Ashley Graham talks about the struggle to love her body while pregnant: 'At first it felt devastating'

After having her first child back in January, Ashley Graham can already attest to the presence of “mommy-shaming” and the stress of receiving unsolicited advice when it comes to being a first-time mom. But the model is determined to not let outside voices take control of how she parents or appreciates her postpartum body.

“The mommy-shaming on social media is out of control,” Graham, 32, shared with Kristen Bell in an interview for Elle’s August issue. “I’ve got a couple of family members who are pregnant, and my instinct is to say, ‘Oh, do this, do that.’ But I stop myself every time, because I remember how I felt when everybody told me what to do and sent me their unsolicited advice and their lists. If there’s a question to be asked, ask it. But other than that, keep your trap shut and just let that mother figure it out.”

Graham explained that the advice on how to parent came even before she became one. Now that she has a nearly 7-month-old baby boy, Isaac, at home with husband Justin Ervin, the couple is raising their child the way that they see fit.

“Everybody has an opinion, right?” she asked. “But I just kind of did what I wanted to do. Isaac is not sleep-trained, but he only wakes up maybe once or twice in the night, max. I feel 100 percent rested, so it’s not like I’m living in agony every day like, ‘He didn’t sleep last night.’ We’re walking into month [seven], and he’s screaming at the top of his lungs. He thinks it’s so fun to be louder than Mom and Dad. I think we’ve figured out the diapers we like, and we only have maybe one blowout a week. And I’m still breastfeeding.”

Graham breastfeeds her son, Isaac. (Photo: Justin Ervin for Elle)
Graham breastfeeds her son, Isaac. (Photo: Justin Ervin for Elle)

Along with her new journey into motherhood, Graham talked about experiencing a number of changes in her body since being pregnant and how it was difficult for the body-positive activist to practice what she’s long been preaching.

“Before I was even pregnant, that was always my hope for women in general, that they could learn to continue to love their bodies through the changes and the ups and downs. And then, when I got pregnant, I had to reimagine my relationship with my body with this creature inside me taking over,” she explained. “I was gaining weight so rapidly. Then, to get stretch marks on my stomach, that to me was like, ‘Oh my gosh. I can’t believe this happened.’ At first it felt devastating, and then when I met Isaac, I said, “No, this is exactly what every woman has talked about for ages. This is not just a battle wound. This is something that has changed my life forever, and I’m going to celebrate my new body.”

Graham has since celebrated her postpartum figure on social media with photos flaunting her figure — whether breastfeeding or showing off her stretch marks. Some of her latest photos included unretouched shots in her new Swimsuits For All bathing suit line.

”When it comes to Facetuning and altering your body—erasing body parts and cellulite and lifting and tightening—I pass on all that,” Graham told Elle. “When I look at my new stretch marks and the changes that my body went through, it reminds me that, as women, we’re all superheroes. I’m always reminded that our bodies were built to do this. It’s such a beautiful thing to be able to give birth, but I didn’t realize it until afterward.”

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