Fitness + Well-being

This mom embraced her C-section scar and stretch marks in an inspiring Instagram

 (iStock)

Beauty blogger Ruth Lee says she felt "horrified" when she snapped this photo of her c-section scar and stretch marks a few days after she gave birth to her baby girl, just as her postpartum depression was starting to settle in. But weeks later, the 25-year-old mom decided to share the picture on social media, for anyone else who might be facing a similar struggle with body image—and the post quickly went viral.

A post shared by Ruth Lee (@baybayruth) on

Lee explained in the caption that she had had high hopes for her postpartum recovery: “I followed SO many pregnant models during my pregnancy. And when they photographed themselves pool-side 5 minutes postpartum, I thought, ‘Wow! I hope that happens to me!’”

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She kept exercising as her belly grew, and used "every kind of stretch mark prevention you could think of." Lee was planning for a vaginal delivery, and studied natural childbirth. She took birthing classes and read every book she could get her hands on. But despite her best efforts, things didn't turn out the way she hoped. “I STILL ended up with a traumatic labor, cesarean section, scars, stretch marks, and unfortunately the inability to breastfeed long term," Lee said.

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The new mom admitted in her post—which has been liked nearly 5,000 times—that she couldn't believe the photo was of her own body. “I'm sharing it because I know in my heart that there are people out there that struggle with inadequacy. That might think they are not beautiful, that they might be ruined, less worthy, or not good enough.”

Her message is simple: "Be kind to yourself. And know that you are not alone."

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Indeed. Women who relate to Lee's experience are expressing their gratitude for her candid post in comments. "For my c-section the emotional scars run deep," wrote one Instagram user. "I'm almost 8 months post partum and still struggle. [B]ut your words spoke to my heart."

Another mom wrote: "Thank you for this picture reminding me ... my body now is something to be proud of."

This article originally appeared on Health.com.