Before having twins, Joanna Venditti didn’t realize how much the pregnancy would change her 5’2″ body – even though she’d previously given birth to two other children.
“I basically had to just live between the couch or the bath to survive,” she tells PEOPLE of carrying her twins, which catapulted her weight to 190 lbs. “My babies thrived, but I found it very rough. My heart had a very hard time with it, and I would almost black out. My hips would ache and dislocate a little.”
The postnatal experience was also difficult, much more so than after giving birth to her older kids.
“The biggest thing that surprised me was not only the recovery from the C-section, but actually the recovery of my body stretching, and of my organs shifting after having two people in me – and the pain that goes with that,” says the Ontario-based mommy blogger, 32, who had four children in five years.
But she also experienced something positive that was equally unexpected: She found brand-new confidence in her body.
“Since I was young I struggled with my weight, always being a little on the heavy side,” Venditti wrote in a blog post that has since gone viral. “I would tend to compensate with my bubbly personality and spend a lot of time on my hair and makeup. Finally, while in college, I reached my goal weight by working out and dieting A LOT. Back then my sole purpose was to turn heads.”
But now she’s learned to love her body, new curves and all.
“I’m more confident today, and I just have this new appreciation for my body,” says Venditti. “When you’re pregnant, there are so many things that need to go right, and there are so many things that could go wrong. I just feel like I really appreciate every new curve so much more because I’m on the other side now.”
Venditti hopes her post – which shows photos of her body before, during and after her three pregnancies – will inspire other mothers to come to terms with their own postpartum bodies.
“I hope [other moms] can see themselves in my post,” she says. “I want every mother – whether she has had one baby or three babies or triplets, to stop and reflect on what she has been through and what her body’s been through and what it’s done, and thank her body.
“I think there needs to be a shift in the way people look at postpartum bodies and pregnant bodies, and the goal for health after that. I have three daughters and I hope one day they can read [my blog] and be inspired too.”