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The Secret Truth About Postpartum Stretch Marks

Pregnancy Postpartum Stretch Marks
We can’t all look like Ashley Graham, but we can take a leaf from her book by reconsidering societal perspectives on postpartum stretch marks.

Why Do Women Get Postpartum Stretch Marks?

Postpartum stretch marks (Striae Gravidarum), also commonly known as pregnancy stretch marks, are mottled looking marbled stripe marks that appear on the dermis layer of the skin during pregnancy. The areas affected are usually those subject to rapid growth during a woman’s pregnancy (stomach, hips, thighs, breasts and buttocks).

Approximately 80% of pregnant women will experience stretch marks on some area of their body during the gestation period, though severity and colour can differ greatly.

The Secret Truth About Postpartum Stretch Marks

    Why Do We Buy Into Societal Pressure To Be Perfect?

    Let’s bypass the what is perfect anyway conversation because we all know the script by now. That being said though, it still remains that there are literally thousands of blog and social media posts out there right now talking about which products and techniques you should use in order to prevent or reverse pregnancy related stretch marks. But then, radio silence…

    We found it so strange that there were so few people talking about embracing and accepting those marks on your body as being well earned marks of strength, power and achievement. We couldn’t help but think, that much in the same way as a soldier proudly displays their medals of honour, why shouldn’t women be proud of the markings that they have attained through their journey across the threshold into motherhood?

    Seriously though, so many women are waiting their whole lives to meet the right guy and have a baby, but then as soon as they do, they are filled with dread at the sight of their changing body and spend hours online and hundreds (if not thousands) on trying to find the perfect magic potion or process to remove all trace of physically experiencing pregnancy.

    Don’t misunderstand us, we know that being young and flawless is lovely. We all do, because we all are at one time or another. But honestly, for those of us beyond that period of our lives; if we all think back to those pretty young things that we once were, can we really say that we would trade it all in to go back to who that person was? I honestly doubt that any woman would. I certainly wouldn’t. I am so much stronger, more confident, braver and wiser than I was back then.

    So then why do we try to fool ourselves into believing that we do want what we have grown out of? Why are we so quick to condemn ourselves (and each other) when it comes to the physical changes that we can see in our bodies, particularly during pregnancy?

    Why do we allow even one second of our lives to be wasted on negative self-thought after going through a period of such intense personal growth and development as we do when we become mothers, especially for the first time?

    Pregnancy, Postpartum Stretch Marks, And Playing The Shame Game

    Pretty much from the moment that we are pregnant the shame game begins. It may start subtly, with those who boast about not feeling sick at all and keeping up their exercise regime; to those who condemn any women who exercise sighting risks to the baby as a reason to cease all strenuous activity.

    The divisive issues just keep coming ranging from the development of pregnancy stretch marks to judgemental comments about a woman’s choice to have an elective caesarean section. And that’s all before the baby is even born. Don’t get started on breastfeeding, to use a dummy or not, to co-sleep or not, what formula, bottles or buggy you use. There seems to be a never-ending supply of issues to sling mud at each other over, and nothing’s off limits. Not even postpartum recovery or post-pregnancy body image.

    It is so ironic that having a curvier or less ‘perfect’ body due to stretch marks or a C-section scar makes us feel less sexy or beautiful, but it isn’t the men that are body shaming us and making us feel less attractive. It’s us.  Women are literally vicious beasts unleashed on each other, like in some ancient games-day spectacle at the Colosseum, that know no better than to eat or be eaten.  

    The horrible truth is that other women are out for blood when someone posts a pic of the truth of the post-pregnancy body.

    But the truth is that for someone to be able to label you as bringing something, especially something negative (fat, disgusting, a mess – just to name a few) it is actually transactional. This means that you also have to accept that label in order for it to become true to you and for it to have the intended impact on you (i.e. to make you feel like shit). But let’s face it, for this to be possible, you have to lie down and accept it wholeheartedly and give over your power to someone else without a single word of defence or protest.

    So don’t do it. As they say, hurt people, hurt people. So…make a choice to be part of the solution and stop the cycle.

    When you see a brave woman exposing her post-pregnancy body, or any other area of her life that might be hard for her to share, applaud her bravery. And if you see something that you don’t like, that’s ok too. You can stop following people and tags with the click of a button, or mute them or whatever else you have to do to remove them from your feed, but don’t cut them down with a cowardly attack on their DMs. That behaviour is toxic and it is an attack against all women, not just the one you are passing judgement on.

    Postpartum Stretch Marks, Who Are We Trying To Be Perfect For?

    Don’t confuse this point, but have we ever taken a step back and considered for a moment why we actually care SO MUCH about the evolution that takes place from pre to postpartum? Interestingly, it seems that we are trying to have our cake and eat it too. Think about the archetypes that we are trying to embody here and you will see how perverse it is that we are giving in to this philosophy.

    While it is nice to be young and beautiful, it is also a phase. As the bud blossoms into a flower, so do its petals fall away and the cycle begins again. A fact which we all know and have always done for millennia. So why then, are women so confused about their place in this process now? How have we decided to disregard the process of becoming older and, more significantly, wiser?

    I fear that this speaks to a greater societal assumption that old is bad, slow, dumb, out of touch, passé and generally not desirable. However, has anyone actually sat down and had an impassioned conversation with a woman over 50? Or even better a woman in her 70s or 80s? I do it on a weekly basis. Everywhere I go I see older women and strike up a conversation with them at every opportunity. They are downright fascinating and most of them have undertaken incredible feats of endurance, strength and stoicism – all while having children in a time when disposable nappies and Pepa Pig weren’t even thought of yet!

