My age: 27
One pregnancy, one birth
My daughter is 21 months old.
I have to apologize; I like to take a few days to tweak my entries before submitting them and this one just kept getting longer and more ramble-y. I didn’t originally intend on writing quite so much!
A few weeks ago my husband fell while out on his daily bike ride. He’s okay, but he scraped up one knee pretty badly. I was looking at the scab one day to see how it was healing, and I noticed a large white stripe on the side of his knee.
I said, “Hun, is this a stretch mark?”
He replied, “where?”
“On your knee.”
“Yeah, probably. I’ve got them everywhere.”
My husband is not an overly large man. He is 5’8’’, and 195 pounds (a lot of which is muscle). Yet his thighs, butt, back, and—apparently—knees are covered in deep, wide stretch marks. They are flesh-colored, but they still lend an unmistakable texture to his skin. And you know what? He’s okay with them. “Okay” really isn’t the right word, he just doesn’t consider them at all. There’s nothing he can do about this gift that puberty gave him, so why stress about it? (When I let him read this post he stopped and looked at them, but he had to look around to see exactly where they were. They just aren’t on his radar normally).
I find it ironic that as I sat down to write this entry, I checked Facebook and Bonnie had posted the clip from Steven Colbert about ugly armpits and companies creating problems for women to “fix”, because that’s sort of what I was thinking about writing about.
The thing is, I’ve read several posts where women say “I already had stretch marks from puberty.” Nobody ever seems bothered by those marks, like my husband, but the vast majority of women HATE their pregnancy stretch marks. Why is that? Because we are told that we should. There are countless products out there made to “fix” and/or “prevent” stretch marks, and they invariably have a pregnant woman on the label. The message is that if you are growing yourself, stretch marks are fine, but if you are growing another being, they are not. And that’s just plain wrong.
I understand this, and yet I am still terrified that a future pregnancy will leave my stomach riddled with silvery lines, just like my hips are. It’s such a deeply ingrained cultural prejudice that I cannot seem to overcome it. But I was a junior in college before I EVER realized my mother had stretch marks. They faded to almost nothing and I didn’t care. Our children do not care about the marks that we gained in giving them life. We are perfect to them regardless. Isn’t it sad that what society deems “acceptable” is more important to us than our own children’s opinions?
I love my daughter more than life itself, but the thought of raising a girl in today’s culture scares the ever-living crap out of me. She’s small for her age but she eats like she’s facing a famine, so much that her little tummy gets distended and her shirts ride up. J I love to poke it and say “look at that belly!”, but sometimes I worry that she’ll take it to heart and start thinking she needs to eat less, or suck it in. And she is only 21 months old. She can’t possibly think that way yet but how do I know when she might? I want to raise a daughter who loves herself the way she is and realizes that she is beautiful, without pushing her over into outright vanity. It’s such a fine line and I’m afraid that I will step off of it and mess her up for life.
I have made no progress since my first post, 20 months ago. My indomitable self-confidence is starting to waiver. Some days I look in the mirror and look at my stomach in disgust. It isn’t big at all, but I see the line left by my underwear and feel like such a fatty. I had a very small pregnant belly and I still look like I did when I was 4 or 5 months along. But as I was standing in the shower earlier, sucking my stomach in to see what was fat and what was the natural curve of my body, I began to wonder why a flat stomach even matters. Women are not all meant to have flat stomachs. If that was “normal” for all human females, it would not be such a hard state to maintain. It bothers me that I’m upset about looking like a natural woman, a mother. I wish I had more friends near me who are mothers. Everybody I know with babies lives far away and none of my “everyday” friends have kids yet. It’s very hard to be confident or comfortable when you’re comparing yourself to untested, unstretched bodies.
Sometimes I feel like I have lost control of my life. I hate my job (yup, still the same one that I “wasn’t going to go back to”). I keep applying for new ones and I never hear a single thing back. It is discouraging, and my inability to get out of a horrible work situation has started to cause me to doubt other areas of my life too. Why can’t I eat better? Why can’t I finish painting the house we bought over a year ago? Why don’t I exercise? What, exactly—other than a beautiful little girl—have I accomplished in the five years since I graduated from college?
I have been slowly working on making my dinners healthier; I figure that’s something, at least. What I really need to do is exercise, for peace of mind as well as for fitness. There just always seems to be something more important to do than exercising. I don’t have enough (baby-free, work-free) hours in the day.
My husband is my inspiration. He is more dissatisfied with his body than I. He’s gained nearly 30 pounds since we started dating (8 years ago) and he hates it. He has an unfortunate metabolism that likes to add weight quickly and not give it back up easily. He took up cycling a few years ago, and this year he signed up for a 250-mile charity ride which he has been training religiously for. He’s only lost 10 pounds so far but he is so much trimmer and in much better shape. I figure if he can do it, why can’t I?
So here I am, 21 months post partum from my first baby, 8 months after I weaned her. I am considering these to be my “before” pictures—before I take control of my life, get my body to a healthier state that doesn’t nag at the back of my mind, and regain my self-confidence. If he can do it, I can do it, and I WILL.