Ashley Graham is proudly celebrating her post-pregnancy body.
The 32-year-old model posed nude while breastfeeding her 6-month-old son, Isaac, in a photo shot by her husband, Justin Ervin, for Elle's August digital issue. In an accompanying interview with actor Kristen Bell, Graham said the changes in her body now remind her of her powerful journey to motherhood.
"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," she said. "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."
The new mom, who proudly showed off her stretch marks in a new ad campaign for Swimsuits For All, said she struggled at first with the physical changes pregnancy caused.
"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," she said.
"And then, when I got pregnant, I had to reimagine my relationship with my body with this creature inside me taking over. 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,'" she said.
Welcoming Isaac last January helped Graham to shift how she thought about her body.
"At first (the physical changes) felt devastating, and then when I met Isaac, I said, 'No, this is exactly what every woman has talked about for ages,'" she recalled. "'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 also revealed that giving birth was a lot more painful than she expected.
"First of all, I had no idea it was going to hurt that bad. Let me just go there for a second: Every mother talks about, 'Oh, yeah, it’s painful.' Whether they got an epidural or not, or a C-section, whatever happened, they’re like, 'Yeah, it hurt,'" she told Bell. "And they say it kind of calmly like that. They don’t go into the astronomical pain that you go through, especially if you choose to go natural."
While there have been few upsides to the COVID-19 pandemic, Graham said she's grateful it's allowed her to spend more time at home with Isaac.
"The silver lining in all this is that I gave birth just before quarantine, so I’ve been able to watch Isaac grow up before my eyes," she shared. "Experiencing every single moment with him has been a dream come true.
"I feel really bad for the next kid," she added, "because I don’t know if they’re going to get this much attention."