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Stretch Marks and All (limiwa)

October 3, 2011

Age: 27
Pregnancies: 3 (miscarried 2nd pregnancy at 10 weeks)
Births: 2
Children: boy 8 years, girl 3 years

I just found this site a few weeks ago, and have found such comfort in the stories and pictures I have read and seen so far. Every woman has a story to tell, each as important and resonant as the last.
This is mine.

My body image issues started around the time I turned 15. It was then that a long buried secret had come to the surface of my life. For a time during my adolescent years, my uncle (by marriage) had molested and sexually assaulted me. Although the abuse had finally stopped, the shameful memory of it remained. During a time when my body was changing rapidly, the truth of the past at last came out. When I looked in the mirror I saw only an object that a man would lust after, it terrified and disgusted me. There was nothing wrong with my body at that time. I was at an ideal weight and had a nice figure, but still I hated it. My butt was too big, my boobs too small…etc, etc. I think in reality what I hated more than the actual appearance of my body was what my body had been through, what it now represented to me. It was like his fingerprints were all over me. I wavered constantly between feeling good about myself and feeling very, very low.

Not long after my “confession” my parents separated and later divorced. With an absentee father and a depressed mother, I found solace in a close male friend who later became my boyfriend. Little wonder that I became pregnant at age 18 by the same boy. I married that boy two weeks after I found out I was pregnant. Despite the ups and downs of those first few years together, it has certainly been a blessing in disguise. We just celebrated out 9th wedding anniversary and our relationship has never been better. He is a wonderful husband and father who is still my very best friend.

During my first pregnancy I was so clueless as to what it took to grow a healthy baby. I ate pretty much whatever I wanted, both good food and not so good food. I did exercise during the 2nd and part of the 3rd trimester, which helped to control my weight gain a little. I slathered on the cocoa butter religiously – to no avail. Before getting pregnant I weighed 125lbs (I’m 5’5”). Just hours before giving birth I weighed in at 168. My pregnancy went smoothly, as did my 16 hour labor and vaginal delivery. (With no drugs! Yikes! Now THAT was painful.) I never looked in the mirror or weighed myself the entire time I was preggo, however, I still felt enormous and I didn’t entirely enjoy being pregnant. It was quite a shock to see this red, floppy tummy at the hospital after giving birth.

When I came home I knew there was no way I would fit into my pre-pregnancy clothes, but I wanted to try it, just to see…I couldn’t even get my jeans past my knees! A week postpartum I weighed 150lbs and felt so terribly fat. After that I made myself stop thinking about it (I’m quite good at putting things out of my mind when I want to), and tried my best to focus on this new precious baby boy in my life. It was always there though, this nagging thought in the back of my mind telling me, “You’re ugly now. You’re all used up. And you hated yourself before! What are you going to do now?” It was (and still is sometimes) this scary, unsettling feeling. The only perk was the boobs! Lol. I finally had the chest I’d always wanted, but unfortunately nothing else remained of the body I used to have. Stretch marks covered my belly, my hips, and the tops of my thighs, angry and red. My butt and thighs had ballooned and I had no waist to speak of.

By the time my son was 6 months old the stretch marks had faded and most of the weight had come off. I decided that a serious exercise program was in order to tone my squishy body back up. Three months into it and I had lost the last 10lbs, bringing me to within 5lbs of my pre-baby weight. Although I was back around my “normal” body size, things didn’t look the same. The texture of my skin is forever damaged, never again to be smooth and seamless. My boobs are like empty, saggy sacks. A scar that runs the length of my stomach from a previous surgery at age 12, was also stretched. The pressure of the extra weigh gave my some spider veins and cellulite. I managed to get my body back though (for the most part), and feel a measure of confidence and acceptance, at least clothed. I could never regret the birth of my children no matter what the damage to my body :)

Nearly 5 years after having my son, I gave birth to my daughter. This time around I was smarter with what and how much I ate, and even exercised up until a few days before giving birth. Instead of the 40+ pounds I put on with my son, I gained a mere 25. Through out the pregnancy I felt glowing and lovely (Me! Imagine!). It was easier this time to appreciate my body for the wonderful thing it was doing rather than loathing it for getting bigger. Knowing my body better this time around, I decided to have the baby at home. It was an amazing experience! The atmosphere was calm, all my family was able to be there and I felt relaxed. After only 6 hours on intense labor and 10 minutes of pushing (thank goodness for all those tummy exercises!), out came my beautiful baby girl.

