SALT LAKE CITY - Preusser gave birth to her daughter Anabel in August 2013. While she was immediately in love with her new baby, she did not love what had happened to her body.
"I would look into the mirror and the phrase "babies ruin bodies" would repeat itself over and over in my head. Someone told me before getting pregnant that this would happen, and now these words haunted me," Preusser said. "Months would pass and my body would shed the weight, but I realized my bones widening and my skin scarring wasn't something reversible."
She said every time she looked in the mirror, "babies ruin bodies" would repeat itself over and over again. She couldn't keep that thought from her head. But while she was focusing on the imperfections, she noticed one day the way her daughter looked at her.
"She really looked at me, you know? She would touch my face, and feel my hair, and breathe me in as she'd fall asleep," she said. "She would look right into my eyes, and I could tell she really saw me."
This new revelation helped Preusser to learn to love herself again and love her body in its "curved womanly glory." At the end of December, she sat down to pen her thoughts on her blog "We Seek Joy." Her post, titled "Babies Ruin Bodies: An Ode to my Postpartum Body" quickly went viral on Facebook.
"I have lines mapped across the mountains of stretched skin left over on my midsection," Presser wrote. "Lightening bolts on my sides proving I once was too small to contain all of the love that filled me. Lines indicating that my daughter once lived inside me... how can I be ashamed of that?"
The post celebrates her postpartum body "that is living proof" her daughter Anabel grew inside her. She said she can feel the love of her daughter and that has given her the courage to overcome her fear of being imperfect.
The message resonated with thousands of women who were also critical of their own bodies. New mom-to-be Kelsey Eiben said while she is worried about what pregnancy can do to her body. She said she is doing her best to stay in shape and be healthy, within reason, and keeping her thoughts positive.
"A woman making a child is very powerful and I can't be too ashamed of creating something so wonderful," Eiben said.
Other mothers who are making the same journey as Preusser have come to peace with what their bodies went through during and after pregnancy, even with setbacks.
Mother of three, Brandy Vaughn, said while she still struggles with her baby weight, she loves her new body, especially because it took her so long to get pregnant.
Page 2 of 2 - "The weight will slowly come off or it won't. I have to be happy either way for my kiddos," Vaughn said. "I was told (my son) would never happen for me. He's a huge blessing and the stretch marks, wider hips, and extra weight are just beautiful reminders of just that."
Women are constantly bombarded with airbrushed images of perfection and it's hard for women, especially vulnerable new mothers, to not feel the pressure to conform. Even if you try to escape the Pinterest-perfect or Instagram-worthy body ideals by putting your smartphone down, the grocery store checkout line or any waiting room can bring you back to reality with magazines praising or shaming how fast a new celebrity mom can get her "pre-baby body back!"
Preusser's post was shared thousands of times, has over 400 comments, and quickly racked up hundreds of new followers. Preusser said she has been overwhelmed by the response.
"With it being so widespread now, I felt a bit vulnerable, as the piece is far from perfect," she said. "However, knowing my words have changed the perspective of even a handful of other women, I can't regret putting it out there."
Preusser said that the most important thing is that her daughter never feels the ugliness or loneliness of self-hate.
"I desperately want her to be untouchable because she knows her worth," she said. "I want her to love her body for all that it is capable of, and see the beauty of that every time she looks in the mirror... I want her to be driven to (take care of her body) solely for the health benefits, and not because of an unattainable expectation to be a certain size or shape."
With her new outlook on herself and her body, Preusser is ready to teach her daughter what she has learned.
"I will constantly tell her about all that my body has given me, and all that it continues to give," she said. "I will teach her to embrace her body with spontaneous dance parties, and feeding it good food. And we will celebrate our bodies every day of her life."%3Cimg%20src%3D%22http%3A//beacon.deseretconnect.com/beacon.gif%3Fcid%3D139025%26pid%3D46%22%20/%3E