I knew it was bound to happen sooner rather than later. After all, I’ve answered a zillion questions about nipples and bottoms and the like. So it didn’t surprise me when Maggie asked me about my stretch marks the other day.
“What are those, Mama?”
“Those are called stretch marks, sweet baby. Do you know how I got those?”
“From having you and Lily and Ev in my belly. You got so big in there that my belly grew and stretched and stretched and streeeeeetched until I got these stretch marks. What do you think of them?”
And she’s right, you know. They are beautiful, these pink-tinged silver streaks tracing their way all over my belly.
They’re beautiful and they’re history. They tell a story that begans at adolescence, a story that is just so full of self-doubt and self-loathing. You see, those stretch marks began even then. I had already resigned myself to hating bathing suits, so the marks were just icing on the crappy body image cake. I always hated changing in front of friends, knowing that we were all sizing each other up, all comparing, all making mental checklists to review later, desperate to know whether or not we hit the mark. We didn’t. We never let ourselves.
But those stretch marks also tell the story of a girl finding herself pregnant after just getting home from her honeymoon, excited, scared, and insanely hormonal to the point crying over Superbad.
They tell the story of a hot evening in May, when she knew the second baby was coming that night. They tell about the laughter in the hospital over breastfeeding songs on YouTube and the perfect first meeting between two sisters.
As the story gets longer, the marks get longer. They have to in order to tell about the third one, the one they said she couldn’t deliver because he was so big. She did it and those stretch marks are a badge of honor for bringing all nine pounds, fifteen ounces of him victoriously into the world.
The self-doubt part of the story is an ongoing theme, though. It still permeates the tale, which has become a tug-of-war between self-acceptance and shame.
All of this is rushing through my mind as my girl’s words resonate through my soul.
“They’re beautiful, Mama.”
“You’re right, Mags. But you know, some people don’t think they’re very beautiful.”
“That’s silly. Why not?”
And I don’t have an answer for her because there’s not one. There is not one good reason for thinking that stretch marks aren’t beautiful. Not one.
“Someday I’m going to have stretch marks just like you. They’re going to be purple and red and silver all over me like a rainbow!”
I hope you do, baby girl. I hope you do.
Note: This is Part 1 in a series on loving our bodies. Stay tuned for more, including some guest posts from some fabulous people! Don’t forget to love yourself. -Mary Susan