Age: 29 years old
Current and pre-pregnancy weight: 138 lbs.
Total weight gained during pregnancy: 27 lbs.
Children: 1 child, 11 weeks old.
I had always feared pregnancy for two reasons: I would not be in control of my body and I might end up with dreaded stretch marks top to bottom. These fears seemed to froth up in every conversation with girlfriends about pregnancy. I would say how I already had numerous stretch marks from puberty, especially on my thighs.
Some friends shared my fears but most of them thought it was silly. I felt that no one understood how much my body would change and it eclipsed for me the joy of the journey I almost did not take. One of my friends, at 8 months pregnant herself, said: “Oh Jen, there is so much more to worry about.” But I didn’t get it. I spent hours reading stories on shapeofamother, watching videos and showing photos to my husband of women with striped and swirly bellies to instill in him my fears so that he might agree to not have children naturally. He shrugged. So what? He said.
After 7 months of praying about starting a family, we started trying to conceive. In the second month, we were pregnant. I could not believe it! I was deliriously happy – scared – but happy. There was no going back so I promptly ordered the best stretch mark creams and oils money could buy.
I applied four types of stretch mark creams and oils twice daily – sometimes, three times a day! I was going to do everything I could to keep my body in my own control.
At 22 weeks my baby stopped moving. By the afternoon and through hysterical tears, I asked my husband to drive me to emergency obstetrics. I was praying that my baby was fine. When the doctor confirmed he was healthy, just turned with his back to my belly, I realized that my friend was right: there were so many more important things to worry about. The safety of my child trumped my small and superficial thinking. I knew then that I was not in control; I had to trust God. Did I really believe Psalm 139’s pledge that He knows us intimately, that we are fearfully and wonderfully made? Did I trust God with my body and with my baby? I had been reading this psalm to my child everyday and now it was my turn to be tested.
When at 33 weeks I got my first stretch mark on my lower belly, I was a little bummed but I kept on applying my creams and oils in earnest. I was too busy feeling my little baby kicking and wiggling. I tried to focus on finding joy in every part of the pregnancy, seeing it as special and sacred. When I went into labor at 39 weeks 5 days, my lower belly was striped, my hips donned their own purple lines and around my popped belly button was a swirl of stretch marks.
That’s ok with me.
Those stretch marks, though they have shrunk and faded already at 11 weeks postpartum, mean something special: they show that there was a baby that once grew in my belly.
They say I am a mother.
Because of this, they are beautiful.
Because of this, I am beautiful.
Photo 1: 3 months pregnant
Photo 2: 7 months pregnant
Photo 3: 5 hours postpartum
Photo 4: 11 weeks postpartum