There seem to be two approaches in the Western world right now regarding stretch marks--preventing them or embracing them. The one side claims to have figured out how to prevent them through eating whole foods, fat, restricting vegetable oils, etc. The other side wants you to embrace your "mommy tattoos" and redefine beauty as a women who is stretch marked.
I take issue with both.
I was very strict with myself during pregnancy. I ate extremely healthy (Note: I will talk more about this in another post, but know that what I define as healthy is a diet that imitates our ancestors--one high in animal fat and protein, with copious amounts of vegetables, fermented, probiotic-full foods, minimal grains and minimal sugar.) I followed the "real-fooders" advice. I was not doing this specifically to avoid stretch marks (though I was thinking that would be a plus) but in order to give my baby the best start I could on life.
I got stretch marks.
Not a lot, but some. I know women who ate all the "wrong" things during their pregnancies and didn't. So what's going on here?
Here are my thoughts on it. I didn't grow up eating "traditional food"--my mother was part of the generation who were lied to about "low fat diets" and believed that fast food restaurants weren't that bad for you. I am not claiming that I ate terribly as a child just not what I now believe and now to be optimal. (Mom, if you are reading this know that I don't hold any of this against you. Oh, and I love you. A lot.)
It wasn't until I was in high-school that I began to look into nutrition. I had HORRIBLE periods. I would literally be bed-ridden for an entire day--only getting up to puke in the bathroom while having diarrhea at the same time. Yes, absolutely lovely image, I know. My doctor recommended I go on birth control (I think I was around 13) to solve all these problems. Even as a young teenager I thought my doctor was nuts. So, rather than take her advice I began to change the way I ate.
And it made a HUGE difference.
Not every month, mind you, but most of the time. Sometimes the horrible periods would come back--but typically I could tie that to stress and extra sugar-consumption (which comes first, ladies? the chicken or the egg? the sugar binge or the stress?).
Since high-school my awareness of how important food is for our bodies has been slowly, but steadily growing. I have been far from perfect in my eating habits, and eating healthy, like all good things in life (marriage, being a parent, etc.) takes a serious commitment.
I went over eight months without getting any stretch marks. I thought for sure I was 'in the clear'. Then, a few weeks before Little Owl was born, I got what are known as "dropping stretch marks". I feel like that is pretty self-explanatory, but essentially when Athena dropped, my skin had to stretch and stretch fast. I got some stretch marks below my belly button.
I'm not ashamed of my body.
Far from it. I am very proud and impressed with what it could do to grow and nourish a whole new being.
I am not 'proud' of my stretch marks.
I do not think they are beautiful. I do not think they prove my womanhood. I do not flaunt them, but do not hide them. I do not think they are what make me a "real woman" or what prove I am a "tiger" who has earned her stripes. (You would almost think they want women who don't get stretch marks to feel bad--like they are less of a real mother, less or a real woman.)
Perhaps if I had never eaten a single potato chip in my life, if my mother had eaten traditional foods, and her mother before her, I would not have gotten stretch marks. I don't know. Maybe.
I feel like putting the pressure on women to do a list of things during their pregnancies to prevent stretch marks is too much. I could easily have viewed myself as a failure. (Was it that side of tortilla chips I ate that gave them to me? Was it that week I ran out of cod liver oil? Was it that one day I ate a Carl's Jr. hamburger because I was starving at the airport and couldn't afford to buy a chicken salad for thirty dollars??)
No, no, no.
I believe I went into my pregnancy with skin that was going to stretch no matter what I did. Perhaps, with my diet I limited the"damage". Perhaps, perhaps. Perhaps.
What I want to focus on is giving my daughter the healthiest experience I can--both in and out. Mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally. For her sake, I am not going to view myself as ugly or bemoan my "pre-baby" skin. For her sake, I am going to continue to eat healthy.
Perhaps when she is ready to have kids, her nourishing childhood will prevent her from getting stretch marks. Then again, perhaps not. As a culture we have been eating unhealthy for years.
It's quite likely that it will take a few generations to redo what has been undone. But, that doesn't mean I am not going to try. And it also doesn't mean I am going to pretend that something that isn't inherently beautiful, is.
It's beautiful that I carried my baby for nine months. It's beautiful that she grew inside me and was born surrounded by love and sunshine. It's beautiful that I am accepting the changes that gave me and will give me. It's beautiful that my baby loves and adores my despite my imperfections.
But, the stretch marks themselves are not beautiful.
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