My Lifelong Struggle with Stretch Marks

If you’ve ever seen me in person, you’ve certainly caught a glimpse of some of my many stretch marks. They’re part of me I’ve had no choice but to accept, even though I’d rather not have to deal with them.

I credit my skin to my father, although he never got stretch marks as badly as I did. I remember him having stretch marks around the tops of his biceps from working out. My mother on the other hand, never got one stretch mark, despite 3 pregnancies and weight fluctuations while we were growing up. She couldn’t relate to my struggle at all, she couldn’t fathom why this was happening to me. She would even say that she didn’t even moisturize, while I slathered my body in cocoa butter, praying that I wouldn’t get another stretch mark.

I remember getting my first stretch marks on the insides of my knees in seventh grade. I had gone through a growth spurt over the summer. Later that year, I got 4 huge horizontal stretch marks across my back that even my pediatrician had never seen before. They honestly look like whip marks across my lower back. Then puberty hit, my boobs and butt grew and stretch marks came along with those.

I used to use Mederma scar gel, which did lessen the appearance of my stretch marks. But it was too expensive for my parents to keep buying for me. It needed to be applied 3-4 times per day and I had many stretch marks covering a good part of my body at that time. I remember one little tube costing $24. My parents tried, but the cost became too much.

Despite having stretch marks, I still wore my two piece bathing suits during the summer (no stretch marks on my stomach) and I always wore short shirts baring my midriff. Some people would comment but it didn’t bother me much, it was never negative, at least not to my face.

And then my now-husband and I started dating, and we both gained so much weight. I gained around 50 pounds, weighing the most in my entire life. As I packed on the pounds, I noticed stretch marks forming on my upper arms, soon reaching all the way down to my forearm. I even started to get some on my gorgeously smooth tummy, which was heartbreaking to me. When I realized I needed to make a change and start exercising and eating healthier…

I got pregnant.

I weighed 175 pounds when I got pregnant, and I was beyond excited that we were going to have a baby. The day my daughter was born, we checked in at the hospital and I weighed 201 pounds. My stomach during that time had gotten covered with stretch marks, which I expected. Despite using all kinds of lotions and creams. Yes, I used Palmers Cocoa butter, I even used cocoa butter baby oil. But nothing I tried worked. Nothing I had EVER tried worked to prevent my stretch marks. My belly got so big, people thought I was carrying twins, and the stretch marks that came in my last trimester were painful. The stretch marks on the underside of my pregnant belly were half an inch thick, my skin was literally tearing.

38 weeks pregnant.

About 2 years after my daughter was born, I was heavily into fitness and became a group fitness instructor. I had become vegan and I lost all the baby weight and then-some. I was in the best shape of my life. But I fell off when my father got sick with pancreatic cancer. I took up smoking cigarettes again and gained some weight back.

December 2013

Then in 2016 I got pregnant again with our second daughter. I was at a healthy weight to start and all was well, weight-wise. No new stretch marks, at least none that I could see. My stomach had stretched out so much the first time I was pregnant (and I still had a lot of excess skin) that at the end of my pregnancy with my second daughter I still had a little pouch of skin at the bottom of my belly. It wasn’t noticeable to anyone other than myself.

It’s been a lot harder to bounce back after having my second child. My stomach is extremely saggy and even at my lowest weight last year, I still had a lot of excess skin. So I only wear bathing suits that cover a majority of my stomach because I’m embarrassed of how horrible it looks. Yes, I know I shouldn’t be ashamed, I should be proud of my body. And for the most part, I am. I feel like a total badass that I carried two children. But there’s always that little voice in the back of my head telling me that my body, covered in all these stretch marks, is hideous. That no matter how much I work out and get my body in the best shape, I’ll never be able to do anything about these stretch marks.

I have accepted the fact that I can’t do anything about my stretch marks. The best thing I can do is love my body with all its flaws. I’m learning to ignore that voice in my head telling me my stretch marks make me ugly. I love myself, and I’m learning to love my stretch marks. My stretch marks tell a story about my life:

A story of a little girl growing up…

…of a young woman happily in love,

…of a mother carrying her children,

…and a story of a certified badass.

