Guest Author - Cassandra George Sturges
After giving birth to my first child, I was devastated at how my body had changed. I was horrified when I looked into the mirror. I couldn’t believe that my breasts, thighs, and belly were etched with rivers of stretch marks and three times their previous size.
My once taut stomach and thighs were now covered with stretch marks and giggled as I attempted to put on my clothes.I uncontrollably cried, as the nurse assured me that I was only experiencing postpartum depression. After months of adoring my beautiful baby, I realized that those stretch marks told a wonderful story of how my body had changed to adapt to the growing life inside of me. These lines were the beginning of a new chapter in my life.
One of the most ironic aspects of having a baby is that although my body had performed the ultimate epitome of womanhood, to supply the nourishment that allows a fetus to develop into a human being and give birth, I never felt more ugly, fat and unattractive. Many doctors and nurses describe the emotional changes that women go through after childbirth as postpartum depression.
I don’t have a medical background, but I believe that postpartum depression is partially caused by the mass media that constantly bankrupts a woman’s self-esteem and self-worth with advertisements that promote cosmetic surgery and anti-aging products. It is very difficult for the average woman to accept, love and value herself in a society that continuously bombards her with messages of being inadequate and not-beautiful-enough to be a valued member of society.
The physical changes during and after my pregnancy forced me to look at my body with a totally new perspective.The essence of my feminine body was directly connected with nature—the continuation of life. My body provided the tunnel of which life flowed into the physical world.
I realized that for me, physical intimacy was not just an act of love, affection, or pure romantic pleasure; but that my body could bring to fruition the essence of two human beings. And although, my husband could walk away from our love, our life and our baby, I could not. My body not only provided the avenue, but the foundation that would provide all of the necessities to sustain the life of our child.
In spite of the fact that I was proud of my body’s ability to give birth, after the pregnancy was over, I didn’t want any visible signs on my body that indicated to me or others that a developing life was once inside of my belly. For some reason, in American culture, women brag about not physically looking as if we ever had a baby. I remember thinking once that the ultimate compliment that I received was from a teenage girl who said to me, “You don’t look like a mother.” Solders are proud of their battle wounds.Unfortunately, most women want to erase any signs of ever being pregnant or giving birth.
The mass media does not glorify the authentic beauty that resonates from the average women who cook, clean, and provide for their families. Unlike the supermodels, celebrities, and entertainers; the mass media does not celebrate the portrait of the genuine beauty of a real woman’s body that is sculpted with stretch marks, soft generous hips and thighs, dimples and love handles.
I guess you are wondering how does stretch marks have anything to do with the media’s portrayal of women. Well, before the birth of my first child, unknowingly my perception of my self-worth was based on my physical appearance. No one ever complimented me on being intelligent, compassionate or being a good person.
Upon embracing my new role and identity as a mother, I remember looking at my infant son thinking, “I can’t believe that this perfectly beautiful baby came from inside of me.” I then began to understand that the stretch marks on my breasts and belly were symbolic of my femininity, strength and beauty. Now when I read those pretty, wiggly lines they say: “You are beautiful and God has blessed your body as a vessel to the journey of life.”