Pregnancy and childbirth have made me feel so many new things about my body that I could probably dedicate an entire blog to that journey. My body and I had finally made our peace with each other in my early twenties after a long decade of mutual torment and we were living mostly happily ever after. Then I found out I was pregnant and spent the next month and a half living on Sprite and Saltines (and sometimes BBQ) and puking up a significant amount of my weight. Once the morning sickness subsided I found myself feeling equally proud of my ability (like it was a choice or something) to keep my weight down and worried that my baby wasn’t getting the nutrition that he needed. It turned into the first of many tests in which I had to decide if I would put myself or my child first.
Second trimester rolled around and my appetite finally picked up. Every time the nurse asked me to step on the scale, I was jolted with anxiety. I would quickly do the math: if I’m supposed to gain about a pound and a half a week, am I on target? I don’t know what the right answer would be. Then the stretchmarks showed up. One by one, my abdomen developed tender lines of deep red and purple. The bigger my belly got, the more numerous they became. By the end of my pregnancy I was so round that I could no longer sit and watch them multiply — a blessing in disguise.
Now I find myself on the other side of pregnancy and I’m having a harder time accepting my new body than I’d like to admit. Seven weeks postpartum, and my stomach sags. My skin is loose and my belly button is discolored and stretched to twice it’s previous size. As I continue to breastfeed, I am watching the toll that nourishing my baby is taking on my body. My old jeans don’t fit me in the thighs and before trying them on I didn’t even know to be self-conscious of that part of my body. I often wonder if there are any other women who had babies at 23 that are as ravaged by stretchmarks as I am. Of course I know the answer must be yes, but where are these women?
Part of me wants to really own these marks (a pretty small part of me), and wear them with pride as they tell the story of when I grew a little human and brought him into this life. I could wear bikinis again and give the middle finger to my embarrassment that shouldn’t exist. But clearly, those are not the rules of the game. I don’t think I’d ever even seen a stretchmark before I’d seen my own. But the point is that stretchmarks are happening. Boobs are changing. Body parts are expanding. I have never been so simultaneously proud of myself and confused all at once as my body takes on its new utilitarian role. But I’ve singlehandedly been my child’s only source of nourishment since he came to be and I will continue to be for months to come. My body is incredible.