When I had a miscarriage I thought my body had failed me. When I was battling extreme morning sickness I wanted to escape from my body. When someone asked me 11 weeks post birth when my baby was due I felt awkward and embarrassed. When my back gave in from constantly picking up my baby daughter I thought I should be stronger than this.
And yet my body created new life. And so I’ve written this piece for my body, for all the things it has done right. As I write I’m lying injured (I hurt my back) on my bed, very much in need of a pick me up. But I’m not going to focus on that because we normally only discuss our bodies when something goes wrong, yet it is pretty incredible what the body can do. So this piece is for me, as a bit of self-love, to make myself feel better about my body. And it’s for all the mummas out there – because your bodies are incredible too.
I went into pregnancy the healthiest I’d ever been. In the months prior to conceiving I hit the gym, got fit and lost 10 kilograms. There is nothing I could have done to better prepare my body for pregnancy and birth. But pregnancy and mothering is life’s biggest marathon – it’s a 9 month + workout. It is a challenge and achievement. And all other physical feats pale in comparison, because it is the only one that brings new life in to the world.
The miracle of conception absolutely blows my mind every time I think about it. It blows my mind that we can have sex a thousand times, but then one time a tiny little soul will be formed inside you. And you will feel nothing at the time. It is both the tiniest thing and the biggest thing that will ever happen to you. And you will have no idea for a while. We conceived easily. Our baby was a one shot wonder. I always felt that was God’s gift to us, because after an awful and traumatic first pregnancy I don’t know when I would have had the strength to agree to try again.
Rather than having three trimesters, I always felt my pregnancy was divided into two halves. The second half of my pregnancy was bliss. After 18 weeks of non stop vomiting and nausea, I transformed into a glowing mumma (I would write a piece about those first difficult days, but I am strategically trying to forget them for fear I’ll never get pregnant again). My belly grew and I loved it. I loved that my baby couldn’t be separated from me, that she had to come everywhere I went, that she was so close inside me. That I could feel her moving and it was our little secret. I felt great right up until the day I gave birth, so I really got to enjoy my pregnancy.
When I gave birth I was amazed at the completeness of the person that came from inside me. That there was a full and complete person, who was totally separate from me, who had grown inside me. Yes it took two people to create her, but my body grew her, without me actually having to do anything. It just happened inside me and it was amazing.
Giving birth was a powerful experience, it made me feel empowered, powerful and strong. As a woman, it felt like my body was created to do it. It was the greatest thing I’ve ever done and afterwards I was on top of the world. During birth your body releases oxytocin, the ‘love hormone’, that makes you fall in love with your baby. That, and the birth, and my daughter’s beauty, put me on a high for about a month. It was the start of a life long love.
Then my breasts did exactly what they were supposed to do and they produced milk. So much milk. More than my baby could ever need. My freezer quickly became full of it. After years and years of doing nothing (except making my clothes fit well), my breasts were finally doing what they were supposed to do. And they were excelling. My baby grew and grew. And I knew, it was all me, all my milk. My body was sustaining and growing a life, through every precious drop. I was so proud. I felt perfectly equipped to give my daughter everything she needed.
Pregnancy and birth are physical journeys as much as they are emotional journeys. Some days it can be hard and overwhelming. And on those days I have to take stock and realise that my body might not be perfect, that it might struggle sometimes, but that it was created for this, that my whole life it has been preparing for this, that it brought new life into this world and that it has everything it needs to nourish that new life. And it is the most wonderful achievement of all.