When I was in my postpartum period, after my first pregnancy, I would regularly bemoan the usual postpartum symptoms. I could often be heard complaining of night sweats. Whining about having to wear a thick pad all the time – as if delivering the baby was not hard enough, now I had to walk around in a diaper? I bitched about not being able to take any stronger pain medicine than Tylenol, to ease the pain from engorgement. The point is – I complained.
Months later I would turn my complaining to my body – stretchmarks, a sagging tummy, weak hips that no longer supported the distance running that I have spent my life enjoying. I saw these new flaws as damage, the damage done to my body by carrying my son.
This postpartum experience has been similar, in respect to my own body. Engorgement, bleeding, night sweats. In the last week I have begun to notice a new postpartum symptom that I did not experience the first time around – blurred vision. I was this close to going to have my eyes checked and my lenses updated, when I remembered reading something about postpartum vision changes. Some quick online research and sure enough, there it was. Noticeably blurred vision is pretty common amongst postpartum women and is generally transient, lasting only about 3 months, through the time that is commonly referred to as the “4th Trimester”.
This new postpartum symptom unlocked something inside me. A realization of how wrong I was in the way that I viewed things the first time around. The “flaws” in my body, the annoying symptoms that I had to manage in the months following the birth of my son were nothing to complain about. The stretchmarks are art, much like the tattoos that are inked upon my skin – they tell a story. Every single one is a testimony of his growth, his becoming, and the part that my body played in his development and birth. My scarred and sagging tummy is evidence that I grew him well. The engorgement that I experienced in the beginning of our breastfeeding journey was to be celebrated, because it meant that my body was succeeding, if not excelling, at creating the food that would sustain him. The bleeding was my body’s way of preparing my reproductive system for continued good health. It was paving the way for me to bear more children. My body is a machine. A beautiful machine, and one that I did not fully appreciate until now.
This time, the postpartum symptoms have been hard. Truly hard. You see, the most important thing that I have learned about postpartum life and appreciating my postpartum body is that what really mattered all along – my child. My son was, and is still, in my arms. I nursed him. I nurtured him. I have watched him grow into the vibrant little boy that he is today. My body had complaints, but they were nothing, because he is here. I would take a million stretchmarks and live through engorgement and bleeding that lasted a lifetime, if it meant that Clara could be here, hale and healthy. The way we always hoped that she would be.
Clara is not here, though. She could not be here because her body was disabled in a way that made her incompatible with life outside of my body. My body, the beautifully scarred and sagging machine. This time, the postpartum symptoms are a painful reminder that she was here, and now she is gone. They wane, thankfully, as time gets on, and I know someday they will stop. The scars on my heart will remain, though, much like the ones on my beautiful, sagging tummy. They will remind me of yet another lesson that Clara has taught me – Be kind to yourself. Love yourself. And always remember what really matters in life.