Jen McLellan is founder of Plus Size Birth, a digital community for moms of all sizes, and a writer and certified childbirth educator who advocates for plus size women. She shared her insights with Motherly about how to better support mamas, and why women need to learn to love themselves, whatever their shape.

Q. What did you discover about yourself through motherhood that you didn’t know before?

I’ve discovered that body is amazing! As a plus size woman, I’ve struggled with body image for most of my life. During pregnancy something changed within me as I watched my belly grow and felt my son kick. When I gave birth on my knees, there was no looking back! I realized in that moment the strength and beauty my body possesses.

Q. How did motherhood change your approach to your career?

I thought I knew my life’s path before having my son, but I never could’ve imagined how much my life would change. My pregnancy and birth transformed the relationship I had with my body. I started my blog, Plus Size Mommy Memoirs, soon after my motherhood journey began. I wanted other plus size women to know that we can have healthy pregnancies and empowered births. Most of the media around plus size pregnancy leads women to believe that our bodies are broken. I’ve spent the past four years working to change that narrative as a childbirth educator, public speaker, and patient advocate.

Q. What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

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When it comes to parenting advice, my mother-in-law provided me with these words of wisdom, “Never say never.” Gosh, was she right! I had set all of these strict expectations for myself before I became a mother. I’ll never…give my child a pacifier or supplement with formula. The reality is I never anticipated having a sick baby and so many breastfeeding struggles. So remember, pretty much everything you say you’ll never do, you actually will. And you know what? That’s okay! Don’t be so hard on yourself because you’re doing the best you can and your best is good enough.

Q. “The trick I figured out that really helps me in my daily family life is____.”

To laugh often! This motherhood gig might look like pink roses and butterfly kisses on Facebook but in real life it’s a lot of hard work. Laugh at yourself; laugh at the diaper blowout and the toddler tantrum. You have to laugh because if you don’t then you’ll find yourself feeling burnt out very quickly.

Q. “In my purse, you’ll always find this must-have item __________”

If you would’ve asked me three years ago I would’ve said baby wipes. Now that my son is 4 I’m back to doing small things to pamper myself rather than someone else’s butt! Hand lotion for me is a minute break from everything going on to just do something nice and comforting for myself. So right next to Buzz Lightyear you’ll always find a pleasantly smelling hand lotion container in my purse.

Q. If I could tell your younger, pre-child self something, what would it be?

You are worthy of self-love and you are far more beautiful than you realize! I became a mother at the age of 30. So that means that I didn’t fully love myself for the first 30 years of my life. That makes me sad. So many years wasted hating a body that’s actually pretty incredible. Now I get to travel around the country talking to moms of all sizes about the importance of body love!

Q. What do you want other mamas to know?

You’re beautiful! You’re stunning in your yoga pants with spit up in your hair. Remember that our kids are listening closely to everything we say about our bodies and we’re setting the foundation for how they will feel about their bodies. I have many body love tips but the easiest first step is to just look in the mirror every morning and tell yourself that you’re beautiful. You may not believe it at first but over time you will.

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