Being pregnant for 9.5 months is a monumental transformation. Your body swells. Your hormones pulsate. Your appetite ranges from ravenous to nauseous within minutes. I enjoyed housing another human, but I couldn’t wait for the end. I wanted to meet the specimen I had grown and get my body back. I imagined giving birth and quickly returning to my previous weight, my previous hormonal rhythm and my previous life.
After breastfeeding, my body shrunk back to its original size and I gladly bid adieu to my chest that had expanded to pornographic proportions. I yearned to look in the mirror and finally recognize my reflection. But even after the scale had returned to its former digits, I felt like a stranger.
Becoming reacquainted with myself is not like getting back on a bicycle and relearning what already feels familiar. It’s more like meeting someone new with the vague understanding that your lives are intertwined and it’s in both of your best interests to learn how to get along.
Before a fetus inhabited my body, and now a foreigner has found her home in there. Who is this woman?
That question can’t be answered with a simple answer. We are all works in progress, constantly evolving, maturing and regressing. And just like I was in tension with myself pre-baby, I am in tension with myself post-baby, but in different ways.
For one, I am suddenly attracted to women who I previously would have abhorred. My group of friends used to consist of women who were intellectually curious, self-reflective and who wore black. One mother I met and soon came to adore looked like she was saran wrapped in spandex from head to toe and decorated like a Christmas tree in neon-colored costume jewelry. She spoke in a high-pitched, nasal voice and burst out laughing at her own jokes, snorting intermittently. One afternoon she announced to a group of new moms in the park that her husband planned to groom their son into an Ivy League-educated financier who would also compete professionally as an athlete. She threw her hair over her shoulders, snorted the loudest she had done to date, and scoffed. “I have other plans. I am the one at home with him and I will nurture my son’s free spirit. Let my boy decide who he wants to become.” At that instant, I pledged my allegiance and today I count her among one of my closest friends. She’s even taught me to introduce more color into my wardrobe.
There are little things that now test my patience and make me lose my cool. I’ve learned that skipping meals was irresponsible before, but now that practice legitimately leads to catastrophe. Sleep was always important, but caring for an infant on less than six hours of shut-eye leaves me borderline suicidal.
On the other hand, when everything seems to be going awry, I find myself calm during the chaos. There are, of course, those moments when I dream of running away - when I’ve had enough of changing diapers, singing rhyming songs, and listening to hysterical cries. But more often, I feel a deep hunger – completely starved for more time and more memories. I am in mourning over the transience of every life stage.
I am simultaneously weak and strong. Weak because each day seems like an obstacle I must overcome. And strong because every day continues to come and go, turning into weeks, months and eventually years. Some days are daunting and others are light, but there always is another morning and evening, which means I’m ultimately overcoming.
I had imagined that by this time, I would be back to feeling comfortable in my own skin. Somehow, along with losing the extra pounds and the milk ducts, I shed that skin and discovered my new self.