This article took me so long to write. Not because I didn’t have the subject matter, but because I was terrified to share my stretch marks. Our world is becoming increasingly pressured for perfection and the pretense is breaking us. This post is about the real and raw effects of vanity, being reminded of how beautiful the mother body is, and the effect stretch marks, now victory marks, have on me. I want to be sensitive to any mama out there who has lost her little one and tell you that I am so aware how lucky I am to be able to carry this little one with my stretch marks. Truly, I am so sorry for your loss.
I also believe that there are women out there who need to hear this story to know that they’re not alone when it comes to struggling with body image, the pressures of society, and the lies of the world.
All of the images in this blog post are by the supremely talented, Taylor Prinsen Photography.
Part One: Stretched and Marked
It was a bathroom-mirror battle against what this world grooms us to perceive are “flaws.” I thought high-waisted swim bottoms would fix this. Ugh, stop crying. What if someone walks in? Just text him you can’t swim and to meet at the car. I hope we can get a refund for our pool passes. Dang. I’ve wanted to swim all week. Maybe I can run into the pool and then no one will see them?
[touches stretch marks]
Dream on sister. Cocoa butter? Collagen supplements? Those sure didn’t work. These are so deep and dark and red and vocal. They are high-pitched shrieks of, “LOOK AT YOUR IMPERFECTIONS.”
[touches stretch marks]
I call them ugly. He calls them victory marks. Why can’t I? Because the beauty and blogging industry tell us all the ways we can nip and tuck and fade and cover and enhance? And use a discount code while we’re at it? Ha. Still got that humor.
Because somewhere, sometime, somebody told a woman her stretchmarks were unacceptable, and now women have created the gerunds “photoshopping” and “FaceTuning”? Because that’s what sells magazine covers and walks down runways? We literally have brands called “Covergirl” and reality star moguls selling “shapewear” to ‘smooth out lumps and bumps’ aka normal, human, BODIES…so how can I not be self-conscious with these extra 45lbs pounds and stretch marks?
Part Two: Compared and Scared
When so many celebrities, influencers, and bloggers share the formula for beauty as longer lashes, thicker hair, bleached teeth, unmarked skin, photoshopped (aka actually impossible) bodies, and enhanced features, how can I be entranced with how God made me?
“For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.”
My strength tells me to love these marks and what it’s nurtured the past nine months. That I’m beautiful because my creator doesn’t make mistakes and his works are wonderful. My fear tells me women will see my new stretched and marked body and say, “Yes! Start the conversation! We need to see more of this!” but their eyes will say, “Thank God that’s not mine.”
[blinks back tears]
You can do this.
[opens door, hesitantly takes a few steps]
Of course, there’s a bridal party here. Of course, they’re in great shape. Am I imagining things or did she say “stretch marks”? Are they all looking at me? I bet they’re all looking at me. I wish these sunglasses would hide my entire face. Better yet, my whole body.
[sits staring at the pool]
Oh, he’s getting into the pool. Stop waving me in, I don’t want them to see me.
[five minutes later]
I really want to take the weight off of my feet. Inhale. Exhale. Pray. Surrender. Stand. Move.
Part Three: Victory
[gets into the pool, goes underneath, comes up]
Glorious. Was I just baptized? Refreshed. Liberated. Putting away the old and celebrating the new. Thank you LORD for sunshine, for this body that is holding #myswirlgirl despite PCOS, for these thighs that have held up the baby bump and protected me from back pain, for strength & courage to fight today’s physical and mental battles, for healing my thyroid, for the reminder that society’s standards of beauty are never-ever-ever what I live for, for my husband who calls me beautiful every day, for the gentle challenge that none of my value ever came from being a size 2 120lb woman, for the incredible women in my life who don’t make me feel like I need to “keep up with the culture,” and for my victory marks.
Motherfreaking victory marks. These aren’t flaws. They are experience. Road maps. They are part of the maiden and mother journey women go through. They are what I will share with my daughter on that first day her confidence is shaken by an unkind word or comparison from society. This is for you, my girl! May you understand truly that you are fearfully and wonderfully made.
And for all the others out there who’re tired of the crushing weight of pretense and perfection, please, don’t let fear, society, and impossible standards hold you back from getting in the dang pool today, whatever that may look like. Claim victory today.
Thanks to my hubby for being the one to encourage me to take these natural maternity pictures. Our soon-to-be-here daughter is lucky to have a dad who empowers women the way you do.
Thanks to my daughter for growing me (literally) and already teaching me that before I can teach you anything, I first need to learn that lesson myself. Also, we are totally okay with you coming out now.
Thanks to Taylor Prinsen Photography for the images. I feel like you captured my fragility and freedom so perfectly.
Thanks to my readers and followers for telling me the kind of content you like so I can create. I love the camaraderie we have through this platform.
Thank you Lord for growth these past 40 weeks and the dynamic relationship you have with those who love you. I pray these words and images remind whomever they need to today that they are fearfully and wonderfully made, and your works are glorious!