When Ruth Lee gave birth to her daughter, Presley, in November, she struggled through a traumatic delivery experience and ultimately developed postpartum depression and severe body image issues.
But the new mom shared how she faced her demons in a powerful Instagram post. On Feb. 23, Lee posted a photo of her midsection taken a few days after Presley’s birth.
”The pregnancy and birth of my little girl was the most amazing thing I’ve ever been a part of,” she wrote in the caption, adding that she always wanted to become a mom. “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.”
Lee lives in St. George, Utah with her husband and now nearly 4-month-old baby. Though her Instagram account is mostly filled with joyful photos of her family and lifestyle-related content, she opened up about her postpartum struggles in the raw body image post.
“I followed SO many pregnant models during my pregnancy,” the mom wrote in the caption. “And when they photographed themselves pool-side 5 minutes postpartum, I thought, ‘wow! I hope that happens to me!’”
Lee was 25 when she gave birth to Presley. “I was healthy. I was young. I stayed active during my pregnancy,” she wrote. “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.”
Coming to terms with the harsher realities of motherhood was challenging for Lee. She explained that she was horrified by the sight of her postpartum body and struggled with PPD, but she hopes her story can help others.
“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,” she wrote. “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.”
Lee encouraged people to be kind to themselves and know they are never alone. “Comparison is the thief of joy,” she concluded. “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.” She added the hashtag #StopCensoringMotherhood.
Lee told The Huffington Post she decided to post the photo after scrolling through Instagram one night and feeling bombarded with images of “perfect” women. “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,” she said.
At the end of her breakdown, the mom resolved herself to bare her scars. “I knew that there had to be other women out there like me and that social media needed more authentic pictures,” she said. “That perhaps if other women, who may be struggling with their bodies, saw this, they would realize that they are not alone. And that is empowering.”
Lee said she struggled especially with her C-section scar. “Initially, my scar represented failure in my mind, that my body was unable to birth my baby like it was ‘supposed’ to,” she told HuffPost. With time, though, the mom has learned to love it.
“Although it didn’t go ‘according to plan,’ my scar represents the best day of my life ― the day I became a mother,” she said. “It represents over 19 hours of labor, it represents strength I never knew I possessed, it represents pain that I endured for the sake of my baby, it represents that moment that they held up my beautiful 8-pound 9-ounce girl for the first time, and we got to stare into each other’s eyes.”
Ultimately, Lee hopes her post inspires people to be good to their bodies and appreciate what they’ve done.
“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.”
She added, “I hope to, for a second, unite mothers and real women and share a little honesty.”