Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Stretch marks.

The other day, I took my kids to the pool and met up with some other mom friends of mine. As usual, I wore my knee-length board shorts over a one-piece suit. I was pleasantly surprised to see my friends rockin' their swimsuits fiercely, not covering up their legs and hips. Then I got a little jealous -- why can't I have the confidence to swim without board shorts or wear a two-piece? One little thing is holding me back: my stretch marks.

I vividly remember the day they first appeared. I was about five months pregnant with Bubby, getting ready to hop into the shower. I looked down and saw some red stripes on my inner thighs. I thought maybe it was a rash or something. But I looked closer and noticed this rash was actually a collection of deep, red stripes cutting across my skin like fault lines. It dawned on me then that it was not a rash at all; I had received my first set of stretch marks, the first permanent indication that I was a mother.

My stomach sank at this realization, but I immediately found a silver lining: I have never been comfortable showing my thighs anyway, so my stretch marks would remain a secret to everyone besides Dill. Take that, stretch mark fairies!

But within the coming weeks, I got more. The existing ones on my thighs spider-webbed down my legs, almost to my knees. I got a bunch of deep, red angry ones on my hips. They appeared on my buttocks. And then, my breasts (I actually cried about those). The days of perfect skin and a perfect body were gone.

(And to think I ever complained about a few dimples on my butt. Ha!)

After Bubby came, the stretch marks haunted me. I couldn't bear to look at them, even touch them. I felt ruined. It didn't matter how many times Dill told me they didn't bother him in the slightest -- I didn't believe him. All I saw was ugliness.

In case you're wondering, they looked like this:

I took this picture a few months after Bubby's birth because I wanted to prove that my stretch marks would never fade. I planned to take another picture a year later and show everyone that MY stretch marks were an especially horrid breed that would remain red and furious forever. For some reason, I stored this picture in the My Pictures folder on my computer even though my screensaver was set to a randomized slideshow of said pictures. I blame sleep-deprived early motherhood for that act of idiocy.

One evening while living in Provo, we had Dill's cousin David over for dinner. He was also attending BYU at the time and we invited him over often. We were all sitting around chatting after our meal when THAT PICTURE (up there) appeared on the computer screen as part of the slideshow screensaver. When David saw it, his jaw dropped and he turned and said, "What HAPPENED to you?" I could only guess what he was thinking: mauled by an African cat? I'm sure I turned red from embarrassment -- I didn't mean for that picture to be seen by ANYONE. I consider David a close relative, just not THAT close. But the damage was done, the corneas already seared.

With a lump in my throat, I quietly explained, "Those are stretch marks. That's what happens when you have a baby." He accepted that answer without further prodding. The lump went away and the conversation turned to lighter topics. I don't think he knew about stretch marks prior to seeing my picture. Either way, he definitely got an education that evening.

Since then, my stretch marks have faded into silver scars and also shrunk a lot with weight loss. I didn't earn any new ones with Smush -- that's right, I said earn. My feelings on the matter have changed.

Before David saw that picture, I loathed my stretch marks. I thought they were abhorrent, a nasty secret no one should ever know about. But for some reason, having my secret (which really wasn't such a bad secret) exposed to someone else helped me realize they just weren't a big deal. Most mothers have stretch marks -- the ones who don't are among very few. These marks aren't bad -- yes, from a medical perspective, they are an actual scar on the skin, evidence the skin had been stretched beyond its elasticity. But who doesn't have scars? We all do. Our scars tell our scariest and most interesting stories. They are proof that we survived something.

I think of Stephanie Nielson, the famous blogger from Nie Nie Dialogues who survived a fiery plane crash back in 2008. If you don't read her blog, you ought to start now. This woman knows more about scars than anyone. I see the pain SHE has endured and feel awful that I ever let my measly stretch marks bother me. She is proof that true beauty has nothing to do with how perfect your skin is. What an amazing woman to look up to, a woman who doesn't let her scars get her down.

My stretch marks have begun to migrate to the back of my mind. They don't torment me like they used to. Occasionally, I catch a glimpse of them and remember being pregnant, remember those long nine months that ended with the most wonderful gift. Those marks are a small souvenir of my pregnancy journey, and I know more than my fair share of women who'd give anything to acquire those particular scars.

I haven't yet come to a point where I consider them beautiful. But, I do see them as a physical reminder of my greater purpose in life, and that's cool.

And I'm starting to embrace them. Last night, I got up the courage to swim in short board shorts instead of my knee-length ones. A small victory.

Someday, I hope to wear life's badges of honor proudly. My stretch marks, non-existent boobs, C-section scar and sagging, loose skin? They're not ugly; they're just proof of a fact -- I gave two people life.

No shame in that.


