Being Stretched over Stretch Marks
“Don’t cover up my stretch marks,” the pregnant lady told me, “I’ve earned every one of them.”
In a world of Photoshopped perfection I haven’t had that many people ask me not to touch up their images. Usually it is relief to the high school students that I am better at getting rid of pimples in the post processing of their senior portraits than Proactive is on their actual face.
I don’t have any issue using software to smooth out some wrinkles or soften away some pores. I can add a touch of color to the lips and even make someone’s teeth a Pepsident white again. Of course this usually has to do with the purpose of the photos – if the image is being used to help promote an idea or a person than of course you want the image to be as spot on as it can be, just without any spots.
Other people use photography to come to terms with how things really are. They don’t want special effects; they are trying to deal with their reality.
A friend of mine recently had her second baby. She has had six months to see how her body would respond to having her belly swelled to the size of a prize winning watermelon at the county fair. She hasn’t been too pleased with the results. She faithfully started working out and losing the baby weight, but it didn’t melt off as easy as it had made its way on. That and the fact that she has some stretch marks that appear to be here for the long run and some saggy skin under her belly button the like of which will probably not be featured on the cover of Shape magazine.
Instead of staying discouraged she decided to invite others into her challenge- she started a blog. I was so impressed with her vulnerability and told her so. In response she wrote me this:
“I actually had the thought it might be kinda cool to do a few pictures with the stretch marks and imperfections, but have my kids in the pictures with me. Then every time I see those pictures and the stretch marks, I would be reminded of the blessings that I have because of my scars.”
This week we took those pictures.
In my estimation, but more importantly in her and her husband’s, the stretch marks are a sacrifice worthy of the joy she has born. Twice.
In preparing for the photo shoot I discovered that this is a pretty common struggle for moms. While some just choose to stop wearing bikinis and other belly-baring outfits, some have pretty fearlessly put their abs on the line, or should I say, online. A website called The Shape of a Mother is a safe place for women to go and discuss their post-pregnancy bodies. Many of them post pictures too.
If you beat yourself up about your scarred belly, sagging breasts, cesarean scars or other changes you have experienced since pregnancy this might be a good resource for you. Please note that women are sharing naked pictures of themselves on this site, not as exploitive, but as a means of connecting together. Still the site is Not Safe For Work (well, not safe for most workplaces, as for mine I found it while I was working and I’m not going to fire myself for it).
We are getting ready to celebrate Mother’s Day. I hope that my friend’s journey, her pictures and her vulnerability, helps some of you mom’s out there struggling with your body image to honor and celebrate the stretching you have gone through in birthing all of humanity.
Saying thank you is not a stretch for us. Moms are beautiful!