Mom proudly shares stunning unedited maternity photos to inspire others

"You don't really see the insecurities that women go through while they're pregnant."

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/ Source: TODAY
By Terri Peters

In a series of stunning maternity photos, new mom Christina Abiola is inspiring other women to embrace their pregnant and postpartum bodies.

But when Abiola and her fiancé, Lamar Grant, initially planned their photo shoot with PrinceLoove Photography, the 22 year old asked to have her stretch marks edited out.

"I wanted to do a maternity shoot, but I was feeling insecure because I was growing all these stretch marks and I've never really had stretch marks before," Abiola told TODAY Parents. "I just kept delaying."

Abiola put off her photo shoot until she was 38 weeks pregnant, saying she finally decided that since she could "give birth any minute," she needed to get it over with. When her photographer told her he couldn't edit her stretch marks out of the photos, she decided to let go of her self consciousness. A few days after her daughter, Aniyah, was born on October 24, Abiola shared the photos on Instagram exactly as they were.

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"I was already in that process of (embracing my body) because my fiancé was supporting me and always letting me know I was beautiful. My sister was always supporting me and some of my friends online that I shared with were always supporting me," said Abiola. "So once she came, I was like, 'Let me just post this picture,' because it's such a happy moment right now and this picture really shows our happiness."

Abiola's photos have gone viral, and the Linden, New Jersey mom has become an inspiration to other women who are struggling to love their own bodies.

"I think a lot of maternity shoots don't show the real, I guess," said Abiola. "I know a lot of people do edit out stretch marks. One of my friends had stretch marks, but in her maternity shoot you couldn't see them. And, when a lot of celebrities have their maternity shoots you don't really see the stretch marks — you don't really see the insecurities that women go through while they're pregnant."

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Abiola says she's received supportive comments saying she looks beautiful in the images, and has heard from lots of fellow moms who have thanked her for sharing photos of her body exactly the way it looked during pregnancy.

"I'm proud that I can be a role model or an advocate for this," said Abiola. "I didn't know it was that serious. I didn't know me showing my stretch marks would open this window of opportunity for other women to show their true selves."

This isn't the first time Abiola, who recently graduated college with her information technology degree and works as a hospital tech associate, has been an advocate for positive body image on social media.

"I used to want to be this way for dark-skinned women — I always wanted to be an advocate for dark-skinned women to embrace themselves because I was bullied when I was younger," Abiola shared. "And now, this is another window that I feel like I've been opening unknowingly. It feels really good to have women comment and say I inspired them."

Abiola says while she dealt with insecurities during her pregnancy, she'd do it all over again to be mom to baby Aniyah.

"When I saw her, that's when I was just like, 'I would do this 10 times again,'" said Abiola. "Now, I don't even care about my stretch marks... if it doesn't go away tomorrow, I'm fine."