Stretch Marks and All (limiwa)

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!

The Shape of Our Hearts (Christina Plant)

age: 35
pregnancies 3
births 3
childrens ages: 14, 12, 9 (all boys!)
(this makes me nine plus years postpartum)

There is a fire in all of us. Sometimes I only have enough to keep the pilot light on. Sometimes I’m a torch. A bonfire. Sometimes, I am a wildfire- unruly and all-consuming.

I’ve been a mother for almost 14 years- I suppose it’s more accurate to say almost 15 years- how could I leave out the 9.5 months of my first pregnancy! I have three sons and the age span between the oldest and youngest is less than 5 years.

Today I am on fire! High and blazing. Excited and eager to live and breathe and make each day count. I make fitness a high priority, but I find that the aesthetic benefits are just a side affect of what taking care of my body does for me. I like feeling good in my own skin and when women ask me how it is that I am in such good shape after having 3 kids I do not hesitate to say “I work my ass off” with a totally straight serious face. That is exactly what I do. I’m a runner. I run about 20-30 miles a week. I MAKE the time for it- it’s as important as wiping my butt, or brushing my teeth or taking a shower. While we could survive without doing these things, if we fail to do these things regularly, we put our health at risk. I feel the same way about exercise. It’s an important part of maintaining your life. I also watch my diet- I make healthy choices and enjoy treats and indulgences about once a week. I keep anything that I absolutely love devouring out of my home.

I can’t help but notice that I’m in better shape than most of my oldest son’s female friends. I’ve heard people say to him “is THAT your mom?” and I must admit, it gives me a confidence boost.

There have been times when my fire was weak. I was that down, self-deprecating out of shape woman that looked at fit women and wondered if I would EVER feel or look as good as they do. I thought they had some special gift that I did not. Genetics. Will power. Money to hire a trainer or a personal chef. Blablablabla. But they aren’t special. They’re no better or worse than you or I. You cannot see inside their hearts. They may be fit for the wrong reasons. None of us are perfect. The photos you see that show flawless bodies are like a mirage. They aren’t real. What truly matters is what is in your heart. How is your fire? Does it burn for you and your passions and your goals, whatever they might be?

You can’t show the “shape” of a person’s heart in a photo. But if we wanted and if we are brave, we can show our hearts by showing who we really are. Some of the “worst looking” photos of me capture priceless moments. Who cares if it’s taken at a bad angle or my hair is unkempt? Did you ever stumble across a social network profile and notice that EVERY photo of that person shows them with flawless makeup, perfectly groomed, at their best angle, or smiling just perfectly? What does it mean when we hesitate to share our “real” moments- the ones where vanity and image are irrelevant because we’re too busy uhm… living???

I am not afraid of “looking” bad while living well. Upon finding this site, I too quickly realized how easy it is to see and believe photos like this:

or this:

Not bad, right? That’s me! I am 5’3″ and had 3 babies. The first one was 10 lbs 1 oz. I was 206 lbs right before delivery. The second one was 8 lbs 13 oz. Since I was chasing a toddler through that pregnancy, I only weighed in at 170 lbs before delivery. The third one was induced EARLY and weighed 8 lbs 3 oz and I was well over the 200 lb mark 2 weeks before his due date!

But we forget that there is NO such thing as perfection and here is the proof:

My tattoo is almost 16 years old and has some impressive battle scars, don’t you agree?

Here is a side shot of my lower abs and thigh:

What CAN’T you see in all of these photos? My heart. My fire. My passion for feeling alive. You can’t plainly see it from the outside on anyone can you? There is no way- perhaps because it is beyond what our eyes can see. The shape of our bodies and what we see in the mirror shouldn’t be the most important thing. We need to nurture the shape of our hearts.

Updated here.

Michaela Marks (Anonymous)

I’ve been visiting this site on and off over the past year. I happened upon it one day when I was trying to see if there was anyone else out there who was struggling with body changes, due to pregnancy, on the web.

How much more perfect can you get than this site?! This site has really helped me realize that I’m actually quite normal in how my body looks post pregnancy. I have a lot of stretchmarks … that’s the only thing I don’t like about my body. But, over the past year, I’ve gained encouragement by reading other people’s stories … especially those who are proud of their marks. I want to be too. I am striving everyday to get to the point where if someone saw my marks in a derogatory way I’d be able to say … “What about them? … You got a problem … you don’t need to look”! :)

In fact … I often call them “Michaela Marks” because that’s my daughter’s name. She left me cute little marks to remind me of when she was in my tummy. When I’m old, gray, no longer able to have children and vanity is considered for what it is … nothing more than a smokescreen … I’m going to love being able to see these marks on my tummy and hips. They represent love- Michaela is the love of my life.

