Self Love First: The Truth About Pregnancy Stretch Marks
WHAT ARE PREGNANCY STRETCHMARKS?
Pregnancy stretch marks (Striae Gravidarum), also commonly known as postpartum stretch marks, are tiger-ish stripe marks that appear on the dermis layer of the skin during pregnancy. The areas affected are usually those subject to rapid growth during a woman’s pregnancy (stomach, hips, thighs, breasts and buttocks). Approximately 80% of pregnant women will experience stretchmarks on some area of their body during the gestation period, though severity and colour can differ greatly.
Why do we buy into societal pressure to be ‘perfect’?
Let’s bypass the what is perfect anyway conversation because we all know the script by now. That being said though, it still remains that there are literally thousands of blog and social media posts out there right now talking about which products and techniques you should use in order to prevent or reverse pregnancy related stretchmarks. But then, radio silence…
We found it so strange that there were so few people talking about embracing and accepting those marks on your body as being well earned marks of strength, power and achievement. We couldn’t help but think, that much in the same way as a solider proudly displays their medals of honour, why shouldn’t women be proud of the markings that they have attained through their journey across the threshold into motherhood?
Seriously though, so many women are waiting their whole lives to meet the right guy and have a baby, but then as soon as they do, they are filled with dread at the sight of their changing body and spend hours online and hundreds (if not thousands) on trying to find the perfect magic potion or process to remove all trace of physically experiencing pregnancy.
Don’t misunderstand us, we know that being young and flawless is lovely. We all do, because we all are at one time or another. But honestly, for those of us beyond that period of our lives; if we all think back to those pretty young things that we once were, can we really say that we would trade it all in to go back to who that person was? I honestly doubt that any woman would. I certainly wouldn’t. I am so much stronger, more confident, braver and wiser than I was back then. So then why do we try to fool ourselves into believing that we do want what we have grown out of? Why are we so quick to condemn ourselves (and each other) when it comes to the physical changes that we can see in our bodies, particularly during pregnancy?
Why do we allow even one second of our lives to be wasted on negative self-thought after going through a period of such intense personal growth and development as we do when we become mothers, especially for the first time?
Playing The Shame Game
Pretty much from the moment that we are pregnant the shame game begins. It may start subtly with those who boast about not feeling sick at all and keeping up their exercise regime to those who condemn any women who exercise sighting risks to the baby as a reason to cease all strenuous activity. The divisive issues just keep coming ranging from the development of pregnancy stretch marks to judgemental comments about a woman’s choice to have an elective caesarean section. And that’s all before the baby is even born. Don’t get started on breastfeeding, to use a dummy or not, to co-sleep or not, what formula, bottles or buggy you use. There seems to be a never-ending supply of issues to sling mud at each other over, and nothing’s off limits. Not even post-partum recovery or post-pregnancy body image.
It is so ironic that having a curvier or less ‘perfect’ body due to stretch marks or a c section scar makes us feel less sexy or beautiful, but it isn’t the men that are body shaming us and making us feel less attractive. It’s us. Women are literally vicious beasts unleased on each other like in some ancient games-day spectacle at the Colosseum that know no better than to eat or be eaten.
The horrible truth is that is other women that are out for blood when someone posts a pic of the truth of the post-pregnancy body and what we cannot understand is why? The truly tragic thing about that is not the effect a snarky comment is going to have on the woman who posted the pic in the first place – she obviously has enough self confidence to post the pic anyway so any negative comments will likely be water off a ducks back to her. It is the woman who also has a similar pregnancy body image but wasn’t that confident. The one who is scrolling through and sees this picture, then reads the ridicule that ensues in the comments section, ultimately reinforcing her own negative self image.
But the truth is that for someone to be able to label you as bring something, especially something negative (fat, disgusting, a mess – jut to name a few) it is actually transactional. This meaning that you also have to accept that label in order for it to become truth to you and for it to have the intended impact on you (i.e. to make you feel like shit). But let’s face it, for this to be possible, you have to lie down and accept it whole heartedly and give over your power to someone else without a single word of defence or protest. So don’t do it. As they say, hurt people, hurt people. So…make a choice to be part of the solution and stop the cycle.
Where you see a brave woman exposing her post-pregnancy body, or any other area of her life that might be hard for her to share, applaud her bravery. And if you see something that you don’t like, that’s ok too. You can stop following people and tags with the click of a button, or mute them or whatever else you have to do to remove them from your feed, but don’t cut them down with a cowardly attack in their DMs. That behaviour is toxic and it is an attack against all women, not just the one you are passing judgement on.
It’s Time We Changed The Narrative Around Post-Pregnancy Body Image
One of the trail blazers in this area is Ashley Graham. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise considering the amazing work she has done for inclusivity with her Pretty Big Deal Podcast which is also available to view as video on YouTube at Ashley’s Channel and a resume of gracing covers and catwalks usually exclusively reserved for the size zero crowd.
Bucking the traditional trend for a super-model Ashley proudly flaunted her post-partum body with pride when she undertook a swimsuit photoshoot that clearly displayed the stretch marks she developed during her recent pregnancy with her first child.
Read more about Ashley’s postpartum journey here.
Happily, the thinking is catching on as more and more insta-mums are taking the lead and posting pics of themselves in all their post-partum glory. Usually met with praise and words of thanks from other mums out there who have been struggling with their own pregnancy and post-partum evolution, the sad reality is that there are still an abundance of trolls who will send these women hate mail in the DMs, shying away from the publicity of reprisal that they would surely be served in the comments section.
Long Story short: Why you should love your post-partum body, stretch marks and all
Because you earned it damn it! For every gram your baby gained straining you already over-stretched tummy, for every day you got up and went about your life no matter how poorly you felt, for every contraction you endured… You earned your place in the Mother’s Club.
No matter if you found pregnancy easy-peasy or more like some medieval form of torture, we all have days that we would rather stay in bed and not bother, and we all have days that we think OMG get this baby out already or I’ll scream!
That’s why you should be proud of your evolution into a mother. You have changed inside and out. Emotionally, intellectually, and physically. Don’t run from who you are. Embrace her and love her. She earned it.
P.S. As I write this, I am typing with one hand because I am feeding my three-week-old son with the other. I have him in my arms or on my lap almost all day every day, and I sleep with him every night. It took me until my third child to realise that I am proud to be who I am, how I am and what I am. And the truth is, I am proud to bear the marks of my journey on my skin. And that’s OK.