By Rachel Pieh Jones
I know I’m supposed to boast about my scars, stretch marks, and shape.
I’m supposed to be empowered by naked selfies.
I don’t boast and I’m not empowered or posting those naked selfies (I’m not even taking them).
I have a stomach that looks like a saggy raisin. I never really had the chance to feel good about my body. I got pregnant at 21-years old, before I had grown into the idea of loving my size and shape. I was still in the high school and college years of hating it all, of never being thin enough or strong enough or having the right size ass or big enough boobs.
And then pregnancy changed my stomach permanently (the big enough boobs didn’t last long and leaked milk so they weren’t exactly what I’d hope for). The pregnancy was twins, it went full-term, I looked like a walrus. My skin stretched until it couldn’t stretch anymore and so it started coming apart, cracking open new seams that would never go back together, pushing the elasticity of young skin up to and then beyond the point of no return.
Then there was a vaginal delivery followed by an emergency c-section and because of all that stretching, the scar simply made a little tuck point where the flappy skin can hang over and form a bulge. I can hide two fingers beneath that bulge if I want to. I haven’t experimented with other items but I bet I could hide snacks or keys in there, too.
No amount of Pilates or Cross Fit or Whole30 or marathoning will ever give me my stomach back, that stomach I failed to appreciate until it was gone.
And guess what? I’m not proud of the scars and stretch marks. I wish I didn’t have them. I’m not complaining here. Honesty is not the same as complaint.
This isn’t to say that I would trade the scars and wrinkles. Like, if a fairy came and said, “Give me back your children and I will give you back your stomach,” I would of course, refuse. And possibly slug the fairy.
If I had to make a choice, I would choose my kids every time without a moment’s hesitation, but that is a ridiculous thing to say. It isn’t a matter of choice. This isn’t a trade that is open to mothers. So much of social media, though, wants us to buy into that lie. Children or stretch marks? If you love the kids, you must love the scars!
They are a badge of honor, a sign of sacrifice, to be worn with pride, to be boasted of in selfies on every platform with the potential of going viral for ‘courage’ and, ostensibly, for being a superior mother. The kind of mother who is above such trivialities as caring what her stomach looks like, the kind whose love for her children is so all-consuming that it cancels out every inclination she has to see herself as a woman separate from her role as mother.
I’m not convinced. Maybe it is just me, but I don’t think there are only two options for how to feel about our bodies and I’m convinced that other women also waver through various stages of contentment.
I am glad I have my kids and I wish I didn’t have my scars. It would have been nice to be one of those moms who don’t get them.
I’m glad that women feel confident enough to show their pregnancy and life-scarred bodies, in particular, Lauren Fleishman, an elite American runner. As a runner, I find it a relief to know that she too, has bumps and bulges where fashion models have them photo shopped out. I know that none of us really live in those edited worlds. And I absolutely believe that our scars make us each beautifully unique, that none of us escape this life unscathed, and that we have no reason to hide.
I’m not ashamed of my stretch skin and scars, I still wear a bikini. Saying I don’t want them is not complaining, neither is it an admission of shame. I want my girls to know that it doesn’t matter what your body looks like, we can still be confident, beautiful, content. We are so much more than our bodies or our physical appearance. But I also won’t be posting any photos on Instagram or Facebook and writing about empowerment.
This is the body I have and I’m thankful for it. It runs marathons, gave life to three human beings, continues to function in mostly healthy ways. I’m content, this is the body I am comfortable with, this is me.
I don’t feel like it is overly complicated to say that I embrace my body and am content while at the same time admitting that I’m simply not thrilled about stretch marks and awkward flaps.
Rachel Pieh Jones is a contributing blogger for Brain, Child. She lives in Djibouti with her husband and three children. Her work has been published in the New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor, FamilyFun, Babble, and Running Times. Visit her at: Djibouti Jones, her Facebook page or on Twitter @rachelpiehjones.
Is it just me?