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     I woke up today and was devastated to find that I had mysteriously grown my first stretch mark while I was asleep last night. One deep, red line standing out against the ridiculously pale flesh of my right hip. I traced the line with my fingertip as my brow furrowed and a stabbing pain of ugliness began to nag its way into my mind. As I stood before the mirror, I examined every part of me (well, the parts that I can still see, that is), making sure that my frustratingly bright new mark hadn't brought any friends with him. I was saddened to see the two cysts on my thighs, ingrown hairs in places that can no longer be attended to, dark circles under my eyes, and a new patch of gray hair coming in at my temple. And let's not even dwell too long on the fact that I am much closer to 200 lbs that I am to 100 lbs, a thought that makes me nauseous and, surprisingly hungry, all at the same time. I realized that it's official.... I am now grotesque.
     So, I decided to take my hideous self to the bathroom for a shower, crying stupid tears the entire time. You know the ones I'm talking about. The tears that don't cleanse you or leave you feeling sated... but the ones that are filled with self-pity and nothingness... the ones that are vain and childish and hormonal and that reek of "I know I shouldn't be crying about this, but I just don't care"... the ones that are over a single, red stretch mark. Was there more to my morning than the mark? Sure, there always is. The kids I already have are nuttier than a jar of peanuts, I argued with my husband over something I can't even now remember, and my sweet baby Isaac looked at the dog and said "Mama" with such heart-felt conviction that I nearly had stupid tears all over again! But there was just something about that single stretch mark that pushed me over the edge into mood-swingy blubbering. Not because I pride myself on being something beautiful to behold, now marred forever by this silly line on my side, but because I now feel like a striped hot air balloon... you know, the family-sized kind. I feel fat. I feel ugly. I feel like crying stupid tears all over again because this dumb laptop I'm typing on can't actually fit on my lap anymore because I NO LONGER HAVE A LAP!!!
     What I do have, however, is a liiitttllle bit too many hormones, and tttaaaaddd bit too much sickness, and a wwweeeee bit of a problem getting a decent night's sleep (because apparently growing a stretch mark will just take it right out of a girl!). Yes, I realize that I could have woken up in some third world nation with little to no food or money to my name. I could have woken to find myself at death's door with an incurable illness. Or I simply could not have woken up at all. These things I was aware of as I balled my eyes out in the shower today. And then I remembered that I'm 6 months pregnant and that now is not the time to kick myself for being a blubbering mess and that everyone is allowed to have stupid tears sometimes, especially when they can't see their feet anymore... it's just a right of passage, I think, and I'm going to let myself have the occasional pity party every now and again (while still thanking God that I woke up in my safe, warm bed anyways!).
     What did help, however, was to realize that all these marks and changes are just reminders of the miracle swirling and kicking inside of me; Mere battle scars from this pregnancy war that I'm sure to win in just a few more short months. I know that when my little boy traces his little fingertip on my deep red line, I can choose to feel honored that his life, his very existence, is forever etched on my right hip... my special little tattoo that will always remind me of the months I carried him in my tummy (and my in back, and my rib cage, and bladder, and oh, in my lungs). Will my husband still find me "sexy" when it's time to undress for bed? Will I wear a burka to the pool from now on? Will I be tempted to Jackie Chan the next Mama that tells me, "You shoulda used cocoa butter...." in that sing-songy voice that oozes with I-told-you-so-ness? (Side note: I DO use cocoa butter, twice daily, and look who still has a red line on her side, folks!) And will I cry stupid tears again with the next stretch mark I see? I have no idea. I'm gonna go ahead and say that all of these are likely at this point. But I am going to try to see this new mark as a friend, not a foe... a line of love, not of shame... my special little mark that will forever symbolize my little baby boy.