Saturday, May 22, 2010

Stretch Marks Are Cool

I was recently talking with a fabulous young woman (okay, she's 21 or something. That's young to me!) and her fiance about their upcoming marriage. We talked about all kinds of things, and somehow, the conversation turned to body image --mostly having to do with how the woman's body changes after giving birth.

I told her about women I know who have been mortified that their bodies actually changed after giving birth. In their eyes it has changed for the worse. Stretch marks, sagging breasts, wider hips, flatter bottom, etc. etc. etc. Do these things happen to women's bodies by carrying and birthing children? Absolutely. But what made me slightly annoyed was not in the fact that these women knew their bodies would change, it was that they were mortified about it.

I told my young friends that when we choose something as monumental as giving birth, we need to expect changes. I mean, hello! There is a human body growing inside of you! It's not meant to be non-invasive. It is sincerely invasive.

Our society has a bazillion things meant to aid these mothers in reclaiming their former bodies. Creams, tummy tucks, breast lifts, fad diets, etc. The obsession is commonplace. It's expected. Women moan about stretch marks. We laugh about "going south."

After having five kids (if you didn't already know it), my body is kind of a wreck. I have all of the above symptoms, but I have something even weirder: because of my short, short torso (I have really long legs) and my seemingly ability to produce very large babies, my ribs have been permanently deformed. They have been stretch outward. It's kind of weird. But the doctor said it's impossible to fix. I will always have a funny-shaped rib cage.

I told this young couple that having children is supposed to change our bodies. Nursing our babies also changes our bodies. The myths:
1. Nursing makes you lose weight faster
2. Nursing doesn't make your breasts sag
1. Nursing helps your uterus constrict faster, but doesn't do anything for belly fat. In fact, I (and many other women) hold onto 5-15 pounds of weight until I am done nursing.
2. Nursing makes your breasts constantly change size. Full of milk, no milk. Full of milk, no milk. This happens several times a day for however long you nurse! Of COURSE it's going to change them!

But here's the cool part: Who Cares!?!?

Giving birth is not meant to be some kind of fad or fashion. It's the act of giving life. A new life. I'd be a liar if I didn't say that I'm somewhat proud of the war wounds I've accumulated in my effort to bring 5 healthy children into this world. However, do I sometimes mourn my former body? Yes. But not for long. Because going there just brings despair (dude! I like that little ditty. I may patent it).

The last (and most important part, I believe) thing I told this young couple was that one day, he will be out of shape. He might even gain weight. She will have all the marks of childbirth, and she'll get wrinkles and grey hair. He will also get old. They will grow old together and the beautiful part? They will still love each other. They will still love each other's bodies. Brandon and I have been through so much physically over the last 11 1/2 years --and it hasn't changed our love for each other. If anything, it has solidified it. We are more than our bodies.

Go read this post and watch the video. It's a great reminder of what we are supposed to be obsessing about. In a very healthy non-obsessive way. :)


Anne Marie said...

LOVE this post, Cheryl! I have found myself sometimes getting envious when I see teenagers wearing what must be size 2 jeans, and I think..."oh, I have a total mom belly now". But, I have to remind myself that like you said, "who cares?". It's worth it. I had twins 5 years ago, and I can assure you that my tummy sags in a very sad way, but I would do it again in a heartbeat. So, here's to the imperfections and beauties of our bodies! And, here's to the great hubbies who love us for our whole selves.

Mackenzie said...

I agree with the "it's totally worth it." I can't quite bring myself to agree with the "who cares." But it's true, having a child will inevitably change our bodies. However, understanding that fact, and even being able to verbalize it, does not automatically make it easy to deal with the reality of it. I do agree that we are "more than our bodies," but in this world, it's a struggle to keep that perspective all of the time.

Cardalls said...

Amen and Amen! As long as I am focusing on being healthy through food and exercise who cares that I will never wear under a size 10 again(and I would be THRILLED with a 10 or even a 12 at this point!). I am proud of you for having this conversation with a cute young thang...maybe it will help her with perspective later on when she sags!

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

Great post. It makes me sad that there is so much body obsession, even among LDS moms. News Flash (speaking to some anonymous public): God does NOT care about the shape of your breasts or size of your anything. If you're keeping your spirit healthy, He's happy.

Michelle said...

Thought I left a comment last nite.

I love this post. LOVE it.

I know not every woman can just not not worry about body image (I've had that real illness before, and it's impossible to just snap out of), but it sure helps to have truth to deal with, and you have hit on some great truth here.

Let's hear it for stretch marks (and all that other stuff).