I was six days postpartum, and a shower at home had never felt so welcoming. Letting my toes sink into the memory foam bathmat, I toweled off and then trotted across the hallway as quiet as a mouse. That’s how we move during naptime now — quietly like mice or else. Waking the baby is grounds for murder or, at the very least, divorce.
Tiptoeing into the closet to grab my robe, I passed my floor length mirror on the back of the closet door, and I couldn’t resist looking. But I hesitated. Peeking in the mirror after you have a baby is a lot like checking your bank account after a week-long vacation — you know the damage has been done, but you hold your breath for a split second and hope for the best before you look.
With a deep breath and a step back, I swung the door shut to position the mirror directly in front of me. I stood in the silence, with as straight a posture as my new body would allow. It was the first time I had looked at my naked body since my C-section.
My eyes didn’t know where to focus first. My scar was a scary shade of purple. The incision stretched from one side of my pelvis to the other, and was numb to the touch as I glided my fingers gently along the line. I felt like I was touching someone else’s body.
I had bragged to my husband only a few weeks before about fending off stretch marks. It was due to my religious use of cocoa butter, I was sure. I guess then I couldn’t see underneath my belly, because now I could see them clearly. The little, white, squiggly lines stretched from my hip bones upward to my stomach, or what should be my stomach. I couldn’t help but notice how things were a little misplaced now. Where was my belly button?
Fighting to hold back tears, I started thinking about the amazing journey I had taken over the past several days. I had accomplished incredible things since the last time I had seen my reflection. Just a few days before, I stood in front of the same mirror wearing my husband’s oversized fleece (the only thing that would cover my gigantic belly), praying for relief. Now I was standing in front of my mirror, with the same pieces of laundry in the hamper that had been there a few days before. So much had changed in a world that seemed to be the same.
I was a mother standing in the mirror meeting herself for the first time.
We were off to a shaky start. My new self looked tired, because she was tired. She was pale, and squishy around the middle. Her hair needed help. She appeared teary but hopeful, and steady in the face of strange, yet sweet, new beginnings.
She was going to be strong, because that’s just how it had to be.
As I met my new self in the mirror that day, I made a promise to love her. Some days would be harder than others. Some days, seeing her in the mirror wouldn’t be easy at all; I might even cringe at the sight. But I knew I had to find a way to love her unconditionally — scars, stretch marks, and all. I had to find a way to love my new self so my daughter could learn by example how to love herself.
It’s easier said than done. I’ve weathered many dressing room meltdowns over the last several months. But practicing self-love is one of the most important building blocks in the long and sometimes arduous journey of motherhood. I pray everyday to find new ways to preserve my spirit and soak up this beautiful adventure.
Today, I walked out of the shower and passed the old trusty mirror in my closet. I stopped and looked at the reflection of my 20-month postpartum body. My belly button still hasn’t found its way back to the center of my stomach, and my boobs deflated like busted water balloons after I stopped breastfeeding. But that’s not all I see.
I have reconciled myself with the mother in the mirror. When I look at my reflection, I see a mother who has thoroughly enjoyed loving and caring for the very person who caused these scars and dark eye circles. And I’m smiling because I genuinely love the vessel carrying me.
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