2 boys ages 5 years and 10 months
10 months post partum
I have a scar on my calf. It is thin and whitened with age, and every year that passes it fades just a little bit more. That makes me sad, because I love this scar. I loved it even more when it was new, thick, and hideously red. When people saw it, they were prompted to ask, “How’d you get that scar?” I would proudly say, “When I was first learning to surf.” Then I would tell them about how I paddled out on a day that I shouldn’t have. The waves were overhead, the rip current churning, the black flag thwacking in the wind, but I hopped on my board anyway. I paddled through the whitewash, duck-dove through the impact zone, and waited through several sets to gather the courage to drop into one of those ferocious waves. When I finally did, my timing was just a little bit off, and I went over-the-falls. For the non-surfers reading this, that’s when the wave drags you up and over, then comes crashing down on top of you, bashing you into the ocean floor, churning you relentlessly before spitting you out in the shallows. Somewhere in that murky washing machine, a fin on my board sliced through my leg. By the time I struggled back up to the beach, I was bleeding profusely, but I felt strangely exhilarated. I had conquered my fear. It’s a moment I will remember forever.
I don’t feel the same way about the scars on my belly. They are thin and whitened with age, and every year that passes I wish I could erase them completely. If there was a safe, easy, painless way to do it, I wouldn’t hesitate. But a tummy tuck seems extreme in my case, and adding a severe, hip to hip scar to get rid of a bunch of tiny ones, all so I can wear a bikini for three months out of the year, seems a little illogical. I’m not sure why I can’t embrace them like some of you. I love my kids, and stretch marks are a small price to pay, but I’m not emotionally attached to them in any way. I don’t think stretch marks make me stronger, more interesting, wiser, or more motherly. I don’t think that women who don’t get them are missing out on any sort of badge of honor or courage, “warrior stripes” as some call them. While I respect that others celebrate them, to me, they are not something I’ve earned. They’re just stretch marks.
When I was in my early twenties, I had a roommate who would spend hours examining herself in a magnifying mirror. She would pluck and poke at imaginary flaws in her perfect porcelain skin. When I would ask her what the hell she was doing she would respond, “Can’t you see that?” I tried to explain to her that no one views her through a magnifying glass. No one stands that close, so it’s pointless to look at yourself that way. This didn’t console her, and she would turn back to her mirror and start picking again.
It occurred to me the other morning, when I was standing at the mirror, staring at my belly in the unforgiving morning light, that I also look at myself in the wrong way. People do not just see one part of me, they see the overall shape. They do not stare at my stomach, my nose, my feet (okay, my husband stares at my ass, but you get my point). So I took five steps back and really just looked at the overall package, the way a stranger would look at me. An amazing thing happened. The stretch marks disappeared, and I saw what I am. An athlete. Broad shoulders, muscular arms, toned legs. I saw a healthy, active mother. So whether you’re athletic, curvy, or thin, embrace your overall shape. Forget the cellulite, the wrinkled skin, the moles, the stretch marks. You’re the only one looking at them, in the right light, at the right distance, in the exact position, that amplifies their significance. Then jump into the future for just a moment, and ask your 80 year-old self how she feels about the body you have right now, stretch marks, sagging belly skin and all. You’ll be shocked at the response. You know what mine said? “I just wish I could still paddle out and surf.”
Picts taken today