Stretching

This was originally posted to my personal blog in June 2009. My daughter is 4 now, and she still thinks my belly is the best. 

Ever since I hit puberty I’ve had these little indentations on my skin, right at the base of my spine. I used to run my fingers over them, unsure of what they were, intrigued by the texture of my skin there. I remember being on the beach and a boyfriend asking about them, but I just shrugged and said it’d been there forever. I never thought much of it until I got pregnant. Right around the seventh month of my pregnancy a little pink scar appeared, to the right of my belly button. A stretch mark. I cried. Over the next couple of months they fanned out covering most of my belly. They appeared like flames on my breasts. I noticed them appear on the tops of my thighs, and I even got a few behind my knees. I’m not overweight, I drank plenty of water and ate a very healthy diet, and I moisturized. Even so, I soon found myself with what felt like an entirely new body, one that I regretfully admit to have mourned in those first few months.
In those early days I scoured the internet for the secret to removing them all. I wished them away. I even took a mental inventory of my life, wondering what I had done to deserve them. I found websites dedicated to normalizing a mother’s body- because it is, in fact, normal. Some days it would help to see other mothers and I would feel inspired and confident, but other days it would depress me to think about it all so much. I’m self-conscious even admitting that I dedicated so much brain space to this, considering the beautiful new baby I had next to me that whole time. Over time, I started to think less about them. I worked on accepting them. I fell madly in love with my child and with motherhood, which only helped. My partner would run his fingers over them and tell me he loved how soft my belly was now. They faded and my belly shrunk, and I started to feel more like my old self. However, I still have days where I feel dissatisfied, despite my efforts to be totally accepting and to “own” them as evidence of my strength and growth.

Recently my daughter started giving “schmoozles”. Some people call it “blowing a raspberry”. Basically, she lifts my shirt, puts her mouth next to my skin, and blows air against me making a surprising noise. This makes her giggle like crazy. She’s learned to say the word “belly”, and loves to point to her own and find other people’s bellies hiding under their shirts. I have to say though, she seems to like mine above any others. When we nurse, she often smiles and says “belly”, pushing into it and giggling. She touches it softly when she’s falling asleep. She smooshes her face into it and looks at me with nothing but love and fun in her eyes. There’s no judgment. She loves my belly. I love that she loves it. It was her first home.
I effortlessly see other mothers as beautiful just as they are, although I’ve found that it’s something that I have to work at in myself. I think this is a reality for many women. I guess now I feel like I’m still mourning, but I’m not mourning my scars. I’m mourning the fact that we live in a culture that nurtures an unrealistic and superficial ideal, openly criticizing those that don’t fit into that criteria. It doesn’t help that we often compare and criticize each other, seeing other women as competition rather than part of a sisterhood. That’s not the world I want to live in, and I think that now more than ever I have a responsibility to help change it for the better. If not for myself, then certainly for my daughter. I don’t have the secret to acceptance and self-love. I will say, however, that I’m grateful for each of my scars. They help me to think about my life in a more honest, less shallow way. They free me up to believe in my true worth, and the worth of others. I’m only a better person because of them.