Instagram | @tessholliday

Model Tess Holliday Reveals She Didn't Feel Maternal Toward Her Son Until He Was A Toddler

Motherhood is one of the hardest things you can possibly do.

For Tess Holliday, that struggle was compounded by a lot of things, including a scary feeling: she didn't feel maternal towards her son, Rylee, after his birth.

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Tess Holliday is a pioneering plus size model.

She's a professional makeup artist, body-positive activist, and, of course, model. She's worked with major brands like Torrid, Marie Claire, and Elle, to name a few.

She also has two children.

She's a proud mom to Rylee, who is 14, and Bowie, who is 3.

She shares Bowie with her husband, Nick Holliday, whose last name she officially adopted in 2015.

She got pregnant with Rylee quite young.

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19, to be exact.

She doesn't have a relationship with his biological father, who she described as a "one night stand." Instead, Rylee's father figure is Tess' ex-boyfriend, John, who Rylee is temporarily living with while Tess finds a new home for them.

She sat down with Parents to talk about all things parenting.

They chatted about Rylee, Bowie, and Tess' own childhood, as well as her journey towards being not only a plus-size model, but just a model, full stop.

As Tess says, #EffYourBeautyStandards.

She didn't become aware that she was "plus size" until she was a teen.

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When she was 14, she wanted to join the swim team. Her father shut that down quickly.

"'Don’t you think you’re a little big for that?' Up until then, I had never thought of my weight."

That set her up on an incredibly negative journey.

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"And then when he said it, I went from being this kid who wore a bikini to...There was nothing wrong with my body. But he put that in my head."

That stuff stays with you for life.

She struggled a lot with Rylee.

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"I loved him, but I didn’t feel maternal toward him until he was a toddler," she revealed.

Her own childhood contributed to that. As Parents wrote, childhood trauma increases the likelihood of postpartum depression.

Her father contributed to that trauma.

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But the biggest, by far, was what happened to her mother, Beth.

In 1995, Beth was shot twice in the head by her fiancé. She was paralyzed and disabled. Tess had to move in with her grandparents while her mother recovered.

Now, Beth is one of Tess' biggest fans.

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"My mom is one of my best friends," Tess told Parents. "I do challenge her and tell her how I feel and what’s important to me. But my mom always shows up for me. If I call, she’s there, and that’s what matters to me more than anything."

When she had Bowie, however, Tess retreated into herself.

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"I went deep into the newborn cave," she said of Bowie's 2016 birth. "I felt incredibly isolated. People thought they should give me space, but I just felt really sad."

However, there was one big difference from Rylee's birth to Bowie's:

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Social media.

After having Bowie, she shared her struggles with postpartum and feelings of sadness on Instagram. While isolated, she was still able to get honest with her followers about how she was feeling.

Sharing has consequences.

Instagram | @tessholliday

Being a public figure makes life a little complicated for her in her everyday life.

"Some of the PTA moms from Rylee’s school follow me on Instagram. I’m, like, hoo-boy, you’re gonna see it all on here."

She still faces a lot of judgement on and offline.

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"I always feel, especially at Bowie’s Montessori, that I’m judged a lot as a mom. Like people think, 'Oh, look at her. She’s loud and tattooed and probably doesn’t care about her kids.' Which is obviously the opposite of what I am."

And online, people are vicious.

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"Imagine just wanting to share photos of my kid & instead being told I’m unfit to be his mom because of my size," she said, indicating some of the worst criticism she receives.

But she knows what she's about.

Instagram | @tessholliday

"We aren’t promised tomorrow, regardless of our weight, and if I were to drop dead today, both my boys would know how loved they were and what a badass their mom was."


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