That's how old I was when I first discovered stretch marks all over my inner thighs. Angry-looking and purple, I didn't know what they were. I hated them. For years, I refused to wear shorts. Even in the heat of summer, I wore jeans or Capri pants. By the time I was a pre-teen, stretch marks covered my thighs and the first few faint ones made their appearances on my butt and hips.
As I got older, though, they faded and around the time I hit junior high they were less-visible. I let myself wear shorts again. Dresses. Skirts. Bathing suits. For about eight months of the year, you can barely spot them - even if I am bare-legged - because they fade into the pale milkiness of my skin. During the summer, they stand out silvery against my tanned skin but it doesn't bother me any more.
When the first stretch marks from pregnancy appeared on my stomach and sides, I collapsed into tears. I was only two weeks away from my due date. From the bottom of my bellybutton to the top of a pair of bikini-cut underpants, my tummy is soft, a little stretchy, and painted with a few dozen stretch marks. I hated them for a while too, but they don't bother me either.
I wouldn't have F without them.
Sure, I'd love to have been one of the women who gets off easy and doesn't get a single stretch mark throughout her pregnancy - or, if you're my cousin, through multiple pregnancies - but I wasn't. For the first year after F was born, I donned a one-piece bathing suit. But now I wear bikinis.
Today, at the beach, one of the few mums who spoke with me exclaimed that she'd never wear a bikini or show her "mummy tummy" in public the way I do. She said she was too self-conscious. In her retro-inspired one-piece, this girl could have been on the front of a magazine. But, with a sarong around her waist to cover her "dimply thighs" (her words, not mine), she barely had the confidence to take off the layers she'd previously worn.
I busted my ass off (literally) to lose weight and get in shape. My stomach may never be tight and firm like it used to be, but I'm strong and I'm healthy and I've got something better than six-pack abs to show for it.