New mom Abagail Wedlake has stretch marks from childbirth — and she wants other women to know that it’s entirely normal.
Wedlake is four months postpartum, having given birth to her daughter, Aubrey, in January. Rather than hide her stretch marks, she decided to share photos of them on Instagram.
“I was tired of seeing the ‘perfect’ plastic bodies that the media portrays,” Wedlake, 22, tells PEOPLE. “I wanted other mothers to see that they are not alone. That the loose skin and stretch marks are nothing to be ashamed of.”
But it took time for the cosmetologist and master wig maker to get to a place where she was accepting of her postpartum figure.
“Just after [her] birth I felt extremely insecure about my body,” Wedlake says. “Not only did I have all the extra skin and stretch marks, I had a big cesarean scar to go along with it.”
And the self-doubt continued long after, until just a few weeks ago.
“I struggled with my postpartum body for the past couple of months,” Wedlake says. “Even when I was pregnant I struggled with the weight gain and wondering how my body would be after giving birth. I got my stretch marks at about 36 weeks pregnant and was devastated, thinking I’d never be able to wear a bikini out in public.”
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A random moment with Aubrey helped to turn the tide.
“That morning before I posted that picture, staring at the mirror holding my daughter I realized that these are earned. I carried her for nine months and earned these stretch marks and the cesarean scar below them,” she says.
That photo — posted on April 23 — quickly racked up over 15,500 likes, something Wedlake says she never would’ve expected. She hopes that seeing the typical postpartum body helps other moms feel more comfortable, scars and all.
“This is a normal postpartum body,” she says. “We see pictures of fitness models snapping back from a pregnancy. But how many of us are fitness models? It makes women think our bodies are not okay or not normal when they are. I hope it inspired mothers and even women without children to accept themselves and embrace their bodies.”