I've never had a great relationship with my body. When I was younger I wanted to be skinnier than I was. Then when college came around, I wanted bigger boobs and butt because that's all I saw in magazines. I wanted my hair to be straight instead of wildly curly and maybe 10 shades lighter than what my south Italian heritage gave me. Eventually, when I hit my 30s I started loving my body as it deserved. I'll admit I took a bunch of photos in tiny swimsuits for everyone else to see because finally, I was into myself.
Initially, I was absolutely fascinated by what my body could do. It was growing a human, eyes, nails, hair. It still blows my mind when I stop to think about it. I would take a lot of selfies of my tiny growing bump. But as the pregnancy progressed and I got bigger and bigger—as expected—and more and more uncomfortable—also as expected—I started not loving my body again.
I compared myself to other pregnant people, both around me in real life and on social media. I felt bigger than everyone in places I shouldn't be. I hated walking because I could feel my thighs rubbing against each other, reminding me they were not what they used to be. But sitting down wasn't fun either, because I could feel my boobs touch my belly, something they had never done before and I didn't like either.
I would sigh and frown and struggle getting dressed every single morning because I felt there was nothing that could make me look good. Maybe I should go into hiding, I often thought.
My husband, however, saw it in a totally different light. He was completely in love with my growing body.
He would rub my belly every night while I loafed on the couch, out of breath and out of energy. He would—without any prompts from me—tell me how beautiful I looked almost daily. When I sighed disappointed that I didn't look like I did in my 20s he would tell me that I was right, I looked even better now.
And it didn't stop when the baby came. Postpartum was really hard for me for a multitude of reasons, one of them being that my body still felt foreign even after the baby was earthside. I expected to "bounce back" like all the magazines told me I would as if I were a basketball in the middle of a court.
My belly felt like a deflated balloon, my boobs allowed gravity to pull them down, my legs were covered in cellulite, my hair was falling out in chunks and I think even my feet might have changed shape.
I cried every time I tried to fit into pre-baby clothes because they wouldn't fit, and then when they started fitting I would cry looking at photos of myself because I looked like a stuffed sausage. But not to my husband.
I would find him staring at me, with almost cartoon-like heart-shaped eyes. We grew closer, our love intensified, and even though I couldn't see what he saw, even though I really really really would love to be able to see myself through his eyes to see what he sees when he looks at me, his love and support have helped me start loving my body again.
Slowly I appreciated that it was able to grow our son for almost nine months, every organ, every feature, every little detail that makes him the love of our lives. That it was able to nourish him— with the help of a pump because breastfeeding is hard—for months and months. That my own organs found their way back to where they belong even after being squished in places they shouldn't have been in the first place. The scar left in my body, which at first caused a lot of anger and disappointment, is now a reminder of how strong I can be. Sure, I didn't bounce, but I'm not meant to.
Now I'm pregnant again, and some of those feelings are slowly creeping back especially because this time around I'm carrying twins and I feel like my body is really being put to the test. But every time I start spiraling into self-hate, every single time, I find my husband's eyes and touch and they bring me back. And for that, I will forever be thankful.