-Toniann

Riding the Happiness Wave

Hello everyone! I’ve taken the longest break in posting since I’ve started this blog almost a year ago. It’s been a crazy busy time during my absence. To sum up, I started this month with anxiety and dread because my husband was going to be away for almost a whole week and with his schedule, we wouldn’t be able to talk frequently. Partner that with the thought of me being completely alone with the girls for that entire time without any help, and I was scared shitless. Thankfully, brother-in-law came to the rescue and came over for the weekend and helped me out. That week was rough to say the least, but I made it through.

About a week after my husband came home, I woke up in a good mood, which is rare for me. And I thought to myself:

It feels amazing to be in such a good mood!

Now when I usually wake up in a good mood, it doesn’t make it to the afternoon. With picking up my daughter from school, heading to the grocery store, homework and cooking dinner, I’m pretty wiped out and cranky.

But these past few weeks, I’ve been choosing to be happy. It started out unwittingly, but then I became aware of the choices I was making throughout the day. I realized that happiness is not a daily choice, but its a moment-by-moment choice. That sounds exhausting, but honestly, holding on to my anxiety and stress of the day is so much more tiring. It is hard to choose happiness in certain moments, but I am becoming more conscious of when I need to just let things go. And it feels great.

I always thought singing along to music meant you were in a good mood, but that’s not always the case. When I’m starting to feel anxious, I’ve been busting out in song while in the car with the girls and getting them to join in. It makes me forget about my stress in that moment. It’s little things like that that are keeping me on this happiness wave.

When I thought about riding the happiness wave, I always imagined it was something out of my control, like an actual wave.

“I’m riding this happiness wave for as long as I can because I’m not sure how long it will last.”

I would always say that when I was in a good mood. But it’s not actually like that. I can ride this happiness wave for as long as I want. I can choose to be happy, to see joy in everything, even the stressful situations. I’ve always heard that happiness is not a destination, it’s a journey. Even knowing that, I still didn’t fully understand it. Now, I feel like I’m finally grasping it. I no longer want to drown in a sea of unhappiness and negativity, and I don’t have to. I choose happiness.

It’s pretty liberating to say “fuck off” to those negative feelings. I not only owe it to my family to be happy, I owe it to myself. So to all of you reading this, I hope you choose happiness today and everyday. It’s too fun to pass up.

Halloween Family Fun

-Toniann

Navigating Through a Tumultuous Relationship

One of my first blogs last year, I talked about toxic people. It’s easy to cut toxic people out of your life, but not if its family. Sadly, I have many toxic family members as I’m sure most people do. But I’ve put up with shit out of loyalty to my family.

I am struggling as I’m writing this. I’m really not sure if I should be talking about this or not.

I’m fighting with this decision to blog because the tumultuous relationship I’m referring, to is with my mother. And I’m terrified she might read this.

Throughout my life with my mother, things weren’t always difficult, I have plenty of great memories with her. But I feel like there are so many more bad memories. Maybe that’s just because those are much more painful.

My mother, like my father was, is an alcoholic. She has struggled with alcoholism for what feels like my whole life. Like most addicts, she downplays the role that alcohol has in her life and doesn’t believe she has a problem.

My mother has suffered from depression on and off throughout my life, even though she never got a diagnosis from a doctor. And I know her struggle with depression and alcohol go hand-in-hand. Her depression got so bad when I was a child that she hadn’t left our apartment for years. People in our neighborhood actually believed she was dead. As a young child, I remember her telling me…

“…I should just kill myself.”

I remember pleading with her not to leave me, that I needed her. And even though we don’t have the best relationship, I’m glad she didn’t commit suicide like she had wanted to countless times.

Her struggle with alcoholism got worse when I was around 12 years old. I suspect she had been mixing prescription pills with alcohol but I can’t be certain. I remember her hallucinating and my father had to take her to the hospital. She had alcoholic hepatitis which caused jaundice. She went into the hospital the day of my first period, so that day will always stay with me. I didn’t have my mother at such an important stage in my young life.

