The 2022 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue will feature a model exposing her cesarean section scar for the first time in the iconic magazine’s 58-year history.
Model and mother Kelly Hughes, 42, proudly showed off the scar above her pelvic bone while posing in a string bikini for the body-positive spread, which was made in collaboration with the pregnancy and postpartum brand Frida Mom.
Both Hughes and SI Swim posted a photo from the empowering shoot on Instagram on Wednesday in celebration of all mothers who bare C-section scars.
In the image, she is modeling a cream knit string bikini while kneeling in the surf. She is looking up at the sky and smiling as she pulls down her bikini bottoms to expose her C-section scar.
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Model and mother Kelly Hughes, 42, has become the first woman to expose her cesarean section scar in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue in the magazine’s 58-year history
The mom, who has a three-year-old son, explained in the caption of her post that she had a difficult C-section recovery and used to be self-conscious about her scar.
‘I am speechless and so honored to be in @si_swimsuit 2022 as the FIRST woman to expose her C-section scar in [the] magazine’s history!’ she wrote.
‘This partnership with @fridamom #paywithchange partnership to normalize and embrace the changes with a woman’s body, especially when becoming a mom is so amazing to be a part of.
‘I struggled with insecurities from my scar being that I’m a model and my incredibly difficult recovery but it wasn’t until I “embraced my scar that I experienced the true power in it.”‘
Hughes also opened up about how much the shoot personally meant to her on her Instagram Stories, saying she ‘held a lot of pain’ and ‘a lot of insecurities’ with her scar.
‘We all age, we all have insecurities, we all have things in life that we would maybe just change, but when it comes to birthing, that scar means so, so much to me because it’s my son,’ she explained. ‘It’s everything that means everything to me.’
Another image from the shoot shows her posing next to a palm tree in a pink string bikini with low-cut bottoms that reveal her scar.
Hughes opened up about the shoot on her Instagram Stories, saying she ‘held a lot of pain’ and ‘a lot of insecurities’ with her scar until she learned to embrace it
SI Swim collaborated with pregnancy and postpartum brand Frida Mom for the empowering beachside shoot as part of its new Pay with Change initiative
Hughes welcomed her son at Baptist Health South Miami Hospital in Florida in December 2018 via C-section, something she was firmly against at the time.
‘Motherhood has already proven to be the most beautiful selfless act of love possible,’ she wrote in an Instagram post that month. ‘I wanted to share my birth story because we all have a plan and no matter what it is when it comes to birthing nothing really matters in the end except a healthy baby and a healthy mommy.’
Hughes explained that she studied hypnobirthing and planned on a vaginal birth, but after 38 hours in labor, she still wasn’t dilating past 7 cm. Her doctor decided to do a C-section to keep the baby safe.
‘To me a C-section was the worst thing you could tell me,’ she said. ‘I had a healthy pregnancy, studied this amazing plan, gone to classes, recommended this plan to many friends and believed in it.
‘I had a vision of how birthing was going to be and I was so excited to experience it. I was willing to cave on some things but a C-section was not one I even thought of being a possibility,’ she continued. ‘Nevertheless my baby was born absolutely perfect so I forgot all about it.’
However, the day after she returned home, she experienced ‘excruciating pains’ and was vomiting for two days before she returned to the hospital. After more than a week in the hospital, doctors discovered she had a serious infection in her uterus from the surgery, and she needed another surgery for them to fix it.
Hughes (pictured nine months pregnant) studied hypnobirthing and planned on a vaginal birth, but after 38 hours of labor, she needed to have a C-section
Hughes developed an infection in her uterus and needed to have a second surgery. She spent over a week in the hospital after she welcomed her son
Less than a year later, she shared photos of her body before and after birth, saying her weight has gone from 118 pounds (left) to 145 pounds (right)
‘All of this pain doesn’t compare to the pain of missing out on these special first days with my boy, not being able to comfort him, bond with him, and breastfeed him,’ she noted, saying the only thing that kept her going was her hospital visits with her son.
Hughes said the experience made her ‘cherish every moment’ with her son, and she was grateful that he was healthy and would be home soon.
‘No matter what happens or what you have envisioned there’s always so much to be thankful for and nothing wrong with whatever type of labor you have,’ she concluded. ‘We have to be willing and open because labor is out of our control our bodies are all different and have nothing to prove or feel shame for.’
Less than a year later, she shared photos of her body before and after birth, saying her weight has gone from 118 pounds to 145 pounds.
‘Loving the curves and thankful for no stretch marks and for good skin elasticity and tightness because pregnancy does wonders,’ she wrote, ‘but I’m taking on the challenge to lean [through] the shape my body naturally is now and tone.
‘To embrace your beauty in all seasons is the key!!!! I love who I am now it took me a while to get here but I’m now ready to challenge myself.’
‘When it comes to birthing, that scar means so, so much to me because it’s my son,’ Hughes said. ‘It’s everything that means everything to me’
Hughes spread in the upcoming issue of SI Swim is meant to show the beauty of all paths to motherhood, especially C-section births
In the United States, about 1 in 3 babies is delivered by cesarean birth, according to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
Although the procedure accounts for roughly one-third of American births, they are stigmatized as being ‘unnatural’ or the ‘easy way out,’ leaving many C-section moms to feel like they failed in some way.
Hughes spread in the upcoming issue of SI Swim is meant to show the beauty of all paths to motherhood, especially C-section births, while normalizing the conversation around postpartum recovery and bodies.
SI Swim teamed up with Frida Mom as part of its Pay with Change initiative that was launched earlier this year.
The publication has vowed to only feature ads from brands that show a commitment to supporting gender equality and women’s empowerment, starting with its upcoming issue, which hits newsstands on May 19.
SI Swim’s Pay with Change initiative coincides with the launch of Frida Mom C-Section Recovery line featuring products to address abdominal recovery and healthy scar formation.
‘Joining Sports Illustrated as its first official Pay With Change brand partner is a perfect fit for Frida Mom because they have a valuable platform to disrupt the traditional narrative around women’s bodies — especially those they feature who are mothers,’ said Chelsea Hirschhorn, Frida founder and CEO, in a statement.
‘We’re thrilled that Sports Illustrated Swimsuit appreciates the importance of highlighting these women authentically — C-Section scars and all — and welcome the progress we will make together as a result of this shared commitment,’ the soon-to-be mother of four added.