I love what you are doing here. I had my first child two years ago and experienced this kind of encouragement and support with a group of friends as we showed each other our stretch marks. I wrote a piece about it on my (now defunct) blog and will paste the text below, to use if you like. I have a second child now, a daughter. my stretch marks have increased. my breasts are full again as I nurse my daughter but soon enough they will be empty and flat and easily contained in one of Victoria’s Secret’s fancy push up bras. but for now, its big striped underwear that allow the sagging folds of my stomach to form a multi-lined smile beneath my hidden belly button. I know I’m not what sixteen year old boys or 30 year old men fantisize about. But I have realized a dream of my own and its worth every fold, every scar, each pain and all the work. Thank you for your site.
and my piece about motherhood.
Stretch Marks of the Heart
In the two months since I last posted little has changed. At least on the surface, I still scurry in the same circles, busied by the same activities and investing in mostly the same friendships. Yet in these sixty days — unmarked by major alteration of activity or lifestyle, there have been a multitude of small realities I’ve come to terms with.
When you lie in a moveable metal bed cloaked in an open-backed pink gown, strapped with monitors, numb from the waist down and hear the tiny gurgle of your newly born child, motherhood does not immediately wash over you. Thankfulness, yes. Awe, most definitely. Awareness of your identity and its ever evolving state…. not so much.
From the moment the doctor handed back the little white stick I thought she was crazy for having me pee on, a deep sense of love, awe and appreciation pumped through my veins. I loved him so much it hurt. On the way home from the doctor’s office I wept at every stop light — sometimes huge happy tears, other times repeating, “how can this be right, I’m not ready, I’m so not ready”. But when I finally sat face to face with Jeff and handed him the two parallel lines that were to be our baby, we hugged each other and cried. Scared, excited, amazed, and delirious.
When I look at Max and take in the perfection of his face, the sweet condition of his demeanor, the steady pulls of security as he slumbers I silently ask how it’s possible that he is mine. If I look to Max to find the rhyme or reason for my newfound state of motherhood all I can see in myself is lack of qualification and insufficiency. Surely a child this beautiful, this sweet and stock full of personality should have a surreal blend of a Supermodel, Betty Crocker and Will Farrell as a mom – how else did he become so charming. But when I return to the office after lunch and my co-worker leans in with an inquisitive glance and states, “I think you have a booger on your shirt” it all becomes quite clear. Supermodel/cook/comedienne I am not; Mother, I am.
I used to joke about my semi-permanent ponytail… then a friend gently encouraged me to get a new hair cut. Maybe I should cut it really short and messy, that would be so chic. Reality check – birth of the momcut.
I was getting my nails done but the bi-weekly appointments were starting to cost almost as much as formula and I couldn’t justify splurging on my cuticles over feeding my child. I remembered a time about two years ago when a forty-something friend of mine apologizing for her looks that day saying, “I’m such a wreck, I look like a new mother. My nails aren’t even painted”.
Legs? Hairy. Body? White and soft and I found myself happily sharing with a group of friends how soft it is. Because after all, scar tissue is soft. “It feels like baby skin… or grandma’s… err one of the two”.
I guess I’m somewhere in between. Not quite past baby fat but not yet comfortable in the folds of my own aging (yes aging) skin. I rested against the kitchen island, spike heels kicked off in the corner, tummy no longer sucked in. Push up bra doing its job with my droppy remainders a little too well and my wrap shirt exposing a bit more than intended. I started rubbing my foot and complaining that my shoes just don’t fit right anymore, “I used to have narrow feet”. The peals of mocking laughter aimed at my own mother when she used to make statements I viewed as lies because of obvious impossibility began to ring in my head.
My friends and I sat around eating fondue and talking about years past when we wore bikinis and shorts (oh the novelty of shorts) and the forced humility that ensues when others find the thought of a formerly skinny “us” implausible. Someone complained of a hooded belly button and without warning, shirts were coming up and midriffs were bared more freely than anytime since high school. We compared stretch marks and post baby pooches and found comfort and fondness in the similarity.
Someone’s baby cried and the evening began to break up. The clock was ticking and with babysitters at $5.00 an hour, talk isn’t cheap. We said our goodbyes, questioned who’s baby shower was next, what our next bible study will be about and how to prepare and freeze 170 meals in a day (I’M NOT KIDDING, SOMEONE ACTUALLY DOES THAT).
As I walked towards the door I saw the eyes of my friend’s two-year-old peering out from behind the wicker rocking chair. His eyes were wide with the thrill of being unnoticed and engrossed in the observation of all that is his mommy. I stooped down low and caught his eye and gave him a conciliatory smile and he vanished behind the chair. Suddenly, all the odd motherhood moments of the last sixty days and more came washing over me.
I’m no longer the observer in the corner, satisfied merely to have my mother in my line of sight. I wistfully thought about my own mother – her scent, her stretch marks, her stories of weighing 120 lbs and the pictures to prove it. I thought of the nights I crept down the stairs just to listen to her laugh with her friends, or how proud I was when she worked on some project and I could see her creations. I thought of how I laid in bed at night, aching to hear the door creak open and the alarm pad chime out the disarm tones. I waited for the light to pour into my bedroom door as my mama slid in to tuck me in after an endless night out (probably two hours during which they talked about bills and how psychotic we kids had been that week). She always looked beautiful and seemed so glamorous and all-sufficient on those nights.
Flash forward to tonight. The smiles and laughter of twenty and thirty something women were all around me. Hands on pregnant bellies and cameras flashing. Diaper bags on shoulders and the advice from one mother to another about how to get that newborn to eat. I felt my face smiling and I nodded to partake in the interchange. All I could hear was the sound of my mom laughing with her friends during a Sunday night game of Rook. I could smell Lalique and feel her velvet soft skin and dark curly hair.
I can’t remember April 5, 1979, or the first time I wiped my nose across her shirt, left rice cereal in her hair or spit up all over her favorite outfit. My mom wasn’t a passage to life, a kleenex or even just a pair of loving arms. She was the ever evolving entity who probably never felt quite sure of where she was at but went at it full force. Mom wasn’t just a safe place or a loving hug, she WAS security, love, beauty, intelligence, and home.
I bared my belly tonight, rocked my friend’s baby and reminisced about a pre-pregnancy riddled body and stood silent as something hit me solid. Without preparation or warning I had eased into a confidence about who I am and what it means to be mother to Max the not-so-tiny wonder. It means humility, lack of control (that’s not just bladder girls) a lifetime of shared struggles and joys and laughter with friends in the midst of it all.
If I am lucky, no, if I am blessed then Max will hear my laughter one day and feel safe. I’ll peak into his room for a good night kiss and he’ll feel love. And someday he’ll think back to home and he’ll smile with gentle understanding and comfort and say “Mom”.