There are a few rites of passage in pregnancy: morning sickness, weight gain, cravings…and stretch marks. We dread stretch marks. Websites tout diets to prevent them, creams abound to stop or hide them, and celebrities brag about avoiding them (though we all know the ragmags are just airbrushing them out!).
Having Marfan syndrome means I’ve had stretch marks for as long as I can remember. The disorder causes them to appear in all sorts of weird places: my shoulder blades, hips, knees, shoulders, legs, lower back, etc. without normal reasons like excessive weight gain. When I got pregnant with the Menininho, I knew there’d be no preventing lots of stretch marks from taking over my body. My motto became “no one does stretch marks like a pregnant Marf!” I stand by this, by the way. I got my first purple streaks during my 5th week of pregnancy, before I’d even gained weight. By the time my son was born, I had marks 1/2” wide and so deep I’m surprised my skin didn’t rip open and expose the baby himself.
I was curious whether I’d get additional stretch marks with this pregnancy. I’ve made it all the way to week 28 before the first new one has appeared. You might think I’m bummed out about the prospect of additional claw marks, but I’m not. Here’s why.
I work with the teens at the National Marfan Foundation and stretch marks come up in our conversations. One of the teens shared her philosophy with me shortly before this year’s conference. Stretch marks aren’t really stretch marks, she told me. “They’re tiger stripes, and that makes them awesome.” And if you think about it, it makes a lot of sense. Tigers are powerful, beautiful animals and their stripes are what sets them aside from other cats. They scream “I am strong.”
And we are! Those of us with Marfan, we are strong people to deal with the kind of hardships, both physical and emotional, that this illness tosses us. And can anyone doubt the strength of a pregnant woman? We grow another one of us for months, then birth it.