My Body After Baby: A Map That Leads To Us
Undressing for a shower, I catch a glimpse of myself postpartum in the mirror. Normally, I quickly glance away and get back to business. I know I am not physically where I would like to be. But this time, I pause for a long overdue look-over. It has been six months since the birth of my beautiful baby—six months, and not much has changed. Here I am alone and exposed for my eyes to see. Outside of this bathroom, there is a world wanting me to trim it up, suck it in, brush over and push it up. But in here, face to face with myself, there is a different story being told. This is the body that birthed two beautiful babies. This body has the story of my children written all over it.
I peer closer as the mirror fogs up with steam. I look tired. Under my eyes there are two half moons hanging. There is a watery haze over my pupils. These eyes have opened several times a night to check on my children. These eyes have changed their diapers in the dark. They have been the first set of eyes my babies have ever seen. They have pumped tears out over their beauty, their babbling, their breakdowns. These eyes will keep them from danger, light up their faces, and watch them grow up.
I look a little lower—perhaps a lot lower—to catch a glimpse of my breasts. They don’t even look like mine anymore, way back when underwires were just an option, not a necessity. Most days, I am not happy with the twins, they don’t stack up to what they used to be. But in this moment, in this mirror, I see their beauty more than ever before—their softness, the way they round out over my ribcage. They fed my children for as long as they could. They set off alarms when I heard a crying child in a grocery store. They grew and shrank according to the needs of my children, a soft space for my babies to rest their heads and drift away into dreamland. In their maturity, there’s a newfound sexiness in their purpose. And I wonder why I do not show them off more often.
Oh boy, the belly. The vacant home to my two babies. I remember when it was flat, and I remember when it was so bursting with a baby that I could not even see my feet! There is a star-shaped circle of stretch marks around my belly button from its former tenants. And just below that, there are two linear scars marking their birthdays forever on my skin. It droops and kind of swoops over my hips in this profound postpartum fashion. Pretty is not the word I would use to describe it. Before I get despondent over its awkward appearance, the memory of first flutters comes to mind—the day you feel a flutter, or a flip, and wonder if that is the beginning of your communication with the growing child inside you. Then come those stronger kicks, the way they grew all the way into my ribs. The days I would drink some juice just to lie down to feel them roll and tumble in delight. This belly got so very big over nine months. What is the rush to wish it away within a few weeks? This tummy tells the tale of how my children came into this world.
My hips, these hips that at one point curved outward at the perfect angle. Now a thick lining of flubber covers their once sharp and shapely edges. I used to be able to wear pants that rested below them; now I don’t buy anything that sits below the belly button. I look down and laugh a little, that flap of flubber is what keeps these kids propped up perfectly as I walk around. They sit froggy-legged right on top of them, with one hand on my shoulder. My hips are their saddle moving them around the world.
I touch my face with my hands. I can see age spots. My nails are exposed; I have had no time to paint them. I am raw and bare before this mirror in every way possible. My hands hurt most days—lifting, twisting, stirring, fastening, combing, buttoning, tying and trying to keep my kids out of trouble. But these hands and these arms were the first to embrace my babies. They were the first to hold their tiny hands, and these fingers were the first they wrapped their little fists around. These hands have lifted them up before a disaster, soothed a fever, caressed their skin as they drifted to sleep. These hands have lead them carefully into childhood and will never let them go.
This body is not so bad. In fact, it is beautiful when I take a longer look. Everything about me is shared with those who I created. There is a strength in that. I am softer now. There will be plenty of time to lose where loss is needed and push up the parts that sit lower if I so choose. But right now, looking in the mirror six months postpartum, I see something sensual about the softness. I’ve come to a new and deeper awareness of my body. There is nothing more beautiful than to share my body with my babies at this time in my life. So for now, I accept my body for the wonders it has done, the miracles it has made. I promise myself to try to love my body. It used to be mine, then it became theirs, and now it is ours.
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