Huffington Post explaining that she felt compelled to post her image after seeing too many "perfect" post-baby bodies in her feed.
"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.
"I knew that there had to be other women out there like me and that social media needed more authentic pictures."
New blog post about how I meal prep breakfast. (For those days I'm not eating Taco Bell breakfast)Link in bio. #theRuthLeeDiary #mealprep #catchmeoutsidehowboutdat A post shared by Ruth Lee (@baybayruth) on Feb 28, 2017 at 6:32pm PST
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Lee says social media "needed more authentic pictures" and hopefully hers will inspire others to appreciate what they have.
"I feel amazed and grateful that I was able to conceive and carry a baby full term," she said. "Our bodies are not ruined after pregnancy. 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 it looks like Lee's brave revelation has struck a chord with other mums on Instagram.
One commented: "Absolutely beautiful. As a mother of 3, all by c-section, I'm proud to see photos like this because its a lot of hard work to grow a beautiful baby and there is no shame in a woman body postpartum... You rock."
Another wrote: "Thank you so much for sharing. It means a lot to see others going through some of the same struggles as you. Congrats for being so open."