“Where’s the baby?” my daughter said in her own toddler way, trying to lift up my shirt to “see the baby”. She means seeing my bump, which has been getting super huge in the third trimester. I often get comments about my body and whether I’m having twins or how far along I really am because this baby juts out so far, as if I ate a beach ball.
“Hi, Baby!” she shouts happily, touching my tummy and putting her finger in my belly button. “What’s that?” she says. I say, “That’s my belly button.” She says, “Butt!” and laughs. She looks at my body with wonder and awe, not seeing the crazy stretch marks all over or the way my belly button has become completely unrecognizable, to the point that it’s inside out and pokes through my clothes. She touches a mole on my side. “What’s that?” I love how she only notices something like that and not the obvious tiger stripes and battle scars of this pregnancy and the previous one with her.
She stops to touch the bump again and I talk to her about how her future sibling wants to say hi and hears her talking. She then unceremoniously pushes my shirt back down and says, “Bye, Baby!” and walks away. We’ll play later and she doesn’t seem to notice anything weird about how my body has been continually changing over the past few months. She only gets slightly annoyed if she tries to sit in my lap and her regular space is taken up by a huge mountain of belly. Sometimes she’ll talk to the baby and lay on my chest still. She recognizes it as a place of healing and life, the refuge she has always come back to for comfort.
I remember the first moment I had with her after she was born. The midwife put her on my chest and she looked up at me like she already knew me. She immediately breastfed, looking completely natural and comfortable. She knew my body was the ultimate source of nutrients and fulfilled every need she had, whether emotional or biological. Whenever she breastfed, we’d have that similar connection, with her bright, almond eyes telling me that she knew she could depend on me and that I kept her safe. Feeding meant every positive emotion she had and my body soothed every negative emotion. Every thought I’ve ever had about food as far as enjoyment and reveling in the various flavors and presentation of food had been encapsulated for her by the breast and by my own body.
She always knew how important I was and my true purpose even as I continued my internal body image battle, watching my bloated self deflate in strange ways as I continued in wondering why I still looked pregnant even though I wasn’t anymore. My daughter always knew that I created life and basked in the natural power I possessed. She has no concept of, “Ew, that looks gross” or “Why are you still wearing maternity clothes?” She appeared magnetized to me, constantly wanting to be near me because my body served as her home and for so long remained the only thing that smelled or felt like home.
If I can only look at myself through her eyes, I’ll truly feel complete as a mother and person, knowing that I achieved so much using my body. There’s nothing more beautiful in the world than what I can provide to a little baby. She tugged and grasped at every soft, fleshy curve on my body and the parts of me that I internally started to hate as “ugly” served to be her lifeline. She’d fall asleep on the loose skin of my arm or the plush pillow of my lap. Every bit of me served a purpose in loving her and each part was loved by her from the very beginning and still is.
Now that she’s becoming a Big Girl, I see her putting on my shoes whenever they’re lying around and walking in them, trying to be like Mommy. She’ll even find my bras and put them on. She loves my jewelry and tries to snag it whenever she can so she can play with the clasps and put it on. I don’t realize that I’m someone she is watching intently and admiring but she has done this her whole life and only now has a way to express it. She admires the way I look, no matter what I think. There’s no reason to listen to anyone else’s thoughts or opinions about what my body can do because she is the living testament to the magnificence of this otherwise inconspicuous bag of skin and bones. I have the honor of being the original image of beauty because of her deep-seated appreciation of what I have gone through to give her life. I have the duty to help have a positive body image as she grows.
My future baby will probably have the same type of feeling, only with a different aspect to the connection. I’ll have another opportunity to see myself through this baby’s eyes and understand that both of my children appreciate everything my body has provided to them.