Photo by G u i d o
During my first pregnancy, I erupted in stretch marks right at week 38. And seriously, erupt is the only word I can use to accurately describe it. One night I went to bed, smooth and moisturized and mark-free. The next morning, I had a series of white half-circles surrounding my belly button. They somewhat resembled the Milky Way. Every day, the circles and rings stretched further out across my belly, in a hurricane-like pattern.
My doctor noticed them at my next appointment and cheerfully told me to moisturize with cocoa butter. I told him that I HAD and DID and ALL THAT, and probably would have decked him if he hadn’t represented my best shot at not being pregnant for too many more weeks at that time.
By the time I gave birth to my (GIGANTIC) baby, the marks were pretty expansive. And as my belly deflated, the skin sort-of…puckered up and dimpled, like the scruff of a hairless cat. And I discovered that the worst of the marks had been on the underside of my belly and the tops of my thighs — instead of the thin white ones I’d been seeing and stressing over, I had deep wide purple ones in places that I’d simply been unable to see at nine thousand months pregnant.
And you know, I was pretty freaking upset about them. My c-section scar was nothing, the extra weight was more nothing, but OH. Those marks. I hated them. I couldn’t see myself ever getting used to them, or be okay with them, as every other mother I knew professed to be. I hadn’t expected to get them, frankly, because I never noticed that my mom had any and I never got any during puberty like many of my girlfriends did. So frankly, I was horrified. I was ruined!
I broke my own personal dollar-amount threshold at Sephora and bought a $100 tube of StriVectin…only to discover that you couldn’t use it while breastfeeding. I waited a few months and started slathering it on after we were more or less done with nursing. I tried oils and other creams and scar treatments and pretty much everything that made any kind of dubious stretch-mark-reducing claim.
And…they faded. They didn’t go away, of course — the indentation was still there, but at least the color of the marks more or less became the same as the surrounding skin. Points for having a natural fish-belly-white complexion? Eh?
And…I got pregnant again. This time there was no waiting until 38 weeks. The marks showed up earlier, darker, bigger. When one of my more fortunate friends advised one of our OTHER newly pregnant friends on which stretch-mark prevention cream “really worked” I kind of flipped out on her because NO.
NOT REALLY. YOU JUST GOT LUCKY.
But after my (NON-GIGANTIC) second baby was born, I found that I just couldn’t be bothered with all the stretch-mark care this time. I didn’t buy any StriVectin or cocoa butter or scar treatment. I used my regular ol’ body lotion on them, whenever I remembered.
And guess what? They faded. Again. The same. Probably a little faster. While the skin around my belly button will probably never be completely smooth again, I look fine. When standing up, my skin could possibly pass for pretty darn okay. (Sitting down, I’m a bit lumpy, since I just seem to have extra skin, marked-up and otherwise.)
So, in other words, if you’re looking at your own set of deep dark battle scars, relax. THEY WILL FADE. Like any patch of scar tissue, they need time, and will look better with age. Keep them moisturized and protected from the sun, but that’s about it. If it makes you feel better to apply the fancy custom products in hopes of speeding up the process, go for it, but don’t expect any miracles. The miracle of pregnancy and childbirth is what got you into this mess anyway, right?