Most mamas can claim their stretch marks as beautiful because they represent a stomach that grew big and round and housed life. My stretch marks represent the opposite. Those two big, bright red stretch marks on my stomach represent darkness, death, and the loss of a dream. Amongst them and below them are multiple surgical scars. Those two stretch marks are the result of a rapid growing, large, cancerous tumor that took away one of my ovaries in three months’ time. Not a baby. Not life. But death. When I look at them I am tempted to be mad. My body failed me. It couldn’t make a baby but it could make cancer. For days, for months, for years this has plagued me. But what would life be if I stayed in that thought process? That nasty attitude towards my stretch marks and scars.. They represent so much more than broken dreams and a now suffering self-esteem. Those two big bright stretch marks represent a miracle, a story, and ultimately yielded for another dream to come true.
If you have followed my journey you know that I always wanted to be a mom (through adoption and biology). I dreamed of growing a child inside of me, feeling the kicks, dreaming about what features we would share, and taking sweet maternity pictures with my ever growing bump. I knew along with being pregnant my body would change and I would likely struggle with the aftermath of growing a human life inside of me. As we journeyed through the trenches of infertility it became clear to me that I would likely not become a mom through pregnancy and after a ton of tears and prayers I surrendered that dream to the Lord and we started pursuing foster care. You can read all about that journey here.
A year and a few months passed as I soaked up the dream of motherhood with our sweet foster baby who is now our daughter, I noticed some abnormal symptoms, the most concerning being a rapid growing abdomen. I took a pregnancy test reluctantly because that would be the obvious thing to think with a rapid growing belly. It was negative, per usual. I was confused, concerned, but so exhausted by my reproductive health issues and surgeries that I ignored it for another month. Well eventually enough was enough and I got it checked out. You can read all about that here and here.
If you didn’t read the links above you missed out on the fact that I had a 21×21 cm cancerous tumor on my left ovary. That is the same size as a growing baby. How ironic. How cruel, I thought. All I ever wanted was a growing belly housing a baby but I got a growing belly housing cancer. It was ok that I was mad. Of course that is a huge heartbreak to deal with. One of the best pieces of advice I received through my infertility journey was “you can be mad and ticked off at God, he already knows it, so don’t try to hide it. Instead tell him exactly how you feel and pray he heals your heart.” Ok. So here I had another huge opportunity to be mad that life was going differently than I wanted. I expressed my frustration, I vented, I journaled and God listened. He loves me so much that He, the almighty, all knowing God of the universe cared enough about me to listen. Once I got it all out, however long that was, days? Weeks? Not sure. I was ready to ask him to heal my heart, to heal my hurt and my mind over this hardship. It was time to take the focus off of how much it sucked for me to go through this and to instead reflect on how my God’s might and love could be seen in this situation. Here are some things I learned; God used me and my infertility/cancer journey to speak truth and encouragement into SO many people’s lives. He didn’t “give me cancer” or “make me infertile” but he did choose to use what happened to me for my growth and his glory. Next, everything with my infertility and my cancer journey lined up in such a way at such a time that my family was brought together. If it were not for all of that we would possibly not have our daughter. We wanted to foster and adopt but we wanted to have a biological child first. God’s timing did not allow that and I sure as heck am thankful for that now. We could have missed the greatest joy and honor of our lives; being parents to our daughter. And lastly, my stretch marks and scars are a result of my cancer journey and my infertility but they now represent a picture of God’s faithfulness to keep me safe despite my scary health experience. I look down and am reminded that He protected me from what could have been so much worse. I look at my stretch marks and scars and am reminded of how strong our family unit became through that hard season of life. There is so much beauty, growth, and goodness because of what happened that caused those two bright red stretch marks. I hope you can find the beauty in your stretch marks (physical and metaphorical) too.
“My flesh and my heart may fail, but the Lord is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26