Ashley Graham has always openly shared her personal experiences with motherhood. For years, the model has been an advocate for body positivity, sharing glimpses into difficult moments in her life and empowering other people who have given birth to speak honestly and freely about their own journeys as well. Most recently, in a deeply personal essay penned for Glamour on May 20, Graham candidly reflected on her experience with pregnancy loss, giving birth to twins, and learning to love her postpartum body.
On Giving Birth to Twins
The night she gave birth to her twins - Malachi and Roman - Graham blacked out in her apartment bathtub only minutes after her three-and-a-half-hour labor. (Graham also had a home birth with her first child, Isaac.) "All I can remember is feeling a light touch on my cheek, which I found out later was actually somebody smacking the crap out of my cheek, someone holding my hand, my husband Justin in my ear, praying, and someone jabbing me with a needle in my arm. And I remember seeing darkness and what seemed like stars," she writes.
With the help of her midwives and her husband, Justin Ervin, Graham finally came to after losing liters of blood due to a hemorrhage. The experience was "messy" and "emotional" and laid the foundation for Graham's strenuous postbirth journey. "Like so many women, what I went through with childbirth has reshaped my relationship with my body - and I say this knowing that I am the person who has been shouting from the rooftops to you all, 'Love the skin you're in,'" she says. "Yet for me, the births of all my three children threw a lot of that out of the window."
Continuing, Graham adds, "Malachi and Roman's birth was incredible, but the aftermath was deeply overwhelming," she says. "I couldn't walk properly for a long time, let alone exercise. I would shake, I didn't feel like myself physically or emotionally. I had planned to be back at work after eight weeks, but I was a wreck, and when I saw myself in the mirror, I still felt like I looked pregnant."
On Experiencing a Pregnancy Loss
Following the birth of her first son, Isaac, in 2019, Graham experienced a pregnancy loss. "I've not shared this until now, but I fell pregnant in January of 2021, on my husband's birthday. Because it was my second pregnancy, I started to show early, and we were so excited," she says. "But at the end of February, I had a miscarriage. It was devastating; it felt like one of the biggest losses I had ever had in my life to date. And I understood at that point what so many other mothers have gone through. I had a child already, and looking at him was the only way to ease my pain, and yet the loss was so acute."
"It was devastating; it felt like one of the biggest losses I had ever had in my life to date."
Graham continues. "I cannot even fathom how heartbreaking it must be for women who have not yet had children, and for those who have been through miscarriages multiple times." Graham describes feeling as though she was expected to simply "move on" from her grief - a near-impossible task. "I just remember breaking down more than a few times, just at random, and thinking, 'How do women across the world do this? Because my story is no bigger than anyone else's.'"
On Learning to Love Her Postpartum Body
Later in her letter, Graham describes the immense stress she felt over being expected to "snap back" after giving birth. The physical and emotional toll was overwhelming. "I have always fought against unfair and unrealistic standards and yet, if I am being completely honest, here I was, expecting myself to snap back. And fast," she says. "I was like, 'You don't understand. I used to be a sex symbol, and now I am a baby-making machine and I have stretch marks up to my belly button. What the eff is happening?' Then one day I just stopped and thought, 'Screw it, this is my life.'"
"I tell myself that I am a warrior for carrying and birthing my babies, for surviving the hemorrhage, for being a mother to my three boys, and yet also still struggling with the transformation of my body."
Once Graham partnered up with Joanna Griffiths and Knix to create her new size-inclusive lingerie collection, Reveal Yourself, life slowly began to piece itself back together. "She and the Knix team supported me in a way postbirth that I wish every business could support women within their companies, whether they have just given birth, had a miscarriage, or are dealing with something else entirely," Graham says.
By recounting her postbirth journey, Graham says she hopes to empower other women to speak more openly about their own experiences and to feel fearless, beautiful, and vulnerable all at once. "I am still not entirely comfortable in my body, no matter my own body positivity advocacy," she says. "Day by day it goes back and forth. I tell myself that I am a warrior for carrying and birthing my babies, for surviving the hemorrhage, for being a mother to my three boys, and yet also still struggling with the transformation of my body. . . . Even as a body advocate, I've learned it's okay if the journey to love the skin you're in is more complex than you could ever have imagined."