You know how on the Biggest Loser when the contestants look at pictures of their bigger selves they say things like “I don’t even know that person.” Or “I don’t like that person.” I don’t feel that way at all when I look at pictures of myself at my heavier weight. I know exactly who I was when I was 237 pounds. Gaining weight was part of my (wait for it) journey (gag, I know!) It is only because of the challenges that I faced through the weight gain and loss that I was able to realize how strong I am. At my heaviest, at my sickest, I didn’t know that I was capable of doing things like handstands or running three miles. But now I do and I am grateful. And maybe just a little bit proud.
A few months back, I had a conversation with my daughter about stretch marks. She had walked into my bedroom as I was changing. She noticed my stretch marks and she asked me about them. How did I get them? Did they hurt? I’ve been terribly ashamed of my stretch marks. I’ve written more than once about the hatred I have towards them. But I wasn’t going to tell my daughter that. What if she gets stretch marks? Do I want her to feel the way I do? Absolutely not.
I explained the marks to her. I told her they were called stretch marks. I told her I got them when I was pregnant with my children. I told her that I loved them. “These stretch marks remind me of when you and your brothers were in my belly. They remind me of how happy I was to have a little baby in my tummy. Every time I see them, I think of my little babies.”
This afternoon, my daughter sat down next to me on the sofa as I worked on the laptop. She lifted up the bottom of my shirt and looked at my belly.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“Just looking at the marks on your belly.” She looked up at me and smiled. “You love those marks, don’t you mommy? “Because they remind you of your little babies and how much you love us?”
She does not look at my stretch marks with disgust. She does not find them to be ugly. She views them as a symbol of my love for her and for her brothers. Where I see ugly stretch marks, my daughter sees the beauty of a mother’s love.
I can only hope that through the example that I am trying to set, my daughter will be as kind to herself and her changing body as she grows. I know that as she moves through life, she will develop insecurities along the way. But I will be here for her to help her through those difficult times. And I will do everything in my power to teach her to embrace her perceived imperfections. Because I never want my daughter to feel shame about who she is, or the body that her beautiful spirit lives in.
i stand in front of the mirror, naked.
i cringe at what i see.
my body is worn and torn,
the marks from carrying a child ever present.
my breasts, once perfectly shaped and beautiful
are now large and saggy, repulsive to look at.
my stomach, once flat and smooth,
is now covered with stretch marks, fat, no muscle tone.
i am ashamed.
i will never be beautiful again.
but today i tell myself, although it is hard to look at and it is indeed ugly, it is a reminder that two amazing human beings were formed inside of me and those marks and stretched out skin are proof that life grew inside of me. it is a reminder i made love to a man i adore, life was created and my body was home to those beautiful babies for 9 months. my stomach was stretched as they grew, my breast were enlarged with the milk that would sustain them for the first months of their lives. it takes my breath away when i think back to having them inside of me, to the miracle of their births, seeing them for the first time and it makes it easier to accept the mess my body has become. looking at them, kissing them, i say these marks on my body were a small price to pay for the amazing gift that grew inside of me for 9 months and have filled my life with love and purpose everyday since they were born.
i may be ugly, my body repulsive to look at
but i am a mother
and i am blessed.