I’m learning empathy. By the day. By the hour.
It’s a hugely connecting force, and in my case, it comes as I realize how incredibly human I am.
You see, I’ve begun uncovering a very human part of myself, buried deep. If anyone had ever asked if I had body image issues, I would have said no. I’m as vain as the next girl, but I’ve never felt particularly uncomfortable in my own skin...well, not on the surface. These past few days have revealed the body image issues hidden beneath the surface.
I don’t trust my body. I’m afraid that it’s broken.
It started out when I was 14. All my friends had gotten their periods. And I alone was left, stuck as a girl, locked out of womanhood. I was desperate to transition—
I felt so broken.
Why didn’t my body know how to do this? When it finally came, I was almost 15 and so relieved.
I didn’t lose my virginity until my wedding night, a fact I took irrational pride in, because the honest truth wasn’t that I had incredible self-control and self-respect...the truth was I didn’t trust that my body knew how to have sex. I was worried about everything—being too small, it hurting, not enjoying it—
I felt so broken.
When I wanted to become pregnant in my first marriage, the desire was so desperate and urgent, and it came on all at once. Then for 15 months, cycle after cycle, moon after moon, flow after flow with no success—
I felt so broken.
When I became pregnant with mancub, I avoided everything from prenatal yoga, to looking at nurseries online, to baby sections in any store. I told myself it was because I wasn’t baby-centric, not one of “those moms.” Little did I know what I ginormous humble pie I was preparing. I’m eating it now, bite by bite. I was scared. I didn’t trust my body. I was worried that my body didn’t know how to carry a baby. I was terrified I would miscarry.
I felt so broken. Always broken.
Never mind that I did get my period and have always had a regular, healthy cycle.
Never mind that sex is very enjoyable for me.
Never mind that Mitch and I conceived the first time we gambled.
Never mind that my first trimester was symptomless, pleasant, and perfectly healthy.
Like all fears, it’s not about reality. It’s about my perception of it.
This isn't to say that people don't have difficulty with periods, sex, and pregnancy. I'm just realizing in this particular case, it's not about whether I have an issue or not. It's about the FEELING. My heart is swollen and beating for the women who feel broken. Whether it’s weight-related, acne-related, fertility-related, sexuality-related, mentally or emotionally-related. Whether it is reality or just perception. Maybe it’s a lie someone else told you that took root before you even knew it was happening.
All I can tell you is I’m 41 weeks pregnant today, and my perception of reality is split. One part of me clings to the belief that my body works. I can do this. I know how to give birth. I know how to go into labor. We are fine. Mancub and I will be snuggled up together in no time. The other part of me is terrified that I am broken. That my body doesn’t know how to do this. That I will need drugs to start and cope with my labor, and that all dreams of a birth in our home will be shattered.
I share all this to say, I am human. I am female. And I don’t wish to isolate myself any longer. My heart is swollen and beating for my fellow female humans. We are in this together. Sometimes we are strong, and sometimes we are afraid. And sometimes we feel broken. All of us.
That's why I need you. And maybe you need me too. Maybe it’s not about being strong enough on my own. Maybe it’s about belonging and supporting and melting into a collective whole that is bigger than me.
Instead of feeling broken on my own,
maybe we can feel strong and whole together.