It is customary in the Jewish faith to cover mirrors in the house of the mourners as a way to prevent vanity. While we’re not worrying about that custom, there’s a part of me that wants to cover my body so that I don’t have to look at it, or see what remains of the growing body I was so proud of.
I caught my first glimpse on Wednesday morning at the hospital, when the nurse was wrapping, no binding, my chest with an ace bandage to try to prevent and protect me from the inevitable. It was then, that I saw the flab of the belly that just the day before was round and firm and growing. Of my belly button that Double A had put on “pop watch,” excited for the day when the inny became an outy. Of my eyes that were now puffy, hollow and empty.
Home we came, empty arms, broken hearts and fucked up minds. The shower I so desperately needed became a prison I was forced to go into. Don’t let the water hit your breasts, they told me. Don’t look down, I tell myself. The usual warmth and calm of a shower has become a necessary, rushed procedure filled with tears and panic.
I’ve spent the days since struggling to breathe. The tightness I feel in my chest and heart is compounded by the tightness I feel from this bandage or multiple sports bras. Keep it tight, they told me. Keep it on at all times, they said. Just keep breathing, I tell myself.
I rush through this morning ritual mindlessly, and then am faced with trying to find something that fits, that preferably isn’t maternity wear. Yesterday I even tried straightening my naturally curly hair. Maybe if I don’t look like myself, I don’t have to be me.
The milk started coming in last night, and by the time I woke this morning, I was huge and in pain. Double A analogized it to a guy getting blue balls, so I guess I finally understand what that’s like. Off to the grocery store I went at 7:30 this morning in search of cabbage and relief. Yet when I was checking out, the realization that this 3-pound cabbage weighed more than our twins combined, pushed me over the edge…once again. Insult, meet injury. Salt, meet the big gaping wound.
Add to that, the fact that not only can I not look at my body, but I’m afraid to touch it. I was in the habit of holding and rubbing my belly, and talking to the babies. Telling them that I, and so many other people, were so excited to meet them healthy in February. And as I started feeling their little movements, it actually felt like they could hear me and were talking back. There are times when I think I still feel that movement, and for a split second, has me thinking that our babies are still here. That they’re somehow OK. But then I realize that it is just my uterus and my body trying to heal and go back to normal…whatever that means.
Don’t look down, I tell myself. Just keep breathing.