A Stretchy Subject
The two words every pregnant woman never wants to hear or utter. Stretch marks. (GASP), I did it, I said it. Let’s be real here. 75% of women get them during pregnancy somewhere on their body and who in the hell are those other 25% anyways because I have never met one of them. I have, however, met many of those lucky bitches that never got them on their stomach and can still wear a bikini with no sweat, but more on that later. Let’s rewind eight years…
I had a happy, healthy pregnancy. I loved being pregnant (I know we hate those bitches) but I was that girl, I wore pregnancy well. I gained mostly in my belly and I wore my pre-pregnancy clothes almost the whole way through, I had the glow that strangers would comment on and unwelcomingly reach out to rub my belly because it was oh so cute- and my God, it was oh so cute. Four weeks before my beautiful bundle of joy came into this world, I saw my first- (GASP) stretch mark! So small and so tiny and so far below my belly I had to use a hand mirror to see it, but I saw it and I was devastated. That’s right, all you pregos out there 7 or 8 months along happily taunting “and I haven’t even gotten one stretch mark yet” bite your heavy pregnant tongue, you are not in the clear until that baby has exited your womb. That itty bitty stretch mark grew and branched and multiplied so fast in a tiny four week period. By the time I gave birth four weeks later, they had reached the top of my belly button. If you’re sitting there thinking, well she didn’t use cocoa butter or she must have gained a ton of weight- think again. I put cocoa butter on my belly every friggin day for 40 weeks and I only gained 24 pounds my entire pregnancy. For the record I had friends who gained 70 pounds and didn’t get a single stretch mark on their tummies, so here is the cold hard truth:
If you are going to get them- you are going to get them. If your Mom got them, you will most likely get them. Everybody’s skin elasticity is different and it comes from your genetics, not how much you gain or don’t gain or how much money you waste slathering cocoa butter on your stomach. Now, I am certainly no expert and I can only speak from my experience and what I have learned, but let’s talk about what is really important here, about why I’m even writing this.
I’m writing this because society has made it so taboo for a woman to receive stretch marks during pregnancy, like as if she has some control over it or not. I have repeatedly heard women praised for not getting stretch marks on her stomach, “oh good job, you must have eaten so well” “wow, you are like super woman!” If she should get them, she should forever be burdened to a one piece or tankini and hide them from all who should see her in swim attire because God forbid, she bear the marks she gained while growing a child inside her uterus that she then birthed out of her vagina!! What on earth must she be thinking?
Really? Come on now, this is the part where we realize what a ridiculous society we have created and succumbed to.
So let’s backtrack a bit. There I am 21, a new young mother, in my prime but stretch marks from Timbuktu and back. My bikini days were over.
To this I say- get the F over it- and I did.
But it didn’t happen so fast for me. I loathed my body for the first five years, I had blue and purple stretch marks and saggy skin, I wore one pieces and tankinis, I didn’t talk about my stretch marks with anyone, I just hid them, just like society wanted me to. I was ashamed of my battle wounds that brought me the greatest gift life has given me. And let’s be clear about one thing, I was at a great healthy weight, I was in great shape, I had no business being in a one piece (unless I wanted to) but society convinced me I should be and so I was.
One day my sweet little toddler asked me what those stripes were on my belly. I quietly told her that’s what happens when you have a baby. As my beautiful little girl got older, it became ever so apparent that the way I felt about my body would become a reflection about how she would be taught to feel about hers. A switch was flipped; I knew something had to change. This didn’t mean overnight I learned to love my stretch marks and flaunt them like I was Britney in a crop top, but it meant to give myself a little bit of credit. To forgive myself for feeling horrible about my body post birth, to accept the post baby body as much as I could at that point and to learn to love it a little more each day.
Let’s fast forward five years, I am in Las Vegas on an all-girls trip and I am in a bikini. I can still remember the anticipation and fear of dropping my towel as if it was the first time my boyfriend would see me naked. So scared and uncomfortable, my sisters and girlfriends laughed at my insecurities as if I had nothing to worry about. But for the first time in five years I was wearing a bikini, I was going to show the world my stretch marks, the world that had taught me to be ashamed of them and to hide them. I thought people would stare and think “gross, why is she flaunting her stretch marks?” and they did stare. Three years later looking back with a lot more love about my body now then I had then, I know they weren’t staring at my stretch marks. They were starring because I looked damn bleeping hot in a bikini. Good grief, if only I had realized that sooner, I might have enjoyed the pool time on that trip a bit more.
Women, who have never had a child, may not understand this article. Men may not understand this article and that’s okay. I didn’t write this for them, they are part of the problem, and if they can only learn one thing from this, I hope it is this: Stop judging! You may never know what this is like so start accepting. Be part of the change.
No, I will never love my post baby body one hundred percent. I will have days where I hate it and days where I love it. I will always long for the body I once had and that’s okay. There is nothing wrong with wanting what was once yours and there is nothing wrong with taking that back if it’s within your means. If it’s not, acceptance if your best alternative. Eight years later, the marks have faded some and sure I was able to get most of my pre baby body back by working out, but something’s will stay forever. To bring this amazing, precious little girl into the world meant my body stretching beyond its capacity and I am okay with that, there isn’t a thing in this world I would trade for her. Not even stretch marks.
If we continue to be ashamed and hide what happens during pregnancy, then we keep it taboo and we give society permission to judge those of us who refuse to hide it. One thing I am sure of is that this is my life; I’m going to do whatever I want to do regardless of what society thinks of it.
Stretch marks, shmetz marks, who cares. If we stop caring so much, maybe the rest of the world will too.
I think it’s time we have a coming out party for stretch marks.