Beauty in Lines

Photo by Kat Goldin

Photo by Kat Goldin

 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful,
    I know that full well. (Psalm 139:14)

When I first noticed them I was mortified. What in the world was happening to my skin? It used to be so nice and smooth. Why were these crevices appearing? Did I do something wrong?

These were some of the first thoughts I had when I noticed stretch marks appearing on my legs as I went through puberty. Definitely exaggerated, as only teens can do. I hated having to wear only a swimsuit at the beach. What would others think? How could I cover up these monstrosities that made me look ugly? Most people looking at me would not even notice them, but to me it was a source of shame and embarrassment. My Mom said they were normal, stating that, “Some people just get them.” It wasn’t a big deal. She never had to deal with them. Those genes skipped her. She was one of the “lucky” ones, I thought.

Maybe this is not something you have ever had to deal with. But as I watch my expanding belly grow, I am very aware of the fear of so many mothers out there. They are elated over the thought of meeting their child for the first time, but can still have that nagging doubt in the back of their mind: “Will this baby ruin my body? Will I never look beautiful again?” In fear they buy lots of lotions and ointments, smearing them over their bellies, in an attempt to avoid the inevitable lines.

When Stephen and I found out we were expecting, I knew I’d get more lines added to my skin. Having already dealt with them as a teen, I was quite resigned to the fact. I didn’t bother with the lotions, as I knew it was just a genetic thing. You either get them or you don’t. I was determined that I wasn’t going to let it bother me. No, my belly wouldn’t look as nice pre-pregnancy, but I knew my husband would still love me despite my marks.

As many do during pregnancy, I started reading lots of books in order to prepare for our little one. One of those was the book “Expectant Parents” by Suzanne Hadley Gosselin. In it, Gosselin includes many stories of other parents and their experiences during pregnancy. As I read, I came across a short story by Emily Wagner entitled “My Pretty Lines.” In it she detailed how her two-year-old daughter noticed the lines on her belly and asked about them. She wrote,

In a matter of moments, my mind darted from feelings of shame to dread at having to answer…

She felt the same emotions I had felt. Embarrassment. Shame. Discomfort. But she quickly realized those emotions should not be what motivated her response. She spoke with the Lord, and she was reminded of the beauty inherent in His creation — in the beauty of new life. Her response surprised even her.

Those are the lines where Mama’s tummy stretched to make room for you and Sissy to grow there. Aren’t they beautiful?

Beautiful. I had never before associated stretch marks with beauty. But, they really are, aren’t they? What God does in our bodies to prepare for a new human life is beautiful. These lines are evidence of that beauty. The feelings that welled up in me were new. Confidence. Amazement. Strength. This child’s innocent question was not there to point out deficiencies. It was simple curiosity. Now she would grow up seeing those lines as something that made her mother beautiful. Those lines were a gift from God to remind her of the beauty of new human life.

I wondered to myself why we would rather see ugliness than beauty. Why has our culture taught us to look at stretch marks as something negative? They aren’t negative at all! They’re beautiful. They represent the beauty of a new life that God has formed within you. They are something to be proud of — not a source of shame. As I watch those lines increase on my growing belly I no longer see them as something to be resigned to. They no longer cause shame or embarrassment. Instead, I look at them with pride. God is doing something beautiful inside me, and these lines will forever remind me of that wonder.

Wagner’s daughter doesn’t always notice those lines anymore. But, when she does, she remarks,

I love your pretty lines, Mama.

 

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6 thoughts on “Beauty in Lines

    • Thank you Mom! 🙂 I really felt this was a post I needed to write in the hopes that others would learn something similar to what I did.

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  1. Yes, yes! I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately, as I recently discovered a hearty patch of varicose veins the back of my right leg. Apparently, I missed their development. (Perhaps it was those two months of this third winter pregnancy I chose not shave?) So, when I found them for the first time a couple weeks ago, I was instantly repulsed and nearly fainted. I can be a bit squeamish about vein-related things…

    Once the initial shock wore off, I tried to think through my response and move toward a more embracing one. These things are, after all, here to stay. Familiar words and phrases from scripture began to fill my mind. Namely, that bit about our bodies as “living sacrifices.” (Romans 12:1)

    And isn’t that the beauty?! When our impulse it to be repulsed, our bodies are actually doing the very kind of thing that glorifies God most. Flesh willing. Spirit weak. And so we learn from the obedience of our cells: The greatest love is in the laying down of one’s own life.

    And oh, how we learn this again and again on the parenting journey!

    Love you dearly, Olga! Thank you for these inspiring words today!

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    • Thank you so much for your kind words Jaimi. I agree – our impulse is so often repulsion when it should be the exact opposite! We have been given such a wonderful gift. I hope our children will be able to understand this more fully and pass it on to their children.

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  2. Thank you Olga! This is something I have really struggled with – intensely with the first pregnancy and still a bit after a second. Not only did these babies bring stretch marks covering my belly like a flaming bush, my skin also never goes back, leaving an elephant hide-like area around my entire torso. Ugh. But – I LOVE the idea of calling them pretty lines! I need to adopt that and show self-love to my daughter who will one day have to struggle with her own self-image (in hopes that she will struggle less and see her God given beauty more). And I’ve found that now, this belly looks a lot better with a baby inside, which just adds to the joy of the privilege of carrying a life inside!

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    • I hope your daughter will struggle less as well, and that we will continue to see the beauty God has given us too. It is just hard sometimes. Thanks for your words and thoughts. 🙂

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