In the summer of 2014, Tanis Jex-Blake, a 33-year-old mother of five from Canada, did something she never thought she'd do: took a deep breath, threw on a bikini and took her kids to the beach. Later that day, she posted a message on Facebook (which has since been taken down), directed at the "2 guys and 1 girl" who chose to humiliate her in front of her children.
"I'm sorry if my first attempt at sun tanning in a bikini in public in 13 years 'grossed you out,'" she wrote.
"I'm sorry that my stomach isn't flat and tight. I'm sorry that my belly is covered in stretch marks. I'm not sorry that my body has housed, grown, protected, birthed and nurtured five fabulous, healthy, intelligent and wonderful human beings. I'm sorry if my 33-year-old, 125-pound body offended you so much that you felt [like] pointing, laughing and pretending to kick me," she wrote, adding that she hopes one day those three people will "realize that my battle scars are something to be proud of, not ashamed of."
It wasn't long before her emotional message caught the attention of a local radio show, and when HOT 107 shared it on their Facebook page, followers reacted—passionately.
Since then, women of all shapes and sizes have come forward to share images of their own stretch marks and to swap stories about their own imperfectly perfect bellies. Hayley Garnett, who recently gave birth to twin girls Ruby and Ramona, is one of them. She also has an older son named Archer who—like most small children—is no stranger to brutal honesty.
One morning, her son caught a glimpse of her mom bod and asked what was wrong with her belly. Instead of letting her emotions get the best of her, she transformed his question into a beautiful lesson by sharing this photograph, along with her thoughtful response, on Instagram:
"All of my babies leave marks on my belly so that I never forget for a second that I grew them in my body all on my own and that they exist earthside with me now!"
"A forever reminder," she continued, "whether I’m truly confident having these marks or not, it’s no doubt a testament to the miracles my body has made."
Though some have accused the young mom/photographer of "intentionally editing her photo to make the marks look excessive,” Garnett told ABC News that it seems like a silly accusation.
"I decided to share the story because I habitually try to share a lot of personal feelings through my Instagram page because I really believe that showing your vulnerability is not only a healing process but also has the ability to really connect you with an individual or community in a way you may not have thought possible," she said. "I hoped that being open and honest about the marks that twin pregnancy gave me would give other moms the courage to actually accept themselves and maybe see their own marks in a different, more positive light."