Browsed by
Tag: stretch marks

Dealing With Cesarean Scars

Dealing With Cesarean Scars

Rebecca shares a beautiful reflection on her c-section scarring.

I don’t actively go out of my way to look at my scar. I don’t hide its existence, but I just don’t fuss over it either. It is there, under a little flap on my tummy, hiding until I straighten myself out to peer at it in the mirror.

I didn’t always look this way. My tummy was once flat, though anyone who had only just met me in the last 4 years would be forgiven for thinking otherwise.

I recently enjoyed reading some stories of old friends experiencing success in their careers, unhindered by children and able to progress to the peak of their industries. I get more time to read about these things on Facebook while I feed my 4-month old as I put her to sleep, lying on my side and stroking her hair as she drifts off.

I wouldn’t exchange her, or my son, for any success in the world; and so I can say confidently and clearly that I have only happiness for these people. There are no “what ifs” or “maybes”. There is only joy and excitement.

Are you waiting for the “But…”? It’s not there. If I learned anything from having children, it’s that comparing success is a dangerous road, which inevitably leads to hurt for one or both parties.

So I stood up tonight and actively looked at my scar for the first time after having my daughter. It’s been four months. It’s still red, and is joined by the little skin flap and array of stretch marks that appeared three years ago after having my son through the same scar.

Both of my children were born by “elective cesarean”, though to say it was an elective choice is a lie. My son was born through a cut in my stomach after 36 hours of labor with no progression. I was given the option to continue labor, but after being told the safest option was to wheel into surgery, I agreed with the doctor’s suggestion and jumped on the trolley towards the surgery room.

People like to tell you when swapping birth stories (sometimes dangerous ground to tread) that they always have a friend who pushed through 36-hour labors, and against the odds had a vaginal birth that was “the most amazing experience a person could have”. Every time I hear these stories I have to remind myself that I chose what was right for me. My son’s birth involved me lying paralyzed on a surgery table, discussing kindergarten options with the surgery nurse whose son was about to enter school. Then my body started thrashing in what I later found out was shock from blood loss. Then the doctors did some stuff, and then I held my son. Then they weighed him, and I held him again while my husband cried with joy and I just made gulping sounds of joy in a greyish state. It’s not the almighty experience that vaginal birth stories have led me to believe.

My son is now 3. He is witty, cheeky, clever and naughty. I have never been more euphoric than when we sit and talk about his day for the single minute that he can stand to sit before running off again to play or explore everything in his environment. He is simply everything and all I could ever dream he could be.

He likes my tummy. He thinks the stretch marks make an excellent road for his mini trains and seems to assume they are ‘”pretty” before he will become socially programmed to be repulsed by them (I dread the day and work with everything in my power to prevent it).

He was recently diagnosed with asthma. My friend, who loves and is loved by my children, let me in on some medical facts she learned from her midwife mama: “Did you know cesarean babies are 90% more likely to get asthma due to not getting their lungs squeezed in the birth canal?” She asked. She didn’t mean for it to hurt; and if she knew, she would have been devastated. But it’s not uncommon for people to assume you were just totally cool to have a c-section and that it was all sweet.

Did my birth decision cause my son to end up hospitalized and struggling to breathe because I chose to be wheeled into that surgery?

My daughter came out of the same scar. They reopened it for her. She was breech and I had an “incompetent pelvis” (what a name!), which made it hard for her to engage and come down the canal naturally. So again, I “chose” to get on the trolley. I “chose” to get a syringe in my spine. I “chose” to risk going into shock again and needing a blood transfusion, and I chose what was medically deemed the safest way to bring my daughter into the world with the extenuating circumstances. If the doctor said that my leg was in the way and could risk my child’s safety during childbirth, you could bet your bottom dollar I would be hopping out of that hospital with my kids.

