I can remember waking up one morning during the second trimester of my first pregnancy and sleepily making my way to the bathroom and turning on the shower. As I undressed, I caught a glimpse of myself in the bathroom mirror. Lit by the morning sun flooding the window, my torso was covered in bright red scratches. It looked like I had clawed myself in my sleep. They were all over my bulging baby belly. I turned on the bathroom light to better inspect my body. My skin had been a bit itchy lately as my belly had grown but not enough for me to scratch it so badly during the night. I leaned in towards the mirror to get a better look. I realized that these markings were not scratches. They were the dreaded stretch marks I had been warned about in my pregnancy books. Shudder. I was devastated. I had gone so long without a mark, diligently applying cocoa butter to my growing belly each night. I thought I had them beat.
I remember showing my husband and him asking me if they hurt. “Not really. They are a bit itchy but they don’t hurt.” “Well then why do they bother you? It’s just a sign that our baby is growing.” “Easy for you to say,” I remember thinking to myself as I decided then and there that I would never wear a 2- piece bathing suit again.
Shortly after the first appearance of my stretch marks, I remember asking my OBGYN what I could do about them during a routine exam.
Much to my disappointment, “Nothing.” was his response. “Some women get them. Some women don’t. I’m sure there are all kinds of people who would love to sell you miracle lotions and potions to erase them but I think they are just inevitable for some people and wouldn’t want you to waste your money.” he continued. At the time, I was so upset. I think I was naively expecting him to write me a prescription for the miracle lotions and potions that he mentioned or see the issue with the same severity that I did and refer me to a dermatologist.
Looking back, I am a little embarrassed by my naive and shallow ‘first pregnancy’ self. How ridiculous of me to be so worried about a few marks on my belly! Carrying a child is such a blessing. It is a blessing that comes with so much worry and fear as you are responsible for a completely vulnerable and dependent human being. There are so many things that can go wrong and get complicated both for mother and child. My baby and I were both healthy and doing well. How embarrassing and shallow of me to even bring up my stretch marks to my OBGYN as a pregnancy concern. My ‘third pregnancy’ self shakes my head and chuckles at my ‘first pregnancy’ self.
That’s not to say that I quickly embraced my stretch marks because I most certainly did not. In a way, I sort of forgot about them. When my daughter was born, my priorities shifted and I was far too busy and sleep-deprived to even think about something as insignificant as stretch marks. Plus, my post-baby body gave me all sorts of additional reasons to be hesitant about wearing a 2 piece bathing suit anyway. The stretch marks were just the icing on the cake!
I became pregnant with our son shortly after our daughter was born. I didn’t bother with the cocoa butter or any other lotion nearly as much during this pregnancy; partially because I didn’t have the time/ didn’t care and partially because I really didn’t think they worked anyway. I figured that my belly was already stretched so it couldn’t get much worse. I was wrong. I developed even more stretch marks during my pregnancy with my son. Some of my existing stretch marks grew darker or longer and there were new ones too. Some of them stretched my skin so thin that they would bleed and I would have to be cautious about what shirts I wore in order to not irritate them.
However, aside from the physical discomfort, they didn’t bother me nearly as much this time. When you endure back-to-back pregnancies, you start to feel like your body isn’t your own anyway. That being said, I was definitely too embarrassed by them to ever show my bare belly to anyone. I didn’t even like to look at it myself. It was a mess of pink, red and purple lines. I remember nervously showing our maternity photographer at our photo session after she asked if I wanted to do any belly shots and asking if she could photoshop them out of our photos. By this point, at the 8 month mark of my second pregnancy, my stretch marks were so raw, dark and sore that she wasn’t sure she could completely remove them with her editing software so I passed on the full belly shots. I really didn’t want anyone to see just how beaten up my skin had become. I stuck to maternity jeans and a t-shirt for our photos and while I love our photos, I definitely did not see my pregnant, swollen body as beautiful.
I am now in my third pregnancy. One evening, I was getting ready to have a shower. My 3 year old daughter decided that she wanted to have a shower too. We were in the bathroom getting undressed. When I took my shirt off, I saw her look up inquisitively at my belly. I was expecting her to comment on how much my belly had grown and ask a question about the baby but she surprised me. “Mommy, what is that?” she said, pointing to one of my stretch marks. “It’s called a stretch mark.” I replied, unsure of how to explain this one to her. “A stret shark?” she asked. Before I could answer, she continued “It’s so pretty, Mommy!” with a big, enamoured smile on her face. I was so surprised by her choice in words. “Pretty” was not a word I had ever used to describe my stretch marks. Then again, anything pink and a bit shiny would be described as “pretty” by a 3 year old girl. My heart melted as she curiously traced my stretch marks with her tiny finger. I felt my heart flutter and my eyes get teary as she delicately ran her finger across each one. In that very second, my daughter had changed my outlook on my stretch marks.
Then she stopped and looked down at her own body, examining it carefully. Noticing her smooth, unmarked skin, she asked “Where’s my stret sharks? Mommy, I want stret sharks too!” “Stretch marks.” I corrected her, giggling at her adorable name for them. Then I attempted to explain the marks on my belly to my inquisitive 3 year old. “Some mommies get stretch marks when they have babies in their tummies. Mommy has marks from when you were in my tummy. Each time you grew and moved and stretched and kicked, it would stretch Mommy’s skin and leave a mark on my belly. Some of these marks are from when you were in Mommy’s tummy, some are from when your little brother was in Mommy’s tummy and some of the new ones are just appearing now as our new baby moves around inside Mommy’s tummy. All of these movements leave a mark on Mommy’s skin.”
She seemed both satisfied and impressed with this explanation. I pondered it myself for a moment. I had never really given much thought as to why I had stretch marks. My train of thought was interrupted by my daughter excitedly asking “Like a beauty mark?” (She has a mole on her arm. We taught her that it is a ‘beauty mark’ and is part of what makes her beautiful.) I felt my heart flutter again and a tear fall down my cheek. “Yes, they are like a beauty mark.” She was absolutely right.
Since this discussion with my sweet, little 3 year old, I have learned to appreciate my stretch marks a little more. Explaining them to her helped me to see them in a new light. I like them a little more everyday and have actually started to take pride in them. When I think about it from this new perspective, I realize that it’s pretty amazing to have permanent markings caused by my babies growing inside of me. It’s quite incredible. People get tattoos of their babies’ footprints and handprints all the time. I have markings from my own skin stretching to accommodate their tiny, growing bodies. I’m starting to think that I’m pretty lucky to have these markings as keepsakes of these 3 phenomenal journeys.
I have always known that my daughter would be teaching me new things in the future. I didn’t expect it to happen at 3 years of age. Someday, when she is old enough to understand, I will be thanking her for sharing her sense of wonder with me and allowing me a glimpse of the world through her eyes.
You’re absolutely right, little one. These stretch marks are beautiful.
andbabymakes3imean4 is one mom’s adventures as a wife and working mom of Irish twins (now 2 and 3 years old) with a baby on the way! If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to my blog. Thanks for reading! xo