I’ve had a baby. It was kind of my destiny. I always wanted a baby! But I didn’t always want stretch marks.
This is my story about how wrong I was to not want these scars.
Before my daughter, my belly was nothing special. Sure, it was youthful. It was nice, in the world of attractiveness. I mean, it wasn’t the flattest and I didn’t have defined abs or anything. It didn’t tell any story beyond “this is where I digest my food.” But, in my mind, it was preferable to a previously stretched out tummy. It was better not scarred.
But why? It was just a stomach. It didn’t prove anything. Except for one thing, actually.
I used to be attached to my mother.
That’s why I have a belly button. I had an umbilical cord that funneled everything I needed from my placenta that was attached to my mom. It was how I grew. How I became healthy enough to exist outside of her. My belly button is proof that I am human.
My belly button started to stick out when I entered late pregnancy. By then, I had a few stretch marks already, despite the voice in my head that said I would do whatever I could to reduce the damage. “I might get a stretch mark or two. That’s fine. But I’m still going to do what I can to keep my skin from getting too many stretch marks.”
I used butters and lotions and I did it whenever I could remember. And I still got marked. I got marks in places I didn’t think I would! Once I got pregnant, I knew there was another body waiting for me at the end of it. I tried to be positive.
“You are a tiger who has earned her stripes! Be proud!” That’s what I will tell myself.
“Stretch marks are proof of how strong you were!” That sounds good!
“Just keep telling yourself and everyone else how much you love your stretch marks, then you’ll feel beautiful.” I’ll keep that thought to myself, and one day it will be true.
The truth is, though, I didn’t really believe it. Not deep down. I wanted to! I tried! But this is the first time I’m being openly honest about being upset that I won’t ever have my pre-mother body back. I tried to believe that I love my scars for what they brought me, but if I’m being honest, I still bully myself sometimes!
“You don’t look like a 23-year-old.”
“There’s always surgery to make you pretty again.”
SHUT UP, VOICE! Seriously, GO AWAY!
Now that I think about it though, I feel like I see this stuff even in the body positive things that go viral. The common theme is that, yes, a beautiful human being was formed and that’s why I have stretch marks. But I see a lot of negative words coming from those same mouths. Like, “sure, my belly is wrecked, but I understand the world better now.” Wrecked? Why is it wrecked? What’s wrong with it now? It’s ugly?
Is it really ugly?
“Of course!” Goes the voice in my head. No, I say. No, it’s beautiful. I see it. It’s proof that we mothers are wild. We are champions! We grew children in our bodies, then we got them out through suffering, beautiful suffering! Then, when anyone else should have slept and stayed in bed for weeks, we woke up every two hours to feed that child, some of us from the very bodies that bore them, and worried about every little thing, and some of us didn’t even have anyone to do it with them, which I will never understand. It is strength. It is honor. These marks are privilege.
We don’t have a word for someone who is beautiful just for their strength. We don’t have a word to describe that a scar is beautiful because it tells a story. We just have these words that tell us something or someone is “good-looking” and for a lot of people, that’s only defined by sexual attractiveness. My scars aren’t beautiful because they can seduce anyone. They are me, they are my story. I’m not wrecked, I’m just a walking reminder that people grow. Why can’t that be beautiful?
Now I don’t mean to say that mothers who don’t have stretch marks or scars are in any way less than those that do. They are beautiful, just the same. I have my body, you have yours, she has hers and they are all different. What I mean to say is that the shame I’ve felt is founded in nothing. My husband has been nothing but genuine about loving this body just as he did before. My family and friends still see me. I have no reason to be ashamed of what I look like.
And my daughter. My body is everything to her. My body used to be all she ever knew. All she ever wanted. The story is the same for every human being to have ever lived. All those foolish people – the ones who feel that mother bodies are ugly, the ones who think beauty is nothing but youthfulness – all they have is a bad memory. They don’t remember when their mother was their world. When their mother’s body was all they ever cared about.
I feel sad for them. They’ve forgotten the incredible beauty that is pregnancy and childbirth and nurturing. It’s astounding and profound.
And I have the stretch marks that prove I know what I’m talking about. I have this beautiful life that came from me.
And my trophy, the one that will always be with me forever, is my stretch marked tummy. It may look ugly to some people, but honestly, I’m coming around. I know it’s beautiful. And I wouldn’t change it for anything.