I have never struggled with the shape of my body; it’s just not something that has ever bothered me. But when my son died in my 41st week of pregnancy, I learned there were so many more components to the body image equation. The fact that I never cared about my stretch marks or weight gain couldn’t protect me from the very real fact that my body had failed me. Failed my son.
For several months afterwards, I felt divorced from my body. It was the thing that housed me. It was the shell that ate and drank so I could eek out some kind of living. Even physical pain often felt removed from me, especially when I avoided medical practitioners who didn’t know my son hadn’t lived. The only thing that kept me even moderately engaged was the desire to donate my milk, though I quickly discovered it was too physically and emotionally difficult for me.
When I first started feeling like a human being again, it was partly physical activity that grounded me. Moving in my physical body, feeling the strain of the exertion I had often avoided while pregnant; these things brought me back to myself in a way my emotional explorations hadn’t touched. Movement became part of how I relearned how to live.
Movement also linked to weight, and if I had any choice in the matter, I would have carried my weight forever. After my milk dried up, it felt like the last tangible thing I could hold in his place. For several reasons, though, this wasn’t the right path for me. For six months, I worked out and dieted like crazy, until recently, I woke up and my body had changed.
I left the hospital at 187 lbs. My last time on the scale, I was 147 lbs; 13 lbs lighter than when I conceived. I have technically lost all of my baby weight. I fit into all of my old clothes, though differently. This doesn’t quite feel like a victory. I often fail to recognize the stranger in the mirror.
On a recent solo trip to Hawaii, I decided to have some photographs taken, surrounded by fog and what felt like the most appropriately rainy scenery. Long enamored of the idea of the 4th Trimester Bodies Project, I wanted to do something similar for me. I wanted to honor these changes for my son. I wanted to document that even in failure, my body was painfully and beautifully and permanently changed. I wanted to learn who lived inside that new body. I wanted to learn about me.