I remember when the first one appeared at about six months, three small scratches on my growing belly. It was like a kitten had swiped me with its tiny paw. I thought to myself, "Oh, what a cute story this will make. Someday the baby will ask about it and I can imagine up something about the kitty that was trying to get him to come out and play when he was in mommy's tummy."
But then there were more. A lot more. And they only got bigger and angrier looking. Before long I was joking to my husband that my pretty little kitten story had evolved into a horror tale, involving at least a full grown tiger, if not something worse.
It wasn't that I was vain about my stomach before. It was always “curvy” if I was feeling good, “lumpy” if I wasn't. But I took for granted how smooth it was. I never would have worn a bikini, but there was always a possibility that—with a few months of working out, with just a little watching what I ate—I could.
Now the stretch marks radiate from my belly button. A natural tattoo. A permanent reminder—as if I needed one—of the precious boy that grew there.
I'm constantly fighting to feel differently about them than I do. There
are moments that I'd like to be that pre-pregnancy person again. The girl with the smooth, if lumpy, belly. The one without drool marks on her shoulders and the remnants of her child's most recent meal ground into her jeans.
But, of course, the reality is, my body did give birth. It was designed to,
it did the job perfectly, but even the most natural thing in the world takes its toll. In fact, it would be un-natural if it were otherwise.
And—in theory, at least—I think it would be awesome if we could get to a place where stretch marks are not something to be covered or treated to minimize them, but instead displayed like battle scars—signs that a woman is strong and miraculous and all the other attributes that bearing a child entails.
I know that's how I should feel, at least—strong, powerful, warrior—but I don't. It's embarassing to admit, but if I could “fix” one thing about my body, that would be it. I look in the mirror and try to smooth them out with my hands. I quickly hide them under camisoles when getting dressed. I pay extra attention to my abs at the gym.
All the while, I know that the real work doesn't need to happen to my stomach, it needs to happen in my head. Someday, when my son is old enough to notice and ask, I hope I'm confident enough to be proud of the truth. I hope can be honest with him and I hope I won't need a fairy tale.