I like to see my body and how it is changing. Every day I look at my reflection and see that my belly is smaller. It's pretty remarkable. Just as I marvel, while holding my two little baby girls, that they used to live inside me when they were not much smaller than they are now I marvel at how my big, round pregnant belly is shrinking.
I don't feel in a rush to "get my body back". This is my body. I'm being deliberate in honoring my physical self and all it has accomplished lately. I know that this is the last time I will transition from being pregnant to not-pregnant and I want to pay attention. Soak it up. Watch the changes. It is also such a relief to not be pregnant anymore! I have so much more energy and am so much more comfortable in my skin.
My first pregnancy ended suddenly and I grieved.* I didn't think I would have any more kids and I mourned the fact that I hadn't said good-bye to my taut, full belly. One minute I was pregnant, thinking I had two more months to go. The next, they were out. I missed feeling those little beings move around inside of me, missed their company, especially as they lay separate from me in the NICU.
Post-pregnancy bodies are funny. At least mine was and is. You feel so much smaller so quickly that you think "Oh, I'll totally fit into these old pants! I'm not pregnant anymore!" And then you try to put the pants on and they hit mid-thigh and won't go further and you realize "Ohhhh. Hmm. While not pregnant I am also not back to my previous size. Good to know, pants."
You keep wearing maternity clothes until they're laughably big. Even when they're laughably big your old clothes still don't fit. You also think maybe you want to wear pants with an elastic waist forever because I mean. Elastic. So stretchy and forgiving. The downside being that they fall down all the time and you're forever hiking your pants up like a teenage boy. What to do? Buy new clothes in a bigger size for the transition? It's a tricky situation.
At one point in my second pregnancy one of my new doctors asked what my pre-pregnancy weight was. That's an important question of course because they needed to make sure I wasn't gaining too much weight. I thought hard and was completely stumped. "Ummmm. 170?" I guessed. No clue really. My first kids were four months old when I got pregnant for the second time. I never got out of the transition zone. I don't remember how much I weighed when I got pregnant the first time. My body has been in this weird, perma-pregnant state for the past two years.
I'm 5'9''. I have weighed 220 pounds, during the month I was hospitalized for liver failure when I gained eighty pounds of fluid practically overnight. I have weighed 135 pounds, after the transplant when all the water weight came off and my body was atrophied from. . .lack of use probably? I'm not sure. At that point I realized that my bones essentially weighed 135 pounds because I was stick-thin--it was not cute. My frame can carry 150 pounds of weight or 170 pounds of weight and still look relatively the same. At least that's how I feel. When I look at pictures taken of me at different weights I can see the difference.
I've been lucky in my lifetime to mostly like how my body looks. There have been exceptions, of course. I have webs of thick stretch marks all over my thighs that I've had since I was 23. I went from the smooth-skinned, enviable, glowy, gorgeous legs of a young woman in her early-20's (I mean seriously. I am sometimes struck dumb by how stunning young women's bodies are in 18-24 range) to excess skin, ripped-up, slightly saggy thighs. Those thighs had seen more of life than 23-year-old thighs should. Ha! That sentence could be taken in many ways but I mean the experience of gaining 80 pounds in a week as a result of liver failure aged my body violently. That was hard to get used to. In the hospital I thought it would be my actual transplant scar that made me self-conscious in the future. Nope, it's always been the stretch marks. Similarly, a lot of it was grief. Mourning the fact that I hadn't gotten to say good-bye to my unmarked skin--that I'd been thrust into a new way of being without being prepared. I have some trouble with transitions if you couldn't tell.
What my ripped up thighs gave me was an invitation to just get over it. I lived. As my sister said while I was still in the hospital, the fact that we were even in a position to be bothered by stretch marks was a miracle. I still wear bikinis. I have moments when I look at a woman next to me and envy something about her. But I love that my body shows the marks of the life it has lived. The life it has survived. I know many people, especially women, have a hard time loving their physical selves and I feel lucky to be able to do so.
So I check myself out in the fancy mirrors on my way to visit my daughters. I use it as a chance to watch my body changing. I also look myself in the eyes and acknowledge my here-ness. I am walking into and out of this hospital. I am going to see my daughters or I am leaving to go home and see my first twins. The days and evenings are warm. There is a mountain behind me or in front of me. My heart aches. I feel the air on my skin after being closed up in the artificial NICU environment. This won't last forever. I await the transition.
*I want to acknowledge how lucky I am that the sudden end to pregnancy resulted in two living babies. I know many people aren't so lucky.