(CNN) -- Meg Boggs is on a mission to redefine the public perception of a woman's postpartum body.
If she could tell moms two things to start them on a self-love journey it would be to "look in the mirror" and "get in the photo with your kids." The mother and blogger says she refused to be in photos the first couple of months of her daughter's life, "I regret so much that I wasn't in the photos with her. It's so important and you have to think about your kids and they are going to want you in the photos with them."
'I felt as if my postpartum journey and body didn't count'
In 2018, Boggs was a first-time mom to a 7-month-old baby and dealing with negative body image issues. As a plus-size woman, she felt she didn't look like other pregnant or postpartum women on social media. It began during pregnancy, "I would see pictures of a perfect bump and I didn't relate to that because I definitely did not have a perfect bump." Boggs would search for images she could relate to online but found none, which was isolating, "I felt as if my postpartum journey and body didn't count."
In an attempt to connect with similar women, she started to blog on MegBoggs.com, posted her very first postpartum photo on Instagram and braced for how the internet might react. "To my surprise, my messages flooded with positivity and things like 'I needed this today.' That's when this idea started finding its way into my heart," Boggs said.
This week was the culmination of a labor of love where she recruited 25 mothers to share their experiences with body image issues, postpartum depression and anxiety, infant loss and grief using the hashtag #This_is_postpartum on Instagram.
'It was OK to need a little help'
One of the women Boggs joined forces with was Ashley Dorough, of houseofdorough.com. For Dorough, this campaign served as an opportunity to let other women know they are not alone. She struggled with anxiety and depression after her eldest daughter was born with a congenital heart defect, "My main focus every day was just to keep her alive and experience every day with her to the fullest," Dorough said. A couple of years later, after her second daughter was born, she experienced postpartum depression, something that affects one in nine women. "I felt like I was in survival mode all the time, which is normal to a certain extent, but then it started turning into anger and I knew it really wasn't me, I'm not an angry person," she said.
Having seen other bloggers online open up about their experiences with antidepressants made her feel empowered talk to her OB. "My doctor told me that it was OK to need a little help right now and that really stuck with me," Dorough said. The combination of therapy and medication has been a "complete game changer" for her within the last month and her transparency about it has even led to one of her readers reaching out to her own doctor for help.
#This_is_postpartum also serves as a platform for Dorough to encourage other women to dig deeper into what's really important and starting the self-love process from the inside out. "When I look in the mirror right now, at this stomach, I feel like my body is a little destroyed. I just want women to know that it's normal to feel this way but it doesn't have to define you." She wants her daughters to grow up knowing that what they look like doesn't equal their worth.
She calls them her 'hope wounds'
Desiree Fortin knew that being pregnant with triplets was going to change her body, but she told herself she didn't care. After battling infertility, she believed that nothing mattered other than the fact that she was going to be a mom. When she had her babies, conceived via in vitro fertilization, or IVF, she realized, "My body changed more than I anticipated. There was a lot of extra skin, there were stretch marks covering all over." She knew a change in perspective needed to take place. Fortin began writing and talking about embracing her body.
An experience as painful as infertility helped Fortin focus her perspective, knowing that there are women walking the same journey she walked through wishing they had her stretch marks and extra skin. "They are the road map to my motherhood. They are a representation of my three miracle babies who I would not have if I did not walk through infertility and carry three human beings at one time," Fortin says that this perspective helped her find the beauty in every single stretch mark on her body. She calls them her "hope wounds" because they represent "things that I prayed for and longed for."
Even though some of the reaction to these photos has been critical, Fortin remains focused on the reason she's doing this in the first place, to empower women to love themselves and share their stories, "It's like a connection is made because you're being vulnerable. It's so beautiful and it fills my heart and reminds me of why I'm sharing."
'They are beautiful, no matter what society tells them'
Bethanie Garcia was inspired by her husband and children to view her body the way they did, like it was perfect. "Once I forced myself to believe that I was beautiful, I started seeing everything in a different light and started that whole journey of self love and self worth," the mother of four said. Garcia wants to help create a world in which her daughters can feel beautiful without unattainable standards. She wants women to know that "they are beautiful, no matter what society tells them or what they look like."
Before her fourth child was born, Garcia experienced a first-trimester miscarriage. The loss was not only physically and emotionally traumatic but she says it created a sense of failure. Miscarriage is common -- around 10% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage -- but Garcia says that even though she knew this, it still felt like her body had failed her.
She decided to post about her loss and received thousands of messages from women saying they had felt shame or failure because of their own miscarriages. Garcia heard from women that had never told anyone other than their partners, "The response helped me feel a lot less alone."
'It's those messages that remind me that it's worth it'
For Meg Boggs and these 25 women, the only way to normalize postpartum experiences is to be transparent, raw and continue the conversation. Sometimes, there are people that try to bring them down and cause pain with their words but Boggs says that, "I can get hundreds of negative comments but it's that one message that I'll get, even if it's just the one that says 'This is what I needed to see today,' it's those messages that remind me that it's worth it."
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