  1. thank you, thank you!!!! i have stretch marks to my calves as well. and on my boobs, tummy, hips, and one tiny one on each arm. "the shape of a mother" blog helped me so much but i still despise them. if only i didn't get them on my legs i could at least rock a one piece, never mind the saggy belly skin. oh the things we live with for our amazing kids (but, in reality, if i didn't have to live with some of it, i wouldn't ...) :)

  2. Great post! I completely agree with your last paragraphs!

  3. I just noticed a few on my sides right where yours are! I didn't even know they show up there, I was thinking it was only on my belly! I will get over it though! NO BIG DEAL!

  4. You are so wise.

    I am one of those people who have stretch marks and no cute baby for it. All my friends do. I think they are kind of normal.

    Would you believe my mother NEVER got a stretch mark? Ugh!

  5. That's what my tummy looks like, from breast height to my crotch. One of the many reasons I will never ever rock of two piece again. They don't always stay red and angry, but they don't fade to silvery color for some people either. Mine are a deep shade of purple still, two years after having my youngest. This is what we call NORMAL. This is what happens when we have babies. It's very frustrating to see celebrities two weeks after having given birth to their teeny tiny tummies free of the evidence of their pregnancy. I am at a point where I don't obsess over them anymore, but lets be honest. I hate them.

  6. Bravo!! I know there are some things I don't like about my body (the perma-pooch!) but if I can bring life into the world it will have served its purpose.

    My mom has incredibly elastic skin (a blessing and a curse) so hopefully some of that will transfer to me, enough to be able to handle the stretch marks, but not so much that I get horrendous varicose veins.

  7. I am so so so glad to hear that I am not the only one with stretch marks on the inner thighs! This is the one area I cannot come to terms with. I have them in various other places as well, and I have pretty much come to terms with them. But, like you said, I don't know if I will ever look at them and see them as beautiful.

  8. Go Jenna, go Jenna, go go go Jenna! Yay for getting up the courage to not hide. I LOVE IT!

  9. I love this post!! I am covered in stretch marks! It's been really hard for me to want to go swimming. DJ is amazingly sweet with me. He loves my stretch marks and says it's proof of how beautiful I am on the inside because I sacrificed so much to bring my children into this world and he loves it :') he is a sweetheart! Thank you for sharing this post! It's wonderful!!

  10. @Brown Eyed Girl's, you sure got yourself a good man! ;)

  11. I didn't get any stretch marks, but I think part of that has to do with the fact that I had just started showing when it was time for her to come. However my scar isn't anything pretty. It's cut really far to the right and for now is just as pink as your stretch mark photo. I'm actually kinda bummed it's cut so low because I can't show it to anyone (other than mom and siblings). I have this huge scar proving that I endured something so incredible and I HAVE to keep it hidden. Lame!

  12. Oh man Jenna. From a girl who just had her first baby 3 MONTHS AGO... I realllllllly really really reallyreallyreally appreciated this post. This is exactly what I needed to hear tonight. Thank you.

  13. I cried when I got my measly 3 stretch marks. And the ladies got plenty of wolverine marks as well. But it's all about just putting it out there! And you are smokin' hot! I say own the marks. They are the new cool thing. :)

  14. You are just awesome!!! I share the stretch marks from the base of my back/top of my butt all the way down to the middle of my calves. I used to be absolutely apalled by mine as well, but like yours they have faded to silvery scars that are my initiation into the Mommy club. Your smokin so rock what you got sister!!! We actually had a converation about stretch marks at mommy play group about a month ago. :-)

  15. The most interesting thing for me is that once I understood it was forgotten until this post! It's really helpful to understand the feeling from the other side - it'll come in helpful, along with the examples of the other husbands in the comments, when it's my wife's turn.

  16. You are braver than I am. Mine are like yours, deep, and thick and all over my stomach from hip to hip, and on my thighs, too. Thanks for bringing this to the light of day!

  17. I think I made it to almost 38 weeks and then I got one tiny stretch mark on the front of my belly which quickly developed into a web all around my belly button. Weird. But it wasn't such a big deal to me because I got my first stretch marks in Junior High, from the back of my knees to the top of my hips. Nobody cares; I totally don't wear shorts anymore to go swimming.

  18. Oh wow, I am not even a mum. Have never been through what you have, nor experienced the joy of having a child, but this post is so beautiful. Kinda made me teary >.< I can't wait to be a mum (eventually) and I do worry about stretch marks etc, but when you think about it, it is just a small ripple in an ocean compared to the child you have at the end.

    Thanks for a lovely post!


  19. I remember the first time my sister saw my stretch marks. They were all on the underside of my preggo-belly--so I couldn't see them! I was getting changed when she popped her head in to ask me a question, saw my stomach and then ran to my dh and said "What happened to her???". Those were the worst, but I have come to have similar feelings as you about them. And I am actually kinda loving the little sunburst pattern ones I got on the top of my belly button from ds #2. I think they're the Lord's way of tatoo-ing us. :)

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