At the end of my pregnancy, I had a recurring fantasy of what I would be like physically after having my baby. I imagined myself thin again—fit, even. I thought about how my back would no longer ache in excruciating pain. I envisioned running—no, more like frolicking—through my neighborhood with my fancy new stroller getting back in shape, new baby in tow. I imagined the overwhelming tiredness would just melt away, and the months of restless sleep would be followed by deep, beautiful dreams lying on my belly. I thought I’d get to stake claim over my physical self once again. I thought I’d get my body back, but I was not ready for what was in store for me next.
By the last few weeks of pregnancy, I developed preeclampsia and was induced 11 days early. After a hard, painful, crazy swollen, and long labor my sweet babywas born via C-section. Knocked out at the end of the procedure I would wake up to still find myself with 20 something pounds of water weight I had gained over the past 24 hours. I’d need a blood transfusion. Crying out to see my baby in the NICU, I tried to get out of bed but my body would not allow it. I was forced to wait. I was angry at my body. It was failing me. And I did not have my body back.
Over the next few days, I lied in a hospital bed drained, in the worst pain of my life. I couldn’t pick up my own legs up to move them. I fought to stay strong, I had to for my baby. But inside, I was screaming in more pain than I was letting on, and I was mourning the vision I had for myself coming out of the hospital healthy and strong.
After almost a week in the hospital, we were finally sent home. With tree trunks for legs, the headaches squeezing my brain, cuts on my body I wasn’t prepared for, and a new sleeplessness I’d never known, I was fighting through each day. Praying to gain control over my body again.
A few weeks later, I finally woke up one morning 24 pounds lighter. I woke drenched in sweat as if someone had wrung me out like a sponge, and I felt a tinge of joy as I looked at my legs in the full-length mirror. “I think I see some of me again,” I thought to myself.
I thought it meant I was getting my old body back.
Yet here I am, six months later, still carrying the weight of my first child. I look in the mirror and see a tired face staring back at me. Aged a little, skin not as supple as it once was before pregnancy, and new dark circles around my eyes that I never had before. They’ve been here for months, so I try to make peace that they may just stay forever. I feel sucked dry most days by bedtime, after a day and often night of feeding a baby every few hours. I try to take a stroll around the block with my fancy stroller but it’s difficult. My legs don’t move the same. My body tires easily. I don’t have the energy to push myself harder. It’s nothing like my dream of frolicking down the sidewalk with a bounce in my step and a look of glee. No, my body feels heavy, old, and disconnected from my brain. I often cried silently to myself, “I just want my body back.”
Although I would not trade my baby for a million perfect bodies, I couldn’t help but mourn the old me. But now I don’t dream about frolicking or being toned; now I have visions of a full night’s rest and non-lethargic limbs. I dream of a day when I have the energy to work to get my body back again. I don’t feel I need to push it yet and that’s OK. I’m OK with letting my body lead me now. I listen to it.
I have had to come to the understanding that my body is not failing me. It is not weak. It has healed me deep from within. It has sustained the life of my baby for six months exclusively. It has worked hard on less sleep than it has ever known, burning more calories than it’s had to in the past, and carrying the weight of a baby both inside me and in my arms for more than a year now. When I become frustrated with my body, I try to remember all it has done. It has accomplished more than what I can even understand. This body has weathered the storm, has done miraculous things, and each day does not give up on me and my child. My old body may be smaller, but my new body is courageous.
And that is a body to be proud of.
This article was originally published on The Extraordinary Day