Ever since my body became something more than just...me, I’ve been a little obsessed with it - in some ways good, in most ways bad. I’ve been unhappy with it, upset with it, downright furious with it. I look at the loose skin and stretch marks and the lack of perk in places I used to have plenty and I think, I never would have believed it if someone told me I’d lose my body as I knew it by the time I was 25.
So I struggle. Like, when I stand in front of the mirror for 10 minutes before I shower, picking at my face, inspecting the stretch marks that plague my entire torso, tracing the weird foreign lines of my own rib cage and hips - knowing that none of this was the same even just a year ago. I feel ruined, and used...and I fear stupid things like, my husband realizing if he just didn't have kids with me he could have had a hot wife forever, or that he'll leave me one day and no one will want me because my stomach looks like an 80 year old man’s junk. All humor aside, there has to be a silver lining to all this, right? Of course there is! A baby! He is the reason for my entire life, which is why complaining about these things is more of a trivial indulgence than anything else and I never take it very seriously. Even when I’m whining about it to anyone who will listen my mind is saying "don't be fooled, I don't really care, I have my baby!" It may not be the healthiest way to think, but if my husband never wanted to see me naked again (for the record, I already know this isn't true) or if he left me and I ended up an old maid thanks to my re-shaped body, I would still die happy. I’ve got my baby.
I spent so many years being pessimistic....it's kind of hard to break the habit. It’s ridiculous, really. I’m practically an expert at finding the way even good things suck. I’ve lost 35 pounds in the last four months and even though I feel better about myself, I’m finding all the ways it actually sucks. Without all the "mommy padding", I’m seeing the way my body changed shape - - the baby belly that refuses to shrink sticks out a little more without the extra cushion to make it look gradual. My boobs dropped a cup size and have lost all of their will to be perky. I know by doing this I’m discrediting the work it took to shed those pounds - so unfair to myself. But at least I can recognize it, and as I’m learning in all aspects of life with a baby (not just my body woes), there is always something good hiding among the suck - - there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. I make myself at least search for these things now. At times it's hard to accept them, but I want to at least try to be aware.
And what have I had the hardest time doing this with? My stretch marks.
I didn't expect them to upset me as much as they did. When I was 13 or 14 and my hips stretched out and my booty showed up, I got stretch marks. I remember being that young, noticing them in the mirror as if they appeared overnight. Since they were so concealed I didn't think much of them, and before I knew it they were faded. Those ones don't even bother me anymore. I knew I was prone to them (you either are, or you're not...I got the suck DNA in that case), so I fully expected them. I somehow escaped them for 30 weeks of my pregnancy, but then a few showed up, and then a few more....and by the end, I was covered. I couldn't believe the way my skin transformed. It was the most disappointing change I noticed in my pregnant self. Suddenly I could never wear a 2 piece bathing suit, or short shorts, ever again. I didn’t wear either of these often (maybe, once a year?), I was just upset about the idea that I couldn't. Losing the choice to do something sucks more than the actual thing, sometimes. And yes - I did feel as though I lost the choice - my confidence isn't even a fraction as strong as it would need to be to throw caution to the wind and show them anyway.
My husband kept telling me they were getting better and that they didn't bother him at all. I always took this as either him feeling obligated to say those things, or thinking it was the best thing to say to raise my spirits. I was so busy being upset about them, I didn't notice that they actually were getting better. They were lightening every day, and their texture was smoothing over - slowly but surely. I will always be scared with them, but they are fading into my skin as if they were always meant to be there.
So as I showered this evening, I looked at them and thought about what my belly looked like when the stretch marks were made. I remembered what it looked like when my belly was the shape of a full size basketball and my son would kick me so hard from inside it hurt. I remembered his foot being wedged in my ribs, the position of it causing a strange numbness that plagued me for weeks. I remember the heaviness of carrying him around with nothing but my core muscles, wondering if he would get strong enough to break out - it sure felt like he would. And while I thought about the amazing feat he and I went through, just putting him together, growing him into a full human, I knew it was unrealistic to think nothing would give. I know being covered in stretch marks is just one of many sacrifices I had to make to have my baby and for that reason I would do it again and again.
So, is that enough to make me love them? Or even just enough to stop hating them? Or come to terms with what being covered in stretch marks means for me? Hmm, no. To me, there's a difference in being willing to do something, and loving doing it. So I kept thinking. I kept searching for the way to find peace with this - - desperate to banish this from being a thought on the forefront of my mind every single day. And finally, I found it.
This new idea filled my mind in a way that made me feel stupid for not thinking of it sooner. My stretch marks aren't just a side effect of pregnancy. They are little pieces of my son left behind from when he shared my body with me. Sort of like....a cave man leaving hieroglyphics on the wall of a cave. He made his mark. My stretch marks are a piece of my pregnancy, evidence of the only time I could be that close to my baby, that I get to keep forever.
When I look at his chubby thighs and wrists, when I smell his sweet baby breath and hear his coos...his first attempts at conversing with me, his toothless smiles......it's hard for me to picture him driving a car, graduating from high school, making someone girl love him so much it hurts and then breaking her heart, or finally finding his dream come true and settling down to have his own babies. Yet I know that the day is coming, and it's coming faster than I want it to. Every single minute, it comes closer. But even when he finds a woman to care for more than he does me....even if he moves across the country to accomplish whatever his goals may be....even if he grows to dislike my company and avoids me with all his effort....I will still have my stretch marks. I will still have the evidence that at one time, right at the cusp of his very existence, we loved each other more than anything in the world. I loved him more than my own life, and he loved me for helping him start his. And nothing - - nothing.....can ever take that physical evidence away from me.
So now....I think....when I’m inspecting my body in its new condition, I will smile when my fingers trace the deep groves of one of my more severe marks. I will know it came at the very end, when he was so large I looked top heavy, when he was my son in all definitions - fully developed, just waiting to be born. My heart will swell remembering how wonderful it was, being worthy enough to make him.
I love my baby. And now, I love my stretch marks.
This post was submitted by Jenn Rychlicki, otherwise known as mrsLicky on CharlotteMommies. Visit her blog at http://rychlicki.blogspot.com