Dear Stretch Marks . . .
Dear Stretch Marks,
Let me begin by saying this: I thought I was the cocoa butter queen of the world. I lathered myself from hips to nips from the time I was 4 weeks pregnant (yep, you read that right) until the day before I went to the hospital, convincing myself I would elude these nefarious markings of motherhood. I smiled defiantly in the mirror after every shower, while my burgeoning bump glistened with belly butter. So, I heard the shouts of “you’ll get stretch marks!” and “just you wait; you’ll look totally different naked!” in my head as I applied the good stuff to my skin: no sir-eee, those bitter folks just hadn’t done it as well as me.
Cue reality, about 8 days postpartum: I had a caesarean section to bring my girl into this world, and being the squeamish woman that I am, I had no desire to inspect myself after the procedure. It was on day 8 of my little one’s life that I’d snagged a few spare minutes to shower, and before I hopped in I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror. Just above my incision scar were about a dozen purplish-pinkish stripes, etched into my skin like some long-forgotten 90’s toy.
No amount of shaking made these go away: they were stretch marks.
They were deep and wide, almost as though I’d done nothing to prevent them at all. Was this my punishment for being so vain? For being so confident in my skin care regimen that Mother Nature decided to smack me around a few times for thinking I could outsmart her? Only a mother could teach you a lesson as poignant as the one I learned on that fateful day: there are few instances in life where you will pass through such a life-altering event as birth unscathed. Whether your scars are surgical, or you have stretch marks tracing your new mama frame, or whether your battle wounds are invisible: you’ve done something worth a commemoration. So, stretch marks, this one’s for you.
Here’s to the times I thought I knew better, but promptly received a swift kick to my ego when I found out I didn’t.
After doing some research, I found out that about 90% of women will get them sometime after their sixth or seventh month of pregnancy, according to the American Academy of Dermatology. That meant that thinking I was “in the clear” was likely just the delusion that comes from not being able to see that region past a certain point in pregnancy.
Here’s to the idea that stretch marks are something to lament over.
My pre-baby body was just that: pre-baby. Before conception. The body of my childless youth is not something I necessarily should want back—after all, hadn’t I longed for this pregnancy and this baby for ages? Hadn’t I fully enjoyed my youth, and now need to address the newest chapter in my life that, yes, includes some dog-eared pages and slight wear-and-tear? I’m not advocating for abandoning the health or routine of youth, but rather to rally for the gentle acknowledgment that what once was will never again be, and that is something sacred and beautiful to remember.
Here’s to my husband’s celebration of these new additions to my skin.
You see, stretch marks, TV and social media made me feel as though I was an actual failure for allowing this to happen—but my husband made me feel quite the opposite. When I exposed my scars and newly discovered stretch marks to him in shock, he shrugged and said something groundbreaking: “they’ve been there.”
Yes, dear friends, they have been there. He noticed them at some point, and told me they weren’t anything he even thought twice about. Not only did I think more than twice about it, I thought about it every single day for 34 weeks straight. I suppose this is where marketing people for stretch mark creams everywhere are patting themselves on the back. They suckered me into thinking I NEEDED to prevent these little grooves and ripples on my breasts and tummy. But my husband never once ran away in horror upon seeing these stretch marks, and hasn’t done so yet.
I wanted to tell you I hate you, stretch marks—but the truth is that I don’t.
Honestly, I don’t hate what my body has been capable of doing. Also, I don’t hate that I gained the weight I needed to in order to sustain the most precious baby I could have prayed for. In addition, I don’t hate my new body art, and though I’ve always shuddered in secondhand embarrassment at those motivational memes about “earning these stripes,” I get it now. I don’t hate you, stretch marks. I love you, and I’m learning to love the body you belong to.