I Have A Stretch Mark

I have a stretch mark.

This is not a big deal. Or rather, I wish I were a person for whom this was not a big deal. But after spending two hours online last night looking at pictures of stretch marks, I realize I do not subscribe to the Warrior Woman thing about “my trophy” and how “this was my baby’s home for nine months.”

Did I mention I just have the one? Still, it’s red and loud like a blinking broken arrow, an arrow pointing right to the place where my vanity lives, a tenant I expected to be evicted and replaced by nurturing, maternal, “don’t care how I look because I’m so in love with motherhood” lady.

But I took a long look at the mark in the mirror in the middle of the night and had a choking, irrational cry.

Moreover, most women get a rush of stretch marks right about now, just before birth, and I can see several more appearing on the left side of my stomach, crouching, lying in wait to ambush my collagen and confidence.

My dermis is a ticking time bomb.

If you search long enough, you can find anything online, like sites that encourage moms to post pictures of their bellies, with or without stretch marks, and tell their stories. It was all very disturbing, the women who looked like they had been clawed across the abdomen by a giant, angry bear and their own genetics. I want to find them valiant, but instead see my own mother, practically disfigured by groups of chunky, textured, silvery marks. It never seemed to bother her much, which made it bother me more.

There were the photos, too, of the women who escaped unscathed, not a mark on their bellies. Well, goooooood for you, said my mind in the quiet calm of the Koreatown night. Goooood for you.

I worry about big things, too.

I worry all the time about the baby being born deaf or blind or not making it at all. I worry that I have tempted fate with my Diaper Champ and hand-me-down crib and drawers full of onesies, as if to say to the universe that I take it for granted I will get a healthy baby.

A few times a day, I flash on an image of myself sitting alone in the nursery I was scared to furnish, hugging the orange dinosaur my mom knitted, crying in the corner because of some unspeakable tragedy that rendered all of this baby stuff useless. I know, it’s twisted, but don’t accuse me of only worrying about the mundane.

As a Jew, I have enough room in my heart for all levels of anxiety. The shelves are stocked with sizes from XS to XXL.

When the doctor first told me the baby was “frank breech,” meaning head up and rump down, I was bummed about needing a scheduled C-section, disappointed about the controlled calm of appointment birthing. No water breaking at Starbucks, no manic drive to the hospital, no ice chips and sweating and gruesome rite of passage labor story.

Now I think, why did labor seem like such a mystical adventure?

I just want this kid out so I can sleep on my back without suffocating, roll over in bed without sounding like Fred Sanford and smoke a couple of cigarettes when I’m writing and need to feel like Norman Mailer. I want to drink a freezing cold martini, take a Xanax, fit into my shoes and schedule toxic beauty treatments. Most of all, I want to be done wondering if the kid is all right, if he’ll survive his journey out of my body, if he got all his Omega fatty acids and protein and Folic and fat and brain stimulation. Like probably everyone who is 39 weeks pregnant for the first time, I’m ready for this to be over. I just want to hold my baby.

Maybe for now, it’s just easier to focus on one single stretch mark. There’s only so far it can rip you apart.

Every transition involves a loss. Even if you are blessed enough to find yourself on the eve of motherhood and the luckiest 39-year-old alive, there is still something left behind. Even if that something is just a silly image of yourself in a bikini looking like Phoebe Cates in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” (which you never, ever did), one thing gives way to another and it can’t hurt to stop and wave goodbye.

In my own way, I have to sit shiva, grieve a bit for what was and allow myself to be fully and fairly terrified and inspired by what’s coming. That or just get some self-tanner. Both are miracles.

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Chuck Briese, Oak Ridge Now

[avatar user="cbriese" size="thumbnail" align="left"] Chuck Briese has been a resident of South Montgomery County since 1988. He and his lovely and patient wife, Leslie, have six sons, with only one left to finish high school. Chuck has been a Cub Scout leader, a Little League baseball coach, a church youth leader, and a general troublemaker over the course of the past 25 years. He is obsessed with his lawn, and likes restaurants that serve food that fills up the plate. He has a tendency to tilt at windmills, which may explain why he started Oak Ridge Now.

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