Surprisingly, my body bounced back even faster the second time. By the time my daughter was 4 months old I was back in my regular jeans. She is now 3 ½ years old and I’m actually 10lbs lighter than before I got pregnant with her. The only thing I can chock it up to is good nutrition, regular exercise and natural whole food supplements, which has helped my body to be in balance.

Still, I struggle at times. I’m sure many women, after looking over my photos, will roll their eyes and cluck to themselves, “Oh, please…”. And for the most part you’d be right. I realize that things could be so much worse (Can’t they always be?) and I should just be grateful for a healthy, functioning body that gave me two amazing kiddos and managed to come out of it okay. Only when I look at my super skinny friends who’ve also had kids (granted only one child each), who hardly have a single stretch mark to speak of, I feel a little robbed, cheated of a nice body at such a young age. Of course, no one else sees it this way, especially my husband who has always thought the world of me. He sees a goddess, and I only wish I could see myself through his eyes. It’s those past feelings that linger, the ones that tell me I’m shameful and worthless, a constant mental roadblock I fight to overcome. I may be able to ignore it for a time, then I’ll get a glimpse of myself in the mirror at the wrong time of the month and the negative feelings come rushing in on me.

Interestingly, I can look the pictures of all you lovely women and think to myself, “Aww, that’s not so bad, she looks great!” But it’s harder to be objective with myself. Having a daughter now, I’m so afraid of passing along these body hang ups to her. I don’t want her to ever criticize her body the way I find myself doing of mine. I want her to feel strong, beautiful and confidant. Although I don’t ever put myself down in front of her or my son, it’s still a near constant mental dialogue.

It has been, and probably will continue to be for some time, a battle to love myself 100%. I have my good days where I can wear something and feel extremely sexy, and other days I would rather be almost anyone else but me. The journey seems never ending, but I am determined to make progress, to take care of myself, to treat my body — stretch marks and all — as a vessel worthy of respect and awe whether or not I actually believe it yet.

Thank you for reading, I know it was long!

**The 1st two pictures are recent ones of me – don’t let the push-up bra fool you! ;)
The others are more close ups of my stretch marks (sorry for the low quality, these were taken with a camera phone)
It’s not really clear in the pictures, but I do have stretch marks all along my hips running down to the tops of my thighs, plus ones below my belly button. Yes, they’ve faded, but they’re fairly deep and thick so the long cracks of them remain. They look far worse in the flesh!

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13 Responses to “Stretch Marks and All (limiwa)”

  1. Brandy Says:
    October 3rd, 2011 at 9:39 am

    ummm…girly you look smokin hot and you know it!!! lol

  2. Kitty Says:
    October 3rd, 2011 at 10:07 am

    My fiance loves my body and I look far worse than you– and I haven’t even had a baby yet! My weight gain and loss was the result of a depressing adolescence. You look absolutely fit, trim and gorgeous and you should be very proud of the body that you have. I know the stretchmarks are hard to overcome, but after having had them 10 years I have eventually come to understand that it is just something that we women tend to dwell on a lot more than men do. At least your stretchmarks are where you’re usually covered up! Keep your chin up.

  3. Lacey Says:
    October 3rd, 2011 at 5:11 pm

    Thanks for posting! I was under the impression “skinny” girls didnt get stretch marks. Not that yours are bad or anything but all my skinny friends with babies have none. I think just about everyone on here would kill for a body like yours girl! Don’t be so hard on your self!

