Written by Lauren Bennett, WTF Content Editor
In the years my husband and I dealt with infertility, one of the hardest things to hear were the complaints of pregnant woman, specifically about their beautiful changing bodies. I would cringe every time someone referred to herself as “fat” or commented about the size of her thighs. I vowed that if we ever beat infertility and I was able to carrying our baby, I would NEVER, EVER follow the path many pregnant women take and complain about her weight, aches, and pains.
Then I got pregnant.
In my experience, when you deal with infertility for so many years, you promise yourself you won’t be like the people who openly talked down about their bodies. You feel like if you are blessed enough to be pregnant, you will enjoy every second and be in a constant state of appreciation for the miracle that is pregnancy. You convince yourself that you aren’t allowed to complain because you have been praying and begging for this for nearly five years. The only thing crossing your mind should be how grateful you are.
I found out early on how difficult this would prove to be. My pregnancy with my IVF miracle was relatively uneventful. I had your typical aches and pains with the addition of symphysis pelvis dysfunction, which was for the birds. But other than that, my body did exactly what I had been asking it to for years – growing a life. But not too far into my first trimester, I began to realize that pregnancy is no walk in the park and to my surprise, I started to feel disdain towards the extra weight I was putting on. My already wide hips seem to expand even more. Those thighs of mine showed some new stretch marks. What. Was. Happening.
I dreaded stepping on the scale at each doctor’s appointment. Watching those numbers increase, at sometimes what felt like alarming rates, made my stomach drop each and every time.
Then one Sunday morning at 36 weeks pregnant, it happened. I woke up to find my first stretch mark on my stomach. I cried. I looked in the mirror and just felt huge. I hated how I looked. My face looked puffy, my stomach felt like I was carrying a bowling ball, my thighs seemed to jiggle with more enthusiasm. I felt nothing but disgust for my body and cried.
I did what all women do when they are feeling down – texted my best friend, who listened to me complain and told me to allow myself to feel this way but then “bring it back to center.” She helped to remind me that even though I dealt with infertility doesn’t mean I am not allowed to struggle with pregnancy. Growing a life is hard work and I’m entitled to recognize that, just as much as someone who conceived easily.
With this new clarity, I began to look at my body differently. While it was still different from what I was used to, it had carried me through 5 years of infertility consisting of seeing over 20 medical professionals, numerous invasive tests, 3 rounds of Clomid, 3 rounds of IUIs, 1 surgery to remove endometriosis, 1 round of IVF, hundreds of needles I had to poke myself with, more needles that I trusted my husband to poke me with, and countless tears. Now, it was giving me the gift of creating a life that I had dreamed about. My main focus was no longer how I looked and fitting into society’s definition of a beautiful woman. It was about this fierce and powerful vessel that was doing amazing things. After years of feeling betrayed by my body because I couldn’t conceive, this was a place I never thought I would be and it was so refreshing to not be at battle with myself.
As luck would have it, I went into labor just a week later. Let me tell you, after delivering my son, my appreciation for my body intensified. Look at what it had just done! After bringing Miles home, I vividly remember standing in the mirror looking at the stretch marks on my belly and feeling a pang of sadness and bittersweet longing that my belly was now empty. Those stretch marks were a sign of my long and hard journey into mamahood. Pre-baby Lauren would have looked at those tiger stripes and dreaded beach season, but as I stood there while my husband cuddled our fresh newborn, I couldn’t have been more proud of what my scars represented and looked forward to hopping into a bikini and heading to the beach with my son in tow.
There are days I long to fit into my pre-pregnancy clothes and I still wish I could lose an extra 10 pounds, but I’ve come to a place where I’m done punishing my body for what it isn’t and celebrating it for what it is and what it has accomplished. So my thighs may still jiggle, my tummy sports its baby pooch, and I have that ever present flat mom butt. But I also have full arms and an even fuller heart. And that is worth all the stretch marks in the world.