I had my first baby three weeks before I turned 20. Just before I got pregnant, I was in the best shape of my life. The year previous to carrying my first baby, I was running 4-6 miles a day most days and lifting 3-5 times a week. My skin was smooth and soft (God bless that moist Hawaii air), my muscles were taut, my clothes fit great and I was happy. So to lose that smooth, pretty belly by 20 wasn't easy. If I said I immediately loved my post-baby body, I'd be lying. I hated that even after I was back to my pre-baby size and weight, my belly was covered with these weird, shriveled wrinkles where my skin had literally stretched to its breaking point. I didn't have a lot of time to dwell on it, since I was pregnant again by the time that baby was 1, and then pregnant again by the time the next baby was 2, and then pregnant again before the next baby was 1 1/2. There were times over those years when I felt like my body was not my own (and drowsy nighttime feedings where, for a few desperate, fatigued moments, I was convinced it never would be again).
But now that my babies are a little bigger, now that its been a full two years that I haven't been pregnant, I can honestly say that I love the stretch marks across my belly. Its not that I'm OK with them, or that I can appreciate them, I love them. When I run my fingers across those weird, shriveled wrinkles, I feel nothing but gratitude and joy. I am no more ashamed of them than a marathoner is of her legs. I earned those stretch marks, and while they are a reminder of great discomfort and even pain, they are a constant reminder of my greatest, constant joy.
When I was a child, I was always a little perplexed by being told that when we were resurrected our bodies would be perfect, that we wouldn't have any scars, and then also being told that when the resurrected Christ showed himself to his disciples, one way he convinced them of who he was, was by showing them his scars. Why would a perfected being have scars? As a mom, with the evidence of broken flesh striped across my midsection, I get it. I get why he kept the scars. He told his disciples, "I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands," to remind them that he would not, he could not, forget them or forsake them. It is notable, I think, that he proceeds that reassurance by comparing his love to a mother's for her child: "Can a woman forget her sucking child?" My body was not ruined by my sacrifice--and the scars it left behind--any more than the Savior's body is ruined by the nail prints in his palms, wrists and feet. They are the physical manifestation of his greatest work, and his tremendous love.
I love my stretch marks, as the physical manifestation of the greatest sacrifice I have been asked to make, a sacrifice that is ongoing, and the one thing that brings me my greatest joy: the bearing and nurturing of my children. My scars are a bodily manifestation of the integral part I am privileged to play in his plan. "Behold," he says, "this is my work and my glory: to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." The Lord's work and glory is the redemption and exaltation of his children. His scars manifest the tremendous personal sacrifice he was willing to make to serve and bless God's children. His work cannot progress without the willingness of women to bear children and be mothers. My work is the bearing, teaching and nurturing of my children. And even after they have grown up and left home, those scars will be there to remind me of what I have given, and of what I have received. Those scars remind me what matters most and that, in the end, that's all that matters.
So when I see my shiny little scars, I see my children's faces, I feel the love and joy that they have brought to my world. And I also see the nail prints, and hear "this is my work and my glory": I am reminded of another's flesh, broken for me, that that joy might be possible now and forever. I remember that the soul is spirit and flesh, united, complete and splendid, and I won't mind at all if my celestial body still has shiny, wrinkly stretch marks scattered across it. I will look fondly on such eternal scars, just as I look with overwhelming gratitude on the eternal scars of the resurrected Savior. Both are evidence of God's love, and the role we each play in His eternal plan.