[In labor, 39 w. 2 d. pregnant | Yesterday morning, 6 w. 6 d. postpartum]
Seeing my body transform during pregnancy was incredibly surreal. I remember the first few times I looked in the mirror and spotted my "baby bump". From that moment on, I was constantly stealing glances at myself throughout the day in everything from store windows to the sides of mini-vans in parking lots. (Yes, it was a slight obsession. I could just hardly believe I was pregnant half the time, and having the physical reminder was both comforting and thrilling.) Although it took a long time for my bump to be apparent to the rest of the world, I could feel my body changing every day.
You always wonder what it's going to be like, you know? Seeing your belly grow as the child inside you slowly changes with each passing day. What will it feel like? Will I still feel like myself? Will I feel different?
I know most of us worry endlessly about what pregnancy will do to our bodies. Extra weight, stretchmarks, all the lumps and bumps that we work so hard to avoid under normal circumstances. For some reason, I didn't let that worry get to me. I kept thinking about how if there was ever a time to just let my body do what it needed to do, pregnancy was it. There was always that worry of becoming a human blueberry, but most of the time I just giggled about it. In the couple years leading up to my pregnancy, I had managed to overcome many of my body image issues and I wasn't going to let my worry steal any joy from the next nine months.
Bring on the love handles and double-chins. I was going to take it all in stride. (And try my best to hide the chins in any and all photographs, obviously. I'm no saint, people.)
As it ended up, I really lucked out. I'll never deny that. Having a tiny baby, combined with the fact that I somehow avoided many typical pregnancy cravings and the usual increase in appetite, led to my gaining only 20 lbs. during the 39 weeks I was pregnant. (I take no credit, for the record. It was a mystery of science, because I had always figured I'd gain at least 50 lbs. No lie.) And having a smaller belly led to my also avoiding stretch marks—not including the one that appeared after the wee one arrived. Of course, I will never complain about that lone stretch mark, and instead find it slightly endearing. I imagine it being all, "Ohai. I'm just chilling here on your abdomen. Don't hate."
After I gave birth, I still looked like I was about five months pregnant for a few days. At first I felt awkward about it. I remember changing into my regular clothes before heading home from the hospital, noticing my still round belly. I looked at my mom, rubbing my leftover baby bump and saying, "WHAT IS THIS MESS." She assured me it was normal, so I calmed down a bit. I knew it would slowly become smaller and smaller—and, in a way, I started to get wistful after that.
It's like the last signs of pregnancy, slowly melting away.
About two weeks postpartum, I kind of adored what was left of my baby bump. I wanted to go belly dancing. Or just shimmy around a bit in front of the mirror. Mostly because it felt good to be curvy it a way that didn't include my stomach protruding a foot from my body. I have a waist! I have hips! I have a soft, beautiful belly! Hurrah!
I'm now back down to where I was pre-baby (just a few pounds under, actually—which I contribute to breastfeeding, as well as being more active). It's been an incredible journey. I feel like it was just yesterday that I was so anxious and eager to be forced to wear pregnancy jeans, and now I'm back to my regular wardrobe. My body has shifted and changed, but has also given me a healthy, happy little girl. I'm in awe of the whole process, truly.
I remember my mom always telling me about how each time she gave birth, it was such an incredible experience that she felt like she was the first woman in the world to have a baby. Creating a life, sustaining that life for nine months, giving birth to a tiny miracle, and then being all that is needed for that life to continue outside the cozy space it had grown within.
It's definitely been a life-changing experience. And as a woman, I can't help but be in awe of how I was created for this...as cliché and old-fashioned as it may sound.
Sometimes it's still so overwhelming to look at the tiny baby sleeping in my arms, knowing that without Jay and I, she would never exist. And that my body held her life within it for so long, making sure she was safe and sound for all those months. Magical, really.