She was in the hospital for days, I can’t recall how long, but I do remember the doctor talking to us. My godmother was there, and the doctor had said if she starts drinking again, she will die. She seemed sincere when she said she never wanted to drink again. I was hopeful for the future.

But she went back to drinking. It wasn’t long after she got out of the hospital. I remember we were at our neighbors house and she had poured my mom a beer. I yelled and reminded her that the doctor said she’ll die if she drinks again. She brushed it off like nothing and took a big gulp. I ran back across the hall to our apartment crying because I really believed that my mother was going to die. And she couldn’t have cared less.

Quitting drinking was difficult for my mother since my father was also struggling with the same addiction. Alcoholism is something both my parents fought with. My father lost his battle 4 years ago and I know my mother will eventually lose hers too. Losing my father was hard for all of us, but especially for my mom. This has caused her depression, and thus her alcoholism, to get worse.

I’ve gotten to the point in my life where I’m done fighting. Alcohol will always win. For a long time, I was angry and bitter about my parents “choice” to drink. But I know that addiction is a disease. And as long as my mother doesn’t want help, I cannot help her. It still stings of course, because alcoholism has negatively shaped our relationship.

The only thing I can do is be there for her as much as possible. I have come to terms with the fact that she probably won’t be around for much longer because of her addiction. It doesn’t make it easier. I try to take it one day at a time. Some days are more difficult than others. But I am really trying to maintain a good relationship with my mother.

I love my mother with all my heart. I wish so much that my love was enough for her to quit drinking for good, but life doesn’t work that way. I wish things were easier, I wish I could help her, and I wish she could be happy.

-Toniann

20 Things You Might Not Know About Me

Well everyone, its been 7 months since I started my blog. For those of you who have been here since the beginning, you have no idea how much I appreciate you. And for those who are new to my blog, I hope you are enjoying my posts. So I figured I would post 20 things you might not know about me.

  1. I have no middle name. Both of my brothers do, but I guess my parents figured since my first name was already two names, I wouldn’t need another one.
  2. My dream is to open up my own fitness center. If you’ve been following my blog, you know that fitness is my passion and I used to be a group fitness instructor.
  3. Green is my favorite color.
  4. My favorite book series is Harry Potter. I grew up reading the books, and I remember being so excited when the next book was published. I’ve even gotten my daughter into the books, and got her the first illustrated book last Christmas.
  5. My favorite show is Friends. I’m currently watching season 2 as I sit here typing.
  6. I love playing video games. I wouldn’t call myself a gamer per se, but at the moment I am obsessed with a new game called Stardew Valley. I like a wide variety of games, and my husband and I love to play together.
  7. My favorite meal is a burger, fries and a milkshake. Vegan of course.
  8. I played with Barbie dolls until I was 13. I can’t be the only one right?
  9. I have 4 tattoos and look forward to getting more.
  10. I used to have a belly button ring and tongue ring. Pregnancy has wrecked my stomach and my tongue piercing has since healed.
  11. My favorite beer is Guiness stout.
  12. I used to smoke cigarettes. I took up vaping to help quit and in a drunken emergency have smoked a few cigarettes. But its not a habit anymore.
  13. I LOVE horror movies. I grew up watching them and I still love watching them; even though I can’t watch alone.
  14. I have a certificate in plant-based nutrition.
  15. I’ve never traveled outside of the United States. It’s definitely happening in the next few years. We’ve been making traveling more of a priority and I’m ecstatic.
  16. I love naps and sleep in general. If humans didn’t need sleep, that would be awesome, but we do, and I love it.
  17. I’m really into true crime. I’m currently watching Homicide Hunter: Lt. Joe Kenda.
  18. I love Disney. I grew up watching Disney movies and I love going to the Disney parks.
  19. I love wine. I’m not as fancy as I’d like to be but I’ve done a few wine tastings and can’t wait to do more.
  20. I wanted to be a stunt woman. Back when I was a young teenager, I totally wanted to be a stunt woman. I thought they were the most badass people on the planet and never got enough credit. But I changed my mind once I realized I didn’t actually want to break all the bones in my body.

