By: People, Julie Mazziotta

A year and a half after the birth of her triplets, Desiree Fortin‘s stomach has a “postpartum pooch” that led two people to congratulate her on another — nonexistent — pregnancy. But after struggling with infertility, she couldn’t be prouder of her “baby bump.”

The photographer and mom blogger wrote about accepting the realities of her post-baby body and appreciating all it had done, after spending years wondering if she would ever be able to have kids.

“I was challenged to really think about my body,” Fortin writes of being congratulated on her ‘pregnancy.’ “Was I really proud of the wounds left behind on my stomach after carrying and delivering my triplets? Was I really beautiful?”

“Despite my ‘baby bump,’ when I look into the mirror, I see so much more beauty than I ever seen before because my hope wounds, which are with me forever, have far greater meaning to me than I ever knew they would.”

[media-credit name=”Desiree Fortin DESIREE FORTIN” align=”aligncenter” width=”539″]fortin-2[/media-credit]Fortin explains that even after she became pregnant with her twins with a successful round of IVF, doctors were unsure if, because of her short height and low weight, she could carry them all to term. But she did, with babies Charlize, Sawyer and Jax all weighing just under 5 lbs.

[media-credit name=”Desiree Fortin DESIREE FORTIN” align=”aligncenter” width=”359″]fortin-5[/media-credit]“Even though I may have a little extra pooch and lots of tiger stripes, I longed for wounds like these,” she says. “My hope wounds are proof of my strength and bravery through the pain and loss of an empty womb and the extreme joy and glow of a fruitful womb.”

[media-credit name=”Desiree Fortin DESIREE FORTIN” align=”aligncenter” width=”539″]fortin-3[/media-credit]Her stretch marks and scars also tell the story of overcoming postpartum depression.

“My hope wounds also represent some pretty dark days as a new mommy. For me, the sleep deprivation set in overnight … My exhaustion eventually turned into anxiety and depression and I found myself multiple times sitting on the bathroom floor while my husband held me in his arms doing everything he could to just help me breathe normal,” she says.  “I was terrified and sad. I felt ashamed of myself and incredibly lonely. I see that when I look at my scars.”

[media-credit name=”Desiree Fortin DESIREE FORTIN” align=”aligncenter” width=”539″]fortin-4[/media-credit]So when  Fortin heard those well intentioned — yet misguided — words of congratulations, they did not make her hate her body, but rather gave her the opportunity to reflect and appreciate what it can do.

“As I was challenged and inspired to really relish and embrace my hope wounds, I learned that I absolutely love who I am,” she says. I love my wounds, and I love the life that I have been given. I am so proud of my body and the representation it has of my journey.”