I think as Westerners, we are programmed to think that a woman is more desirable even after having a child if she "bounces back", and quickly. But it isn't just about losing the baby weight, it's also about not having been biologically predisposed to developing a road map of stretch marks anywhere that experienced rapid growth during a pregnancy. Stretched, saggy skin just doesn't read "Sexy" as well as smooth, tight, tanned, supple young skin does in our culture.
Of all of the complications and challenges that my pregnancy presented, one of the things that was hardest for me to accept emotionally was the fact that I started to get stretch marks all over my belly around 34.5 weeks. I knew, and my friends reminded me, that they would eventually fade, but when they first started to show up, they were dark, purpley red, angry looking marks that turned into the beginning of the horrible PUPPS rash that ended up lasting for the next 11 weeks. But those marks didn't go away when the hives faded after delivery. They are just now, 9 months later, starting to fade from the dark purplish color they started out as to a more subtle, pinkish lavender. But even though my weight is right back where it was before getting pregnant, my belly just isnt the same. There is a pocket of looser skin, strewn with light scars that will continue to fade, but will never disappear completely.
Many mamas, in real life, and in the video above, say that they feel that their stretch marks are their badge of motherhood, their pride in knowing that their bodies grew someone so precious to them. But, I am not 100% there yet. It may be vain, and I never felt that confident about my belly in front of others even before pregnancy, but I don't love my stretch marked belly now. I love, I mean, love, that my body was able to create and support her life as it developed until she was ready to join our world. I was amazed as I watched myself grow and stretch, beyond what I even thought possible, and I loved feeling her move and imagining what she would be like when she was here with us. I am lucky that this is the only lasting physical scar of what ended up being a challenging pregnancy and a really scary delivery. But all along, I hated those stretch marks. I didn't take any bare bellied pictures once they showed up, not even for myself to look back and remember just how big I was, or even just what that giant basketball of a belly looked like with all of its fresh new stretch marks (and yes, ridiculous hives). And yet, while I don't love the way my belly looks bare at this moment, and I'm not sure I will ever be comfortable baring it in public again, I can appreciate that they are an ever present reminder that underneath that skin, my body grew hers. I don't know that I feel I need those scars to remind me of what happened there, but since they are there with me for the long haul, I might as well start accepting them! Maybe my belly isn't sexy, or magazine quality perfection, and probably won't ever be without surgical intervention which I don't think I could ever quite justify, but it is mine, "birth markings" and all.