1 pregnancy, 1 birth
20 month old
I remember being a little girl of nine or ten, after my brother was born, and looking at my mother observing herself in the mirror. She had saggy breasts, a lot of stretchmarks, and a vertical c-section scar. She hated all three, blaming me for her stretchmarks and my brother for her scar and saggy breasts. She had me at seventeen and had my brother eight years later. Neither of us were planned, and I know that her self-image and failure to plan her pregnancies had a dramatic effect on the way I viewed becoming a mother. I met my husband when we were sixteen. I knew I’d marry him, and yet, I refused to have pre-marital sex. My decision wasn’t out of an adherence to religious beliefs but out of fear of getting pregnant. Even after being married, we “doubled up” on birth control methods and thought that we’d be that couple who works and travels instead of having children. My mother seemed to resent everything about ever having children, and I never wanted that for myself…or for a child.
As the years went on, my husband and I discussed wanting grandchilren one day, which of course…would not happen without one critical generation between us. We began to entertain the idea of having children, but at 28, I still wasn’t ready. Slight weight gain had already given me considerable stretchmarks, which terrified me. I was still stuck on not wanting to be like my mother, physically or emotionally. If I was going to have a child, it would be because I REALLY wanted one no matter the cost, inconvenience, risks to my appearance, etc. I continued to put it off.
Finally, at 30, I decided that it was time. I wanted a child more than I wanted any of the superficial things, and I felt fairly confident that I could do what it would take to reduce the physical side effects. I’m 5’2″ and was about 130lbs when I decided to plan my pregnancy. I went off of birth control, started working out, started eating differently, and lost about 15lbs. I felt ready and assumed that it would take a few tries before we would actually conceive because I suffered with Endometriosis for years. It turns out that like my mother, I am a “fertile Myrtle” because I got pregnant on the first try. I put weight on right away, and there was no stopping me. Getting pregnant at the start of the holidays, not getting any morning sickness (none.at.all), and it being too cold to go for walks outside is a good combination for packing on the pounds.
In month 7 or 8, I began to notice the stretchmarks. They started on my lower belly and gradually creeped up toward my belly button. I remember a night of hysterical crying and panic when they began climbing even further up my stomach. They were WORSE than my mother’s. They were up and down and side to side on my belly, they ran up and down on my upper thights, side to side on my butt, and up and down on my lower back. I had extreme joint pain, often waking up with fingers that I couldn’t move or a kneecap that had fallen out of place. I was 199lbs and a week past my due date when I walked into the hospital to be induced (after many weeks of begging/crying in my doctor’s office). I labored for 23 hours, and after an 3 attempts with the vaccuum, I was sent for an emergency c-section. My beautiful 9lb 8oz baby boy was born.
The recovery from a c-section was excrutiatingly painful, but once I was past the first few days, life began to get easier. I always feared that I would struggle with PPD, but I didn’t. I sometimes wonder if I struggled with depression during my pregnancy, but I can say that I have had a reason to find joy in every day since my son has been born. I often look at my body and feel disappointment, but it’s not the self-loathing that my mother had. I refuse to hate my body. I refuse to pass that burden to my son. I weigh 152lbs, down from the 199lbs at pre-birth. My stretch marks are so numerous and intertwined. They often remind me of the lines of tar on a road when they try to repair cracks in the pavement. My breasts are still somewhat full but definitely not perky, and my c-section scar hides under a roll of belly flab. I still look about 5 months pregnant because I am short waisted and retain the majority of my weight in my mid-section. I often get asked when I’m due. I’ve even had women reach out and touch my stomach, saying, “Awwww.” My son is almost 21 months old, so explaining my shape is getting a little more difficult as each month passes. Today was especially hard.
In front of 2 other people, a woman exclaimed, “Ohhhh, you’re pregnant!” She was clearly happy for me, so even though I was embarassed and hurt, I felt sorry for her. When I told her I wasn’t, things got worse:
Me: “No, I just never lost the weight from my pregnancy.”
Her: “Did you gain weight?”
Her: “Or is something wrong? Are you bloated? You’re really not pregnant?”
Me: “No, I just didn’t lose the weight.”
Her: “I’m sorry. I don’t know what to say. I feel bad for asking.”
Me: Gave her and out and changed the subject.
Yes, in true “woman-fashion,” I didn’t want to make someone else feel bad for making me feel bad. I walked out to the car, where my husband waited, and sat quietly. When I felt like I could tell him what happened without crying, I did, and he was comforting. When we got home, I analyzed my profile in the mirror, agreeing that I look pregnant. I spoke about it to my husband and showed him my stomach as he fed my son dinner.
It’s too easy to repeat a cycle, isn’t it? I remember being a little girl, watching my mother analyze herself in the mirror, expressing her self-loathing. Tonight, I stood in front of my son in the dining room and analyzed/critcized my stomach. Thankfully, he’s too young to comprehend, and I didn’t blame my insecurities on having him. However, one day, he will be old enough to comprehend. He will put “cause and effect” together, even if I don’t come out and say things like, “You gave me these stretchmarks that I hate.” I can do better. I can be better.
Yes, I think I look 5 months pregnant, and yes, I have an infinite number of stretchmarks. BUT, I was able to plan my pregnancy with the support of my husband. I was able to conceive on the first try. I was able to avoid morning sickness. I was able to survive an emotional rollercoaster with the most supportive friends and co-workers. I was able to hold a healthy child after his birth. I was able to bend my fingers again and go jogging. I hate it when someone asks me if or assumes that I am pregnant. I.hate.it. But I will not hate my body. I will not hate my stretchmarks. I will not hate what has been the result of such an incredible blessing in my life.
When I see stories on this site with heading descriptors like, “3 Pregnancies, 2 Births,” I feel the weight of that. Nothing sits as heavy as that. No questions or incorrect assumptions weigh that much. No thick waistlines or countless stretchmarks can compare to the thought of my story saying, “1 Pregnancy, 0 Births.” When I see the stories of women who struggle with what pregnancy has done to their bodies, I feel relief. I’m not the only one. When I see the stories of women who feel empowered by the changes in their bodies, I feel inspired, hopeful. I feel camaraderie. Thank you to every one of you who shares your story. Each and every person has legitimate (and none too trivial) concerns that another mother may find comfort in. I have certainly found comfort in knowing that as mothers we can be both the strongest and the most vulnerable beings and that in either state, we are not alone. My story offers no answers or advice, and sadly it offers no pictures. I am grateful for this outlet and hope to take some pictures soon.