By Meg Broadbent
My precious boy,
I want to tell you about how you came into the world.
But first, before you, there was another.
He is gone now. He grew inside of me and I loved him. Then something happened and he was taken away. He changed the way I saw myself, the way I saw the world. He filled me with excitement and love and longing, and then he left.
In the weeks that we lived together, he and I, my body changed. My breasts grew and they were heavy and they ached so much I couldn’t ride a bike or run or sleep on my stomach or wear certain clothes. My hormones raged and I cried and felt angry and elated and like I was never in control.
I was constantly hungry. I gave up all of my favourite foods, my glass of wine. I took three different pills a day, setting a reminder alarm on my phone, which would sometimes go off in the middle of an important meeting or a presentation.
I couldn’t sleep. I tossed and turned and I felt sick and my stomach hurt. I was bloated. I was constipated. I was so hot, sometimes I felt like I was literally on fire.
But I was happy. I knew all of the discomfort, all of the pain was worth it for him, your brother.
I was also anxious. I looked for blood every time I went to the bathroom, thinking that this must be too good to be true. Days and weeks went by and nothing bad happened.
And then it did.
He was gone, but I felt like the one who was dying, dead. Cold sweats, cramping, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, headache, blood. Loneliness, blood. Emptiness, blood. Heartache, blood. Days and weeks went by and everything bad happened.
People tried to help. Your father, your aunts and uncles, your grandparents. My friends, colleagues. They said all the things, did all the other things. For a while. And then they stopped.
I was alone.
Trapped in a body that no longer felt like mine. Something forever missing, forever gone. Unrecognizable, damaged, destroyed.
The days after that felt like years. I tried to stay positive. I asked for help. I ran again. I ate my favourite foods, had my glass of wine. Cried myself to sleep every night.
Then, one day, out of the darkness: light.
I held the stick in my hand and I could hardly see the plus sign through my tears.
I let go of the invisible weight I had been carrying on my shoulders for the past 6 months and I finally lay down and I jumped up high and I knelt and prayed and I laughed and screamed and I wept tears of joy, for you, and tears of guilt for feeling joy, for you, and tears of loss for your brother, officially replaced inside of me.
Round two: The aching breasts, the hormones, the emotions, the sleepless nights, the nausea, the bloating, the fatigue, the restless mind, the swollen belly.
Round two, more: Fear. Anxiety. Waiting. Ten long months during which I never fully believed that you were real, that you would be ok, that we would be together. Ten long months of worry, of aching everywhere. You took up all of my body and all of my mind and all of my soul and all of my life and all of me.
Ten long months. Twelve hours of mind numbing contractions. Two car rides in active labour. Three hours of pushing. One and a half hours of pushing with your head half in this world and half in my body.
Searing pain. Excruciating pain. Mauled, beaten, battered. In and out of consciousness. My mind, betrayal. My body, below me, gone. Fire. Screaming.
I prayed that death would wash over me, take me away, claim us both. I knew we were going to die, so let it be faster. Searing pain. Excruciating pain.
Ripped open, by you. Torn in half, by you. Finally: cut, sliced, where your head wouldn’t fit, by them.
They placed you on my chest and you yelled my name and looked into my eyes and wriggled between my breasts and smacked your lips while I bled all over my legs and the blankets and the table and the floor and they stabbed a needle into my leg to stop the bleeding and they stitched me raw with no drugs for almost two hours while I clenched my jaw and wailed louder than you did with your first breath.
After that, more.
The place where you were created and brought into this world, where you tore me and they cut me, broken. Unrecognizable, damaged, destroyed. For months, pain that made me dig my nails into the palms of my hands to keep from screaming when you were at my breast and I had to sit to feed you.
Months of laying in bed, on the couch, on the bathroom floor. Not moving, not walking, not leaving the house. Cracked nipples, cracked mind. Swollen limbs and breasts. Sagging, falling. Bruised flesh, open flesh, stretched flesh.
Mundane tasks rendered impossible: going to the bathroom, sitting up, standing, breathing, sleeping.
After that, more.
Doubt, shame. Hating a body that should be worshiped. Loathing the same stomach that housed you, the same breasts that feed you, the same hips that birthed you. No longer able to feel beautiful while the baby weight clings to my face, my waist; while my hair falls out in great clumps every day. No longer able to run – my passion, my mental health, my freedom – because parts of me no longer work. No longer able to drink whatever I want, eat whatever I want, sleep whenever I want, rest whenever I want.
Instead: Feeding you, changing you, carrying you, bathing you, holding you, consoling you. My body is yours now.
I gave myself completely to you.
Because I am a mother. Because I am a woman.
Son, remember that when you become a man.
Remember that when you are with a woman and she says no. Remember that when you are thinking about not respecting a woman’s body. Remember that when you see someone else not respecting a woman’s body. Remember that when you’re deciding how to speak about women’s bodies. Remember that when you hear other men speaking about women’s bodies. Remember that when you see women being hurt, mistreated, abused, assaulted. Remember that when you are writing policies and laws about women’s bodies.
Remember that without a woman’s body, my body, there would be no you.
I love you.
Featured Image via the incredible For All Womankind
(You can, and should order a print for yourself from these guys)