Twenty weeks into pregnancy and so far, so good. No stretch marks.

Twenty-five, thirty weeks, and it looks like the religious use of belly butter is paying off! Why I was so terrified of them I’m not sure. Is it because my stomach was already the part of my body that I was least secure about? Is it because I grew up looking at my mom’s belly hoping mine would never look like that? Is it because I just wanted to be that mom rocking a bikini on the beach, looking like she never had kids? Yep, as shallow as it is, all of the above.


Thirty-three weeks and there it was: my first stretch mark.

I cried and cried all the ridiculous tears that, at the time, I thought were not ridiculous at all. In a way, I was grieving the loss of the body I had grown to be proud of. But, obviously, only if it looked a certain way. From that point on, as the weeks passed and more and more lines appeared, I hated being pregnant, and couldn’t wait for it to be over.

Postpartum came and I resented my body even more for not bouncing back immediately the way I thought it should, the way other moms’ bodies seemed to. And after nine months of breastfeeding and working out, I was finally back to my pre-pregnancy weight. But no amount of weight I lost could heal my mindset, the way I saw myself. No amount of affirmations from my husband could convince me that I “looked good!”. If I still had stretch marks, I didn’t look good. And that mindset went much deeper than my skin and the marks it bore.

We, as women, face so much pressure to look a certain way.

It’s the reality we face in the society we live in. No matter how much we all know it’s wrong and that the perfection we strive for is non-existent, we still buy into the lie that we are far from perfect, and if we’re not perfect then we’re not worthy of being loved. And our little girls will fall victim to this skewed thinking as well, as they are exposed to it from the time they’re born.

But, we as mothers have an even greater impact on our daughters’ hearts and minds.

We’re her first role model, what she looks to as the definition of a “woman.” I have a one-year-old daughter, who points to her belly and exclaims “be-eee!”, then lifts up my shirt and exclaims, “be-eee!”. My body, my belly, is the first woman’s body she has ever seen, and the one she’ll grow up seeing the majority of the time. As far as she knows, every woman’s belly has lines on it.

After a while of wallowing in self-pity and hating what my post-baby body looked like, I came to a realization that as a girl-mom I have a very important responsibility. That is to teach my daughter confidence apart from what the world around tells her about herself.

I still don’t like my stretch marks, and I don’t like what pregnancy did to my body. But I’ve learned that it’s normal, and it’s the lies I’ve believed my whole life that have made me think it’s anything other than that. As a girl mom, it's my job to instill confidence in my daughter even as a one-year-old. If she hears me make the slightest complaint about my body, she'll think that's okay, and someday make complaints about her own body.

I cant 100% shield her from the media and what our culture portrays as perfection, but I can and will teach her that every body is beautiful and worthy of love.

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Motherhood is a practice in learning, growing and loving more than you ever thought possible. Even as a "veteran" mama of four young sons and one newly adopted teenager, Jalyssa Richardson enthusiastically adapts to whatever any given day has in store—a skill she says she's refined through the years.

Here's what just one day in her life looks like:

Jalyssa says she learned to embrace agility throughout her motherhood journey. Here's more from this incredible mama of five boys.

What is the most challenging part of your day as a mom of five?

Time management! I want to meet each of the boys' individual needs—plus show up for myself—but I often feel like someone gets overlooked.

What's the best part of being a mom of five?

The little moments of love. The hugs, the kisses, the cuddles, the smiles... they all serve as little reminders that I am blessed and I'm doing okay.

Are there misconceptions about raising boys?

There are so many misconceptions about raising boys. I think the biggest one is that boys don't have many emotions and they're just so active all the time. My boys display many emotions and they also love to be sweet and cuddly a lot of the time.

What do you think would surprise people the most about being a mom of five?

How much I enjoy it. I never knew I wanted to be a mom until I was pregnant with my first. My desire only grew and the numbers did! I am surprised with every single baby as my capacity to love and nurture grows. It's incredible.

How do you create balance and make time for yourself?

Balance for me looks like intentional planning and scheduling because I never want my boys to feel like they aren't my first priority, but it is extremely difficult. What I try to do is not fit it all into one day. I have work days because motherhood is my first priority. I fit in segments of self-care after the kids' bedtime so I don't grow weary.

What's the biggest lesson you have learned from motherhood?

I have learned that sacrifice is actually beautiful. I was terrified of the selflessness motherhood would require, but I've grown so much through the sacrifice. There is nothing better than living for something bigger than myself.

When did you first feel like a mom? How has your motherhood evolved?

I first felt like a mom when I was pregnant with my first son and I intentionally chose to change my eating habits so my body could be strong and healthy for him. I didn't have to think twice—I just did what I thought would be best for him. That decision being so effortless made me realize I was made for motherhood.

My perspective has changed with each baby as I've realized motherhood doesn't have to be one-size-fits-all. With my first son, I was a by-the-book mama and it was so stressful. With each baby, I have felt more freedom and it has made motherhood so much more beautiful. I have evolved into the mother that they need, I am perfect for these boys.

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