A true story.
I had my first post-birth shower three days after my daughter was born. I walked into the ward bathroom whilst Pippin had daddy cuddles and braced myself.
Day one I had been too ill to get out of bed. Day two I was given a bed bath and helped into a chair, which got rid of the general mess of labour but hadn’t left much room for admiring my new figure. On day three I was walking into a poorly lit hospital bathroom with a wall-width mirror to be confronted with my post partum body for the first time.
I took off the hospital gown and looked at my new breasts, definitely sitting lower than they did before. I then followed the stretchmarks, tracing them down past my belly button. My post-Pippin tum felt different, softer than when my baby was kicking it, kind of saggy and without purpose. I couldn’t feel where my hand was touching, the skin still without sensation. Tucked into the mesh hospital knickers there was a definite overhang, the remains of my stretched out and swollen bump. Lifting that revealed a surgical dressing covering an incision and some blood, but lifting it felt weird, so I let it drop back.
I looked at my arms, with the canula marks and bruises from blood counts and cultures, and my thighs with the livid purple patches from the injections I have to give myself daily to prevent clotting.
Then I looked at my face; pale, swollen, with large, dark circles from being awake for nearly four days and the drugs I had been on. Topped by greasy hair.
In the last trimester of pregnancy people told me how much I suited it, how well I looked, and I felt beautiful. Looking in the mirror I felt like a deflated balloon and had I not been so exhausted I probably would have cried. Instead I washed up, dried up and pulled on a maternity dress that had been stretched over my stomach before, and now showed a gap where my baby had been.
I took a deep breath and walked out onto the ward. And I looked at my husband cuddling that baby. This wonderful child that I had loved and nurtured and held in my belly for months. My body had protected and grown our baby, even as I was showering it was healing and producing milk to feed our baby. My body went through pregnancy, an induction and fifteen hours of labour before being cut open to bring Pippin into the world. It had been stretched, poked, prodded, stabbed, cut and more, but I was still standing there. My body has done more than I ever could have expected of it.
Over time it will heal, I don’t know how much. I’m pretty certain it won’t ever look the same. I’m generally not an overly emotional person, but this has floored me in a way I can’t explain. There’s so much love here. Love between us and Pips, love between me and my husband. I genuinely think he believes I am beautiful: not still beautiful or beautiful despite my flaws, just beautiful. Frankly, looking and them together, I think it too.
This may be the hormones of course, but all our bodies are beautiful, amazing things: whoever you are and whatever you look like. Our bodies are amazing and I hope my little one will appreciate hers the way she should. Because she is amazing.