Kelly Hughes is a model and a mom with a C-section scar. Her empowering photo in Sports Illustrated was a long time coming.
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Sports Illustrated Swim Suit Model Showing C-Section Scar
Credit: Fumie/Sports Illustrated

According to the March of Dimes, one third of all births happen via C-section. That's a lot of cesarean births—and a lot of scars—and yet, how many moms who have undergone C-sections still feel self-conscious as bathing suit season looms? This sense that they need to hide their scars is only exacerbated upon seeing seemingly perfect-looking models in magazines like Sports Illustrated. That is, until now, because for the very first time in nearly 60 years, the swimsuit issue is featuring a model who is proudly displaying a C-section scar.

The mom's name is Kelly Hughes, and her biggest supporter is another parent, Chelsea Hirschhorn, the founder of Frida Mom, who sits on the advisory board for Sports Illustrated Swim and helped make this momentous photo happen.

As Hughes told Parents, "This photo is so much more than just a photo to me." She adds, "There is an incredible shift happening in our society today with inclusivity and to be empowered by our imperfections and to be given this opportunity while showing my C-section scar for the first time ever represents more than any photo I've ever taken."

Don't think the model mom, whose son is now 3 years old, was always ready to show her scar. She confides, "After having my son, one of my biggest insecurities as a woman and a model was my scar since my work is body conscious. It took time to heal physically and mentally and embrace all that I had gone through in order to find the strength in it."

Hirschhorn, a soon-to-be mom of four, thinks other people who see the photo of Hughes will also find strength through this representation. "Women who have had C-sections should be proud of what their bodies have gone through and how they brought a baby into the world, and we hope that this image empowers C-section moms to feel that way," she says.

Not only is the aim of the photo to empower others, but Hughes tells us she wants to help other moms struggling with body image to feel less alone. "It doesn't matter who you are or what type of birth you have," Hughes says.

"We all have our insecurities." 

Mom of five over here, nodding along vehemently. Especially when Hughes says she had a hard time accepting how she looked after giving birth, worrying about being not as thin and how much her body had changed. Hughes believes normalizing C-section scars is one way to help bring moms who are working toward self-acceptance together. Again, not that viewing her scar as a badge of honor was easy. But today, she tells Parents, "I can proudly say it was worth it and I would do it all over again for the love I have of my son and the woman I am today."

Hughes offers some advice for other people who also find themselves struggling with societal pressure to look a certain way postpartum—and who isn't on some level? "I say embrace all of your imperfections because you created a life. We in a sense give birth to our new selves and there's so much beauty in that," she says.

As for Hirschhorn, her aim is for people with birth scars who see Hughes' photo to "feel seen." As a mom of many, who has come across countless airbrushed swimsuit photos and then turned a critical eye to my own reflection in the mirror, I'm pretty sure I speak for a lot of people who have given birth out there when I say, mission accomplished!