At 16, I was every mother’s worst nightmare; pregnant with my boyfriend at the time.

We hadn’t been using condoms and I wasn’t on any type of contraceptive. And to these facts, many people have told me ‘Well, you were asking for it’. But despite their assumptions and accusations, I wasn’t asking for it. My pregnancy was completely unintended.

But it actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise.

You see, the experience of pregnancy, giving birth to my beautiful daughter and adjusting to my post-partum body showed me exactly where true beauty comes from and that I was most definitely worthy of self love. This is my story.

When I first learned that I was pregnant I didn’t even know how to react. At 16, I didn’t quite understand the repercussions of being pregnant; the changes that would happen to my body, that I would have to quit the intensive dance program I was in, that I wouldn’t have as much freedom as a teenager anymore. I didn’t understand that during my pregnancy I might lose friends because I can’t drink or party like them, I didn’t understand that I would feel so alone and isolated from my peers because I couldn’t be a ‘regular’ teenager if I was pregnant and after I gave birth. Though despite the lack of understanding, I decided that I would carry the pregnancy to term and have the baby.

Struggling With The Physical Changes

I’ve always struggled with my body image and self-esteem. When I was 11 years old, I vividly remember looking down at my stomach and thinking, ‘I’m fat because my stomach isn’t flat like the other women in the media’. From then on, I started counting my calories in an effort to lose weight because I hated the way I looked. So, when I got pregnant, I was extremely self conscious. I would inevitably gain weight and there would be changes to my body that I had no control over.

I was getting stretch marks, my breasts were growing at a massive rate, my bras weren’t fitting, my pants weren’t fitting. Nothing was fitting anymore and everything was changing. As a result, my self esteem just kept plunging throughout the entire pregnancy.

Battling My Post-Partum Body

In May, I gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby girl. But in the months or even years, after my daughter was born I continued to constantly obsess over losing weight because I wanted to be found desirable and attractive. I wanted to be ‘sexy’ and ‘wanted’ but I thought that no one would ever want to be with me because my body had changed so much. I perceived my post-partum body as disgusting because I had stretch marks on my abdomen and my breasts, my areolas had enlarged and darkened and I was breastfeeding.

Simply having an infant in itself made me feel undesirable. This was such a big deal because at the time I measured my self worth by who found my body attractive. I put the amount of self-worth and self-love that I felt into the hands of my peers and as a result, my self esteem remained low.

Since it was too soon after giving birth to put physical strain on my body, I couldn’t exercise. I found this extremely difficult and frustrating since how else would I lose weight?!

Then I learned that breastfeeding boosts your metabolism by using extra calories to produce the breast milk and I thought that this was a perfect way to lose weight. This means if I ate less but still breastfed, I would use more calories causing me to lose even more weight. I was using a natural bodily process that is supposed to create bonding and attachment between mother and infant to lose weight.

And all in an effort to become ‘sexy’ and ‘desirable’.

Understanding Where True Beauty Comes From

It wasn’t until I turned 19 that I finally started to love my body despite all the post-partum changes that had happened to my body.

I began to realize that people would still be attracted to me and love me, for other reasons besides of my body. They would still find me ‘sexy’ and ‘desirable’ for my personality, for my perseverance, for my intelligence. They don’t care that I have stretch marks. They don’t care that my breasts are little saggy because I breastfed. They don’t care that I had a baby! In fact, some of my partners told me it was the sexiest thing about me and didn’t that just blow my mind.

My body is beautiful and I have come to accept my post-partum body and appreciate all that it does, has done, and will do for me. I know that my worth is not measured by anyone else except me and is based off so much more than what I look like.

Most importantly, I know that I am worthy of love from myself and others regardless of how my body looks. Because true beauty comes from inside.