    As the archetypes of human existence as defined by Carl Jung would indicate, is it even possible to be a nurturing figure as well as a siren? According to the 12 Archetypes we start out in life as The Innocent and then morph over time into roles such as the Caregiver, the Hero, the Sage and the Ruler. So that being said, I ask… can an innocent be a Hero? And I believe that answer to be no, they cannot. Not at the same time at least, and it is this precise evolution from one to the other over the passing chapters of our lives that creates just that, a life. Not a stagnant creature that remains the same, but an ever changing creature that grows and develops with time.

    It’s Time That We Change The Narrative Around Postpartum Stretch Marks and Female Body Image

    One of the trail blazers in this area is Ashley Graham. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise considering the amazing work she has done for inclusivity with her Pretty Big Deal Podcast which is also available to view as video on YouTube at Ashley’s Channel and a resume of gracing covers and catwalks usually exclusively reserved for the size zero crowd.

    Bucking the traditional trend for a supermodel Ashley proudly flaunted her postpartum body with pride when she undertook a swimsuit photoshoot that clearly displayed the stretch marks she developed during her recent pregnancy with her first child.

    Read more about Ashley’s postpartum journey here.

    Happily, the thinking is catching on as more and more insta-mums are taking the lead and posting pics of themselves in all their post-partum glory. Usually met with praise and words of thanks from other mums out there who have been struggling with their own pregnancy and post-partum evolution, the sad reality is that there are still an abundance of trolls who will send these women hate mail in the DMs, shying away from the publicity of reprisal that they would surely be served in the comments section.

    Loving this article, get more posts from Jessie LV on Femspiration here.

    Long Story Short: Why You Should Love Your Postpartum Body, Stretch Marks And All…

    Because you earned it damn it! For every gram your baby gained straining you already over-stretched tummy, for every day you got up and went about your life no matter how sh*t you felt, for every contraction you endured… You earned your place in the Mother’s Club. Postpartum stretch marks and all.

    No matter if you found pregnancy easy-peasy or more like some medieval form of torture, we all have days that we would rather stay in bed and not bother, and we all have days that we think OMG get this baby out already or I’ll scream!

    That’s why you should be proud of your evolution into a mother. You have changed inside and out. Emotionally, intellectually, and physically. Don’t run from who you are. Embrace her and love her. She earned it.

    Postpartum Femsipration

    So instead of trying to recommend a range of prevention products or miracle cures for those of us who did get postpartum stretch marks, why don’t we instead highlight to you a few of the amazing mamas out there who are embracing their changing bodies and revering their journey to inspire us all. Afterall, this blog is all about that femspiration.

    Meet Michelle Paris Mitchell. She is a RN1 (Nurse, Mum, Postpartum Doula and currently a student lactation consultant.

    Over the time of her journey into motherhood, she has posted lots of uplifting and normalising content that highlights the normality and beauty of becoming a mother (a blessing as we all know) and thus the changes to our bodies that takes place throughout that process.

    Meet Sarah Nicole Landry. She is a Canadian digital creator, Mom of 4, Writer, Speaker and Podcast Host.

    Under her Instagram account, thebirdspapaya she has posted content celebrating and beautifying the evolution of her body through the journey of pregnancy to postpartum.

    Meet Rini Frey. She is a digital creator, sharing the good, the bad, the taw and the in-between of life and motherhood.

    Under her Instagram account, ownitbabe shares intimate images of her family life and postpartum body with encouraging captions which challenge norms of what is seen as acceptable for a mum.

    Postpartum Stretch Marks Are Normal and You Should Love Them

    As I write this, I am typing with one hand because I am feeding my three-week-old son with the other. I have him in my arms or on my lap almost all day every day and I sleep with him every night.  It took me until my third child to realise that I am proud to be who I am, how I am, and what I am. And the truth is, I am proud to bear the marks of my journey on my skin.

    I leave you in this post with a beautiful poem by the amazingly talented Jessica Urlichs called Mama, You’re Beautiful:

    Mama, You're Beautiful 
    I see you Mama, and something about you has changed.
    I don't think I've ever seen you more beautiful.
    You may have forgotten this amongst the throes of motherhood and find it hard to see it through the blur of these early days, but I see you.
    Your hair may not be blow-waved like it used to be, but now it’s a crown above your head, messy and perfectly imperfect.
    Your hands seem different, they may not be as manicured, but they're warm and comforting. They’re stronger, as they hold the world and the touch of those fingertips are someones world.
    Yes your heart aches, but it's never stretched and been so swollen before with love, so of course it will ache sometimes.
    You've always carried yourself well, but now you seem more womanly, stronger, yet beautifully vulnerable.
    Your eyes are begging to see some darkness for more than a couple of hours at a time, I know you’re tired, but they still shine.
    Your body may feel different, but under those baggy clothes is the greatest gift to you and to what you've created. It nurtures, it bends and breaks, it's resilient, it's exceptional.
    You may be feeling lonely at times, or tired of being at home, but you truly look beautiful here, like all of a sudden home has a new meaning.
    You, are someone’s home.
    Your smile has changed, it's now one that knows things, secrets of contentment. There’s not as much energy behind it right now, but it’s never been so pure.
    The way you sit there, holding your baby like it's an extension of yourself, a natural, I've never seen anything so perfect.
    I'm so proud of you and how amazing you are.
    Mama, you're beautiful.

    Remember, to tell yourself – I have postpartum pregnancy stretch marks. And that’s OK.

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    Jessie LV

    Jessie LV is a professional writer in a wide array of genres including content writing, professional writing and creative writing. She foundered Donc Voilà Quoi while living in Tours, France in 2015 when she fell in love with the phrase. When she isn't writing you'll find her out and about in nature, watching whodunit's or cooking up a storm. For writing inquiries please email on doncvoilaquoi@gmail.com.

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