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Stretch Marks

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I have four new scars on my body that I didn’t have a month ago. Four lines of pink skin that marks the spots the surgeon’s instruments were placed. Those four scars join a host of others. Some visible, many hidden. All of them with a story to tell.

The biggest scar is from my very first surgery. An emergency caesarian section that welcomed two tiny babies into the world two long months before their due date. That scar changed my body and gave me a new name. Mom. It was the first permanent mark made on my body.

For seven months before that day my body was stretched to capacity to make room for two growing babies. And the stretching left marks that still linger, twenty one years later. By the time they were born I thought I couldn’t be stretched any further, but I soon learned that the stretching was just beginning.

Premies… neonatal intensive care… heart monitors… tube feedings… going home without my babies… middle of the night phone calls and trips to hospitals… that is how motherhood began for me. And it stretched me further than I dreamed was possible. I thought at any moment I would break. But I just kept stretching.

The stretch marked me.

In a few short years I was stretched and reshaped by two more pregnancies that each left their marks. After baby number four was born I thought my days of stretching to bring forth life were over, but I was wrong. The stretching was just beginning, it continues to this day.

Whenever I hear the word resilience the first image that comes to my mind is that of a woman. To say women are resilient is an understatement, don’t you think? We are stretched, we push until we collapse in exhaustion then get up the next day and make breakfast. We carry heavy burdens, live years without sleep, can cook an entire meal with a crying, teething toddler on one hip, and can stay up past our bedtime waiting for the sound of the teenager’s car in the drive way. We know how to bandage a scraped knee and how to advise middle schoolers who just want to fit it. We pack lunches for first days of school, sleeping bags for summer camp, and mini-fridges for the all-too-soon journey to college. And though our once firm bodies stretch and soften and sag… and our once thick and shiny head of hair falls out and turns grey… and our never ending energy becomes a distant memory that is replaced with back pain and unplanned naps… we are still fierce, we still bounce back. We are resilient.  

Womanhood changes our bodies, but it also changes our hearts. When we are soft and vulnerable and courageous in love we’ll pick up a scar or two along the way. When we love wholeheartedly our hearts are stretched from time to time.

And the stretch marks us.

They say women are strong. I agree. But our strength doesn’t lie in our toughness, it lies in our softness! It lies in our ability, our willingness, to be stretched and scarred and marked by love.