The top photo was taken three years before my son was born. The bottom picture was taken 12 weeks after Beauden was born. I hated my body equally in both photos.
In the first photo, I was trying my absolute hardest to look “skinny”. I genuinely loathed the body I wore. I was desperate for that elusive bikini beach body and was resolved to the idea that "that" girl would never be me. I was obsessed with the food I ate, validating my self-worth by my ability to stick to a diet of restriction and the number on the scales.
In the second photo, my self-esteem was at an all time low. My body still felt raw from carrying a baby and birth. There was a softness to it that I wasn't used to, and my hips and ribs were wider. But, the cause of most of my pain - and it felt like a physical pain - were the stretch marks on my belly, tearing across my skin like red angry claw marks. Every time I looked down at them I hated myself for somehow allowing my body to get this way. I saw my stretch marks as some sort of failure on my part to live up to this self-imposed bullshit societal standard about what a woman should look like, not just post-pregnancy, but in general.
I tried everything to prevent stretch marks during pregnancy.
I used coconut oil and miracle creams twice daily - sold to me by companies who played on my fears. I was constantly monitoring my weight and was incessantly preoccupied with what I ate so I didn’t gain weight. But my body, in all its wisdom, had its own ideas. I tried to tell myself: “I will not get stretch marks” but I didn't believe it. The thought was laden with fear and had such a powerful energy that I now believe I manifested them into being.
I remember the first stretch mark I got - I was seven months pregnant and on holiday when I noticed it in the mirror.
“I will never be beautiful now," I told myself.
After Beauden was born, and my belly shrunk back down, the shame deepened as the severity of my scars revealed themselves to me. As my mum friends' bodies bounced back to what I considered "normal", I could only look on in envy. I threw out my bikinis, joking emptily that I would never wear another again and gave up any hope of ever having the ideal body I so deeply desired.