I’ve never written about stretch marks before, probably because it was the one thing I hadn’t managed to sort out. Nappies and potties: far more manageable than I imagined. Brilliant little boy: sorted. Forging a career: done. Providing a roof over our heads and lots of happy memories: yep. Not detesting the sight of my own torso: still on the to-do list. For years.
It seems vain and trivial to go on about aesthetics. But, unless you’re one of the lucky ones, pregnancy and birth take a massive toll on your body and for many, that’s a big deal. It’s especially bad if you haven’t got a partner who witnessed you give birth and thinks you’re amazing and understands that the way your body has changed is part and parcel of the fact you are now a family. (I realise it’s not that idyllic for everyone but I have seen this sort of stuff on forums: “Hubby loves mine LOL!!!!!! he calls them my baby stripes LOL ”.)
I had a caesarean, which was what I wanted (although I went through days of labour beforehand.) I was absolutely petrified of giving birth naturally – it seemed like this awful, brutal thing that I just didn’t want to do. Even thinking about it made me angry, but I was generally angry back then and also a lot younger than I realised. These days, I believe all the stuff the midwives tried telling me when I was sticking my fingers in my ears and going ‘la la la’: Your body’s designed to do it, you’ll feel on top of the world when it’s over, you’ll forget how much it hurts.
The trouble with a caesarean, especially if you have stopped caring and regularly eaten family-sized bars of chocolate for the preceding nine months, is that there’s a lot of extra skin hanging around. Literally. Before I got pregnant, my tummy was my redeeming feature. I had a massive arse and thighs but my abdomen always stayed miraculously flat no matter how big the rest of me got. After a caesarean, people say: ‘can you see the scar?’ and you can’t because there’s a bloody great mass of shrivelled skin hanging over the top of it. When I was pregnant and reading up on caesareans, I saw it described as an ‘apron’ and wondered what the eff that meant. A few months later, I knew.
So, I carried around the apron for years, hardly able to look at it myself, never mind let anyone else see it. It made me cold and clunky in situations with blokes. I rarely let anyone near me and when I did, I just kept thinking of how horrifying the sight of the apron would be and how they would run away or be sick or something. Over the years, I lost weight and the apron shrunk but it was still there – and it still is, although loads smaller than it once was. And the rest of my tummy is so stripy it’s ridiculous: completely covered in these little s shapes and wrinkles and undulating lines.
Just as it took me years to realise the midwives were right about giving birth, it’s taken me years to realise the other stuff people have been telling me is true: Most blokes really aren’t that bothered about the texture of your abdomen, any bloke who is bothered about the texture of your abdomen probably isn’t a good catch and (most of all) your scars are there because you’ve got your son. And there’s no way I’d swap him for a flat stomach.
“Mum, what are those wiggly lines all over your tummy?” he said in the changing rooms after swimming last week.
“They’re stretch marks, from when I was pregnant.”
“Do you like them?”
“I didn’t used to, but now I think they’re alright.”
“I think they look quite fashionable.”
So if you’re reading this and you’re not quite there yet, just get into your stretch marks. Untie the apron strings and let it go. They are pretty in a funny way. And also less painful than getting a tattoo of your child’s name.