Why I love every inch of my stretch marks

Guest post by Charlotte
The Body lingerie pop art by MonchiCards

Vanity Fair ran an article last year about Marilyn Monroe in which she was quoted as saying:

“There isn’t anybody that looks like me without clothes on.”

I don’t know if she was being existential, ironic, or just plain silly, but I thought about this quote for months. I’ve adopted it as my new motto of empowerment on those days when I feel not-so-awesome.

I have obsessed about my weight since I was eleven. I’m not going to get into all of the years of disordered eating and self-loathing in this post, but when I look back on photos of myself, I can’t believe I thought there was anything wrong with me. I was a fox. I could shimmy into tons of really cute clothes, and heads would turn.

These days, you could describe me as “pillowy” rather than “willowy.”

I’m not one of those women who lost all their baby weight breastfeeding. My body feels the need to hold on to all its fat stores until after baby weans. Also, I was not one of those women whose breasts shrivel up to half their pre-baby size after nursing. Mine remained a DDD cup, which would have been awesome if my husband were a boob man, but he isn’t.

My pregnancy with my son passed with nary a stretch mark, but in my last trimester with my daughter, I looked in my mirror to see my belly button surrounded by a spiral of stretch marks. I found the pink whirls fascinating and hypnotic. Since having her, the marks have changed to a silvery shadow around my navel, a translucent tie-dye. I could slather vitamin oil onto them to try to make them fade into obscurity, but I actually contemplated having them tattooed. I’ve grown to love these delicate fingerprints of my final pregnancy.

It’s normal for women to grieve the loss of their pre-baby body. I went through all the stages of grief — denial, anger, depression, bargaining — before I got to self-acceptance.

While watching me button my jeans the other day, my son stated, “Mama, you have a big, big belly.” Then he wrapped his arms around me and nuzzled said big belly. At 17 months, my daughter is still passionately nursing, and worships my body as a shrine of sorts. I am a place where my children snuggle, snack, and climb. To them, I am warm and safe, a place of comfort and sweetness.

So, if my husband and children can accept and love my body, why can’t I?

I would like to have a bit more core strength so that my back didn’t feel quite so elderly, and I always want to make sure that my heart and body are in good health. But I really would rather go for a brisk walk with my daughter in her stroller than pound it out at the gym.

Marilyn Monroe died alone in a nearly unfurnished room. By most accounts, she was unhappy and lonely, despite being the most admired sex-symbol in the world. She fought a war within herself of depression and was reported to have wild weight fluctuations because of anti-psychotic medication. From these facts, I deduce that fame, fortune, and a 20 inch waist can’t buy you love or joy.

There isn’t anyone in the world who looks like me without their clothes on, and I have the stretch marks to prove it.

Comments on Why I love every inch of my stretch marks

  1. Thanks for your post, Charlotte. I’m early on in my first pregnancy and even though I’m thrilled beyond belief to be having a baby, the pudgy belly that started coming on in the last few weeks has made me kind of freak out. Years of (at times overly) careful maintenance has engrained me to respond by upping my time running outdoors and cutting back on calories — but I just can’t! I’m hungry all the time (like so hungry my body feels like its eating itself) and way too exhausted (needing a nap after a 30 minute walk) to exercise like I used to. Any idiot could tell you weight-watching is not really what my body needs right now, but I can’t seem to let the message sink in.

    I’m inspired by your words of self-acceptance to try and be more gentle with myself. I will eat with gusto knowing that I’m feeding my growing baby. And I will release guilty feelings about missed exercise with the knowledge that my body is working harder than ever before to keep both of us healthy. Bring on the stretch marks.

    • Hi, and thank you so much for posting this comment to my piece. It is great to hear from other moms who are learning to love and accept themselves. I am so happy to hear that you are expecting your first little bundle! Think about it– your body is growing every little hair on his/her head, every cell in every organ, every little brain wave. What you are doing deserves to be nurtured both physically and emotionally. Please feel free to visit me over at http://www.momasteblog.wordpress.com and keep me updated on your progress!

