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To the Mothers in New Bodies

Hunter Hyde, Bronx, NY 2018

You grow

You swell

You tear

You shift

I came home from the hospital with a 6 lb healthy baby boy. I was stoked beyond measure to finally have met the person who made my body their first home. If we’re honest, pregnancy is not the Hallmark card people make it out to be. No one truly prepares you for all the ways your body and life will change. Frankly, society does not adjust to most of the new beginnings.

Before pregnancy, I was a petite—4’11, fighting to weigh more than 100 pounds. After giving birth, my final weight was 137 pounds. To most people, I was finally a weight that made me desirable. But the extra pounds were hard to get used to. I felt them dragging as I walked. The rolls made themselves known any time I tried to slip into my favorite clothes. There was no shedding this new weight because there was no time to get ample sleep loads or to craft healthy meals. I was cluster breastfeeding for what felt like all day. Just one week after delivery, I was doing this while sitting in front of my laptop as I was forced to work from home. My employer rejected maternity leave by discovering a loophole that allowed them to evade the NYC family leave policy.

Here I was, this new mom, with an infant that needed all my time. While I was getting to know this little stranger, who was well-versed in my circadian rhythm, I no longer knew myself. There was not time to learn her in-between healing and making sure we all survived.

There was no immaculate snapback. Every inch of pregnancy glow vanished. My body became a vessel that showed evidence of the treacherous journey she had been through. My stomach skin darkened. My hair fell out. Stretch marks crowded across my lower abdomen like a map of the NYC subway. I lost control of my abdominal muscles, creating what seemed to be a pouch of irremovable air in place of a toned torso. After pushing out a body, which briefly got stuck in my canal, I only received two stitches for a minor tear. But my vagina was sore for close to six weeks.

I wanted to be gracious with this new body, but I failed miserably. I hated everything about her. It felt as though my mind had moved into a new home, and I was still reaching for the old light switches. Everyone commented on how magical it was for me to be working despite just having a baby. Or how my newly developed curves made me more culturally desirable. I wanted more than anything to scream, “f**k you” every time someone mentioned my weight gain. There was nothing magical about all the intrusion and voyeurism. I could not grant myself grace because someone objectified at every turn.

My eyes were dark pits from lack of sleep. And the weight stayed on me for longer than expected. I ate more than I had in my life to breastfeed—milk leaked from my breasts consistently. And I no longer knew the ways to be still in my body. It was not that I no longer felt sexy, but instead of a feeling of being displaced. I did not know this woman, and I felt deeply that not even my partner had. Pregnancy brought us closer, but he was scarred by watching the delivery. We tiptoed around one another, unsure of how to be intimate for a while.

One day, I stopped doom scrolling and introduced myself to the new me. I stripped down unashamed, for my body had performed a miracle. I thanked her for allowing me to become a mother, for surviving childbirth, for making milk for close to two years, for pushing through and never giving up.

Eventually, I made it back to my pre-pregnancy weight. Now, I am thankful for the lifelong tattoos of love my son left to remind me that here was home.

You shrink

You reassemble

You unpack

You evolve


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