Nine years ago I ended a glittering modelling career to become a mother to my daughter Millisent and she was everything I’d ever wanted in life; unconditional love, friendship, adoration and inspiration and I thrived on becoming a mother at the tender age of nineteen. But my happiness was marred by the effect that childbirth had on my body as at 38weeks into my pregnancy my skin itched, tingled, throbbed and tore from the pressure leaving me with the most horrendous and disfiguring stretch marks.
Fast-forward to the age of 28 and I now have two children, am a single parent and have lived with my stretch marks for my entire adult life. It has had such a negative impact on my self-confidence, self-esteem and fashion sense as I detest showing my stomach and shift nervously each time that my top rises up or if I have to don a bikini in public. My stretch marks started off as dark red deep claw-like lines running vertically across my lower stomach, hips and thighs and I cried my eyes out for months after when I saw my reflection in the mirror. It’s one thing to go through childbirth alone and another to be left disfigured. I was so happy to become a mother yet so deeply upset to see what it had irreparably done to my young body.
Sadly stretch marks don’t just affect new mothers as any sudden change in body size can cause them in men and women alike from teenage growth spurts to sports training, seasonal weight gain and surgery. And just like any other scar, burn, accident or injury they are unwanted, unsightly and entirely unnecessary and where I kept my naval piercings in during pregnancy the skin above and below my belly button is also stretched and weak. So I set about trying to remove and reduce my scars and soon found that other than having a tummy tuck there is no surefire way to repair such deeply damaged skin. Over the years they have faded from a bright red to a shimmery white colour that shows up more prominently when I have a tan, they are also sunken, wrinkly and blown out like an over-inflated balloon.
I have tried everything to reduce the appearance of my stretch marks over the years starting with every cream, oil and ointment on the market to rub into my damaged skin. I progressed to derma-rollering which involves pin-pricking thousands of needles into the deeper layers of the skin to damage and then stimulate collagen regrowth and finally I’ve just completed a full course of lasering to improve their texture. Together these treatments have certainly improved the appearance of my stretch marks as they’re not as deep or as wide as they once were but they are still there and I still dislike them. As a fashion and fitness blogger I’m fortunate that my stretch marks don’t show up on camera unless you’re really close and at a shallow enough angle to see the dimples, but in day-to-day life when I’m at the gym, the beach or even in summer clothes I always have this niggling feeling that my top will rise up and people can see them so I meticulously cover my stomach and dress far older than my years.
Some women wear their stretch marks, or tiger stripes with pride as a sign of bringing new life into the world and I am incredibly proud and blessed to be a single parent to my two wonderful children. But as a woman I am self-conscious, scarred, flawed and reluctant to let anybody close to me because of how I feel about this damage to my body. It’s hard to explain how something so menial can make you feel, to some it may be of no importance at all yet to others it’s the most prominent thing in the world. Whether it be hairloss, wrinkles, scars or anything physically undesirable it can be hard to accept the changes our bodies go through, especially when it is unplanned, unwanted and happens prematurely. I want to be carefree, I want my body-confidence back and I want to celebrate the fact that I am a young mother, not shy away from the world because of it.
Having already amassed ten tattoos across my body from feathers and angel wings to a dove, heart, infinity symbol, inspirational scripts and my children’s dates of birth I decided to call my tattooist James King of Inkeletic Tattoos to see if anything could be done to cover my stretch marks now that my skin lasering treatment is complete. He said it wouldn’t be a problem at all and in improving the texture of my skin from the treatments I’d had I’d prepared the area for a more even and natural tattoo that would focus on correcting the pigmentation of the skin and distracting from the scars.
Not having a particular design in mind we discussed my existing tattoos, my interests, beliefs and outlook on life which led to a custom piece James drew up of a lotus flower with a hand of Hamsa above. The lotus is a flower of beauty which grows from murky water against all odds and is symbolic of finding hope on the darkest of days, reminding me that whatever doesn’t kill me has only made me stronger. The hand of Hamsa is a protective amulet from ancient faiths to encourage happiness, luck, health and good fortune. It also guards against the evil eye which is situated at the middle of the tattoo and is indicative of the malevolent glare of others, something I fear we may all fall victim to at one point in our lives, especially being in the public eye.
I was concerned that it would hurt tattooing over damaged skin as I’ve had coverup tattoos to my lower back and hip which were very tender but surprisingly my stomach was virtually painless and my skin behaved just like it would in any other area of the body. In a single afternoon after six hours of euphoric tattooing my body-confidence was restored and it is the most phenomenal feeling because I have exchanged a part of my body that I detested for a piece of art that I will love, cherish and take inspiration from for the rest of my life. The difference it has made to me is immeasurable; I finally feel like a woman again. I feel complete, feminine and no longer like I am damaged goods and old before my time. My weakness and insecurity has evaporated entirely, I literally can’t stop smiling and am looking forward to catching up with all of fashion trends, crop tops and bikinis that I have missed out on since I was a teenager. Tattoo’s don’t just tell a story, they restore life and have the ability to rebuild people both physically and emotionally.