I walk briskly down Church Street, feeling as though I’ve temporarily left an essential part of me behind. Rushing to an early morning massage, I think of my seven-week old baby at home with my Aunt and Uncle. She’s in loving, capable hands and I feel like I’ve stepped out of the new baby vortex, if only for an hour. My feet are pounding pavement, but I swear I am hovering a few inches above ground. Floating from point A to point B. It’s as if without those twelve pounds in my arms, I’m not actually connected to Earth. This must be akin to the phantom limb phenomenon.
Catching my reflection in a shop window, I see a body that is still unfamiliar to me; a bouncy chest, a round belly, and a…let’s say voluptuous…bum. But I don’t nit-pick at all of the softer rounder parts, as I would have a year ago. Rather, I see a body that built another human body; a body that housed another human spirit. And not just any human; my perfect, beautiful, curious, sweet daughter. I’ve only been gone ten minutes, but I wonder what she’s doing. Is she sleeping? If she’s awake, is she fussy or contentedly alert? Will they remember to give her the bottle of freshly pumped milk on time? What if I didn’t leave enough?
My gait is wider and perhaps more clunky as I make my way to the massage studio. I take in the scene around me; the colors, scents, and sounds. Things actually look different now and my perception of the space around me has shifted. It’s as if when my body expelled my baby, my old way of seeing the world slipped out with her.
I look at the shopkeeper, the pack of teenagers, the sleeping homeless woman, the uniformed cop, and I cannot help but see them as infants. They were once as new and vulnerable as my little girl. Someone loved them enough to feed them, hold them, wake up during the wee hours of the morning with them. I mean…that’s amazing.
I see that there’s no place for judgment in this world and only room for love.
When I birthed my baby, a new version of myself came through as well. Or perhaps I’m back to the old version of myself; the me that existed before I thought I knew right from wrong, good from bad. The me that existed before expectations, both self and other-imposed, weighed me down. Perhaps motherhood is the joyful yet challenging journey of coming home. Returning to that place where naps, snuggles, and play are more important than laundry, showers, and looking like you have your sh*t together.
I run up the narrow stairs to the massage studio and see that I’m a few minutes late. Formerly, tardiness was a personal pet-peeve but now I see that the world remains enact when one arrives a little behind schedule.
The massage therapist asks about my body and areas that need attention. I describe parts of my body that could use a little extra TLC. But it’s not just my body anymore; my daughter depends on me, on my body, to survive. My neck and upper back are sore from trying to find the perfect nursing position. My breasts are tender from feeding and pumping. My left arm is fatigued from holding her as my right hand attempts to accomplish basic everyday tasks. My low back aches from months of carrying her inside of me. My hamstrings are tight from an uphill walk with her in the stroller. My eyes are tired from interrupted sleep.
But my heart. My heart is alive, full of gratitude, and in awe of myself, my partner, and our baby. We’re doing it, we’re actually doing it. And we will have graceful moments, we will have clumsy moments, we’ll do things right, and we’ll mess up. But we’re all swimming in our most raw humanness together and it’s happening.
I disrobe and lie down on the massage table, eagerly anticipating a full hour of tranquil music, warm hands, relaxing scents, and nothing to do. This time is precious and cherished. I close my eyes and feel the weight of my body on the table. From the outside it appears as though I am just me, one person, alone on the table. But I know that will actually never be the case ever again. My daughter has arrived. There is and always will be an invisible string connecting our hearts. I feel the strength of that and I know she’s ok. I know she feels safe and loved. I softly smile as I revel in this new version of me. I am whole, real, vulnerable, and happy. And I am ready for a frickin’ massage.