I started earning my “tiger stripes” around 11 weeks, when I was still down a pound from my pre-pregnancy weight. Tiny pink lines started playing peekaboo just below my belly button (back when I could still see my belly button), but then those lines grew and branched out until the whole front portion of my stomach was covered in wide, bright pink stripes.
I stopped putting creams and oils on them sometime in my second trimester and just let them grow wild. My husband told me over and over again that he didn’t mind them and even found my new body sexy. As for me, I loved what they represented and felt beautiful in my own new skin. I loved pregnancy. Of course I had bad and sick days, but for the most part? I absolutely loved it. I felt beautiful; I felt like being pregnant and keeping my child safe while she grew is what I was created for.
During those nine months, one of the things that helped me cope with my stretch marks was coming across a particular quote (the quote’s in the photo below). When I read it for the first time I felt more than okay about what my lines represented. It made me cry then and to be honest, it still makes me cry. The first time I came across that picture and quote was the moment I realized how much I needed a picture of my belly, stretch marks and all.
I’m not one for showing skin, especially in photos and especially when I felt as big as a whale, but I felt like I needed a picture of my marks in all their glory. So during our maternity session I had the photographer take a picture of the bump. Unbuttoning my shirt left me completely nervous and vulnerable of my body. But now, two months after giving birth, I really wish I took more bare belly shots, not only that, but I wish I didn’t ask her to crop out my head. I wish I owned up to my body and was proud enough to show it off then instead of hiding behind a crop.
Two days before my scheduled induction I read this wonderful article while hot tears ran down my cheeks. Since my belly was stretched to its max, I could only imagine the squishy feeling and the future she described; I vividly imagined having that same conversation with my daughter as she pretended to put on makeup beside me. Now that my stomach has deflated and I’m left with permanent zig-zagging lines across my tummy, I’m clinging to her words, realizing what my new body truly represents. I pray, that no matter frustrating it is for me to get used to my new post-pregnancy look, that I’ll be able to embrace how it and share how I got my tiger stripes with my daughter some day.
I’ll always treasure this photo and I hope my daughter will realize that not everyone looks the way they do in magazines or on film and that she’ll know I’m as real as it gets; I hope she’ll love me just as I am—ugly lines, squishy belly, and everything else that comes with age and my new postpartum look. These are the lines of our story and there’s nothing to be ashamed of.