(Someone just asked, so yes feel free to share this)
Once again, someone said to me today: “Oh, you’re so lucky, you had a kid but you didn’t destroy your stomach like me.”
With stretch marks scratched all over our tummies, wobbly pouches, funny belly-buttons and numerous scars – our bodies certainly change a lot when we go through something major.
Particularly people who’ve carried a whole baby inside our stomach for 9 months, had surgery or just lost/gained a lot weight seem to think this way about their changed abdomens.
When our bodies change; look different, why is it that we straight away degrade our self esteem and tell ourselves that our bodies look disgusting because they are changed and scarred.
What’s so wrong about scars anyway? They are nature’s tattoos. They tell a story on your body: they remind you of everything you’ve been through; everything you have SURVIVED.
Me, personally, my body has changed an awful lot in the past 4 years.
I used to be a size 6-8, 7 1/2 stone, slim, concerned with my weight constantly. I barely knew what a stretch mark was and had perfect, smooth skin.
When I got pregnant, I immediately grew fast, putting on 3 1/2 stone including the little podgy bean growing in my tummy. This stretched my skin, and covered my stomach, thighs and hips in deep red gashes: stretch marks. It looked like my skin had been torn apart. Not only this, but my belly button had been pierced before, and the huge growth of my stomach meant my piercing was ripped out and the hole was stretched into a huge, stretchmark scarred area. I call these marks tiger stripes, just as many others do. These are my tattoos. These are the marks that my babies made inside me when they grew, made their home. When I carried them and they were safe and warm and knew nothing of the outside world.
At the end of my pregnancy, my baby managed to try and strangle himself with his umbilical chord, so we rushed to surgery and I had my first major surgery: the emergency caesarean that brought Oscar into the world.
And once again, I was forever marked with this major event. A large scar now runs across my pelvis. This is the mark that many may find horrific, but I find it beautiful. It preserves the memory of his birth, it tells a story in my life without a word needed. It’s amazing.
Many people do not share in that opinion, I remember a friend said to me weeks after my operation: “What does it.. you know… look like? I’m worried it will have changed you forever and completely ruined your gorgeous tummy and body.”
At the time I simply said, “No, it’s not that different, I don’t really notice it.”
But looking back, I wish I had stood up and said “Yep, it’s changed forever, and I absolutely love it.”
I grew up a lot during motherhood, and found myself expecting my 2nd baby due 4th April 2015. Unfortunately there were two unforeseen outcomes from this pregnancy: the first was that it would cause me to develop gallstones (yes, they’re horrible, if you don’t know, they’re like kidney stones, but in your gallbladder. And they hurt like a bitch.)
The second, and the most terrible, was that my baby daughter died.
She was stillborn on 2nd February 2015. My very own piece of heaven that I was honoured to treasure, meet and hold. I wept for days, I cradled her body close to me, and finally, we said goodbye to her in a church funeral to be buried near the other members of our family; next to other babies who had died at or just after birth.
She left me just two stretch marks on my skin, and stole my whole heart, taking it up to heaven with her. I forever honoured my stretch marks from this moment forward, finding remembrance in them: remembrance for the life I held inside me, but whom I never got to take home. Remembrance for her brother, who lives on and misses her.
I lived in a state of shock for months, unable to quite get my head around the fact that my daughter was dead. The fact I couldn’t cuddle her, feed her, play with her. That it wasn’t acceptable to run to her grave and dig a child’s body back up to lie down and hold for the rest of my life.
I spent my time raising money for charity and planning other events to try and distract my pain. Nothing really worked.
Five months later, after some considerable physical agony, I was in surgery again, having my gallbladder removed.
Somehow that surgery made me feel like when I woke up, reality kicked in. My daughter was gone. Everything had changed. A piece of me had been taken out and could never be replaced.
I looked at my stomach and saw the four small scars from surgery; they looked unreal. As if such small cuts couldn’t really do any difference. Such a small thing couldn’t really change anything.
But the tiniest footprints leave the biggest imprints on our hearts. And I feel now that is the moment I finally accepted my daughter’s death: and those four scars and two stretch marks are my natural tattoos from her life and death.
So yes, although I’ve always been afraid to show it: my stomach was forever CHANGED and marked, just like yours was.
And NO, I will not feel ashamed or disgusted by my “destroyed tummy” and neither should you. Think about how you got those marks. Think about YOUR STORY.
Your SCARS tell YOUR STORY.
They are not disgusting or a wreck, they are your war paint, they are your diary, they are natures tattoos. They are there to tell your story, and remind you how strong you are. They are there to remind you that no matter what has happened and how awful it has been, YOU HAVE SURVIVED.
And you can continue to survive, no matter how hard it gets.
No matter how awful it feels.
You can do it.
So if you’re feeling low, degraded and ashamed about your marks, your changed body. Don’t look down on those changes. Look down at them and remember how they got there. And accept them as a part of you: they are part of what makes you you. And you are all beautiful for who you are and what makes you different, unique: including those marks.
Love yourself. Because if you can’t love yourself, how can you ever truly love anyone else.