So tonight I stared at my scar. I took a photo of it. I marveled that this little cut bought my children into the world and made my life complete. I called in my husband to look too. He said what I was thinking without me saying a word – “Can you believe you bought our children into the world through that scar? It’s one of my favorite parts of you.”

I started going to the gym. I would like my tummy to be less wide and a little flatter. No matter how many crunches, sit-ups or planks I do, those stretch marks will stay. No amount of shea oil will wipe away my scar. I love it and I wouldn’t change it for anything in the world, because it made my world complete.

My Belly, My Baby {Self Love}

My Belly, My Baby {Self Love}

This is a picture of my 15 month old and my belly. It has been well over a year, and I have slowly and peacefully accepted that my belly is going to be floppy and riddled with stretch marks for a very long time.

bwfblog

She has helped me accept my body.  When she nurses, she often caresses my soft, pillowy belly roll.  She does not care about the stretch mark scars or the flap that I have to tuck into my waistband. She often pulls up her shirt to excitedly exclaim, “belly!”, then tickle herself and laugh and laugh. She does it to me sometimes, too.  She strokes my stomach gently, so lovingly as she falls asleep.  She loves my belly, so I have come to love it – hesitantly, sometimes begrudgingly.  But if she can love it unconditionally, so can I.

Mothering the Mother, Part II: How Postpartum Care Helps Us Love Our Bodies

Mothering the Mother, Part II: How Postpartum Care Helps Us Love Our Bodies

“A safe pregnancy is a human right for every woman regardless of race or income.” – Amnesty International

“I have horrible [postpartum] stretch marks that I feel the need to cover and of course my breasts are nowhere near where I would like them to be.” – Courtney, Beauty Revealed Project.

So here I am, sitting cross-legged with a computer in my lap, typing around the soft belly that still protrudes (that always will protrude), while my seven week-old daughter sleeps in the next room. I’ve got a clean cloth diaper stuffed into my bra and I’m thinking about the talk I will give at the upcoming BWF Conference in October.

(((Registration is open! You should come! I want to meet you!)))

My topic is ‘Mothering the Mother’, an expansion of my most popular blog post ever, decrying the lack of postpartum care provided to American women. And I am being sponsored by the Beauty Revealed Project, a fantastic community and an online collection of photos and stories celebrating women’s real postpartum bodies.

Darien McGuire Photography

To some, this may seem like a strange fit: What, one might ask, does postpartum care have to do with bodily self-acceptance? If I bring a new mother a big pot of soup, is she suddenly going to love her stretch marks?

The answer is no; the answer is yes.

Our society-wide refusal to acknowledge the changes that come with motherhood is one of our greatest acts of misogyny. The bare facts: The United States is one of four countries in the world refusing paid maternity leave to its new mothers (the others are Liberia, Swaziland, and Papua New Guinea). Despite 20 year-old research stating that changes in our healthcare model would soon require in-home postpartum support, American women do not receive postpartum care beyond a six week check-up. And our maternal mortality rate is the highest in the Western world.

These policies and their resulting tragedies perpetuate a widespread distaste for the childbearing process. Somehow, it has become OK to force a woman back to work just a few days after a human being came out of her body. To cut it open (routine episiotomies, routine cesareans) and leave it untended for six weeks or more. To let women – especially poor women, and women of colour – die preventable deaths after they have created life. The birthing woman’s body, not perceived as an economic resource, removed from its dubious status as a sexual object, is just not valued.

Sweet Serenity Photography

This devaluation spreads to other non-essential aspects of women’s postpartum bodies. The postpartum pooch. The stretch marks. The sagging flesh, the milky leakiness, the scars. There is nothing ugly about these body parts. But google any one of them and the instructions you find will be on how to hide it. How to get that ‘pre-baby body back’, terminology which I find so offensive because, really, where did that body ‘go’? It’s still here. Right here. My body did not disappear into some Platonic realm from which it must be reclaimed. No. My body, my (fortunate, privileged) healthy body birthed a baby.

