Our bodies were not meant to stay the same throughout our lives.
Certainly we grow older. But childbirth also has a profound effect. I had three babies in 2.5 years – it was a lot. And with pregnancy comes big changes to your body, many of which don’t go away.
Earlier this week I pointed you to an awesome app for pregnancy–the Stork Advisor. And last week we wrote about the sad side of pregnancy, or how to help those that are dealing with pregnancy and baby loss.
Today Joanna’s back, sharing her thoughts on stretch marks and coming to terms with a post-pregnancy body.
(She wrote this last year, when her daughter Mari was younger and before she welcomed little Talitha, her second, into the world last month!)
I’m a small person who married into a tall family.
My husband is 6’ 2” and I’m 5’ 1” (Here we are at Sheila’s daughter’s Katie’s wedding, just three days before Mari was born).
It was no surprise, then, that when I was pregnant with our daughter, that I was all baby. I had a hard pregnancy – gestational diabetes had me poking my finger 4 times a day and injecting myself with insulin before lunch and dinner, and a lump in my neck that turned out to be thyroid cancer, had me stressed and struggling. I had been an infertility patient before I got pregnant and so having a baby was a joy and delight but I did find the whole process to be so stressful.
My daughter did an excellent job of dropping late in the 3rd trimester, and between her good position, lots of walk, and the fact that I took to a Pitocin drip like a duck to water, I had a remarkably fast labor. But the dropping also had another side effect: stretch marks.
ALL THE STRETCH MARKS.
My stomach is simply covered with silvery vertical lines from side to side. My abs aren’t taut together anymore – another side effect of being so short – and so my stomach is bloppier than it was before I got pregnant.
Obviously, it was all worth it. Every poke and prick, every injection of insulin, every stress about carb counting and worry about “ol’ lumpy”, I would do again for my precious girl.
But still: stretch marks suck.
My daughter is now 19 months and she is obsessed with belly buttons. She enjoys showing mine to me and I’m reminded each time that it looks rather different now than it used to. Somehow, I still don’t like the change.
As I have come to terms with the inescapable fact that I myself have changed because of the child I carried and birthed, I am at once grateful and chagrined and I recognize the privilege it is that I can be both. I have friends who have never been able to carry a baby, despite their deepest desires to do so, and I’m aware that I got the happy ending. And yet I’m still not thrilled about having a row of stretch marks, even as I recognize how ridiculous I’m being about them.
My husband has been nothing but supportive about ye ol’ bodily changes due to childbirth.
I am so profoundly grateful that I married my wonderful Canadian guy. But despite all of the “count your blessings” pep talks I’ve given myself and all of the “you’re beautiful” reassurances I’ve gotten from my husband, I’ve still had my own silly struggles with my silvery row of stretch marks.
If I’m honest, the one thing that has helped me is to remember the wounds of Christ.
We know that he bore our sin and our shame on the cross and died to set us free. We know that he was glorified and resurrected, that he is the first fruits of the resurrection that is our hope in him. And yet, even in his glorified and resurrected bodies he was still scarred and wounded. The nail marks and wound in his side were still visible, even after the resurrection.
Even more amazing: the wounds were what allowed Thomas to recognize Christ. Somehow, the glorified wounds were the proof that Jesus was he, himself.
Many Christian theologians have remarked upon this and believe that we, too, will bear the wounds we have taken for love on our bodies in the new Creation.
That is, I believe I will have stretch marks in eternity. But I also believe they will be beautiful, somehow, and glorified. I don’t know what that will be like, but if I give my ignominious stretch marks the dignity of being crowns of glory in the resurrection, I can’t find it in my heart to despise them. And isn’t that the kingdom, anyway? To hold up the imperfections that would be looked down on and then make them beautiful?
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My daughter is very attached to her lovie, named Lyle.
He is a lion friend with a mane of stubby yarn that she just loves to snuggle and he has been her constant companion. Her other two special friends, Bennie and Emily, play second fiddle to him at best. Lyle of often sucked on, cuddled, and squished and so he’s often very stinky and always a bit the worse for wear. But he’s real to our daughter, and to us. In my musings about my stretch marks, I’ve found myself thinking that, perhaps like the velveteen rabbit and Lyle, I too am becoming real.
Real isn’t how you are made,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.’
‘Does it hurt?’ asked the Rabbit.
‘Sometimes,’ said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. ‘When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.’
‘Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,’ he asked, ‘or bit by bit?’
‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.
My grandmother, who lived with my family starting when I was 6 until she died when I was 10, was on a ventilator at the end of her life. They took her off life support and read her the final chapter of the Last Battle by C.S. Lewis as her breathing became shallower and then stopped. Grandma died, her body had been broken by years of suffering with myriad medical conditions, and now she is better and whole.
I miss her terribly still, I had a medical appointment yesterday and I just wanted to talk to her about it. She, uniquely, would understand. She is with my sweet cousin Jackie, who died at 20 months, and Christopher Gregoire and the baby my husband and I lost. We rejoice that they are together and that they are with the Lord, but we long for the final resurrection and the New Creation. We will be made beautiful in our suffering then and all will be well.
Lewis had a beautiful vision for how we would experience the New Earth – that it would be more real, somehow, than this world is.
It was the Unicorn who summed up what everyone was feeling. He stamped his right fore-hoof on the ground and neighed and then cried:
“I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though U never knew it till now. The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that it sometimes looked a little like this. Bree-hee-hee! Come farther up, come farther in!”
He shook his mane and sprang forward into a great gallop – a Unicorn’s gallop which, in our world, would have carried him out of sight in a few moments. But now a most strange thing happened. Everyone else began to run, and they found, to their astonishment, that they could keep up with him: not only to Dogs and the humans but even fat little Puzzle and the short-legged Poggin the Dwarf. The air flew in their faces as if they were driving fast in a car without a windscreen. The country flew past as if they were seeing it from the windows of an express train. Faster and faster they raced, but no one got hot or tired or out of breath.
May we all become real as we go farther up and farther in.
A little child will lead them – farther up and farther in!
Joanna originally wrote this post a year ago, just a few months after suffering a terrible, life-threatening miscarriage. A few weeks ago, she and Josiah welcomed Talitha into their little family. She’s healthy and lovely, and now Joanna has even MORE stretch marks! Congratulations, Joanna!
Have you had to come to terms with body changes? What helped you? Let me know in the comments!
Sheila Wray Gregoire
Blog Contributor & Co-Author on the upcoming The Great Sex Rescue!
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