Stretch marks, nobody wants them, most women have them, and for some reason they make us really self-conscious. So...what do we do?
First, stretch marks arise when our bodies grow, up or out. They start out red or purple in color but usually fade with time. Despite what people selling stretch mark solutions might tell you, they are permanent as tissue damage has been done through tearing of the dermis.
I've had stretch mark scars for as long as I can remember. They first showed up during a growth spurt when I was young. As I got taller my skin couldn't keep up and they streaked across my inner thighs and hips. They faded almost as fast as they came but I remember being so embarrassed by them regardless of color. I couldn't understand why other girls got to have perfect flawless skin while mine was rippled by scars. I always tried to cover them up and avoid situations where they would be on display. I beat myself up about them and let them shake my confidence.
With my first pregnancy the stretch mark fear was strong! Since I already had plenty, I was prepared to do whatever I needed to in order to avoid new ones. I was reading articles, applying lotions, ordering special oils, etc. Now, while there is nothing wrong with keeping your skin hydrated, obsessing and fearing stretch marks for 9 months isn't super productive.
Part of me felt guilty about being so concerned about what was going to happen to my body. I went into the pregnancy convinced my body would be ruined because that's what everyone tells you. I was growing a little life, which is incredible, and I should enjoying the experience and thankful my body can even do such a thing! But instead I was checking my belly daily making sure those red lines weren't sneaking up on me. I know I'm not the only one to go through anxiety.
My belly grew and the old stretch marks on my hips went from white to red. In the last week before I gave birth a few small red lines appeared on my stomach. I came out of pregnancy mostly just re-igniting old lines but they bothered me along with the new soft squishy belly. As I moved into postpartum life and began my fitness journey I started out really hard on myself. I just wanted to be skinny again and I wanted the stretch marks gone.
After working out and focusing on nutrition for months I felt like I was almost back to my pre-pregnancy self. My stretch marks had faded and I was feeling pretty good. We had booked a beach vacation and I was really excited. For some reason once we arrived at the beach and it was time to break out the bikinis my confidence left me. I was feeling self-conscious and like I just hadn't done enough. Sitting in the sand I was hardly enjoying myself because I was so focused on every scar, roll, missed workout, and cheat meal. At that moment a beautiful mama and her two kids began playing in the waves nearby us. Her belly was streaked with scars but she glowed with confidence. She ran and danced along the beach with her kids smiling and totally in the moment. I remember admiring her and envying that confidence. I decided then that I didn't want to be the girl at war with her body anymore. I wanted to live in the moment and feel that joy that I saw in her.
Things shifted for me from that point. My fight against my body turned into a journey of cultivating self-love and confidence. I wanted to be that confident carefree mama. I wanted to let go and be in the moment making memories. I made a choice to shift my focus in that moment.
Embracing imperfection, focusing on self-love, and working out and eating well because it made me feel good changed so much for me. My thought patterns changed with time and I made peace with my body.
In sharing my fitness journey on insta I found that every time I posted my early postpartum "before" photos I got comments and questions about my stretch marks and how I "got rid of them". Women wrote me e-mails and messages asking for my secret and sharing how their own stretch marks had stolen their confidence and made them feel like they were ruined. It broke my heart because I knew exactly what they meant.
While I don't have a magic cream you can apply that will rid you of your stretch marks or help you avoid them as you go through pregnancy, I can tell you this, you are so much more than your imperfections and you are not alone! These scars are part of all of us, they're part of our story, they show what we've been through and what we've overcome. They show that we have lived! I know it's not easy, but it's so much more productive to make peace with your body and embrace all that it is. There is so much joy to be had in letting go of the obsession we have with perfection.
This pregnancy I'm keeping my skin hydrated, drinking plenty of water and applying cocoa butter daily to help my skin accommodate my growing bump, but I wont be obsessing or picking apart my body. Pregnancy is hard and amazing. Our bodies go through so much change in such a short time, they deserve to be celebrated, pampered, and loved. Don't waste another moment bringing yourself down over imperfections, instead choose to take care your amazing self, focus on self-love, and find a whole new level of confidence and joy.