Infertility Warrior and Mama of 3, Erin Bulcao, is Thankful for Stretch Marks
The Encinitas, California-based advocate for the infertility community and certified yoga instructor tells us why she wouldn’t trade her postpartum body for anything in the world, and how she hopes to impart self-confidence onto her three daughters.
In person, Erin Bulcao is extremely petite — but on the internet, she has a larger-than-life presence, bolstered by her honest narrations of a decade-long IVF journey that has resulted in three adorable daughters (10-year-old twins named Natalia and Eliana, and a one-year-old named Eriela). Barely a year into their marriage, Erin — then aged 26 —and her husband, Nick, began fertility treatments because she does not have a menstrual cycle. Through a form of artificial insemination called intrauterine insemination (IUI), they were luckily able to conceive on the first try. Triplets. Blessings upon blessings, except…
“The doctors were concerned about my health and the other of the babies because I’m pretty small,” she explains. “So we had to terminate one of the babies at nine weeks. It was traumatic. We only had a couple weeks at best to make that decision because there's a short window in which you can do that safely.” Erin’s trials and tribulations are now documented all over the internet, but the couple didn’t tell a soul for years. “We were embarrassed,” she says. “And that kind of stuck with us. I think really affected us emotionally as a couple.” Online, she pretended everything was okay, while simultaneously becoming frustrated that everyone assumed she was okay. “I can't really be upset with people for not asking me or for not having compassion, if they don't know what's going on,” she realized.
After six years of therapy with her husband (Erin is a big proponent of therapy for the entire family), they were ready to have more kids. “We really never weren't not trying, but nothing happened in those six years,” she says. They went back to the fertility center, which suggested IVFs this time around. “We walked in with our eyes closed, thinking this is how people have babies. You get to choose the gender. That’s not true,” she says. After three years of trying, which included six unsuccessful egg transfers and four miscarriages, Eriela was born as the seventh transfer.
The years of silence, shame, and alienation behind her infertility journey has led to Erin becoming a champion for dismantling stigma in the journey towards motherhood. In 2011 when she gave birth to her twins, the community of supportive parenthood was barely nascent on Instagram. “I didn’t know there was an infertility or pregnancy community when I was going through it all,” she says. “My intention is to help others feel less alone, and because of my vulnerability, I've been able to find this community.” She used to never leave the house. Now she invites everyone intimately into her home.
That vulnerability comes with closeups of scars, emotional and physical. Just scroll Erin’s Instagram for 30 seconds to see a raw, realistic — and yet still aspirational, because she’s an influencer after all — of motherhood, from stretch marks to cute Halloween costumes. When she was pregnant with the twins, she had no idea about stretch marks. “I used body butters, but because I was so small and pregnant with twins, I grew a lot,” she says. She started seeing scarring around her belly button and was diagnosed with diastasis recti, which is when the muscles down the belly separate during pregnancy. To remedy the divarication, Erin got surgery done six months postpartum. “I basically didn’t have anything holding my intestines back,” she says. She credits therapy, twice-a-week sessions with a personal trainer, long weekend strolls with the family, and her husband’s support for her postpartum healing, mentally and physically. “My husband always tells me that I’m beautiful and that I don’t need to do anything to myself, but on the flip side, he doesn’t judge me when I get Botox,” she says. “It's all about doing whatever makes you feel good about yourself!”
Upon becoming pregnant with Eliana, she was more aware of the effects on her skin. She began using Evereden Golden Belly Serum and Evereden Nourishing Stretch Mark Cream, two products that she continues to use today even though she’s made peace with her stretch marks. In fact, she’s even grateful for them.
“I’m thankful for my stretch marks because if I didn’t have them, I wouldn’t have my babies,” she says. “I longed for stretch marks when I was trying to have a baby. I don’t think anyone gets pregnant and says, ‘I want stretch marks,’ but I think you can be comfortable and thankful you can have them for different reasons.” Erin hopes that her openness about her body’s struggles and strengths will help impart a healthy body image onto her three daughters as they grow up — and maintaining a therapy-positive household to help deal with challenges that inevitably arise during puberty. “They see me put on makeup, and we always talk about how you don’t need it,” she says. “But if it makes you feel good when you’re older, you can make that decision for yourself.”