Before I became pregnant, someone told me, "don't have a baby, babies ruin your body."
￼￼￼￼It has been over a year since Anabel began her life. This time last year she was a microscopic speck inside of me, and we were announcing our pregnancy. Between then and now, I have gained and lost 50 pounds. Four months after her birth, and my body still carries proof of her existence.
I have dark pools under my eyes. A valley where my belly button once was. Hips with a new amplitude that my teenage self wouldn't recognize. I have lines mapped across the mountains of stretched skin left over on my midsection. Lightning bolts on my sides proving I once was too small to contain all of the love that filled me. Lines indicating that my daughter once lived inside of me.
Do you realize the significance in that? Every limb, finger, toe... her heart, even, developed near the very place my own heart beats inside of my chest. Those mountains of skin are all I have left to prove that we were once one and not two.
How can I be ashamed of that?
I have so much to say about seeing my grandfather's eyes embedded into the sockets, and under the brows and lashes of her father's. I see the 17-year-old boy I fell in love with, and my grandpa as a child all at once every time she looks up at me. She even wears my ears and my chin. The two very things I cursed having the most growing up. Not much makes me feel more beautiful than seeing tiny renditions of those same features on Anabel, and realizing just how special they are.
My body grew that.
Not everybody has that privilege.
Sure my belly is a bit softer nowadays, but the way it moves when I jump up and down sends my girl into fits of giggles. And yeah, my hips are hardly as narrow as they used to be, but they sure know the perfect figure-8 motion to sway her to sleep. My 21-year-old hair is even beginning to gray, but not much soothes her more than my hair between her little fingers.
I am not something flawless in the eyes of society, or even close to what I once was physically, but my perfect girl sees me for who I am.
To her, I hang the moon.
She knows my heart -- she knew it long before we met.
And she loves me for it.
I cannot tell you how much worth and validation I feel because of that truth.
My body is only a vessel for my spirit. An incredible vessel. It is strong, well, abled and undefeated.
My body is full of life.
My body is powerful.
My body made me a mother.
If anything, I was ruined by the world before I knew her, and she made me whole again.
Photos from Jade Beall's "A Beautiful Body" project: