They’ve appeared out of nowhere. Yesterday there were two. One just above and the other just below my belly button. Now there are more. I haven’t counted because they’re beyond the rise. I can only see them in the mirror. The underside of my round stomach. Clustered in little vertical pink strips where my pants should sit but instead roll or slip down with every step. Every step that my bladder whines.

I am officially marked. I’ve got the mommy stripes. I’m trying not to let them bother me. But they aren’t silent. They make themselves known. I can feel how my skin is stretching still. Exposing these seams. And I wonder how many more will appear. And I wonder if I will still love my body and my shape when it’s all over and I am still so marked. Changed, but empty again.

I visit The Shape of a Mother regularly, a website that celebrates the changes our bodies go through to give life instead of suggesting, like so much of the rest of society, we hide them in shame. And I’m trying to look at my body like the blank canvas it was and these new marks as gifts from my child. A work of art that will never hang on the fridge but will be with me for always. But now that they are there on my own body, in real life, the idea is harder to hold up.

But I’m doing my best to be okay with this one thing. Overall, I think I’ll still be more proud of my body and confident in my appearance than not. This morning, I was getting up from the couch to go to the bathroom (again) and James looked over at me and said, “You look really good today.” I hadn’t yet bathed or dressed or done my hair, and still he said he saw a glow. So I guess I must be doing something right.

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