The first few months of my pregnancy were filled with deep thoughts about how to be the healthiest version of myself as possible. I ingested prenatal vitamins with a fantastic fervor and diligently added extra doses of folic acid and dhea. I watched what I ate and watched my hair turn white as I piously avoided the siren call of tawny auburn hair dye. I cut out the fully loaded giant mug of coffee and walked briskly past the wine aisle at my local grocery store. If a magazine article or cable television show endorsed a product for a pregnant woman I was all about checking it out.
I was maybe in my 8th week of pregnancy when I became caught up in the quest to avoid stretch marks. Every prenatal magazine in the OB’s office and every other commercial on women’s health television shows featured multiple images of pregnant women with flawlessly smooth and beautifully perfect bellies. Not a stretch mark could be found.
I purchased several different tubes and jars of goop and rubbed my ample gut morning, noon, and night in the hopes that the pink lines would fade away and no more would emerge. I researched on line with the all encompassing, “how to prevent stretch marks” google search and found several suggestions to help keep the marks at bay: don’t gain more than 25 pounds, wash the area that you wish to avoid stretch marks vigorously with a body brush, drink buckets of water, take your vitamins…
The weight gain was an oddly easy thing to check off my list- for some odd reason I was losing weight (perhaps a perk of starting out bloated from fertility treatments?) Gold star for that. I scrubbed my gut and thighs thoroughly to increase circulation- another gold star. I drank giant vats of water all day- couldn’t get enough of the stuff and, as I already bragged, I was all about my vitamins. Surely I would make it to the end of my pregnancy with a picture perfect and photo ready belly.
And then the due date message board that I frequented started filling up with threads looking to share “belly shots”. I clicked through image after image of thin women with round and taut and immaculate bellies. I lifted up my already plus sized shirt and grimaced at the faint beginnings of something that I would soon become fascinated/horrified over. Stretch marks- they had found me.
And if I said that I instantly embraced them, well, clearly you know I would be lying. I had struggled for so many years to achieve a healthy and viable pregnancy that I found myself almost expecting the experience to be the complete opposite of the emotional agony of infertility. I felt, oh hell, I will admit it, entitled. I wanted perfect skin, I wanted to glow, I wanted strangers to coo and fuss over me. Instead I managed to make it almost to my due date before people started noticing I was pregnant and not just packing on the holiday pounds.
Of course I knew the stretch marks would find me. But I had hopes. Sadly like my wide hips and alabaster complexion I knew that I would end up with the same pregnancy body tattoos that all the women in my family had. By the time I was starting my 3rd trimester most of my hips and stomach were covered in rips and ripples of varying shades of pink stretch marks.
I continued to pine over the smooth and rippleless pregnant bellies that mocked me everywhere. But at some point, I can’t even remember when, I began to stop caring. There was this sort of mental shift that’s sole purpose was to act as a vacuum cleaner sucking up the foolish bits of anxiety that I had been carrying around. I stopped apologizing to the nurses and doctors that examined my stomach during my prenatal care. I stopped gooping my gut with creams and lotions and started caressing my expanding growth with love and anticipation.
The stretch marks are now a tactile link between not only my son and me, but also a genetic connection with my Mother and Grandmother. With so many other anxieties that found their way into my mind during pregnancy I hate that I wasted so much energy on the vanity of stretch marks. I wish I had just accepted that they were inevitable from the get go and gone on about my business. And by business I mean lusting after soft cheeses and Belgium beer.
The fantastic thing is that 23andMe is all about researching many of the not so fun accessories of pregnancy. Sure we are told by books and magazines and even our own Mother’s that stretch marks will happen, but 23andMe is about the science of it all.