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It may not be beautiful, but I wear it with pride.

While I was pregnant with Big Girl one of the things I was most afraid of was stretch marks. I knew my skin was a candidate. When I was in my early 20s, I gained 40 pounds and soon after the insides of my thighs sported purple yet translucent marks. What would pregnancy do to me, I wondered.

As soon as I got a positive pregnancy test, I did lots and lots of research on the topic. (A side effect of being a journalist.) I found out that there’s not much you can do to prevent stretch marks. Even those women who don’t gain a lot can end up with a tummy filled with white lines. I did, however, find one promising study about a product only approved for use in Europe. The product, according to the research, prevented stretch marks — big time. I had to have it. My husband, who was working at a large, worldwide company, contacted one of his colleagues in Spain asking him if he would pick up a tube for me. That man, bless his heart, went out and bought me two tubes of the stuff, which I religiously smeared all over my belly twice a day for ten months. (It fit right in with my Natural As Possible theme since it’s mostly herbal extracts and vitamin E.) It worked — to a point. After I gave birth I noticed a tiny stretch mark on my right hip. I dubbed it my Big Girl Tattoo, and proudly showed it off to anyone who would look.

When I got pregnant with Little Girl, my husband had recently quit his job, so I went out on the Internet for my European anti-stretch mark cream fix, buying it from a website written totally in Spanish. (Thank goodness for Google Translate!) Again, I slathered the stuff everywhere. Again, I escaped the fate of many of my friends. The bulk of my belly was fine, but that tiny Big Girl tattoo? Well, it got a little bigger. And wider. And you know what? I am surprisingly okay with it.

It’s a daily reminder of the absolutely amazing work that I did mentally, physically, and emotionally having my babies. Mentally, I was able to get past some pretty difficult eating issues. In fact, I’d even venture to say that my pregnancy cured me of my eating disorder. Even before I felt a single kick I realized that I could never forgive myself if I died because I was trying to be thin. I would never want to leave my kids because I was too vain. (It probably helped that I was smart enough to see a therapist for my entire pregnancy both times around.)

Physically, well, I have documented my birth stories pretty well, but I have never done anything so amazing than those days when I pushed those kids out of me. And emotionally, well, those kids change me every single day. They just do. I am forever grateful for them and for that.

Before I had kids I was big into karate. (That’s me. I don’t do anything without going big.) I took my black belt test three times, failing twice because I was pregnant and once because I just wasn’t good enough. I always said I was going to get a tattoo on my ankle to celebrate achieving my black belt goal. Now, when I look at my hip I realize I have nothing left to prove. Getting that black belt would feel nice, but it’s not going to change me as a person. I am a mother. I am a warrior with a non-quitting spirit every day of my life, and my baby tattoo reminds me of that every single day.

How did your pregnancy (or your partner’s pregnancy) change her body? How did you deal with that? I’d like to know.

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