By Rebecca Drew
THIS MUM-OF-FIVE had online trolls label her body ‘disgusting’ but vows to continue posting candid pictures of her stretch marks and ‘wrinkled and floppy’ tummy to help other mums fall in love with their post-baby bodies – even though it took the birth of her fifth child for her to finally fall in love with her own.
Content creator and stay at home mum, Brenda Rivers Stearns (32) who lives in Ohio, USA, always dreamed of becoming a mum and knew that she wanted to have a big family from a young age. Brenda met her husband, Isaiah (37) in 2009 through an accidental text and after the pair exchanged messages, they soon fell for each other.
Now Brenda and Isaiah have five children; Victoria (7), Veronica (6), Samuel (5), Vanessa (3) and Benjamin who is nine-months-old. Since giving birth to Benjamin, Brenda has made it her mission to help other mums love their post-baby bodies as they are without trying to change them.
However, Brenda hasn’t always viewed her body in a positive light and struggled after a traumatic birth with her first child to come to terms with the change her body had been through which saw her have larger breasts, stretch marks and a floppier belly which meant she no longer felt confident in herself.
With each pregnancy that followed Brenda noticed more changes to her body, but it wasn’t until Benjamin was born that she decided to love her body even with its flaws as she was in awe as to how much it could achieve by bringing five beautiful lives into the world. Before her pregnancies, Brenda weighed 7st 12lb and now she weighs 8st 9lb, but she is happier with her body than ever before.
With this newfound confidence, Brenda started to post pictures of her real mum body on Instagram to show other mums that it is ok to not have an airbrushed body but she has been subject to cruel trolls who have branded her body ‘ugly’ and ‘disgusting’, this doesn’t faze Brenda though who says this reaction only spurs her on to post more real pictures to normalise expectations of mum bodies.
“I met my husband through an accidental text. I sent a text message to the wrong number while I was living in Georgia and he got the text half an hour after he had set up a new mobile phone plan. God works in mysterious ways,” said Brenda.
“Ever since I was a little girl, I knew I wanted to be a mummy. I literally am living the dream life.
“My first birth was a bit traumatic. I ended up with an emergency caesarean which left a huge scar on my lower abdomen. I didn’t like my body, my breasts grew three times larger, I had stretch marks on my sides, my belly flopped, and I just didn’t feel beautiful.
“With each pregnancy and birth came more changes. It wasn’t until the birth of my fifth child that I gained confidence to love myself. It took me five pregnancies, two caesarean births, three unmedicated VBACs (vaginal birth after caesarean), and five beautiful healthy children to realise the depth of strength and beauty a woman’s body has.
“Becoming a mother has helped me realise that to my children it doesn’t matter what my body looks like, they see me for who I am inside. They know my heart and to them that’s enough. I want to love myself how they love me.
“My breasts are way large, my belly is wrinkled and floppy, I have stretch marks on my sides, my abdomen isn’t flat. But it’s also changed in other ways, my body now is stronger, I have a higher tolerance for physical pain, my body loves deeper, my body can hold five babies, this body is capable of loving so much more than that pre-pregnancy one.
“I am very proud. My body carried life within me, not everyone has that privilege. I’ve had two major surgeries and three unmedicated VBACS, I am very proud.”
Brenda shares her raw motherhood posts on Instagram under the handle, @she_plusfive. She spoke out about how she handles the trolls, inspires other women and shared her words of advice to others.
“I get it all. Hate messages, trolls, comments saying my body is disgusting or ugly,” she said.
“Those comments usually fuel me to post again and again until we normalise the true beauty of a mum’s body.
“I feel very positive about my body. I do have physical goals I want to reach. I want to be healthy and strong and stay active throughout my days. I have my moments when I feel ‘ugly’ and I usually snap out of it when I remind myself how far I’ve come.
“When I stop and think of what my body has done for me, I change the focus and start thanking my body, I take time for myself and slow down. I am able to appreciate myself better.
“I wish I could have realised how strong and amazing my body was with my first baby.
“I don’t want others to wait as long as I did to love themselves for who they are right now.
“So, while society wants to sit behind a screen and label us as flawed, I am here to remind all of you that to our children we are perfect. They see behind the stretched-out skin, marks, and lines. They see us for who we truly are.
“They know our hearts and love us unconditionally and that is all that matters.
“Your body is amazing. Your body is beautiful. Your body is powerful. Your body is strong. Your body is capable. Your body made you a mother. Your body grew a human inside. Not everybody has that privilege.”
For more information see www.instagram.com/she_plusfive