Ashley Graham and her husband, Justin Ervin, welcomed the arrival of their twin boys this past January, but the happy occasion wasn’t without its complications.
In a new essay published by Glamour, the model, who is also mom to toddler Isaac, said it was a “true miracle” that she survived her near-death experience of giving birth. She also revealed for the first time she experienced a miscarriage last year.
Graham began the essay by recounting how she hemorrhaged early in the morning after giving birth to Roman and Malachi. “The next thing you know, I looked at my midwife and I said, ‘I don’t feel good. I think I need to lay down,’ and I blacked out,” she wrote. “All I can remember is feeling a light touch on my cheek, which I found out later was actually somebody smacking the crap out of my cheek, someone holding my hand, my husband Justin in my ear, praying, and someone jabbing me with a needle in my arm. And I remember seeing darkness and what seemed like stars.”
By the time she awoke, Graham had lost a significant amount of blood. “They just kept saying to me, ‘You’re fine. You’re fine. You’re fine.’ They didn’t want to tell me, right then, that I’d lost liters of blood,” she said. “They didn’t want to tell me that one of the midwives had to flip me over, press her finger down right above my vagina bone to try and stop the bleeding. And they didn’t want to tell me that the vein in my arm kept collapsing and they couldn’t get the needle in for the Pitocin, so they’d had to put it in my hand. But even though they didn’t want to go into the details at that moment, I looked around the room, saw blood literally everywhere, and let out this deep, visceral cry—an emotional release from the chaos I had just experienced.”
Being unable to “sit up or even crawl,” Graham said she was confined to her bed for four days straight and that she couldn’t walk for a week.
“My midwives checked in on me every day. I think they thought I was going to be triggered by how severe the events had been, but I kept telling them, ‘You all saved me. God saved me. This is a true miracle,'” she continued. “Like so many women, what I went through with childbirth has reshaped my relationship with my body—and I say this knowing that I am the person who has been shouting from the rooftops to you all, ‘Love the skin you’re in.’ Yet for me, the births of all my three children threw a lot of that out of the window.”
Graham also got candid about suffering a miscarriage in February 2021. “I’ve not shared this until now, but I fell pregnant in January of 2021, on my husband’s birthday. … But at the end of February, I had a miscarriage,” the model wrote. “It was devastating; it felt like one of the biggest losses I had ever had in my life to date. And I understood at that point what so many other mothers have gone through.”
She then noted the stigma surrounding miscarriage and the grief that comes with it. “And yet the world expects us to move on and handle our grief with grace,” Graham said. “I just remember breaking down more than a few times, just at random, and thinking, ‘How do women across the world do this? Because my story is no bigger than anyone else’s.'”
Besides the emotional turmoil of these experiences compounded, Graham added that she had to adjust to her physical transformation too. “I couldn’t walk properly for a long time, let alone exercise. I would shake, I didn’t feel like myself physically or emotionally. I had planned to be back at work after eight weeks, but I was a wreck, and when I saw myself in the mirror, I still felt like I looked pregnant,” she wrote.
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“I work in an industry that expects me to return to work in a body that has ‘snapped back’—a pressure that no woman, in any industry, deserves to feel,” she said of the pressure to return to her pre-pregnancy body. “I have always fought against unfair and unrealistic standards and yet, if I am being completely honest, here I was, expecting myself to snap back. And fast.”
To ward off these societal expectations to “snap back” into her former body shape, Graham partnered with Knix to launch a postpartum lingerie campaign called Reveal Yourself.
“I look at the stretch marks that still exist and will forever exist on my stomach, and I think, God, why did you have to go up above my belly button? I’m a lingerie model, for God’s sake. This is not what lingerie models look like,” Graham said. “But then I remind myself, ‘Well, I’ve never been the norm of what a typical lingerie model looks like.'”
This article originally appeared in Harper’s BAZAAR US
- Ashley Graham