(mom days before giving birth to her fourth baby)
Growing up every single night once the clock struck 8:00pm and my mom had cleared dinner from the table and helped with math problems, she announced it was time for her bath. Some evenings as I walked down the hallway, now smelling of sweet soap and lotion, to say goodnight I would find her changing into her light blue nightgown baring her stomach lined with marks. Silvery purple marks lined the edges of her stomach, crawling a little bit up the sides and dancing around her naval. The older I became, the more I understood those marks meant she had been stretched. Stretched probably in ways she never would have imagined, and each stretching left visible evidence of its difficulty and her strength.
Being the third oldest of seven, I saw the pregnancy cycle. Flat tummy, big tummy, baby. I knew at a young age and understood better than many of my friends that a woman has to stretch physically in order to bear a child. It wasn’t until I left for college I realized a woman has to stretch in every sense of the word to raise a child. I stretched my mom’s patience; sneaking into her bathroom to use her comb and getting my hair grease all over it because I was convinced the comb was the missing link to make my hair like hers. I stretched my mom’s trust; though I went through a phase of lying more often than telling the truth, she always gave me the benefit of the doubt and had faith in the woman I could become. I stretched her pride; selfishly confiding in my best friends’ mothers and shutting out my own. I stretched my mom’s energy; playing a sport every season, taking art classes, participating in school plays and begging to spend any free time at a friends house because their families were “so cool.” I stretched my mom’s grace; deliberately disobeying my parents and the Lord by succumbing to physical temptation as a teenager. Instead of abandoning me she prayed for me, started a devotional for me and took me to the gynecologist to protect me. It became very evident to me though pregnancy may have stretched her stomach, being a mother had stretched her soul.
The problem with having a mother as remarkable as mine lies in the comparison- how will I ever be able to do what she did? I feared I wouldn’t be able to patiently wait while my child misses curfew and doesn’t return my phone calls. I feared I would never be able to spend the better part of my waking hours chauffeuring my bickering, crumb scattering children to volleyball, track, basketball and swim team. I feared I wouldn’t quite have the selflessness it took to stay up late looking for a soccer uniform, school uniform, or Halloween costume. I feared that my selfishness would hold me back from allowing my body to be an incubator and bottle year after year after year. Simply put, I feared my ability to be stretched. But since having a child, when I look in the mirror, I see my mother’s stomach. You see, I have already been stretched. We all have. We are capable of stretching as far as we’re willing to go.
When our son was a few days old, a friend of mine asked if I was left with any stretch marks. Disappointed, I lifted my shirt to reveal a slew of squiggly flesh and burgundy colored scars. She said, “that’s okay! It’s a reminder of what your body went though.” If I was ever going to need a visual reminder for an event, this was not the one. Trust me, I remember what my body went through. I remember the pain, the waiting, the pushing, I remember it all. Four months later, I finally realize these scars aren’t to remind us what our bodies have been through but to remind us what we are capable of. How far our stomachs can expand to carry life, how the Lord allows us to carry those extra 25 (or 38) pounds under our shirts, how much we can stretch for love. Once that realization hit me I decided these marks aren’t so bad. And while it’s very unlikely that any of us will ever become the type of mother I was blessed to call my own, I have the marks to prove that I’m at least headed in the right direction.