  2. I love this so much. You’re absolutely right, and I freaking adore your desire to tattoo your stretch marks.

    BTW, I think Marilyn Monroe was freaking brilliant. Miserable and alone, yes, but brilliant.

    • YES! Marilyn was a genius. I always loved her, even as a teen. Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment on my post. It means a lot to hear from other moms. Momaste!

  3. I really liked my wife’s stretch marks before they faded. They looked like purple fire coming from her knickers.

    James

  4. I loved this. 🙂 I am plus size and in my second pregnancy. I’ve never had that cute “baby bump” that thinner women have (and yes, I already had stretch marks). I will never be a stereotypical “cute” pregnant lady, but my husband will touch my belly and I feel like the most beautiful woman on the planet. My firstborn nestles into my shoulder for his evening bottle and while my unborn son kicks both of us – I’m just in awe. I’ll never be a cute pregnant lady, but how blessed am I to be growing another life?

  5. Very blessed indeed! Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment on my post. I think that our society makes it really hard for us to accept ourselves. I’m glad that my post resonated with you and wish you all the best in your pregnancy and motherhood!

  6. This post couldn’t have been timed better 🙂 I’m 34w pregnant, and have had stretch marks since week 15ish. I swing between a horrified ‘my stomach looks like I was mauled by a tiger’ and a fascinated ‘look how big my belly is getting! there’s a BABY in there doing that!’ My husband has been endlessly supportive and loving towards my changing body, but as someone who also fought with disordered eating for over half her life (and like you, wtf was I thinking as a foxy 16-year old that looked smokin in everything?!) it’s definitely hard to accept the weird and wonderful things happening to it! Thanks for the great reminder that it’s just one more thing that makes me uniquely awesome 😉

    • I heard it once described as “tigger stripes” since the baby was bouncing around in the belly. I thought it was a cute way of describing it!

  7. Jen, thank you so much for your kind feedback. Congratulations on your pregnancy! I’m so touched that my post resonated with you. Hoping your next six weeks are kind and that you have a speedy and healthy birth. Hugs!

  8. What a lovely article 🙂 I have a 16mo son and spent the vast majority of my pregnancy feeling very smug about the lack of stretch marks on my bump – and then all of a sudden, in the last couple of weeks, I found I was covered in them! One of my midwives even commented on how many there were (yeah, thanks for that…) But I love my stretch marks now – I loved being pregnant, and I love my son so, so, so much more than I ever thought possible, and those pinkish-silvery lines that cover my belly are like a permanent road-map of his first real home. I wouldn’t change them. He still BFs like a trooper, and I have stretch marks (though not as many) on my boobs too – when my son was a few weeks old, my sister asked me whether they’re likely to fade, and I said they’d probably look less angry over time but never really go. And I really don’t mind that – I never thought I’d be able to breastfeed, so they’re a wonderful reminder of what my body was able to do for my boy.

    • Yay for Bfing like a trooper at 16 months! It really is a gift if you can hang in there with it. . . Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment on my post here at Offbeat Families. It is a really lovely gift to hear from other moms!

  9. Thank you so much for this post! I always fought with my weight and it is even worse since I had my thyroid removed due to cancer. But I managed to get pregnant after miscarrying, my 9 months old baby girl is happy, I still breastfeed her (which wasn’t a given due to the (lack of) thyroid). I didn’t loose an once since her birth and am 40 pounds above my “before weight” and sometimes I do not feel good about myself especially at work (Luxury industry does that to you)… but yes, I grew this miracle baby, i feed her, she loves to cuddle and climb: I am going to massage me with lotion just for the feeling of it and dump every magazine with photoshopped models…

    • Wow. Wow. Wow. What an inspiring story you share! Thank you so much for taking the time to read and respond to my post. Your baby really is a miracle and so is your body. There was a gorgeous photo of a mom with a big stretch marked post-baby belly going around on Facebook a few weeks back, and I really thought it was so much more beautiful than anything photoshopped ever could be… Thanks again for sharing, it is such a blessing. Please feel free to come visit me over at Momasteblog, where we converse frequently about self acceptance, motherhood and breastfeeding. I’d love to hear more from you!

