As a young girl, I remember watching my mother staring at her body in the mirror in disgust.
“Your brother did this to me,” she would sigh as she gestured towards her belly laden with stretch marks.
“Your other brother just finished the job.”
I would have only been in my young teens at the time, but it was a moment that has remained with me forever. It was also the source of a lot of anxiety for me when I first found out I was pregnant.
Shit, was that going to be me standing in front of the mirror down the track wishing I had my flat and unblemished stomach back?
I’m not going to lie, I slathered moisturising cream and bio oil onto my ever-growing belly like it would fall off if I didn’t.
And once my little girl was born, I breathed a sigh of relief when I’d only gained a small stretch mark underneath my belly button.
Call it genetics, fate or whatever, but just like my mum, it was my son that left me with a stomach I had once dreaded to look at.
At 9lb 8, he was a chunky monkey from the outset, but once I got to know him and felt my heart swell with the love I had for my little family, I tried not to let my crinkled belly seem like anything other than trivial.
Despite this, it is three years on and I can’t bring myself to wear a bikini and cringe when my children try to lift up my shirt in public to plant a kiss or a raspberry onto my tummy on their tip-toes.
“Nobody wants to see that,” I said to them once, as I hurriedly pushed my shirt back down.
But in that very moment, all I saw was my mother standing in front of the mirror.
I remembered the emotion in her voice, the sense of longing, and I knew I didn’t want that to be me and I have planted my feet firmly in the tiger stripes camp and have finally begun to accept and even celebrate my stripes.
Stretch marks can be unsightly and make you upset when you catch sight of them in the bathroom, but the 75% of mums who have them should wear them with pride.
That is not to say the 25% of women who didn’t end up with tiger stripes are no less mothers than those who did, because every woman will experience some sort of change to their body whether it’s wider hips, a slightly wobbly or saggy tummy, or a bootylicious butt.
While some people might think that their body has been ruined by having children, I see tiger stripes and that tell-tale belly bump as one of the quintessential symbols of motherhood it should be a source of pride and not something to be ashamed of.
One of the women who bared her belly for the gorgeous photos had asked her photographer to edit out her stretchmarks when she’d had photos taken after her first two children were born.
When she first looked at her photo in this series, all she saw was a bloated belly until her husband reminded her what her body had done.
“I looked at them again and thought of how beautiful our babies were and these stretch marks are now my trophies. I’m proud of my belly and the miracle that it carried out four times and if I had to do it again knowing that my body would come out worse for it, I would in a heartbeat,” she said.
“If I can help one person to no longer think that another woman’s, or even their own, stretch marks are feral, than I would feel my photo accomplished something.”
At the end of the day, we are all mothers and we need to band together to ensure that if a tiger-striped mumma wants to rock out in a bikini on the beach, she is applauded for being comfortable in her skin rather than body shamed.
Every stretch mark on your butt, breasts, thighs or hips are reminders of the fact that you created life. Your body was a home for the most precious thing your child.
I know that my mum thought the same thing as I do our children are worth every single stripe but I am going to make sure my daughter knows that I had never been more comfortable in my skin than I am now, because I know that I have a family who loves me blemishes and all and that is the purest kind of love there is.
So come on sexy mummas, embrace your body and be proud! #SAHMtigerstripes
Thank you to the women of Gympie who volunteered to bare their amazing bodies for these photographs.
Note: Photographs are not to be copied or used without written permission from the owner of www.stayathomemum.com.au