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After But Before (Colleen)

May 12, 2011

My previous submissions are here: (oh no I’m becoming a serial poster!)
One Year After a Cesarean
Ode to my Scar
Coming to Grips With a Cesarean

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.

Updated here.

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9 Responses to “After But Before (Colleen)”

  1. Jenny W Says:
    May 12th, 2011 at 7:26 am

    You look great already! I can’t even tell you’ve had a child, but exercise is always a healthy choice. Good luck to you and I hope you reach your goals.

  2. Kayla Says:
    May 12th, 2011 at 8:54 am

    What? You look GREAT! Your skin is so tight and might I say, you have great breasts too! I was actually watching that Colbert show the other day and nodding my head the entire time. It is ridiculous how they advertise the silliest things that are “wrong” with women. My post just went up yesterday that I posted a few weeks ago. (wish I knew then what I know now) and I am sad for myself for the way I was writing! Guess I have come a long way since then…

    Have you seen that stinkin mederma commercial!? Geez people!

    When you started talking about being okay with the stretch marks from puberty and not from giving birth, it really hit home. I need to learn to at least accept the stretch marks on my tummy.

  3. misho Says:
    May 12th, 2011 at 9:04 am

    You have a beautiful shape…especially from your front photo. very curvy

  4. bea Says:
    May 12th, 2011 at 9:28 am

    i had a few marks from puberty that i’m 100% ok with. my marks from baby make me feel like i failed at pregnancy though. like i couldn’t have a baby and still stay pretty. not sure why but that’s what they do to my mind. but enough about me, you’re so so pretty! good luck with your goals, waht an inspiration! :)

  5. Dee Says:
    May 12th, 2011 at 9:44 am

    You have a beautiful, natural-looking figure. You’re so right about our society and that what society deems as acceptable is soo important to so many women, when really, as long as we accept ourselves that’s all that matters. I look forward to reading your next post after you reach your goals.

  6. amber Says:
    May 12th, 2011 at 10:41 am

    you look AMAZING!!!!!!!!!!!!1

  7. Julia Says:
    May 16th, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    Oh my gosh! Will it make you feel better to hear how jealous I am of how great you look? Two kids down and I can only DREAM of a body like yours. I hope you get your life in the order you need to be happy! Exercise is important, but a bad job can kill happiness faster than weight gain! Just don’t give up.

  8. Sarah Says:
    May 31st, 2011 at 3:26 pm

    I bet your husband loves those breasts, though! You look great!

  9. Molly Says:
    September 12th, 2011 at 1:50 pm

    This post really resonated with me. I am 26 years-old and 20 weeks pregnant with a little girl, and what you wrote about being afraid to raise a daughter in our society–well, it’s exactly the way I feel. Before we found out the gender, I didn’t think I cared whether our baby was a boy or a girl, but I had a weird, panicky feeling as soon as the ultrasound tech announced that she’s a girl, and it’s taken me a couple of weeks to realize why.

    It IS a scary prospect, raising a girl to truly love herself for who she is, and what she looks like, regardless of whether that conforms to societal norms and standards. I had an eating disorder in college, and though I’ve been healthy for several years, I’m terrified of passing on any of my still-existing body issues to this little person. I’ve finally started to feel her kick, and I’m so, so excited to meet her. . . But still afraid of how hard it will be to help her to feel good about herself, when she is bombarded by images and advertising saying she needs to look thinner, have bigger breasts, no stretch marks, smoother skin, etc.

    Sorry to write so much, your post just really hit home. And, for the record, I think you look absolutely beautiful.

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