28 February 2011

Battle Wounds

Acceptance of ones body is not a new topic. It is one that men and women alike have dealt with, though possibly in different ways. It is a struggle that I am familiar with. Learning to accept the body that carries me through this life. At times, that acceptance comes easily. Those are the times when I appreciate all the capabilities that this body has. But often it is a battle to remember the wonder that is the human body and not let that be clouded by imperfection.

This is not a new topic. We have all heard it. We have probably all felt it.

My husband and I had always wanted children and we were blessed quickly with pregnancy. But almost as quickly as we got pregnant, life turned upside down. I found myself extremely ill, weak, and unable to continue in a normal way. Appreciation for the life my body had helped make was quickly overshadowed by the misery of being too sick to move. Eventually the storm that we found ourselves in would calm enough for me to be able to get out of bed and see the sun again. I started to gain back the weight I had lost and began with the usual task of gaining weight for the growing child I was carrying.

I found myself being grateful for the weight gain and the baby bump that was finally appearing. Feeling a peaceful acceptance of my body for the first time in my life, I declared “I have done it. I have finally accepted my body as it is.”

But as with life, my body did not stop changing. And one day, that “peaceful acceptance” I had so confidently expressed was shattered and replaced with the reality of the changes that came with pregnancy. As the child grew, so did my stomach. And slowly, but surely, the stretch marks began to appear. Stretch marks: nothing new, earth shattering, or life altering. But they were there and they were permanent.

When I first saw them, I could feel emotions welling up. I began to cry. Yes, about silly stretch marks. I kept telling myself “It’s ok. This is ok. It doesn’t matter.” My husband also reassured me of my beauty and that none of it mattered.

And then I felt guilt. Hadn’t I been trying to gain weight at a healthy pace? Hadn’t I been applying lotions that would help? I felt that everyone knew and were secretly judging me and my inability to take care of myself. Any pride and joy that I had in my body was dwarfed by those marks that covered my stomach.

It was ridiculous and I knew it.

Because I knew other women with stretch marks and I couldn’t have cared less that they had them. They were beautiful. They radiated warmth and confidence, even in the imperfection of mortal and fragile bodies. I gravitated toward the beauty that came from those imperfect bodies and the lovely women who owned them.

So why did I think that I was different? How could my stretch marks make me feel less when I thought no less of other women who had them too? And hadn’t I declared acceptance of my body “just the way it was?”

But that was it. I had not accepted my body as it really was. I had merely accepted my body in the one small moment in time. I realized that to accept my body was to accept it and all the changes that life would inflict on it: age, pregnancy, weight changes, health and sickness. Those changes would never end. And in essence, neither would the process of learning to love the body that I have, imperfections and all.

The first step: to stop looking at those stretch marks as permanent scars of failure and frumpiness but to remember how these marks have been earned. They are my battle wounds. They document the struggle this body has fought through the whole pregnancy. They represent a willingness to forget self and to carry another human being until she can carry herself. How can I not take pride in that? I have struggled and wept and begged for relief and those were the scars to prove it.

I can’t lie; sometimes that panicky feeling comes back when I remember that those marks are here to stay. I forget about the wonders of my body and feel ashamed and saddened by the changes that I can’t stop. But when this baby wiggles and pushes, the marks are forgotten. When my husband lies next to me, rubbing that stretched belly, smiling and musing about the little girl we created together, I feel complete and more beautiful than I ever felt without those stretch marks. And sometimes, the amazement of what this imperfect body of mine can and has done overwhelms me. And really, those are the things that matter.


jessica renae said...

this is such an incredible truth - thank you for sharing it! the idea that we can accept our bodies for their capabilities is beautiful, and something that every woman should hear!
thank you :)

Curt and Ronda said...

I loved reading this. I have had six beautiful daughters and I have felt my most beautiful while pregnant. After each of my babies have been a year old and the stretch marks are still there, I have felt that panicky feeling, but then I have to remind myself that my body has been doing what it was created to do and I love my body, stretch marks and all! (And I love my six daughters and now, four grandchildren.) Life, and our bodies, are beautiful!

Alicia F. said...

Thank you for the comments! They mean so much to me!

Stacey Sargent said...

This post really hit me hard. How wonderful of you to put yourself out there and talk about what no one really does. Thank yoU!

Jana said...

Great post. Unfortunately, for me, the real struggle with body image hits AFTER the baby comes out... but at that point you have this amazing little person as a consolation prize. It is SO worth every extra pound, stretch mark, or but of saggy skin. So worth it.

Alisha said...

Sometimes I think it's not fair that I have to be one of those women that gets stretch marks or one of those women who doesn't loose the weight right away - but you are definitely right, I earned these scars, and I have the most beautiful baby boy to show for it. It was not for nothing.

Unknown said...

i love this. i battled with the same thing when i was pregnant with my daughter. its been 18 months and yes they have fadded but i still dont always feel beautiful. BUT I heard a talk once. The person who talked spoke about her child she had lost, and how she loved her stretch marks. they were a constant reminder of her son and the sacrifices she made for him, like the scars and sacrifies Christ made for us. She compared mothers to Christ, saying these were our sacrifice for the glory of a child. That hit home for me. Thank you for this, I need to remember to always love my body.

Diana Smith said...

Its hard for us women to accept change to our bodies that we can't control! I did/have struggled with this part of acceptance but everytime I look at my daughter I am grateful for the opportunity that I was able to give her life! I don't care what I look like as long as I was able to give her body which is what God has asked me to do! Beautiful post!

Liv said...

I can relate. As a part-time fitness instructor, body image is important to me, and to my JOB. I want the participants in my classes to believe that I know what I'm doing. It's hard to feel confident with a big old baby belly sticking out while teaching Yoga and Pilates.

But it's so worth it once you get over the initial shock of your body changing. We are beautiful.

Wendy Lady said...

Sadly I started getting stretch marks in junior high basically EVERYWHERE.....like my arms, legs, stomach, back......which certainly made junior high, which is already horrible to begin with, that much worse. And I have never been pregnant, so I didn't get anything from it.

Well that's not true, I learned from a young age to accept myself as I am, as messed up and ridiculous as my body may seem to other people, I still think I'm awesome. I'm pretty thankful I got my body issues out of the way fairly young, so I could spend the rest of my teens and 20s happy with who I am.

neuroticmom said...

I'm sooooo proud of my stretch marks. I tell my kids all the time that those marks are because of and for them--and that I would do it all again because it was totally worth it.

(And how about my super flat chest from nursing all 4 of them for over a year--totally worth it too)

Cathy said...

Beautiful Post!!

n. said...

You are very brave.
I hope you have a beautiful and healthy baby.

Kelli Murray said...

wow. What beautiful words.
I too am pregnant with my first child. 4 months now, and my belly is just starting to show. There are certainly fears that I have as well about my growing and changing body (and those dreaded stretch marks), but the miracle of this new life we are creating within us far outweighs those insecurities. I try to always remember that. Thanks for your honestly in this post!