Thursday, September 21, 2017

A Body Positivity Setback

About two weeks ago, I encountered the biggest stumbling block on my body-positivity journey, and unsurprisingly, it's pregnancy-related: stretch marks.

I must say, it really took me by surprise. Scars aren't something that's ever bothered me much in the past: I have an inch-long scar on the point of my chin from a mishap on the first day of first grade, and I've never given it a moment's thought. Same goes for the assorted cuts that have faded to dull scars over the years.

But for some reason, these stretch marks really got me down. After a few months of having no idea what my belly looked like below what I've started referring to as the equator of my bump (i.e. the widest part), I was feeling super itchy, so I leaned wayyyy back and took a look in the mirror to see if something was wrong. And GASP! Radiating out from either side of my bump were purple spiderwebby stretch marks.

A noisy reaction ensued ("I think I have stretch marks?!? Jeff, there are stretch marks ahhhh"), followed quickly by tears. Many, many tears, and more noisy lamentations.

At this point, I'm honestly not quite sure why it upset me so much. I knew going into this whole pregnancy thing that it would change my body, and that some of those changes would be irrevocable. And apart from worrying that some of my favorite unicorn dresses might not fit anymore after the baby, I was not especially worried about those changes.

But the stretch marks really knocked me for a loop. I found myself worrying about how they'd look when I wore a bathing suit, even though 1) I go swimming maybe once a year and 2) I don't usually think about how I look at the beach, because I am there to have fun and I don't much care how other people think I look. I found myself worrying about what Jeff would think, even though I've no reason to feel insecure in our relationship.

Mostly, I just felt sad and afraid.

And realizing that actually helped me to sort out why these silly, inconsequential stretch marks bothered me so much -- once I'd calmed down and gotten a chance to reflect, that is.

I've made jokes on here about what a creature of habit I am, but honestly, I'm really not great with major life changes. No matter how much I want them, or how excited about them I am, they absolutely terrify me. Exhibit A: I spent the summer before leaving for my semester in Japan being a miserable, grumpy piece of work and sleeping poorly out of nerves. Exhibit B: I did the same thing two summers later, right before my move to Los Angeles.

And giving birth terrifies me. I find myself laying awake worrying about it, cursing the people who post articles on Facebook about childbirth complications and thinking of all the horror stories I've heard. I worry about gaining too much weight with this pregnancy not because I particularly care how much weight I gain or whether it takes a long time to lose it afterward, but because I don't want the baby to grow so much that I need a cesarean. (And why am I so worried about the cesarean? Surprisingly, it has nothing to do with the scar, and everything to do with the recovery time and my fear of surgery.)

I find myself dwelling on the post-delivery health problems I've read about, and worrying not that my body won't look the same, but that it won't work the same. That it won't work as well.

And so even though stretch marks are purely a matter of appearance, for some reason, this completely normal and common pregnancy side effect has me worrying about all the other indelible and less benign physical changes I might experience after having this baby.

I guess it's time to finish reading that book about mindfulness and birthing that my friend sent me.

And in the meantime, I'll do my best to focus on the here and now, and not borrow trouble that might not even come to pass. These stretch marks, in and of themselves, aren't bad. They're basically a tattoo that I didn't design or choose on a part of my body that I rarely have occasion to see (ah, the life of a style blogger who doesn't own a full-length mirror...) As for what they signify, or more accurately, what I fear they might signify: I'll cross any and all of those bridges when I must, and not before.

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  1. Oh Emily! I'm so sorry that your stretch marks have got you down! Your body is doing an absolutely amazing thing at the moment, you're GROWING ANOTHER HUMAN! That is just incredible and you should be so proud of the life you're creating! Yes, your body will change but you will still be the wonderful, beautiful, courageous woman we all know and love! Good on you for talking so openly and honestly about your journey and struggles, I'm sure you'll be showing lots of other pregnant ladies that they are not alone!

    Abbey 😘

  2. I'm so sorry to hear yourself so self conscious about the stretch marks - I'm not growing a baby and I'm exactly the same they bother me so much. Many many people have stretch marks so we're not alone x

    Kayleigh Zara 🌿

  3. I'm so sorry your stretch marks are upsetting you. Really hope your birth is uncompliated xx

  4. I wish I could give you a hug! I can see why the stretch marks got you down and all the other worries that came to your mind as well. It must be scary to grow a person, but I admire you so much for sharing those less than awesome parts of it too!

    x Envy

  5. Emily! Don't ever let those stretch marks get you down (easier said than done when your pregnancy hormones are going crazy ofcourse) seriously though, they need to be there, they're a sign that your beautiful little girl is growing and that's a wonderful thing! You will still look stunning when she's born and I'm sure Jeff will think so too!
    PaleGirlRambling xo

  6. It's completely normal to have these feelings. Your body is going through such a change, not just physically, but all those darn hormones as well! I hated my stretch marks when they first appeared but now I love them. I often feel the small indentation on my skin and it reminds me of the incredible journey I went through to give birth and raise my son. They're definitely stripes of honour. Don't worry - you're doing great! X

  7. I totally feel you, not that I've ever been in the exact same situation, but noticing something and not being happy with it can really knock you down :( if this can reassure you the purple will fade and your stretch marks will become white, so nearly not noticeable in the end :) and if you really want you skin to be as good as it can be I'd recommend using Palmer's stretch mark body butter (it work really well & smells so good :D) x


  8. I'm so sorry to hear that your stretch marks have gotten you down, but I think it's also totally understandable that suddenly seeing such a big change would shock and upset you! It's different to progressively seeing it happen and it's sort of a big shock reminder that things are changing, so I hope that soon the excitement and the happy changes take over your mind instead. Good luck with everything, and I hope you feel better soon!

  9. In terms of advice, I'm not really sure what to say, but one of the best things I've seen on the internet is an Artist who makes art out of Stretch marks-women are painted by her, illuminating the beauty that is bringing a child into this world :D (Apparently moisturiser is supposed to help? No idea if true.) If you need advice, I would recommend Gala Darling's website; she is brilliant! And maybe don't read the childbirth horror stories any more...

    Lydia XO

  10. I'm sorry to hear the stretch marks set you back a bit. However, your last paragraph of this post is truly inspiring, Emily! You got this! What a wonderful mindset. Your little one is going to be very lucky to have you as a mum. :)

  11. Oh man, I have no words as I have not experienced this to give adequate advice. However, I will say - many friends have expressed similar (if not the same) types of worry when they were pregnant.....and ya know what? It all turns out okay. Even if your body doesn't work the same (and it will work) it will be working in tune to meet your baby's needs. Any pain / recovery time will all be forgotten.

    Side note - THE ONLY PERSON who ever told me they remembered how horrible child birth is....was, in fact, my mother. That's why I'm an only child lol

    Congrats my friend. You'll be magic!

  12. I've always had stretch marks and had no idea why dl I've just learnt to deal with them slowly they still effect me a little bit but I learnt something recently that has helped. One of my friends is close to having her baby πŸ‘ΆπŸΌ and she's got quite a few stretch marks over her weeks but quite cutely she refers to them as life lines, she sees them as more of a positive that they are a physical sign of the amazing thing her body is doing. πŸ’–

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