Well, there you have it: 20 things you probably didn’t know about me. I hope you had as much fun reading this as I had writing it. What are some things people don’t know about you that they might be surprised to find out about? Comment below and let me know!

Back in 2004, when I still wanted to be a stunt woman.

-Toniann

How One Song Brought me Back to the Past

Since my father passed away over 4 years ago, my brothers and I have gotten into the habit of sending each other songs that he used to listen to.

My father probably had over a hundred cassettes, many of them mixed tapes that he had made over the years. He had such a wide interest in different kinds of music. My father would listen to classical, rock from the 70s-80s, 50s pop music, and so much more. I have a station on my Pandora music app with some of my dads music and it goes from “Hasta Ayer” by Marc Anthony to “Can’t Help Falling in Love” by Elvis.

My father played the trumpet growing up and he later taught my two brothers how to play. They would practice everyday after school. I’m sure they’ve forgotten how to play now, but who knows. Music was just a big deal to him, and now it is to us.

Since my father listened to so many songs while we were growing up, we don’t remember all of them. But whenever each of us come across a song that he used to listen to, we send it to one another. It’s a nice way to remember our father.

Last week, my brother Chris sent me one song that I had completely forgotten about. It was the 1972 song Go All The Way by Raspberries. I clicked to play the song, and after about 10 seconds into the song, I was brought right back to my childhood living room. There was my father, sitting in front of his stereo, listening to this song and singing along.

And I just started sobbing.

That memory of my dad was so vivid at that moment, and that song brought me right back. I’ve had certain songs bring back memories but nothing as strong as this one. Maybe it was because I had forgotten about it, I’m not really sure. This time was just different. And it made me miss my father so much more.

I’ve had smells bring back memories too: my father’s cologne, my mothers cooking, pinchos cooking in the city. It’s funny how certain sounds and smells can recall memories.

It’s bittersweet when the memories of my dad pop up in my head. My smile turns to tears because I wish he was still here. My father should have died an old man, he was too young. So much has happened since he passed away. And I just want to pick up the phone and call him, to hear his voice. I want to ask him advice about the girls and how he handled things with us when we were kids, knowing full well he wouldn’t remember. I want to sit with him and make him laugh, I was good at that.

I’m not sure where my dad is now, I don’t know if there is an afterlife. All I know is that when I die, hopefully a long, long, long, time from now, I’ll get to see him again.

I miss you like hell, Dad.

My father

-Toniann

Dealing with a False Sense of Entitlement

Growing up, my mother used to tell me how special and unique I was. How there was never another person in the whole world who was like me. I was also my father’s only daughter, and he spoiled me. So naturally, I believed that I deserved certain things in life. I deserved to be treated special, because that’s what I grew up believing. But as I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned…

I don’t deserve anything from anyone.

And neither do you.

No, I am not the center of the universe. While it’s quite shocking to come to this realization, it’s also liberating. It’s still something I am working on, but baby steps. It’s difficult to change your mindset from believing that certain people in your life owe you things (whether it be time, affection, money), to realize that is not the case at all.

Having a sense of entitlement only hurts myself in the long-run. So I am really trying to be more self-aware and not take things that people do personally.

But how do you handle someone who feels entitled to your own time, love or even money?

We’ve all come across people who feel like we owe them something. Someone who needs you right away to complain about the same shit going on in their life, with no regard for you. This has happened to me recently.

A family member of mine, who I cut out of my life a few years ago, wants to reconnect. Our relationship was horrible most of the time, I was always treated terribly. I admit, I was tempted to try and reconnect, we’re family after all. But I reminded myself that this person only wants to have a relationship with me to fulfill needs and desires that have nothing to do with me. I am just another ear to listen to bullshit, to feel sorry, and I refuse to do that.

And I refuse to feel guilty for distancing myself from people who disturb my peace.

Maybe that’s me feeling entitled again. I feel I deserve some peace in my life. I’ve dealt with enough of other people’s shit. I’d like to deal with my own.

Walking away from bullshit

-Toniann