Towards the end of my first pregnancy, at about 38 weeks, I got stretch marks. The first ever in my life. The stretch marks left a texture on my belly that was foreign to me and left marks I had never seen on myself before. At an age where women are expected to be toothpick thin and are accepted or rejected based on looks, this was unnerving.
That was just the beginning of battle scars I would endure and maintain from this (first) pregnancy. After being induced and in labor in the hospital for a full day and a half, I was delivered shocking news that I needed to have an emergency C-section. I was scared, ever so scared; this was my first surgery EVER, and only a thin hospital gown prevented me from seeing myself get cut wide open and my organs pulled out of my body for everyone to see. I was freaking out. But, there seemingly was no choice. My daughter needed to be rescued from imminent danger, and I wanted to help in whatever way possible.
To the Lord in Heaven above, I give thanks for that child that was born, battle scars and all. Though she spent nearly a week in the NICU, fighting for her life, she's a healthy, talkative, considerate daughter of mine. She is now five and a half years old.
When Isabella was 11 months old, my husband and I decided having two children close in age seemed like a good idea. So, we actively started trying for another child. I got pregnant on the first try. Again. I continued nursing my firstborn for nearly six full months, until my firstborn was 17 months old. I stopped in my second trimester, because I didn't want Isabella to associate weaning with the new baby and I neither wanted nor was prepared to tandem nurse.
My pregnant belly showed itself much sooner than the first pregnancy. A bit too soon for me. I was showing by seven or eight weeks. I also got larger than I did in the first pregnancy. Much of that pregnancy was a blur; it flew by all too quickly.
With a C-section and a very undesirable experience behind me, I was determined to attempt a healthy VBAC (vaginal birth after C-section). That chance nearly didn't happen. I went past my due date, and my obstetrician wasn't comfortable letting me attempt a VBAC after a week past my due date. On top of that, she was not on-call and she was not working the weekend past my due date. Not just any obstetrician would be willing to assist in delivering a VBAC. Victoria prepared to enter the world, without any medical intervention (like induction), on a Friday before the weekend. I am certain the Lord had a hand in granting my heart's desire for a healthy (healthy for the baby as well as me) VBAC, because too many details fell into place for mere coincidence or luck.
Through that second pregnancy, the two sides of my abdomen (the left side and the right side) have not come back together. There is an issue beyond aesthetic or visual displeasure in that. Part of my innards (my organs) protrude from that spot (where the two sides of the abdomen are separated), from time to time. When that happens, it is painful. Regular abdominal exercises, such as sit-ups, exacerbate the situation instead of helping. On top of that wonderful battle wound, my skin stretched even further than the first pregnancy, and I had a pooch that decided to make its home on my belly.
But, I got a beautiful, rambunctious, spirited daughter to keep. She was my bosom buddy and nursed for 33 months (2 3/4 yrs). I nursed her until the beginning of the second trimester of my third pregnancy. This child of mine just turned four years old.
***There are plenty of discussions of how various birth control plans (whether birth control pills or other options) are close guarantees, but people have still conceived, even when going by the rules). The Lord had other plans for us, for me. I took my time nursing Victoria and didn't insist on weaning her, thinking she would be my last child. But a pregnancy, with TWINS, necessitated otherwise.
Wow, this third pregnancy threw me for a whirlwind. I was surprised to be pregnant. Imagine the utter SHOCK when I found out there were two yolk sacs, two babies, and two hearts beating inside my body. Well, including mine, technically, there were three hearts beating within me. It wasn't long before I got stares from people at my quickly swelling belly. Alright, alright, I know, I'm huge.
Shocking stares turned into stares of concern. When sitting behind the wheel of my minivan, my very pregnant belly was making contact with the steering wheel every time I turned my head to look at my blind spots. This was later in my third trimester. My dad was wondering how I was still standing. All joking aside, he was quite concerned. I carried the twins to almost 38 1/2 weeks. I definitely had stretch marks on different parts of my belly, but now I also had some stretch marks on my breasts. Great. Fantastic. Look at my growing excitement. ARGH!
I had planned on and hoped for a couple more VBACs with the twins, but I knew that could possibly face undesirable results, such as one VBAC followed by a C-section or a C-section for both babies. I carried the twins full term; they were each the weight of a singleton; I was able to have both babies naturally, vaginally, without complication; and, the total amount of time was less than two hours from the time my water broke to when both babies came into the world. I'm not bragging. I'm ever grateful for each of occurrences.
This is the way the babies entered the world. Christine, who emerged first, didn't cry as she exited the womb and didn't cry for the first hour of life in the world. Christian entered the world screaming. And here they are, 7 1/2 months later; nothing has changed.
7 1/2 months later, I am slowly succumbing to the fact that my belly likely will never recover from carrying four babies in the belly, two of whom simultaneously occupied my tummy at once. I have resigned to the reality that these are battle wounds and scars I will keep. Though my belly might slim down further, I doubt I will ever get back to a pre-pregnancy belly. Though my stretch marks will likely fade with time, I doubt they will entirely disappear. My surgery incision (from the birth of my first child) scar has faded with time, but the location of the incision is still present and scar tissue doesn't just disappear. But the gifts and wonders I got in exchange for the pregnancy and birth scars and wounds are blessings I would never take back.
There are men and women across our nation who have willingly and voluntarily placed themselves in harms way for random strangers like me. There is very little to nothing I wouldn't do for my brood, for my children. Strangers? Random people? Not sure I'd do what our soldiers have done. Our soldiers have distanced (geographically) themselves from loved ones and familiar surroundings; suffered unimaginable horrors and atrocities; carry battle scars, seen & unseen, psychological & physical - all for strangers like us, for our nation, for our freedom. This sort of sacrifice is difficult to imagine. Thank you so very much for what you (soldiers) have done for us.