October 14, 2012

Stretch marks

On the days when pregnancy and impending motherhood is exciting, I am usually thinking about the wonderful things to come that will make the struggles and stresses of right now worth it all.

There are, of course, tons of things to look forward to once the baby is born (we're due in the end of April, by the way) - baby smiles and laughs, little hands and feet, a tiny voice speaking French, and so, so much more. But there are also a lot of things about being pregnant that I am either already enjoying or can't wait to experience.

Like my curlier hair and thicker fingernails.

And feeling the baby kick and move inside me.

And seeing my belly grow as the baby gets bigger.

And getting stretch marks.

That last one seems a bit strange, I'm sure. Almost every pregnancy blog I've read so far - and even an awful lot of weight loss blogs - talk about stretch marks, and the terrible fear that people have of getting them.

I used to fear stretch marks, too. From about age 16, I was afraid of losing weight, for both the loose skin and the stretch marks. So I continued to gain, making both situations worse than they would have been if I'd initially committed to living healthier. It was not about vanity, but rather, the idea of permanent reminder of my failures. I could lose all the weight I wanted or needed, and appear average to anyone passing on the street. But secretly, when naked and vulnerable, I'd always have a visual forcing me to recall the very big mistakes I'd once made.

Today, I have a lot of loose skin, and more than my fair share of stretch marks from huge gains and rapid losses. It's not as upsetting as I'd once anticipated - this far into my journey, I have a better understanding of and stronger love for my body, and I know that the weight loss milestones, the smaller jeans, and the race medals are incredibly worth the loose skin. Still, it's difficult - it can be uncomfortable, especially now. I have a very tiny little bit of a bump, but in order to feel it, I have to lift the skin of my lower stomach.

I have both excited and terrified days with regard to the pregnancy, just like the happy and sad days with weight loss. Losing weight is great, but sometimes, when my self-esteem is not what it should be, weight loss is depressing. Do I have the right to celebrate something when I maybe ought to be upset that I got myself that big to begin with?

Yes, I do.

I can't change the mistakes I made as a little kid, trying to ignore loneliness by binge eating, filling the emptiness in my heart with food. Maybe someday, at my goal weight, I'll be able to have surgery for my loose skin.

But the stretch marks - those don't go away. Those marks will always be there, a reminder of a different time.

So, I can't wait for stretch marks from pregnancy. For marks on my body with a purpose. Ones I don't feel guilty for. These stretch marks won't be from sitting in my grandparents' dark and cold house as a teen eating cans of Chef Boyardee and chicken nuggets, or from the countless dozens of cupcakes and cake balls that helped induce my carb comas in grad school, or from crying in my apartment in California and eating pizza. They'll be from doing something good with my body - carrying and properly nourishing my child.