By HEATHER HOPSON
When Beyonce’s bootylicous body bounced back four months after giving birth to Blue Ivy, many moms around the world sucked in their stomachs and pushed up their breasts. Although some of my mommy friends cheered on Bey’s rapid weight loss, several admitted that the superstar’s postpartum success added extra pressure to shed their extra pounds.
My friends and I played the numbers game and revealed how our weight fluctuated from pre- to post-pregnancy. We prayed that our magic numbers would once again flash on our scales and we shared ancient secrets to weight loss. One woman took a water aerobics class and substituted salads for…well, almost everything. Another strapped on her baby and hit the pavement, speed walking through her neighborhood. I told the group how breastfeeding was my new Slim Fast. It was easier than going to the gym, and I never sweated out my hair or spent money on a membership like I did in my before-baby days. But you can’t nurse forever. I did it for ten months—but had no plans of appearing of the cover of Time Magazine feeding a talking toddler.
Then, I interrupted our pity party. I told my friends not to try competing with a woman who has a team whose full-time job is to make her look good. (If we had hair stylists, nail technicians, makeup artists, wardrobe assistants, nutritionists, and trainers, we would look like Miss Universe in the carpool lane and at the baby gym!) Instead of comparing ourselves to a fantasy, we should stretch our definitions of beauty (to include bigger bellies and even stretch marks!). I told them how I’m more comfortable in my skin today than I was 15 years ago frolicking in a bikini on the beaches of Montego Bay during Spring Break.
Often, I bare my soul to my friends. That day, I decided to take it a step further—I bared my belly. I lifted up my shirt and showed them my stretch marks. When I was pregnant, I managed to go nine months without a mark. I gained 35 pounds total, mostly during the third trimester. Like my mother when she carried me, you couldn’t tell I was pregnant until I was six months in. My stomach was stretch mark free, thanks to a bedtime ritual of slathering on belly butter rich in Vitamin E. On the day my daughter was due, my stomach was still smooth as a baby’s bottom. But Baby C decided not to make her grand entrance into the world when she was supposed to. Two weeks went by…no contractions. But I did feel something squiggly on my stomach.
I ran to a mirror. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Say it’s not so! I said to myself as I stared into the mirror, mad. Yes, stretch marks.
Then I willed myself to look beyond the stretch marks on my stomach and to realize that the baby inside my belly was well worth a few flaws. I reminded myself that no one had seen my stomach, other than Baby’s C’s father, in over ten years. It had been that long since I did Montego Bay with my sorority sisters. (Oh, the memories!)
As I thought some more about my new body, I had a beautiful revelation: I was more comfortable in my skin 50 pounds heavier and pregnant than I was sipping pina coladas and flirting with brown boys. While I didn’t suffer from low self-esteem in my twenties, I do recall spending more than an hour getting ready to go out—hey, our looks got us into the VIP sections at the clubs and countless other freebies.
More than a decade later, I was in love with my body, stretch marks and all. I felt grown up for the first time in my life. I was responsible for another human being! My pregnancy connected me to my grandmothers, my mom, my sister, my aunts, and my cousins. It inducted me into their secret society of motherhood—a place where you can get into the VIP without being a size six!
In a sense, stretch marks stretched my definition of beauty. Now, don’t get me wrong—I would rather have my smooth stomach and, while we’re at it, a six-pack would be nice. I’m just not ashamed to let my stretch marks show.
So let’s turn a negative into a positive. Embrace your body and redefine what you think is beautiful from the inside out. Count your blessings, not your burdens. How many metaphors (or similes, if that’s more your thing) can you create about your stretch marks? Here are a few to get your mind moving and your confidence increasing:
Stretch Marks are…Love Marks.
Stretch Marks are…Battle Scars.
Stretch Marks are…Mom Tattoos.
Stretch Marks are…Silent Reminders of My Miracle.
Not long ago, Heather Hopson was an award-winning television host in the Cayman Islands. Today, she’s writing a different kind of story as a new mom at www.diaryofafirsttimemom.com and www.facebook.com/diaryofafirsttimemom.com
1. The Fatkini and Gabi Fresh: On Having A Real Belly and Being Real Fly
2. Beyonce’s Post Baby Body is Round and Curvy —Just like We Husbands Like Them
3. Photos Of Mariah Carey’s New Post-Baby Body! Let’s All Feel Craptastic We STILL Have Our Baby Weight!
4. The #Flawless12 Project (Day 1): Learning To Love What I Look Like In the Morning
Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.