If there’s one thing we know for sure, it’s that pregnancy is very different for everyone. Our bodies go through a lot, and while they’re all mostly experiencing the same stretching and growing, we will all have different reactions to it.
For many of us, the most obvious physical indicator (besides our protruding bellies) of everything our bodies go through is stretch marks. Stretch marks are a perfectly normal thing to have just about anywhere on your body, and they don’t only occur during pregnancy, but they definitely seem to become more visible/prevalent during the pregnancy and postpartum periods.
Some people get a ton, and some people don’t get many (or any). But whatever the case, we need to stop acting like stretch marks aren’t a normal part of pregnancy. If you didn’t get them, good for you, but that doesn’t make you any better or luckier than someone who did.
Personally, I didn’t get stretch marks on my belly, but I got them all over my hips. It never occurred to me that I might be considered “lucky” for not getting them on my belly. And I certainly wouldn’t go out of my way to talk about the fact that I didn’t get any.
Of course, if someone asks me, I’ll tell the truth. But if one of my friends is talking about how her belly is covered in stretch marks from pregnancy, I would never talk over her about how “lucky” I am that I didn’t get any. That seems rude and entirely unnecessary.
We have to stop acting as if stretch marks are an affliction. They’re entirely normal, very common, and yes, some of us may be more genetically predisposed to them than others.
It’s baffling how many creams and potions are sold as a miracle cure to prevent stretch marks. Supposedly, if you slather these creams and oils all over your belly, then like magic, the stretch marks will change course and decide not to show up. Or will disappear over time. But while they may improve skin elasticity enough to potentially reduce the look of stretch marks, if those little fuckers wanna come, they’re coming. There’s no magic potion or treatment to prevent or remove them.
If you believe you’re “lucky” for not getting stretch marks, that means you believe people who do get them are “unlucky.” This is where things get especially harmful. Not having stretch marks, or having few, has nothing to do with luck.
Stretch marks are a biological norm. They’re a very normal part of, you know, having a body with skin on it. Because there are a lot of things that could cause stretch marks; that’s the wild thing about bodies. I have stretch marks on my knees from growing as a kid. They’ve just become a part of my body.
What about pregnancy and motherhood makes people think they can just say whatever they want? If you saw a stranger in public doing something like scratching their head, would you just start talking about how you never have an itchy scalp? I hope not. So why is it that if a woman talks about how she got stretch marks during her pregnancy (or postpartum), suddenly you have to chime in with how you didn’t? It’s possible to just listen sometimes, and use discretion and tact.
Why are we always so quick to invalidate another woman’s experience simply because we didn’t have the exact same experience? You didn’t get stretch marks? Good for you. Do you want a fucking parade? A medal? A cookie? Obviously, you want someone to congratulate you.
Women who talk about their stretch marks in public forums are trying to normalize them. Because somehow, even though they’re quite common, the narrative has been written that they are something you need to actively try to avoid. Or should feel ashamed of. But that’s the thing: they are unavoidable. So women talking about their experiences with stretch marks, good and bad, help us to shift our beliefs about the realities of pregnancy.
Somehow we’re still being sold this idea that pregnancy only makes our bellies bigger. And then when things like hemorrhoids and varicose veins and yes, stretch marks, happen, we’re confused. “Why didn’t anyone tell me?” women will moan to their mothers or friends. Well, someone may have tried, but then a dozen women jumped in to say, “Excuse me, I didn’t have any stretch marks!”
Thank you for your input, ladies, but that’s not how to make women understand that these things are 100% normal and okay.
Yes, it is true that not everyone gets stretch marks when they’re pregnant. But ultimately, that is not the point. By loudly proclaiming that you didn’t get said stretch marks, you are upholding the narrative of a smooth belly being the standard by which we should all judge ourselves.
Women who openly share that they have stretch marks are just as normal as those who don’t have them. But unsurprisingly, only one side is thought to be more desireable. And it’s important to make women understand that both experiences are totally normal.
Women are warriors no matter what. But the women who get stretch marks — their “tiger stripes” if you will — are super warriors. Because they have gone through the battle, and now they have to deal with a society that calls their stretch marks “ugly” and “unsightly” even though they’re totally beautiful and tell a story of strength.
So next time you feel the need to counter a woman’s claim of stretch marks with “Lucky me! I didn’t get any!,” stop. Let her have the space to share her truth. Because someone else out there needs to hear it.