Recently I’ve been going to aerial yoga class. One of the coolest thing you can do as a beginner is to hang upside down. It is not easy but it’s fun. The studio isn’t hot, I barely sweat but get a super good stretch and I can go back to work straight after without a shower.
On my third visit, a lady’s shirt fell towards her chest when she hung upside down, baring a slender waist that was embellished with tattoos on both sides. They were beautiful and I thought the inverted yoga pose was the most beautiful way to showcase those tattoos. Twenty minutes in, as I hung myself upside down, I became conscious of what my shirt might be exposing. I had not thought about this before, but this time I remembered the kind of “tattoos” I recently acquired: my stretch marks.
Shame hit me like a train I never saw coming. Out of nowhere I imagined the instructor and the other yogis thinking to themselves, “Oh that lady has stretch marks! She has had a baby!” Which, if they really thought that, would be a factual and innocent remark but somehow I felt flawed and broken, a piece of damaged goods.
Excuse my language but: What the hell?!
In the ten months I’ve been pregnant and the few months I’ve been a mom, I’ve never for a moment felt shame about my stretch marks but perhaps it’s been lurking in the background all along. Like when I felt a bit concerned over how red the marks looked. When I skipped over the “How to prevent stretch marks” articles. And when a friend suggested I “Moisturize a lot if you still want to wear a bikini later!” They all pointed to the assumption that stretch marks are not good to have. Shame has been there all this time. I thought I ignored it and it doesn’t bother me, but in the end I was not immune to it.
At the end of my yoga session, I even questioned myself, “Am I really OK with stretch marks or was I just too lazy to bother with preventing them?”
I was not lazy. It was a choice. It was a choice to spend my time and energy on things other than stretch mark prevention. It was a choice to not buy into seeing stretch marks as ugly or something that needs to be prevented or fixed. That is not to say there is anything wrong with trying to prevent them, that is somebody else’s choice and that could be my choice with my next pregnancy. Stretch marks are not a sign of damage or laziness, nor must they be seen as a badge of maternal honor. It would, however, be to our benefit if we can learn to tell a loving story about the various scars and lines that life bestows on us, because there are no creams in the world that can stop them from happening.