Emily Frigo
Courtesy Emily Frigo
Julie Mazziotta
November 29, 2017 01:11 PM

Throughout ten pregnancies — four of which produced living children and six that ended in miscarriagesEmily Frigo‘s relationship with her body has ebbed and flowed.

The birth photographer and doula says that while she struggled with a negative self image since childhood, she felt a renewed dislike for her body as it started to change with her first pregnancy.

“I clearly remember my first stretch mark — it was so deep that it bled,” Frigo, 26, tells PEOPLE. “I sat in the bathroom and cried for hours. I was incredibly disconnected with my body, and just felt overwhelmingly angry and upset.”

And when that pregnancy resulted in a stillborn birth, her feelings about her body became even more negative.

“I was so angry with my body,” she says. “Why was it failing me? What was I doing wrong? What could I do better? How could I overcome this?”

Yet all the while Frigo was criticizing her pregnant body time and again, she was working as a photographer capturing women giving birth.

“I’d witness these powerful, strong, and raw women bringing life into the world. And through photographs, I’d capture the details of their different shapes and curves and marks and rolls. And you know what? I have never once looked at another woman’s body the way I looked at my own. I admired them,” she says. “I thought every single person was just completely marvelous and miraculous. I started trying to look at my own body as I looked at theirs, with respect.”

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Now more at peace with her body — and with a home filled with four happy sons — Frigo decided to share a raw, real photo of herself on Instagram.

“I really do admire every imperfection of my body,” she says. “I wanted to share that with others. I wanted to celebrate that. And I wanted other mothers to see that their bodies are worthy of acceptance and love.”

After posting the photo, hundreds of people have commented in support, many of whom are also women dealing with infertility.

“Even if I had touched just one person, I would have been felt like my picture did its justice. To see it affect so many? I can’t even describe how absolutely humble and honored I am,” Frigo says. “I want this to be normalized. I want natural, common bodies to be something we are exposed to regularly.”

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