Tanis Jex-Blake is a mother of five, and she has a post-birth belly that still has stretch marks. This is not unusual.
But knowing that her stomach wasn’t picture perfect, Jex-Blake avoided wearing a bikini for a long time. In fact, it had been 13 years before she decided she was brave enough to wear a two-piece swimsuit out in public.
On a relaxed summer day, she took her kids to the beach, and decided she would sunbathe.
She had her eyes closed when she first heard the ruckus—it was getting closer and louder, and she thought maybe something was going on that she needed to take a look.
But when she opened her eyes, she saw two guys and a girl in probably their mid-20s, laughing, pointing, and jeering at her, pretending to kick her stomach.
Jex-Blake was horrified.
And it wasn’t just her—the rude group of beachgoers were making crude remarks about another tourist in a bikini, a grandma with her grandkids, and so on. They just tried to walk away or didn’t notice, and Jex-Blake was getting more and more upset.
“I’m sorry if my first attempt at sun tanning in a bikini in public in 13 years ‘grossed you out’. I’m sorry that my stomach isn’t flat and tight. I’m sorry that my belly is covered in stretch marks,” Jex-Blake wrote on Facebook once she got home.
“I’m NOT sorry that my body has housed, grown, protected, birthed and nurtured FIVE fabulous, healthy, intelligent and wonderful human beings.”
Jex-Blake had cried in the car before driving home, and at first she was just hurt and sad. Then as she thought about it more, she decided she wasn’t going to stand for it. These people were bullies, and she wanted others to know that it is not okay to treat others this way.
“I can only hope that one day you’ll realize that my battle scars are something to be proud of, not ashamed of,” Jex-Blake wrote.
She didn’t expect the post to go viral—millions of people have liked it, it’s gotten major news coverage and has been shared all over, and local mothers in Edmonton where she is from even organized a rally to encourage mothers to embrace their post-birth bellies. Jex-Blake was getting messages from all over the world, 99 percent of which were hugely positive.
“My stomach is similar to yours and i’ve been afraid to go to our community pool…but after reading your post… I’ve given birth to three great kids…I’m now 50 years old and I think I’ll go the the pool tomorrow and not give a damn what anyone days or thinks!!! you’re awesome!! God bless!” one woman wrote.
“I’m 16 years old, and have stretch marks simply from growing too fast. I’m pressured into being thinner, smoother, and more what society thinks is beautiful. Coming to about 130 pounds, I’m not considered to have a beautiful body for someone my age, and I’m trying to learn how to love all of my stretch marks and scars. No, I have not given life to any children, but I believe, no matter who you are, and what you’ve done, your body is beautiful,” wrote another.
Many social media users also started sharing photos of their own stretch marks, telling Jex-Blake they stood with her and she had nothing to be ashamed of.
“I know exactly what you are talking about. I was born with a kidney disorder. Have had failure 3 times. I wear my stretch marks like tiger stripes. Forget the haters,” one wrote.
“Your amazing!! When my daughters ask me about my stretch marks, I tell them- you used to draw me pictures, while you was in my tummy! I love every line as it shows, I am a mum!! It’s the best job ever!!!” shared another.
Jex-Blake was overwhelmed.
“I didn’t expect it taking on a life of it’s own,” Jex-Blake said. Initially she wrote the post because she was upset. But now? It’s “turned into empowerment.”
She just hopes that this all has a better effect than just 15 minutes of fame or some token awareness campaigns.