Courtesy of Kelley Gardiner

The One Reason Why I Love My Stretch Marks So Much

Ad failed to load

I love my stretch marks. People liken them to a badge of honor during pregnancy (and after) — a reminder of what their body was able to accomplish. For me, they’re the embodiment of a miracle. They're a warm memory of a physical connection to my 2 year old, a person who once relied on my body to sustain him, who’s now quickly becoming his own self all too quickly. I adore my stretch marks — no, that's not quite right. I love my stretch marks. They created life. And all throughout mine they'll serve as a physical reminder of the life I carried inside. The physical changes to my body have been overwhelming, but when I stop and think about what those lines signify, I can't help but feel sheer pride.

I am someone who’s never been as comfortable as I should with my body, especially if I've gained weight, but my pregnancy was something different. After years of being an amateur athlete (and joking about the need for lots of pictures of me being fit before getting pregnant), I wanted so badly to be pregnant. It had been the plan all along. I wanted a baby. And I was willing to take on the whole experience, lumps and marks and all.

Stretch marks didn't come until late in my pregnancy. At my baby shower, eight months in, a friend asked me if I'd gotten any yet. “Nope!” I crowed. I thought, somehow, that maybe I’d "escaped" them by clean living. Or maybe I’d lucked out in the stretch-mark department, I thought, since I wasn’t gaining a ton of weight at the end of my pregnancy because of strict dietary restrictions due to gestational diabetes. Lucky me, I thought.

Ad failed to load
Courtesy of Kelley Gardiner

Years earlier, puberty handed me stretch marks on my thighs, and I can't say that I'd ever been a fan. Overnight I went from just a plain old skinny kid to a skinny kid with thighs and boobs. In sixth grade there was a rumor that my ex-boyfriend (we held hands by the kickball field once during our torrid romance) had called me "Thunder Thighs." By seventh grade I was a kid who was maybe starting to get "chubby," and then, immediately after, I was a kid who restricted her eating a little too much to be healthy.

I’m real. My son is real. A walking, talking reminder of what my body could accomplish. My body did this, just like millions of others have done.
Ad failed to load

Fast forward 20 years later to my pregnancy and this time, the presence of stretch marks didn’t scare me. I wasn’t confused or unnerved by the sight of them, and I was willing to go through pretty much anything if it meant there was a reasonably healthy baby at the end. I mean, we agree to carrying the damn thing, eschewing cocktails for 10 months of our precious lives, and to giving birth. So stretch marks? I could deal with that.

Courtesy of Kelley Gardiner

My pregnancy was no walk in the park, either. I wasn't one of those women who "glows" and talks about how magical it was. I wasn't one of those women who's sick or in pain the entire time, either. Instead I just suffered from a lot of the common miseries and wanted to sleep approximately 20 hours a day. It could have been a lot worse, but when you’re sacked out on the floor with insomnia every night — on the floor because you can’t stay in the same position for more than 30 seconds without squirming or flipping over and you don’t want to subject your partner to that — you really start to feel like this isn’t the most fun you’ve ever had.

Ad failed to load
My stretch marks are evidence that as I've grown and changed, so has my body.

So yes, my stretch marks are proof of my strength, but more than that is the fact that they ground me. I’m real. My son is real. A walking, talking reminder of what my body could accomplish. My body did this, just like millions of others have done. And my child grounds me in that passage of time, too. The time of my life with happy hours followed by naps is over, as is the time defined by America’s Next Top Model marathons, eating a hunk of bread for dinner, and spending every other Saturday night waiting in a club at 2 a.m. for my husband to load drums out after a show. My stretch marks are evidence that as I've grown and changed, so has my body.

Ad failed to load

We joke, sometimes, when my kid pokes me in the stomach. "That's where you used to live," I tell him. But it's not just a stilly thing to say. He did live there. I kept him as safe as I could. He might hate to be reminded of it the older he gets, as we're still soundly stuck in the cuddling age, but I'll always still feel that physical connection to him. I made this kid. He lived in me. I fed him for the first months of his life.

Some people say that stretch marks are something to remove or hide. And you know what? I won't begrudge a single woman who feels that way. It's your choice, much like it is mine. If you want to spend money on creams and treatments to reduce redness caused by stretch marks, by all means, go ahead. But I made my peace in a different way. I love the reminder my son's birth has on my skin. There are all kinds of beauty in this world — and I'm reminded almost daily that strength and life are beautiful too.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

The Pressure To Worry About The Gap Between Kids Is So Bad For Moms

"Two under two is absolutely crazy," a friend recently told me upon hearing the news that I was expecting a second child. "Why would you do this to yourself? Seriously, why?" However harsh her words, she was only echoing the same feelings I'd been ba…
By Marie Southard Ospina

To Be Honest, I Couldn't Survive Motherhood Without My Job

The decision to work outside the home once you've become a parent can be a complicated one. Some people don't really have a choice, and go back to work because they're either a single parent or can't sustain their family on one income. Some choose to…
By Priscilla Blossom

I Feel Guilty That My Kid’s Dad Is A Better Parent Than Me, & That’s Bullsh*t

I was scared, and he was sure. I was clueless, and he was well-researched. I was making mistakes, and he was picking up the pieces. From the moment I found out I was pregnant until just last night, when I threw my hands up in the air and left the alw…
By Danielle Campoamor