  10. I adore this post! I was mentally prepared for stretch marks when I had my first child, but I still dreaded the day when they began to appear. My mother has stretch marks from both my sister and I and my sister described them for the longest time with the story that “My mom was mauled by a tiger.” Luckily she loves her stretch marks and has embraced them over the years.

    I have done the same and I think it was another article here that gave me my bragging rights. Oh you wrecked your motorcycle? I brought a life into the world, beat that! It was still a struggle when pre-baby I had been bordering on being underweight and then a year later returned to that weight. I know I ate like there was no tomorrow and gained nearly 70lbs with my son. It was great. What I love most about my post-baby body, three years later, is that every change was so absolutely worth while and is a constant reminder of the blessing in my life and that damn, dude, I am one bad mofo. I brought an amazing little dude into the world. Nothing beats that mentality.

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to read and comment on my post. It is such a wonderful gift to hear from other moms who can celebrate how motherhood changes us, for the better, in my opinion.

  11. When I was a teenager I started to get stretch marks on my outer thighs. I didn’t know what they were, but I loved running my hand on them. I’d play with them when I was nervous. They felt comfortable. I had no idea there was a stigma against them until I was older.

    So, it’s only when I start looking around at magazines and stuff when I think that I’m not good enough. My stretchmarks, those from puberty and those from my baby, tell a story of who I am now.

  12. Great to hear from you, Monk-Monk! Thank you so much for sharing. . . Hey, I was just remembering it was on Offbeat Families where we first met– what a cool thing! I’m so glad we have been connected on this crazy journey!

  13. “I am a place where my children snuggle, snack, and climb. To them, I am warm and safe, a place of comfort and sweetness.”

    THIS.

    Even though I’ve been lucky enough to never have dealt with body image issues, this is just what I, in the 34th week of my first pregnancy, needed to realise after not managing to complete ANY of the chores I desperately wanted to do, and therefore feeling like crap for wasting an entire weekend exclusively napping and noshing.
    It’s all good!

    • Hi! Your comment is very much appreciated! Thank you so much for reading and resonating with my post. You are definitely NOT doing nothing! You are growing every hair and every cell in your precious baby’s body– you deserve to have a little nap and nosh! I hope the rest of your pregnancy is beautiful.

  14. I used to crawl into the folds of my babysitter’s belly and sides and make myself cozy in them, easily drifting off to sleep in them. There is nothing wrong with the way a body is, especially the body of someone who is nurturing new life. Rock it Mama!

  15. I admire you. And envy you and your attitude. Gaining during both pregnancies over 60 pounds and being ed foe half of my life. After my first baby i lost all the extra weight and got back to somewhat decent shape and size. After the second i freaked out and i am edging ed having to make myself to eat every day, just so i can produce milk for my seven month old baby… I feel hideous and i struggle big time. I also do not shrink, i do not breastfeed it out, and i got marks…. Unlike you i can not get over it and feeling bones on my body still gives me the comfort… I wish i was as beautiful as you are. Thank you for encouraging article!!!

    • Dear Paja, Thank you so much for reading my post and taking the time to leave such a wonderful and heart felt and brave comment. I hope you find peace with yourself and your body. Our bodies do wonderful things for us– such as growing tiny humans that we love with all our hearts. I was really lucky to have gotten “bored” of ed and kind of spontaneously recovered. You are NOT hideous. You are so beautiful for caring for yourself and nourishing your baby with your own body. Your stretch marks are your beautiful mama-tiger-stripes. Find comfort in knowing that your body is doing what it was built to do! Feel free to come and visit me over at momasteblog for more support and encouragement and self acceptance. I would love to hear more from you, and about your journey. . . Much universal love energy coming your way, from a fellow mama, CJ.

Comments are closed.