Dear Postpartum Body,
You’ve been through a lot this year.
You expanded to hold a healthy, seven pound, ten ounce baby boy. And then, like a flower reaching up for the sun, you let him go. My heart grew arms that reached beyond me. A voice cried outside of me, yet a part of me.
I don’t know how you did it, but you stretched and stretched—and you left these faded stretch marks on my belly to remind me of it. The lines make me think of pale seaweed waving across my skin. A human aquarium previously full of amniotic fluid.
You were cut open and you grew new scar tissue. A thin line of new skin to cover the fourteen centimeter hole where my son was pulled out of me. You sealed me shut with new cells. You healed.
Then, the week after I gave birth, some terrible things happened. I felt like you had been taken from me. Hijacked by circumstances outside of my control but now demanding that I live through them. I know this happens to most people at some point in life.
You made me soft. You made the skin on my belly look wrinkled. It avalanches in on itself when I move in certain positions.
My belly is a pillow for my son to lay his head when we’re playing on the floor. I sometimes ask him if he remembers being inside of me. Because I remember it. It was one of the happiest times in my life. I remember watching his bottom slide across my belly button like a rainbow in motion. Life rippling within me.
There’s a tenderness you gave me after birth. It’s as physical as it is emotional. It’s in the hormones that made me tear up so easily. It’s in my soft belly and the feel of my husband wrapping his arms around me. And it’s in the times I bend down to wipe tears from my baby’s cheek and tell him, “Mama has you, it’s going to be okay.”
It’s going to be okay. I needed that reminder often after his birth.
You carry memories through my veins and in my dreams. Of the hours spent trying to push him out. Of the conversations I had, replaying all that happened, trying desperately to understand it. Of the moments I feared you would not last. The moments I realized you had made it. Of teething and the times your nipples bled. Of the pure joy that ran through you when he laughed for the first time. Of the weight I gained and the weight I lost. And the redistribution of weight in new places. You’re a landscape of mountains and valleys both familiar and foreign.
The world may tempt me to idealize a frozen image of my pre-baby, mostly in-shape body. But I choose you.
The world likes to boil women down to parts and then critique them. But you teach me how absurd this is. You teach me that I am a story. A story that brought me to the end of myself and taught me that this is only the beginning of love. My story tells me that I am both fragile and resilient. I know the feeling of defeat and the exhaustion that follows. I know the swallow in your throat when you’re trying so hard not to cry. But I also know determination, commitment, and love. I know sorrow doesn’t have the last word. I know laughter can be found again. And I carry in you a sense of accomplishment.
The world tells us that youth is the ideal, but I believe love is. I don’t want to be young forever. I want to love forever. And loving is what I’ll do.