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

Terrible or Terrific Two’s?

My youngest daughter Emilia turned two almost two months ago and we’ve currently hit the “terrible” stage. She literally just had a meltdown because I didn’t put her favorite show on the tv. It’s little things like that that have BIG reactions.

Her sister is playing with a toy she wants to play with:

Tears.

When she’s hungry (which is pretty much every hour now):

Tears and screams. But I’m the same way so…

And god help you if she’s tired and hungry because she will scream, cry and throw her little fists at anyone who bothers her.

Honestly, its difficult to manage to say the least. I try very much to keep a cool head because a strong reaction from me only makes things worse. It’s this balance between maintaining boundaries with her (i.e. no hitting) and pacifying her (i.e. let her play with the toy). Her being as cute as she is, it’s hard not to just give in all the time.

Most days I feel stressed and anxious to the point where I want to pull my hair out.

But there are such great moments throughout the day. She’s doing countless things she couldn’t do even a month ago.

She’s talking more, she sings and dances. She loves to cuddle with everyone (provided she’s fed and well-rested). We have conversations and she’s starting to understand more and more. She’s in the process of being potty trained, which I was not ready for AT ALL. She loves to play games and she is so silly. Her personality is really shining through now.

Singing “Let it Go” with her sister.

So yes, two’s are tough and I know from experience that three will be more strenuous, but it’s also terrific. It’s honestly the most fun age. With all the new things she’s doing, I can’t help but be amazed and proud. She knows what she wants, and definitely what she does not want and will tell you so. Emilia is totally my sour patch kid. She is a little firecracker and I hope that her strong-willed personality will never leave her.

-Toniann