Monday, November 12, 2012

There's an "inspirational" quote I keep seeing on Pinterest. If you spend any time on Pinterest you probably know the one I'm talking about. It's something about pregnancy and stretch marks and being like a tiger-mom who's earned her stripes. Something about it has always rubbed me the wrong way and this morning in the shower (I often do my best deep thinking in the shower) I was finally able to put my finger on exactly why it bothers me so much.

I've been very (miraculously, blessedly) lucky so far in my pregnancy. I had a little bit of queasiness in my first trimester. No real morning sickness to speak of. I've had plenty of energy. I've felt great! I've  been shielded from most of the complications and discomforts that can accompany pregnancy. My weight gain has been slow and steady. Manageable. Pretty minimal, really, which was not at all what I expected. And so I honestly laugh with delight when I look in the mirror and see how large my baby bump has grown.

Getting bigger hasn't really bothered me. But maybe there's an exceptional explanation for how comfortable I can feel about my burgeoning size. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that, nearly eight months, bulging belly and all, this is still not the biggest I've ever been. I have no new stretch marks from my pregnancy (those may still be coming), but I do have plenty of stretch marks. They're the tangible, physical remnants of my struggle with disordered eating. They're reminders of hard lessons learned. They're a part of me. And I've had years to make peace with them.

I don't remember the first time I felt too big, but I remember that by junior high I couldn't abide myself and my size. I hated the way I towered over the bevy of petite, beautiful girls that surrounded me. I was tall and I was loud and I took up too much space. And there was something darker and deeper that lurked under the surface of my dissatisfaction. I spent several years nearly starving myself because of some secret shame, some nameless fear, some insidious hate that made me feel unlovable and unworthy, that drove me to deprive my body of nourishment and self-care. And once I was so exhausted by that particular form of self-punishment that I could no longer sustain it, I spent several more years swinging the other way- stuffing instead of starving myself- but still driven by the same secret shameful, nameless fear. I was still not nourishing, not loving, not caring for myself. I still felt wholly unworthy and worthlessly un-whole.

It has taken a long time to finally rest in the freedom of God's love for me and to begin, just begin, the process of learning to my whole self. Not just the bright, shiny parts I'm so proud of, but the broken and dusty and ugly parts, too. It still doesn't come easily. I'm not sure it ever will. But I've come a long way in trusting His grace and extending it to myself. While it's easier to believe it for others, easier to see beauty and mercy and goodness and truth around me, I still have to work and search and press in to the truth that God made all of us with the same beauty and truth and goodness. So I'm trying. I'm working, and searching, and pressing in.

The quote about stretch marks and pregnancy and earning your stripes struck a nerve in me. Something about it seems to imply that stretch marks are okay as long as you earn them in service to some higher good. That it's only the purpose, the holy calling of motherhood, that validates their existence, redeems them, and removes their shame. Does that mean my stretch marks, the ones that came before pregnancy and motherhood, are gross and wrong and ugly and shameful? I've learned to believe otherwise. I've learned to believe they were never shameful to begin with.

Stretch marks are stretch marks, they happen for many reasons. It's not motherhood that makes them okay. They're no more holy or less shameful whether they come from pregnancy or from gaining a ton of weight because you finally started eating again. Stretch marks are just one more of the many kinds of marks that we bear, the scars that we carry. They're just another line of the story, both poetry and prose, written across our bodies and across our lives by the invisible hand that guides us with love and grace and mercy and infinite compassion. They were already validated, already made holy. We are already validated and made holy. We are all redeemed and made new and loved and cradled by the same invisible grace.