We weigh more now than we ever have by at least ten pounds, but I have never felt more beautiful. Every night I stare in the shower-fogged mirror at my image emerging and delight in my rounding curves and softening lines. I stand there long after I’ve oiled every inch of skin I can reach. I stand there grateful for you and everything of which you are capable. I stand there and am thankful to be standing there, thankful.
It’s not that I’ve hated you. At least not all the time. Parts of you I’ve even loved. I’ve enjoyed the fullness of my breasts, the long line of my legs, the curve of my ass—but for how they could be flaunted in the dip of neckline, length of hem, cling of fabric. I loved those parts of you for how they might contribute to the seductive push-pull of attraction, the covering up in order to reveal. But any pleasure taken was always countered by the scrutiny I gave your other parts. What of the hours I’ve spent wishing my mirror reflection would permanently suck in its stomach? What of the silent, internal debates about how many white hairs to pluck and when to give up and start dyeing? How much money have I spent trying to coax my pores to behave, trying to cover scars and irregularities, trying to shove wigglier bits into garments that could urge them in a more flattering direction, and trying to balance all of you up in the air on spindly-thin heels that, frankly, hobbled me like a geisha in kimono, taking tiny careful steps on skyhigh geta? What about being guilty of practicing smiles in the mirror—missing the point entirely that the beauty of a smile rests in its spontaneity? How many times have I stepped on a scale and gauged my self-worth on the number staring back at me?
And in 2009, when I learned I was pregnant, I had to begin wrapping my brain around the idea of you changing—even those parts that I liked. My mom gave me a toothbrush with a cow on it and gently teased me about whether I’d put on some baby weight, and I found myself sobbing on the bed. It terrified me that I had never managed to be as thin and gorgeous and fashionable as I had hoped to be—and that such a goal was fast-vanishing, as if in a rearview mirror.
But my grey-area feelings about you up till then paled in comparison to how much I loathed you after I miscarried that nine-week-old embryo. You had betrayed me, you were not to be trusted, you couldn’t even do this single, simple thing right. I only grew angrier as the months turned into a year, and becoming pregnant again became my sole focus, the thing around which I revolved and spun all possibility of happiness. But no matter how many vitamins and medicines and hormones I took, how much I changed my lifestyle in terms of exercise and diet and stress, no matter what fertility books or doodaws I bought, I could not get there. Something was wrong with me/you/us.
It’s too neat, annoyingly tied up with a shiny bow, to say that once I forgave you, I got pregnant again, and that once I got pregnant again, I came to finally really see and love you, but dear body, that’s exactly what happened.
You had worked through all the odds against you in making sperm and egg meet, fertilizing egg, egg journeying without getting lost along the way, and egg firmly implanting in the right spot. You were AMAZING! You could do ANYTHING! You were woman, hear you ROAR! Together we now had to become a matryoshka of bell jars—me shielding you so you could shield the growing babe. We weathered four months of fatigue, nausea, vomiting, food aversions, lack of appetite, weight loss, constipation, severe mood swings, and a depression that made the whole stretch of days feel like they’d been angrily scribbled over with a dark grey crayon. But nothing mattered as much as being kind to you. I napped four hours a day almost every day, missed deadlines at work, cancelled plans with friends at the last possible minute, and ate whatever I could keep down—even though for a while it was just soda crackers and judicious amounts of ice cream. Despite my fear of needles, I lay on an acupuncturist’s table while she inserted them toe to hairline, including one between my eyes. I was so afraid I had to keep my eyes shut the whole time. And before she left the room, she warned me that part of the treatment was that emotions would be released. I lay there, immobilized. I trembled. I worried about needles and fear and stress and release. I thought of how I was doing this for you, for me, for us, for the little him. I vibrated and felt electric and levitated and wept. I lay there and I forgave you and forgave you until I understood that there had never been anything to forgive.
Four weeks passed. Then nine—that magical milestone, wherein the last embryo had been lost, but this one stayed. Then the thirteen weeks of the first trimester were behind me, another marker reducing my risk of miscarriage. I could breathe. Fourteen weeks. Twenty (with all the exact perfectitude of the anatomy ultrasound, working organs and proper moveable parts and a heart that beats so furiously, with such determination). Twenty-one, twenty-two, twenty-three—and here we are.
I think I’ll always remember 2011 as the year I got pregnant again, but I hope it also marks the year I came to finally see and embrace you. You are so much more than just the sum of your parts. And far more wonderful than how you look in a bikini is what you are capable of doing as well as what, with a little patience and kindness, you are capable of learning to do. Like making and carrying a baby. Or upgrading from two-mile hikes to five-milers. Or climbing a rock wall when afraid of heights and receiving acupuncture therapy when terrified of needles. Or each week making my tree pose a little less windy. Or breathing more deeply, forgiving more quickly, letting all the little things go more easily because they are usually so very little.
Besides I’m getting rather fond of your parts. Even the wiggly ones. The girth of my belly now holds my child. The white hairs have, these last few years, been earned. And, well, my boobs are still big, my legs still long, and my ass still firm, so let’s call it a win.