It is so hard to see one’s own culture(s) because these are beliefs we are born into, ideas by which we live and die. So I’d like to try a little experiment. Let’s imagine the cover of a celebrity-ogling magazine. You know, the kind that watches bumps like my toddler watches diggers.

The cover shows a glamorous new mother.

She is lying in bed, her body relaxed and comfortable.

She is not groomed because she does not need to be, it is not expected of her.

She is not lifting weights or on her way to yogafit class; she is nursing her baby.

The headline reads, “K. Kardishian, New Mother! Inside: pics of her beautiful baby and fabulous new stretch marks!”

Yeah. I can’t imagine it either.

But I maintain that the physical manifestations of having birthed a child do not need to be hidden. They could, hypothetically, be celebrated. I swear they could be seen as sexy. I have heard they can be markers of status. Or simply perceived as healthy, normal, even unremarkable.

open book studios

What would it take for any of these to happen? We would have to start with the postpartum period. With gently caring for women who are gently caring for their newborn babies. With giving their bodies space to recuperate. With touch and massage, actions which tell them that their bodies are OK. With giving them nourishment and love. Showing mothers that we care about them will allow them to internalize that care and to care about themselves. Bodily self-acceptance cannot be far behind.

I have been lucky to receive incredible postpartum care over the past two months. I had midwives and friends, community to bring me meals and a partner to look after me. I did not have to get back up on my feet and do the impossible. I could rest. My body and my heart both show the benefits of this care. And as I sit here and feel my milk let down, telling me that my infant daughter will soon wake up and call me in to nurse, I feel grateful that my body birthed a baby. I know deep inside that my body is more than a cog in a machine, or something to be looked at. That it is strong, powerful beyond measure.

The health of our bodies has everything to do with how we feel about them.

KaylaMarie Photography

——————————-

The Beauty Revealed Project is on Facebook and online at www.beautyprojectrevealed.com. The staff of this wonderful, encouraging page accept photo and story submissions from postpartum mothers. They also assist in the arrangement of free or low-cost postpartum portraiture sessions with professional photographers. The Beauty Revealed Project is a not-for-profit organization and a labour of love.   

The Post Partum Baby Bump: The Truth Revealed with Pictures

The Post Partum Baby Bump: The Truth Revealed with Pictures

I recently posted this picture and poem that beautifully put the shame of stretch marks into a different perspective. I also wrote this post about the unique shape of a woman’s body and also recently blogged about the beauty of a pregnant women. We are women, we are amazing, beautiful, strong and create miracles!

Yet, we are incredibly hard on ourselves.

Many women express concerns about their bodies and the changes they go through when pregnant. There is fear, shame and wonder of the unknown. Our post partum bodies are unique as our pre-pregnancy bodies. It will vary woman to woman. The shape you are pre-pregnancy, how much you grew during your pregnancy and how your body responds post partum. It can take time. You grew a baby 9-10 months, most women will not look the way they did pre-pregnancy over night (some do though).

Here’s the thing. During your pregnancy and post partum…take care of you. Eat healthy, laugh, go on walks when you are able to again, enjoy time with friends, get out of the house. Love life and love yourself.

So, to know what you may expect and that you are not alone, I unveil Post Partum Baby Bumps!

Racing Stripes, 4 children
PP after twins

19 months PP, 3 kids, short body
10 months PP, first child
10 months PP, 4th child
8 days post partum
5.5 months PP, 2nd child
Learning to love her PP body
10 months PP, after 2nd child
One week post partum

“It’s also helpful to realize that this very body that we have, that’s sitting right here right now…with its aches and its pleasures…is exactly what we need to be fully human, fully awake, fully alive.” -Pema Chodron

Order the BIRTH WITHOUT FEAR Book at One of the Following Book Retailers!

Amazon • Barnes & Noble • iBooks 

 Google Play • Books-A-Million • IndieBound

***Sign up below for more updates on the Birth Without Fear book!***

We respect your privacy.