These Millennial Parents Are Taking Gender-Neutral Parenting To An Entirely New Level

A woman on the subway looks at my bulbous shape and asks, “What are you having?” I take a deep breath and throw a glance to my 5-year-old. “I’m having a baby,” I say to the woman. “No, no” the woman says laughing as she pushes further. “Are you havin…
By Madison Young

I’m Registered At Babies “R” Us, & I'm Freaking The Hell Out

Hi. My name is Abi, and I’m registered at Babies “R” Us — and I’m freaking out. This may sound silly, but after being a die-hard Toys “R” Us kid, I was so excited to register at their baby store once my husband and I finally got our big fat positive …
By Abi Berwager Schreier

My Daughter Is Obsessed With Being "Pretty" & I'm Way Past Terrified

Last week, when I picked up my daughter after school, she immediately wanted to know if I liked her hair. "Is it pretty?" she asked. Her hair was pulled up into two ponytails that were intertwined into thick, long braids. A shimmering pink and purple…
By Dina Leygerman

7 Things No One Tells You About Having A Baby In Your 20s, But I Will

I was 24 when I found out I was pregnant with my daughter. The pregnancy was a surprise, since I was on birth control (side note: antibiotics and birth control don't mix), but my partner and I decided to continue with the pregnancy and committed to m…
By Candace Ganger

Women Who Miscarry Early Deserve To Grieve — Here's How Hospitals Should Be Helping

When I lost my baby back in 2013, it was because of a very early miscarriage. Because of the little amount of time I spent being pregnant, it was though my child had never really existed, which made the next few years hard — I felt like they had been…
By Risa Kerslake

7 Things I Wish My Partner Had Said To Me In The First Hour After Giving Birth

I don't know if it was the buzz of the surrounding machines, the non-existent cry of our son as the doctors tried to resuscitate him, or the fact that I'd already been through labor and delivery once before, but I knew something was missing after I h…
By Candace Ganger

Moms’ Groups Weren’t For Me, Sorry

I go to my moms’ club everyday of the week, but not usually on weekends. My moms' group is a place I can always count on finding fellow mothers who understand the daily struggles and triumphs of parenthood and of juggling life’s responsibilities. Dep…
By Samantha Taylor

Millennial Women Are Getting Married Later Than Gen X, & The Reasons Why Are Pretty Badass

The battle of the generations seems to come up when it comes to every lifestyle or career choice people make. Women, especially, are an important demographic when it comes to analysts looking at the lifestyle choices we make or the expected milestone…
By Josie Rhodes Cook

I've Had 3 Miscarriages But *Please* Keep Telling Me About Your Pregnancy

I can feel the tension the moment my friend announces her pregnancy. I can hear the forced nonchalant attitude she's willing herself to exude as she fishes for the ultrasound. I know why I was the last to learn that she was expecting; why she keeps l…
By Danielle Campoamor

7 Early Signs You're Going To Need An Epidural, According To Experts

Even if you've constructed an elaborate birth plan, it's impossible to control every aspect of labor and delivery. Complications can occur, proactive measures might be necessary, and your mind is subject to change when those damn contractions really …
By Candace Ganger

I'm Pregnant & I Refuse To Read Any Parenting Books

I didn't read any parenting books when I was expecting my daughter, and I refuse to read any parenting books as I await my second child now. I'm the first to admit that I don't really know what I'm doing when it comes to raising my daughter. A good d…
By Marie Southard Ospina

7 Reasons Why March Babies Are Total Badasses

From the moment you become pregnant, you begin to wonder what your little one will be like. Will they look like you, your partner, or your Great Aunt Edna? Will they be the quiet, thoughtful type or arrive on this planet raring to go? It's fun to ima…
By Caroline Shannon-Karasik

12 Overnight Face Masks To Use To Wake Up Feeling Pampered AF

Spring is right around the corner, and as far as I'm concerned, the sunshine and warm breezes can't come soon enough. But now that we're about to say goodbye to winter, it's a good time to take stock of your facial skincare routine. You know, in the …
By Katie Malczyk

11 Essential Products To Pack In Your Hospital Bag, According To OB-GYNs

The minute you go into labor (or think you're going into labor), chaos ensues. You and your partner are likely to get a little frantic, just like in the movies, so you most definitely want to have a hospital bag packed before the day comes. This prec…
By Abi Berwager Schreier

7 Photos You *Must* Take In The First 6 Months Of Motherhood

In my experience, becoming a mom is like becoming an amateur photographer. There's just something about the need to capture every single coo and sorta-smile that leaves you obsessed with all things photography. I know I couldn't stop taking selfies w…
By Candace Ganger

Here's How Early An Ultrasound Can Actually Determine Your Baby's Sex

From the moment you see those two lines on a pregnancy test, there are a few markers along the way that stand out as especially exciting. Amongst them are hearing your baby's heartbeat and feeling that first, sweet little kick. And if you are finding…
By Caroline Shannon-Karasik

9 Easy Kid Foods To Turn Green, Just In Time For St. Patrick's Day

The best part about having kids is that you get your own personal crew to celebrate the holidays with, in all your color coordinating and matching glory. And with St. Patrick’s Day right around the corner, you are obviously working on turning everyth…
By Mishal Ali Zafar