You are red and pink and purple, and you are deep.
You’re not like the faint, smooth, wispy white lines on my hips or inner thighs or breasts I earned after surviving puberty. No, you are loud and demand to be seen.
To be honest, I never wanted to see you. I avoided full-length mirrors throughout my entire second and third trimesters because I feared you. I pretended you weren’t there.
I tried all the creams, all the lotions, the oils and butters and scrubs. I talked to doctors and friends and experienced moms and my own mother, but nothing worked. You multiplied and grew longer, spreading like vines digging deeper into my growing belly.
Stretch marks, you were here to stay.
I felt like a globe, the kind you run your fingers over to feel the mountain ranges and the ridged rivers entrenched in the cardboard.
I’ve never felt so ugly.
I’ve never loved my body, which is why I believed I could never love you. Postpartum is hard.
But then, all of a sudden, I changed my perspective.
I chose to speak to myself and my body the way I spoke to my friends — with kindness and truth, respect and grace.
Instead of focusing on how I thought I should look and spending my days scrolling with envy of unrealistic body goals, I filled my social media feeds with images of real women and real mothers with all different bodies of all different sizes, shapes, and colors. They had you, too.
I started looking — really looking — at myself in the mirror. I’d examine you — every curve, fold, rise, and fall.
I allowed myself to touch you and feel your depths and know how big and long and wide you were.
I even counted you, Stretch Marks. All of you.
Then, I’d look at my baby. My beautiful, healthy, funny, smart, rambunctious, growing, perfect baby boy. And I’d thank you.
You made room inside of me for this miracle to grow and thrive and kick and spin and make his way into the world. You helped keep him warm and nourished. You helped him hear our voices when we’d talk and sing to him. You helped him feel my husband’s presence when he’d place his hands on my belly.
I’d think about how every rip, tear, crevice, and stripe made me a mom.
I’d think of how my husband looked at me while I was in the hospital impatiently awaiting our son’s arrival, and how he looked at me while I was in labor, delivering his child. I’d think about how he looked at me just minutes after giving birth and when feeding my baby for the first time. And how he has looked at my body ever since, whether I was just changing clothes or breastfeeding our infant or hopping into a much-needed shower.
I’d think of how he’d tell me I was beautiful — even more so now — and how much he loves me.
And I’d believe him.
It took a while, but I even got comfortable with him touching you.
So, here we are. Almost nine months later, and you’re as dark and deep as you were nine months into my pregnancy. But my resentment for you has subsided, and I’m learning to appreciate why you’re here.
And while I do hope you calm down a bit and fade into the rest of my skin, I’ve accepted that you’ll always be with me, reminding me of what we’ve created.