I’ll tell you why we call them stripes and not scars.
It isn’t because we are orange cats with sharp claws or any other kind of jungle animal with sexy patterns that we like printed all over our expensive shoes and designer bags.
It isn’t even really because of the, quite literal, stripyness of the marks and the rips and the tears and all that stretch.
It’s because we are like soldiers come home from war—military men who have earned rank and recognition. And just as soldiers sew stripes on their shirts, we sew them on our skin.
And the stripes mark our stories; the stripes mark our strength.
I am stretched and marked, belly beyond recognition. It jiggles and it bounces. Think Santa, without the red suit. Or beard.
But that’s how it’s supposed to be; we are supposed to become something more, someone other than what we once were. And we know this. We know this, we know this, we know this. We’ve been told this, even want and anticipate this, desire this. But, when it actually comes down to this, we are in shock and denial and fear.
Deep inside there is a battle, thoughts raging one against another. Contemplative wonderings that we target towards that reflection of a tattered body in the mirror that we want to love, but hate.
Because we are used to bouncing back, used to working out five minutes longer to work off the five pounds we feel packed on. We are so used to wearing the right shirt to hide the right parts, so used to slapping a band-aid over the cut and saying a prayer to make it heal, faint, and fade. We are so used to lathering the oils and the creams and the concealers and the colors and eating the food and doing the things to make the tired and the blemished and the flab go away.
We are bosses at bouncing back, so much so that we are bothered when we discover it’s hard to bounce back and broken when we realize we’re not going to bounce back.
My battle is not like her battle, just like her battle is not like your battle. And even if she did give birth to a baby only to have her belly flatten faster than it took Jesus to escape the tomb, that does not mean that I can, or that you should, or that everyone will.
Yeah—my size six jeans are in the dresser collecting dust. Yeah—my belly hangs low and it wobbles to and fro. (I can tie it in a knot, even tie it in a bow.) Yeah—I heard there’s wraps and reps to fix that…creams and oils galore to erase it. Yeah—I’m tired of wearing yoga pants, but yeah—maternity clothes are expensive. Yeah—I know you’re going to tell me that I look great, but, yeah—that doesn’t really matter in the whole scheme of things.
What matters, and what we women—what I need most, is for you to tell me that it’s okay if I don’t look great. To tell me it’s okay and expected and perfectly normal if I’m falling out here and there. To let me wear the stretchy pants to the funeral, to the wedding, and to the store. To let me stay home if things aren’t fitting right, even if it takes six weeks. Even if it takes twelve.
What I need is for you to tell me that you’re not looking for the person I once was.
Physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, socially.
I need you to tell me that you’re looking for someone new. Tell me that the body is just a cocoon; just a cover for the metamorphosis taking place in my soul. Tell me that what matters most is not if my belly flattens or if the stretch marks fade, but if I hugged hard and listened long and gave that little life staring back at me every last ounce of love I had.
What we need is for the pregnancy, maternity, postpartum, and motherhood journey to not be centered around how good we can make it look or how strong we can look while doing it or how perfect, or how darling, or how flawless, or how fit we can be through it. What we need is for the focus to be put back on the birth of a breathing baby, flailing and kicking for love in a bright and noisy world.
We don’t need another hashtag or movement or book telling us how and why and what and when. We need the women AND the men in our circles to show us—show us how to make pregnancy, maternity, postpartum, and motherhood all about what it’s really all about and not the glittery sideshow that it’s become—not the fluff and the rattles and the ad-sponsored onesies.
Yeah—it’s all so precious. But it’s not the point. It never was the point.
PRAY WITH US.
BE WITH US.
Buy us the bigger shirt that fits.
Make us a drink to soothe the soul.
Send us a card to wish us well.
Sing us a song that says we are strong, and we are tough, and we are resilient, and we are fierce.
Surround us with the stories of your scars.
Your battle wounds.
That life-changing moment from which you’ve yet to bounce back from.
We are not supermodels; we are super heroes.
And we were never meant to bounce back from this, both the skin and the heart—we were meant to never be the same. We’ve made the space in our hearts to love our babies, more space then our bodies made to hold them. There is no bouncing back; there is only falling forward and filling all the new sizes and spaces that we have become for them and that we have become within.
And the skin will not snap back. And the organs will not fit their puzzled-piece selves back into their rightful places.
Everything, everything has been moved. You and I—we have been moved. Deeply, and irrevocably.