After the birth of my third (and largest) baby, I was left with stretchmarks for the first time. My body was changed in a way I had never known before. I traced the deep purple lightning-bolt scars with my fingers, surprised at how soft the skin was where my body had reached its limit and still kept growing. I wanted to love my stretchmarks, to be one of those women who wore the scars of pregnancy proudly, but that was more easily said than done.
I didn’t love the way I looked in a bikini anymore. I didn’t have the same confidence in my body, because it wasn’t the body I had known so well all these years. It was new, difficult, and it took a while to feel comfortable again. The stretchmarks faded from a dark purple to a pinkish hue, and the skin surrounding them tightened back to something more familiar after a few months had passed. It was a new normal. I made peace with my stretchmarks. Then they disappeared completely.
What once seemed so hard to accept was suddenly gone, and the surprising truth was that I missed my stretchmarks. I lost a physical reminder of my pregnancies, and I didn’t realize how precious that was until it was gone.
I knew they would fade and maybe someday be gone altogether, but it happened so quickly that I wasn’t ready to let go. Even if the stretchmarks still made me feel a little out of my element, they signified a time in my life that I would never experience again. A time that went by too fast.
My sadness was about more than the physical loss of my stretchmarks; it was about losing so much to these early years of motherhood — those years which are too long and difficult, and too short and sweet all at once. It was all going by too fast. My last baby was outgrowing his infancy; my first was already moving on to kindergarten.
While I was struggling to figure out how to find confidence and make peace with motherhood, they kept growing. I realized that before I knew it, they too would be gone.
There is nothing to do to stop it, no way to slow down the thing that is already in motion. The evolution of childhood happens at an alarming rate. It does not matter if the days are blissful or if they leave you battered; they grow up all the same.
Even as I lean into motherhood, buried by sticky hands and too many voices calling my name, it is still slipping through my fingers. I know that when it is over, it will all feel too sudden.
It’s hard to love when you’re in the thick of it. It’s easy to miss when it’s gone.
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