I want to tell you about my stretch marks. I have so many. Like, so many. You would have to be a lover, or be leering to know they existed in their white faded softness. But, they are there, huddled in their zigzag pattern. My thighs, the backs of my arms, my breasts, my abdomen. Ghost fire-works.
My first stretch marks came to me as I transitioned from girl-hood to woman-hood. Skin stretched and strained as I grew and changed, as I gained and lost. As a woman, as a mother, my memory aches for my little-girl-self. I was so encumbered by those stretch marks. I was so bothered by them, weighed down by them. Parts of me that made me want to flee.
I’m not certain where I acquired the notion that stretch marks were un-beautiful; that stretch marks were in some way making me less wonderful in my little-girl-self. I lacked a mother that would have suggested such things, and beyond your typical experience with friendships and school bullies, I wasn’t surrounded by other girl children who were particularly unkind about one’s body.
Once my unexpected pregnancy was well underway, I found myself wondering about stretch marks, but it wasn’t during Aodhan’s habitation that they developed. But, after his birth, as my tummy shrank and my breasts returned to their for-me-normal size, new pathways could be seen in the wake of the amazing journey my body had taken. It is with such different eyes and a reconditioned heart that I look at these quiet marks that I notice during a shower or bath. Their paths dance across different areas of my body, and tell a tale of where my baby was curled up safe and sound for 9 beautiful months. They are a testament to the the human being that my body made from cells on up. The lines on my breasts will forever remind me of the years spent nursing and nourishing a child. And the new lines around my hips are whispers of how an entire skeletal system shifted to make room for a birth that didn’t happen as planned.
My young-girl self will forever be troubled by her changing body. I wish I could show her tumblrs and sites that exist today celebrating stretch marks. I wish I could tell her about the work being done towards normalizing their existence. But, even today, the appreciation and acceptance of stretch marks is atypical. In our fat-shaming culture, stretch marks are flags of failure, and more than a few industries conspire to make money from the feelings of inadequacy perpetuated by media and cultural stereotypes.
So many resources on pregnancy, birth, fitness, ‘beauty’, and puberty discuss stretch marks through the lenses of ‘cures’ and ways to cover them up. I want to start talking about stretch marks as a normal and natural element of the human body. I’d like to see stretch marks discussed as a part of any sized body – and not used as a way to ‘decide’ if someone is ‘fat’. All bodies experience stretch marks: male, female, white, people of colour, big, small. We all have them. Let’s stop hating them and hiding them.
I’m talking about my stretch marks. Let’s hear about yours.