I posted on here right after my daughter was born, 15 months ago, but wasn’t quite ready to share pictures. However, since I’ve gained so much encouragement by looking at other people’s pictures, I thought it was only fair to share some of my own. Hopefully it will encourage someone else to know that they are normal and not alone in their body changes.

I just stopped breast feeding too … and let me tell you … the boobs aren’t what they used to be! I’m 34 and look like I’m 12 in that department. It’s kind of funny though! That doesn’t bother me too much.

I really hope that this site becomes more and more popular so that people in our society can become more and more realistic, and through that less critical, about post pregnancy bodies. There’s so much going on in this world – why do we waste so much time worrying about our physical appearance anyway? Although I’m guilty of it myself … it’s a very selfish thing to be consumed by don’t you think?

So here’s some snaps of me! The Michaela Marks, depending on the light, are sometimes more prominent than in these shots.

Updated here.

Signs of a Mother (Danielle)

Yesterday I cried as I looked down at my saggy, stretch-mark belly. It complimented my fat hips and newly formed “mom-butt”. My boobs were unshapely under the bras that don’t quite fit and my once cute panties have seen better days. My skinny jeans sit in the bottom of a box along with the tank tops I’ll never wear again.

As I put on my high wasted jeans and loose top, I cried. It just didn’t seem fair. All day I moped around the house, feeling gross and unappealing. I felt disgusting, all because I gave birth to my gorgeous daughter. It didn’t seem right.

And it isn’t.

Everywhere shows us what women are supposed to be. Apparently, mothers are not one of those things. The idea of child-bearing has changed so much in the past few decades. What was once an accomplishment, a success is now more of an inconvenience. As soon as that baby is out, it’s back to the gym to get rid of the fat and marks, so in a few weeks it’s as if you never had a child. And maybe that’s the point.

Today is the day I start trying to lose the weight. Get my thighs back to a reasonable size, and the new hips have got to go. Maybe, I’ll keep those stretch marks for a bit longer (as if I had a choice). Just to remind me of all I had to endure to create the perfect little girl. They are something not just anyone has. They are the sign of a mother.

Name: Danielle
Age: 22
Children: One, she’s one month old

Where is the time machine? (Anonymous)

I’m 26-years-old. My son was born about two weeks before my 25th birthday. My pregnancy was not planned and I spent the entire pregnancy trying to come to grips with being a mother (which I haven’t quite done yet).

My birth was a 43-hour-long, unmedicated journey aided by my mother and husband and a hospital midwife. Afterward I hemorraged and nearly died. From there on, my physical condition was continually miserable for at least three months straight (back went out and I was unable to walk–had to crawl around my house, taking care of my son by myself while my husband was at work at least 12 hours a day–living overseas in a city where I do not speak the local language and have no transportation other than public transport to depend on). I also had horrible post-partum depression. Breastfeeding was miserable and brought pain, itching and infection which no western or holistic treatments seemed to cure (and I tried EVERYTHING!)–I just endured it for five months until my son refused to breastfeed anymore. This is basically the tip of the iceberg when it comes to my experience with pregnancy, childbirth and the aftermath.

So, when I look at the stretch marks on my body and all the extra weight I have tried and tried to lose and seem to be unable to, it isn’t sweet memories I’m thinking of.

Others have told me to just focus on my son and how great everything is to be a mother (which is kind of a fairytale notion too in my opinion–as for me motherhood is hard work, lots of sacrifice and a tiny bit of reward thrown in). They dismiss my sadness and hatred of my body as pure vanity. I disagree. I don’t show in the photo here, but my breasts went from a B cup to a DD and now are a D cup. Some ladies might wish for this–I can’t stand them! I never wanted large breasts. My husband doesn’t even like large breasts–he thinks they are weird and scary. They droop and drag and have just as many stretch marks on them as my belly does–my nipples point south–like the funny cartoon of the old lady who has to lift her skirt to flash you her breasts. I never am without a bra–I now sleep in one and wear one 24-hours/day just because it is uncomfortable to wake up with my boob under my ear or somewhere it wasn’t meant to go.

Anyway, so I wonder where the time machine is that can take me back to pre-baby so I can have a “do over.” If you find it, please notify me immediately.

Updated here.


