Hiking the Sleeping Giant Trail, Kapaa, Kaua'i, Hawai'i
Hiking the Sleeping Giant Trail, Kapaa, Kaua’i, Hawai’i (Miranda Hernandez)

Growing up, I never understood this common obsession with the shape of one’s body. I’ve even always been a little bit overweight, but this was never something that bothered me. I never felt like less of a person because I wasn’t a size 2.

Stretch marks are a badge of honor. I never cared that I gained so much weight. I never cared when they told me I waddled. I was building a human. The weight was just part of it.

Did you know, though, that after a woman gives birth, she still looks like she’s a little bit pregnant for pretty much the rest of her life? And I think that, had he lived, I would have carried that body with pride. I would have continued to wear the maternity clothes. I would have smiled at the gardener when she asked when I was due. I have always wanted to treat people with grace. I wish grace would find me.

But today, when I’m renting a storage room, and the manager asks if I should be lifting things in my condition, I want to smack him. Didn’t your mother ever tell you that was rude? It was also rude in the hardware store when another customer asked, at seven months, if I was having triplets, but somehow this time is more painful. I must somehow think people should know when their comments will be hurtful, though of course most people don’t aim to be.

When I got home from the hospital, I couldn’t stand the thought of anyone asking about my child. He was my story to tell. I didn’t owe him to anyone. But society does not recognize a mother’s autonomy. So I guess this was my first introduction to the fact that even my own story doesn’t belong to me.

I still try to hide, today, not from my son’s death, but from nosy prying faces. At first, I wore baggy clothing. I told my sister I would rather people thought I was fat than have to answer their questions. Innocent questions can be the most painful.

I realized recently another way I’m hiding. I also hide from the people who never knew. From an old supervisor with whom I had lost touch, who hadn’t been on Facebook, who the old me would have looked up the last time I was in town. I didn’t do that because I couldn’t handle telling him. Not only that I have a son, but that my son had died. And we talk about polite conversation, but I know that only one of those statements would have been welcome, and since I can’t separate them, I separate from people instead.

I am probably one of those ghosting stories people talk about on social media. I am probably that person who just disappeared, and people are wondering, “What happened? What did I do wrong?” And the answer is, “Through no fault of your own, you simply weren’t present.” The answer is, “Your old friend is dead. I’m sorry, but there was no funeral.”

I push myself to lose weight today for a few reasons. What’s relevant to this discussion is that I can’t handle that I still look pregnant. Not because I hate my body, but because I am so tired of the conversations. It’s none of your business! I don’t owe you anything. But I keep pushing myself for you, and you will never know it. You will never know because my greatest wish is just to hide.

And when I have achieved this, it will have become the kindest thing I could do for me.