If you’re a woman, chances are you know exactly what I’m talking about, since statics show that at least 80% (although some say it's as high as 98%) of women feel dissatisfied with the way they look.
Isn’t that insane?
The documentary Embrace (trailer below), goes deep into this struggle for self-love.
Ever since I graduated college I have been, little by little, trying to detox my emotional body from the pressure of being conventionally pretty. It’s always hard but it’s definitely harder during pregnancy and postpartum.
It is normal to struggle with mixed emotions during pregnancy in many different aspects. But if you're struggling specifically with body image, you're not alone. Here is my story.
But even with little access to scales or mirrors, and with the kind and loving words of a partner that constantly reminded how amazing it was that my body could grow a little person, I still worried a lot about one main body image thing: stretch marks.
Weight gain anxiety during pregnancy is real and many people (including me) struggle with it, but at the end, once you have your baby you can and probably will lose a lot of that extra weight (little by little mama, no need to rush things).
But stretch marks? Stretch marks are forever! No matter what magic remedy are they trying to sell nowadays, so far there is no real way to get rid of stretch marks once you get them.
Since the beginning of my first trimester I was already googling like crazy researching products, nutritional tips and everything I could find on how to prevent stretch marks. In retrospect, expecting to be able to prevent them was pretty naïve, considering I already had tons of them on my legs, breast, hips and back.
I even had one on my lower belly. But still, I got all the oils, butters, even pure vitamin E, and diligently applied them every night before going to sleep.
My mom would always comment on how my dad’s mom, who had 5 children, didn’t have a single stretch mark. She made it sound like such an accomplishment, something to be truly admired and envied.
I'm grateful that throughout my pregnancy I had Aviva Romm's Natural Pregnancy Book always handy to provide me with the gentle womanly support I truly needed. She reminded me to put a loving intention into the massage, talk to my baby while I did it, and it ended up being a really nice bonding experience.
"Women are often advised to massage their bellies with cocoa butter or other oils to prevent stretch marks. This is all well and good. It may be effective, but it is not loving yourself to rub your belly with the intention of preventing stretch marks. To love yourself, rub your belly and breast in awe at the amazing accommodation your body is giving to your baby. Praise and admire yourself, and you will be rewarded with self-respect, whether or not you develop stretch marks.”
And you know what? It was kind of a relief.
I was a little bummed, but it was a great moment of surrender.
"I made it probably all the way to 32 weeks before I saw the first signs of their arrival.
And you know what? It was kind of a relief."
We went camping in the woods for a few weeks after that and I had no way of tracking the stretch marks development, which was freeing.
The last few weeks of my pregnancy I had plenty of time to observe my belly getting bigger and bigger, more and more full of stretch marks. I kept going back and forth between feeling like a goddess (the best compliment I got was: “you look like Mother Earth!”) and feeling old plain sad about the changes my body was going through.
I wanted to lose the extra weight (I had so much of it!), but I wanted to put a loving intention into it. I also wanted to keep my expectations real, and know that no matter what, I wasn't really going to bounce back to what I was before pregnancy.
"It’s time that we, as active participants in our culture, take pride in our individual form, shape, and markings, and help change society values."
- Aviva Romm
I know it’s not easy. We have been bombarded by so many negative messages through the media. But we can start creating little habits that will support that self-love. Look at the mirror and say positive things! Talk to yourself the way you would talk to a dear friend. Write notes to yourself if you need a reminder.
"Whatever you do for your body, do it because you love it and you want to take care of it, not because you hate it and want to change it."