I stepped on a scale this past weekend for the first time in 7 months, and realized that I’ve lost all my “baby weight”. So I should be feeling… glee, right? I’ve reached the goal the baby books tell you — 9 months on, 9 months off. The problem is that your body is never, ever the same, and seeing that I am technically back to my old weight was just baffling for me. I guess the weight has just rearranged itself on my body, because my shape is quite different. And it would be weird if my body were just like it used to be — I GREW A PERSON inside of me, pushed her out and then have been keeping her alive on milk that comes out of my body — these are all things the body I had a year and a half ago could not imagine doing. So I guess what I’m realizing is that even though it’s not logical, some of those messages got into me when I was reading all those books, and I held on to the hope that I could have a baby… and my 29 year old body back after 9 months of patient waiting. But time marches on, and now I am 30, and have the body of a mother, not a young woman who has never birthed a child. And I wouldn’t want it any other way, it’s just strange to get used to.
I believe, more and more, that our bodies are really essential to who we are. That is why we obsess about them so much — we are embodied selves, and we can’t really help it. There are spiritualists who want us to forget our bodies and think only of holy things, and materialists that want to live only in the five senses, but the truth is that our souls and our bodies coexist, and we have to tend to each.
When I strive to perfect my body, I am striving to perfect my soul. And who wants a perfect soul? A saint, perhaps, an angel, a person steeped in delusion. Thom Yorke in his Creep days. But not me. I want a rag-tag, unique, lived-in soul. I want it to reflect what I’ve learned, and the potential for future growth which coils within me like a silvery snake.
So I walk through the city with this post-baby body, which is like a square with all the edges rounded — gooier, especially in the middle — and I look at young women’s bodies with, I admit, a touch of envy. When I did this in the past, I always told myself, “Rhea, you don’t want that body. What if she can’t dance?!” But now I have much bigger ammo. I say “Rhea, you don’t want that body. A) What if she can’t dance?! B) You’d have to leave this body, and this body brought you a very particular baby, whom you love and don’t ever want to be apart from, not even if it meant you got to wear skinny jeans. She wouldn’t even know you in that body! Leaving this body would be equivalent to abandoning your baby. Loving your body is honoring the vehicle that brought you your little one. ” And that shuts down all the envy right there. Granted, I have to have this conversation with myself about 10 times a day, but it works every time.
Another huge change in my body recently is that, after a year and a half, I got my period back! Since it had been so long, I was totally in denial that this would ever happen, I realize now. I really thought that as long as I kept nursing, it would stay away. And of course it is an unwelcome house guest — messy, makes you feel ill and emotionally unstable, eats all your cookies and stays way too long — but for me it has been more than that. It signifies the end of this transformation this time around. My body is telling me, “okay, all set to have another one!” when in some ways I don’t feel that I am “done” having this one. She still nurses 5 times a day, and is literally attached to my body any time we are in the same vicinity.
Losing my baby weight, getting my period back, both of these things signify that I should be “back” in the ranks of every-day women, not pregnant or postpartum anymore. And I don’t feel “back” from anywhere. I feel totally and completely different, changed forever, no way home again. But perhaps what I have glimpsed is that we, as women, are always these sort of magical creatures, with the potential to totally transform through childbirth and mothering, and don’t really know about it until we do it. Once we do, there is no returning to that place of not-knowing, not-having, autonomy. I am glad my stretch marks are still here — they are scars of my love.
“Even on the day of judgment when I am resurrected the scars of your love will be manifest on my body and your picture clinging to my heart. ” ~ Mohammed Iqbal Naqibi