After that, the next time I saw a stretch mark was on a boyfriend I had who was 6'-7" by the time he was in tenth grade. He had stretch marks all over his legs and back but they went horizontally, of course. They were very thin, like 1/8" thick at the widest part, and he had many more of them than my friend had had. They were silvery and shiny and I remember marveling at them on his tall, strong body. These were marks that showed how his body had grown. He was embarrassed by them and I remember thinking it was silly to be embarrassed about a mark of how strong and tall you are. He said they just reminded him of how much it had hurt to grow so fast. A flashing memory of when I'd had growing pains occasionally as a child ran through my mind and I felt very bad for how much it must have hurt to grow 12" in less than a year.
The next time I saw stretch marks was on a friend after she had her baby. She also had very big, thick ones (which I now know are uncommon) and she said they hurt to touch during and after her pregnancy. She got even more with her next pregnancy and I remember thinking that was cruel of nature to do to her.
The next time I saw stretch marks was during my first trimester of pregnancy. They radiated out from my nipples around my breasts like cheery sunbursts, mocking me as I stared at them in the mirror with disdain. I had been using the stupid Bio Oil, I had been eating well and staying hydrated - why was I ALREADY getting stretch marks?!?! Did this mean I was going to get them on my belly, too? I mean, I could handle them on my breasts because I could still hide those with a bathing suit but I certainly didn't want my perfect stomach marred with stretch marks! My mother doesn't have any stretch marks from carrying me in her belly so I just sort of assumed without even considering that I wouldn't get any, either.
Throughout my pregnancy I kept up with my Bio Oil routine (though I don't believe this does anything to prevent stretch marks, it sure is soothing to itchy, stretching skin). Before and after showering I'd inspect myself all over for stretch marks and often grilled The Carpenter to check my bottom and back for them, too (as if knowing I had them would do anything, anyway). I was very disappointed one day when, sitting on the toilet, I noticed some forming on the inside of my thighs. Still, though, I couldn't see any on my stomach or back so I was thankful for small blessings.
After having The Smiler the first few days were a haze but I distinctly remember getting out of the shower one day and getting dressed in the bedroom and suddenly catching a glimpse of myself in the full length mirror on the wall. Much to my chagrin, the lower part of my belly was covered in little worm-like stretch marks. Probably a hundred of them, all squiggling around and my loose, droopy, empty belly lopping over my pubic bone and I just sank to the floor and started bawling. I was ABSOLUTELY CRUSHED to see my previously perfect stomach in that condition, especially since not one of those stretch marks was visible while I was pregnant. The Carpenter tried to console me to no avail and I spent a long, long time hating to see those little wormy squiggles and my deflated, empty belly after that. Truth be told, I still don't really like looking at my stomach very much, even 9.5 months after having The Smiler. Some women spring back after having a baby and their flat tummies are back to the way they were before within 6 weeks or less. Other women forever have a little "pooch" that they'll never be able to get rid of, no matter how many crunches and squats or how much walking and jogging they do. Their bellies will always curve with the memory of a baby's back.
To comfort myself about my stomach I sometimes think of Ina May Gaskin saying that she finds stretch marks beautiful but then the pessimist in me often retorts, "Well, you're a woman and a midwife and probably have a few, yourself, Ina May." and I have to make a conscious effort not to go down that path of self-loathing (sometimes I'm successful, sometimes I'm not).
|This mother is beautiful. Her belly is round from holding a baby and her breasts are full from milk. She has no shame in her body - I'd bet if you asked her she'd never even have given it a second thought.|
I had a dream a while back, though, in which I lived in a society where no one wore clothes (it obviously wasn't in Winnipeg, or even Canada, for that matter). In this society, men were attracted to women with stretch marks or poochy bellies and those women were revered. Full, drooping, stretch-marked breasts were held in the highest esteem and women with the roundest, most stretch-marked bellies were lusted after the most.
When I awoke, I realised this makes perfect sense from an evolutionary, survival and reproductive perspective. Of course men would find women with full, stretch-marked breasts and bellies most attractive! This would be clear proof these women are fertile and fit, able to carry and nourish a healthy baby and feed it well once born. This would be a sign these women have carried and nourished babies already and are therefore desirable to impregnate again.
Now, when I look at my body after having carried a baby I think of this and I remind myself that having a child has been the most changing and amazing experience of my life so why wouldn't I want that to show in my body? I still struggle with self-image and esteem issues but I try to always remember that I eat a pretty healthy diet and that this body grew a baby - a healthy, happy, well nourished baby - and these stretch marks were earned, I worked hard for this poochy belly and these droopy boobs. They are mine and to not have them would mean to not have my child.
So today I am honouring the marks of being a child-bearing woman. I encourage you (as a woman or a man) to do the same.
|No shame in their child bearing bodies.|