  4. mrspetunia Says:
    October 3rd, 2011 at 6:56 pm

    You look good! I have stretch marks and I never even had a baby! I just went through puberty rather fast I guess. Strangely, despite my perfectionism, my stretch marks never really bothered me. In fact, I sorta thought they were sexy. I frequent a gym and some of the body builders there have really thick deep stretch marks on their shoulders, sides, etc. Trust me, they aren’t remotely embarrassed by them. I figure if guys can flaunt the stretch marks they get from body building, why can’t we flaunt the ones we get from building another body? And really, your stretch marks don’t take away from your hotness at all. Not one itty little bit.

  5. Marz Says:
    October 3rd, 2011 at 9:23 pm

    It’s always so much easier to see the beauty in others than ourselves. I know how it feels to have those deep stretch marks that seem like they’re gouged into your skin (and they’re always so hard to get an accurate pic). I can also relate to finding an amzing man who can help guide you through your darkest hour(s).
    I’m so happy that you were able to find a long and lasting love and that you have the strength inside you to overcome such adversity in your life and turn it around to become a wonderful wife and mother :) you’re more of an inspiration than you realize, and I hope people comment as such and that they don’t just skip yours over because your photographs are so beautiful :)

  6. Jo Says:
    October 3rd, 2011 at 11:53 pm

    Your body is really gorgeous. Your stretch marks are pretty too and your scar is actually quite beautiful. I have a scar too but I think mine is ugly. It’s bigger than yours and much more stretched and pink.
    I would love to have your body. Enjoy it (I’m 41 .. please appreciate your body now!)

  7. Missy Says:
    October 4th, 2011 at 5:51 pm

    If I had your body I wouldn’t be upset at all…you look great…I still look pregnant and my baby is two!

  8. limiwa Says:
    October 5th, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    Thank you all for your comments! Some of them literally made me tear up. I was very nervous to post this not knowing what kind of reaction I would get from other women, but yet again this site has proven to be such a blessing in helping me to overcome my own negative thoughts and feelings.

  9. Donna Says:
    October 7th, 2011 at 12:24 pm

    Like everyone else – I think you look great! But I know as well we’re always harder on ourselves. It’s that negative body image thing. I’m the same way. I feel best when I’m doing the things I love to do and taking good care of myself.

  10. Kaitlyn Says:
    October 9th, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    Holy amazing body, batman! Yeah, I’m jealous.

  11. sara Says:
    October 10th, 2011 at 8:26 pm

    Everything is relative, which is why it is unhealthy for people to compare themselves to others. We all share similar insecurities even though we all have very different bodies. I’ve had women tell me they wished they had my body, and at the same time I can’t help but wish I had someone else’s. Self-acceptance is a tough road, but the further you walk down it, the more peaceful it becomes.
    ALL of our feelings should be validated, because they are very real from where we are standing.
    I can relate to your story, the molestation, the shame, the disgust and the very long, difficult journey and strength it takes to a change negative self-perception. You are doing a fabulous job! Best wishes:)

  12. Emily Says:
    October 14th, 2011 at 9:10 am

    Your pictures look great! Thank you for sharing your story. I too am a “skinny” girl. I have been running religiously, but my tummy will never be the same. I have had 1 c-section and 1 vbac in the past 4 years and my once toned and smooth tummy now looks like a pile of pizza dough. Under clothes I can hide it, but I will never be able to wear a bikini and hate getting naked. Like you, I have friends with kids (2 or more!) that can parade around in bikinis after childbirth with no stretch marks or floppy skin. I would get plastic surgery, but it is too expensive and I keep thinking that I don’t want to put myself at risk for something cosmetic. You have done a great job at keeping your figure great. Keep it up!!

  13. Jolene Says:
    December 19th, 2011 at 12:40 am

    I’m so jealous it makes me sad. lmso. You look lovely and I pray in the future I can look as nice. xoxo

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