For Nine Months, My Body Was Perfect
I was standing behind the front desk at work, looking for something in a file cabinet. A gentleman had walked in and asked our receptionist a question. As she looked up the answer, I turned around. He gasped. He audibly gasped.
From behind, I didn’t look immensely pregnant. He was unprepared. I was all belly. I can’t remember how far along I was but I do remember that my boss was pregnant, as well.
We were both so big that we thought it was hilarious that we couldn’t pass each other in the hallway without turning sideways and our bellies rubbing together.
I had all the physical ailments of a pregnant woman. My wedding ring no longer fit. My feet were swollen, too. I could already see that no amount of cocoa butter and old wives tales would ever stave off the stretch marks. My belly itched like hell.
Still, I loved my body so much then. It was perfect. It looked exactly as it was supposed to look. Healthy. Big and life carrying. I actually felt sexy.
After I had my daughter, I struggled. There’s so much about the first weeks of motherhood no one ever tells you.
No one told me that there would be moments I would be concerned that lack of sleep would make me delusional. I felt delusional.
No one told me that no matter how hard I tried to remember the words to sweet songs to sing my daughter, the only ones I would ever remember would be Folsom Prison Blues, The Gambler and Delta Dawn.
No one told me I would hate my body that I once loved.
I was shocked when I left the hospital how different my body looked. My stomach was deflated. Like a balloon that doesn’t pop but just slowly loses air. I would pinch my skin and joke, “This is going to be a problem.”
But the problem wasn’t how it looked. It was how it didn’t look.
My body once had purpose. It had a job to do and it did it well. I had an insanely beautiful baby girl that tipped the scales at almost nine pounds. She was perfect with the exception of a little jaundice that made me have to sit by a window and hold her in the sunlight for an hour every day. I reveled in that.
I missed my pregnant body. Looking back, I am certain it figured largely into my postpartum depression.
My body no longer had a purpose. It was no longer special.
I couldn’t even breast feed. It was once magical and it couldn’t even do the one thing it should naturally have done. I felt a little betrayed by my body.
I worked hard to lose the baby weight and it worked but what I was left with was not what I expected. Nothing was in the same place. Everything had kind of shifted. Depression based in this is pure vanity but it’s real.
It took a dozen years to get to the point where I moved to accepting my body again. It was small victories. I was strong and could carry around that big sack of kid for an afternoon. It snuggle her up in my lap under blankets for cold days.
Even the flaws dissipated. My stretch marks will never go away but, when I look at them, I realize they’re because I put a remarkable human being into this world. Mainly, I realized my body had more purpose than what I have revered it for.
I learned to celebrate it again. I pushed it harder than I ever had. In 2013, I ran a triathalon. It was horrible and hard. If it hadn’t been for the 62-year-old woman I ran past to get in the pool, I would have come in dead last. But God bless that 62-year-old woman. She helped, too.
She made me realize how many more miles this body has and my main purpose became keeping it around as long as I can to enjoy the rest of the years of my life.
I’m now in my mid-40s and my struggle with my body feels a lot like it did 15 years ago. Except now, I’m wiser. I care less. I live more.
I’m now in a place where I want to be good to my body. Eat better. Love it for what it is. Treat it kindly. Take it wonderful places. Keep pushing it. Tan its skin in far off places, wrinkles be damned. It’s served me well. It deserves this.