I was involved in an online discussion recently in which some ladies were talking about ways to avoid getting stretch marks, or failing that, to get rid of them. A few ladies commented proudly that they didn't get any stretch marks from being pregnant. Others were so keen to get rid of them. Many had tips about products to use to help them get their youthful skin back. I couldn't help feeling sad about the discussion.
I am covered in stretch marks. They aren't that obvious anymore, but they are there. Silvery marks all over my stomach. I kind of like them. They remind me that I grew 5 lives inside me, and brought them into the world. That is an amazing thing, isn't it? To grow life inside you. As mothers we have the unique privilege of being responsible for keeping that little person alive for the first months of their life. What an honour! And as parents, both fathers and mothers, we have the opportunity to give to our kids all the good stuff we know about being, and to pass on what we have learned and experienced. Amazing.
Now, most of the time my parenting revolves around the routines of providing for physical needs, and teaching skills, and doing discipline. To be honest it is tiring, and frustrating and just plain hard work. Some days parenting makes me cry.
But every now and then something reminds me of what an amazing thing it is to be parent, and how lucky I am to be doing this hard work. I guess, for me, those stretch marks are tangible evidence of the work I have done as a mother. They are something I can see that represent the pain, the love, the giving, the persistence. The privilege. They remind me of the beauty of it all, and of how important it is to take the time to remember the fun parts and the things that have been rewarding about parenting too. When the kids are little the rewards are things like hearing first giggles and first words, seeing those first steps. As they grow up the rewards can be when they remember to thank you without prompting, or seeing them develop a love of reading, or watching your kids spend time together laughing and playing. For me seeing my 2 AS kids moving forward in life and hearing people say "I would never have known if you didn't tell me" on learning of their diagnoses, is a huge reward.
I am just as aware of the mental and emotional stretch marks I wear as I am of the physical ones. They are not actually visible, but I know they are there and I remember the discomfort that made them. And I am proud to wear them too. Being a parent is a privilege, even when it is hard.