MomPower Contributor Kelli Lund

Stretch marks. If you’re anything like me, you were left with these constant reminders of just how swollen and big pregnancy made you. I know some women have great, elastic skin and others swear by cocoa butter. But I’m not one of them. My “tiger skin” goes all the way up to my chest and wraps around to my back, covering nearly two-thirds of my circumference.

In a society that places such heavy emphasis on a woman’s physical appeal, it’s hard not to stand in front of the mirror and hate what you see. I admit, I’ve done it. And judging by the amount of articles and workouts dedicated to help women get back to their pre-pregnancy body, I’m guessing I’m not the only one. Lately, I’ve been putting quite a bit of effort into getting back to a healthy weight. I’ve still got about forty pregnancy pounds to shed since I didn’t get a chance to lose any before I got pregnant with my second baby. I had been doing pretty well, actually, when I had the terrible realization that even if I get back to my pre-pregnancy weight, my body is never going to look like it did before I had kids. My feet are about a size bigger, I’m worried my hips might have permanently widened, and of course, there are those stretch marks.

I have actually heard some women admit that they aren’t sure if they ever want to have kids because they don’t want to “ruin” their body. But let’s face it – by the time you’re 70 years old, nobody wants to see you in a bikini, and if you don’t have children and grandchildren, you’re going to feel mighty lonely. But I suppose I’m preaching to the choir. The fact is, once you have children, you realize that they bring far more joy than you could ever experience by having a perfect body. These stretch marks are an ever-present reminder of the many sacrifices it takes to bring a child into the world. Shouldn’t they also be a reminder of the countless moments of joy that our children have brought into our lives? And why should I be ashamed of being a mother? Why should I want my body to look like I have never had any children? Is their anything more noble than a loving, self-sacrificing mother?

I may never be tempted to don a revealing bathing suit, but that doesn’t mean I have to hate what I see in the mirror. These stretch marks are a badge of motherhood, and I should not be ashamed of them. In fact, I am starting to be quite fond of them. Society may call them ugly, but to me they are beautiful. They mark my body as the site of a most wondrous miracle – the miracle of life.