I’ve procrastinated writing this for a long time now. I found this website when I was pregnant with my son. He’s turning 2 years old now and I think it’s time to settle things with myself. Let me first say thank you for hosting such an amazing website. Now, I have a long history of self-hatred and depression. Without getting into to many details, I’ve cumulatively spent more than 6 months in hospitals being treated for anorexia and have been in therapy for the last 8 years. As I began my road to recovery, I was told that I may not be able to conceive because of the abuse to my body. I had no period for 6 years, a condition called amenorrhea. Then on the night that my husband proposed to me, I got my first period. He was so happy, not for my fertility, but at this beautiful sign of health. 3 Months before our wedding I got three consecutive periods and on our wedding night we conceived our son. Pregnancy was difficult. I was on progesterone supplements for the first trimester. The hormones put on quite a bit of water weight and I had gained 20 lbs in my first trimester alone. I gained a total of 54lbs, and on my 5ft frame that was just enough to make me miserable. We were planning to have a natural birth without medications. Then, three and a half weeks before my due date I came down with a high fever. When I went to the hospital I was having contractions and my baby was showing some signs of weakness. I was given antibiotics and cervadil to ripen my cervix and we were going to induce the next morning. I was induced and labored naturally for 12 hours. My cervix only dialated to 4 and my son was starting to struggle in the womb. I consented to a c-section and he was born healthy within the hour. Of course it’s not how I planned, but that is what life gave me. I love my scar, I think it’s beautiful. My son nursed for 17months until he weaned himself. Those were some of the most special moments together. I was fortunate enough to have an oversupply of breast milk and I froze and gave milk to my nephew who was born premature. I have light stretch marks all over my breasts, lower belly, belly button, thighs and butt. My belly button herniated as well and I too, like so many women here, have flat pancake breasts. The curves and the stretch marks have grown on me since. I have good and bad days. Most days my husband makes me feel like the most beautiful woman in the world. I’m so grateful for that. Then there are days when I can’t shut up the voice in my head. My heart breaks for my past, but I’m not ashamed of it nor do I wish it hadn’t happened. Dealing with my anorexia and depression has made me who I am today. It has made me a stronger person and a better mom. My husband and I have made the decision not to have any more children, but I don’t take it for granted, not for a second. Every time I look at my body with despise, I think of how blessed I am.

Update! 8 Months Post-Partum (Anonymous)

View my original entry here.

When my son was born 5 weeks early, with severe IUGR and weighing only 3lbs, I was angry. It was all my body’s fault. I learned not long after submitting my original entry that my heart was struggling with the pregnancy and I had developed pregnancy induced hypertension. My placenta was only 2/3 the size it should have been, because my heart wasn’t pumping adequate blood supply to it. I was hospitalized, medicated, and watched 24 hours a day. I was in danger of a stroke or toxemia.

I lost 25lbs of baby weight in 4 weeks. Breastfeeding for 5 months combined with healthy eating took off another 20lbs. Since then I’ve lost about 5-6lbs more, for a total weight loss of 51lbs since I delivered 8 months ago.

My body is healthier now than it has been in years. I went from a 12 before becoming pregnant to an 8 post-partum, and I’m still slowly losing (in spite of weaning my son – I pumped exclusively for 5 months because he was unable to latch.) It made a baby to the best of its abilities – we couldn’t have known that my heart wouldn’t like pregnancy. After all, I was only 26 years old, no health complications, and I should have been low risk.

It’s hard for me to get to know this new body — it’s smaller, and I feel good physically. I can see changes in my appearance, and I have greater confidence in spite of the breasts that have flattened out (thanks to breastfeeding!) and that crease from hip to hip. I have a love-hate relationship with it — I love that it’s smaller and that I’m wearing a size 8. I hate that it is not good at being pregnant, and that I’m not sure if I can ever have more babies.

It’s a day by day process — I can easily accept the stretchmarks all over my breasts and thighs, but I’m having a harder time with the unknown of what will happen if I try to conceive again. Another pregnancy could be fatal — to the baby, to me, or to both of us. I don’t know the risk yet, but it’s there.

For mommies who grieve the loss of their bodies through pregnancy, try to remember the beauty of your children. You are SO BLESSED. Look back on your uncomplicated pregnancies, your chubby healthy babes, and the exciting potential of more amazing little ones in the future. You have much to celebrate!

Updated here.

After My First Pregnancy (Anonymous)

The 20th of March 2008 i became the mother of a beautiful son. I had an emergency cesarean. When i came home and took a look in the mirror i was shocked.. I hoped it would go away.. But it didn’t change much.. Now 8 months later I’m trying to accept the new me. It’s weird, when i look in the mirror.. One day i couldn’t care less and the other day i don’t recognize that belly as my own.

20 Year Old Mommy (Anonymous)

I am a 20 y/o SAHM of 2 boys and an air force wife. I got pregnant when my husband (boyfriend at the time obviously) were both 16. Our son was born 10/27/05 when we were 17. We got married in June 2007 and started TTC baby #2 in November. After 1 month of TTC, we got a BFP in December. We welcomed our second son into the world on 8/8/08. The first picture is my 12 hour PP picture. The next is 2 weeks PP. The last ones are 3 months PP.