Stretch It Out

I’ve been sitting at the laptop for awhile, insomnia waking me up long before I was ready for it. Boyfriend has been getting a few extra winks in for the last few hours. I’ve been staring at blank screens and blinking cursors, knowing the ache and the longing to write is eating at my brain but to write what? How can I have the longing to say something and not know what that thing is? What evil genius engineered our brains to do this? It’s madness and it’s torture.

I type feverishly into google, hoping to come across the magical combination of words that will produce the magical search result that leads me to the magical writing prompt that finally breaks through the block and allows the words to flow. I have mindless tv noises on in the background (true crime, because it’s me). I’ve got my tablet beside me so I can mindlessly play a game as I try to find inspiration … because I think if I bore myself enough something magical will happen. I take a moment to lean back and stretch because I’ve been sitting in this chair for a few hours and everything about that sentence is uncomfortable – sitting, chair, hours. As I’m wont to do I lift my shirt and touch my hand to my belly – flesh to flesh, so the baby knows I’m here – and I look down and see them for the first time.

Stretch Marks.

Now, I have stretch marks from well before the pregnancy. It comes with the territory of an eating disorder for some people, especially people like me who fought the specific battle I did. But I know those marks and these are different. These ones go up my belly, just to the right of my belly button if I’m looking down at it. I thought they’d be darker, deeper, more obvious, like the ones on the side of my belly relating to ED and recovery. But they’re almost invisible, only able to see them in the right light.

But I can feel them.
I can feel the grooves they leave in my skin, they look like uneven cracks in thin ice. I trace them with my finger as though they are just as fragile. I marvel at them because they are marvelous. They show growth and change and strength. They show progress. They show maturity. They show me that it’s real. As I dance my fingers over the lines I feel a little poke, a hand or maybe a foot, to let me know she sees them too.

I go back to google and type in “stretch marks”, hoping to find an image to accompany this post because as proud of my marks as I am I’m not entirely ready to show them to anyone else. My browser fills with images and words – what they are, how to minimize them, how to get rid of them. Reminding me that beauty is skin deep and shallow. That this experience shared by almost everyone is something to be shamed or hidden. That perfection is blemish free, reminding me that someone sees the proof of my lived experience as a blemish. ED roars in my head.

Nothing about this is a blemish. My experience, my suffering, my daughter – they are not blemishes. What I’ve gone through is real, what I’m living through is real, and one day … she will be real. And one day I will talk to her about my stretch marks – the ones from ED, the ones from her. I will tell her that I was proud to fight my demon and win. I was proud to fight for her. That I would do it all over again and not think twice about it. The she was worth it. Even as I struggle now I know she’s worth it.

My stretch marks tell a story. I’m ready for the next chapter.
~ J

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