Naked Navigation

I had no full length mirror in my house when I was pregnant with my first and only child.  I still had a tanned tummy, smooth & round & magical to look down upon.   About 12 weeks or so before my daughter was born, at a doctor visit, when asked by the nurse how I felt, and I remarked that I felt terrific,  and how excited I was, so close to delivery, that still, not a single stretch mark on what was once a flat as a board and nearly perfect 18 year-old stomach, that I had only gained 5 pounds, that really things were just great!!!

…the nurse, a much older woman than I, with ridiculously fake red hair but with the kindest understanding eyes, touched me motherly on my shoulder, “oh sweetie, you have a road map of them. You just can’t see them. They’re under your belly button, but you are young & I still see your tan line from when you could wear a bikini, so you’ll be okay again, but those stretch marks will probably never go away.”   She surely had no idea the damage she did to my psyche that day, she could not have imagined the downward spiral she was about to send me on, she surely had no idea that it would push me into a zone of self loathing & hopelessness I never expected to feel, or that the ‘blues’ that followed would plunge me into emotional eating & depression that grew me by 53 pounds in those last 3 months of pregnancy…I went from being taught & tan and perhaps likely to be back in my skinny jeans with an infant at my six-week-check-up, to being an overweight sad case who would suffer body issues & roller coaster weight battles from those weeks forward…

I read a short article recently about reasons why it’s good to be naked, why it’s important not to be squeamish if you are full of defects, but rather to “see” that all of those flaws are part of the story your body tells; where you have been, what you have done, to look at your scars, imperfections, and beauty, and accept and love the tale your body reveals.  Reading the article made me think it should be called “Naked Navigation” and that we should all do it, at least once, and SEE ourselves with different eyes…

I’ve never gotten back to my pre-pregnancy body, but I have gotten back into my pre-pregnancy jeans.  I am not in them now, but I intend to be again.  This body gave birth to the biggest baby in the nursery that bitter, bleak, week in January 1986.  This body has knees that are so scarred, that had been ripped open and bandaged every summer from bicycle crashes from the time she learned to ride a bike without training wheels…and most recently this past summer, the very 1st time she got back on a bike after more than a decade of being pedal free. This body has bad vein valves in the left leg & perfectly operational pumping valves in the right leg, and calves that have been two different sizes ever since a skateboard came flying at her at 14 years-old and hit her left calf so hard that her Levi’s had to be cut off her leg below the knee.   This body has a scar, under her left arm, from a splinter, more like a stick from a ripped 2×4, because on a construction site at 4-years-old, she did not listen to her Dad who told her not to go upstairs, & she tumbled down those unfinished steps & had her first hospital surgery experience & anesthesia to remove said stick from her tiny little arm pit.  This body has scars from two skin cancer surgeries, and still believes the chemicals in sun screen do more damage to the body than what happens naturally from the sun, much to her daughter’s dismay.  This body has dimples in her shoulders; She’s never seen or known another, until after the birth of her 2nd granddaughter, who has one in her little shoulder and one in her little cheek, and was certain for much of her life those were the spots where her wings once were attached…and at times she still believes this to be true…This body had more than 600 stitches when it finally had the money for the breast reduction surgery she wanted since she was in eighth grade. This body was told the recovery time could be as much as 12 weeks, but she was painting a house one month and one week later.  This body has a scar on its left elbow, from a time when she went down the rickety basement steps in her 130 year-old cottage carrying a 50 pound bag of salt for the water softener tank, and slipped.  This body has six symbolic tattoos that she drew & designed herself for the ink artists to interpret, each done by a different studio and each with its own story.

This body has been smaller & also bigger than it is today, this gray and cold November morning…& by the way, a magical number day, 11-12-13, but perhaps at no other time in its life has this body ever felt so loved.  This body has a right thumb that has wiped away the tears of her baby, and a right index finger that has lifted up the chin on her grown daughter. This body has lips that have smooched freshly bathed babies & tenderly kissed boo-boos & whispered ‘goodnight’ to the kind of man she never thought she’d ever meet…but she did, and she loves him, and he loves her back, even with all of her flaws and all of her imperfections…

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