You Can't Tell From The Outside

On my 60th birthday, I gaze at myself in the mirror. This is the body of a woman who has never been pregnant. How would my body look if I had given birth? Perhaps a scar would cross my abdomen from a C-section or I would have tenderness down below from an episiotomy. Perhaps my breasts would be bigger or smaller, having swollen with pregnancy and shrunk after the baby was weaned. Perhaps I would be heavier than I am now, having gained weight for the baby and never taken it off. Instead, I still wear the same size my mother wore before she had children.

Most of my body is still smooth and, dare I say it, juicy, like a well-baked turkey? I still enjoy sex and feel beautiful when the hormones are right. I feel like a babe, even if young guys see me as a mom. They don't know that I'm not a mom. My breasts are big and full of promise, a promise my ovaries will never keep.

When I go to the gynecologist, the nurse asks how many pregnancies I've had, how many miscarriages, how many abortions. She can't tell by looking at me that I haven't left five children in the waiting room. I suppose when the doctor slips on the plastic gloves and starts feeling around, my cervix might feel a little like a new car that hasn't been broken in. Nothing's shaken loose and rattling.

Menopause has occurred. I have osteopenia, a weakening of the bones that isn't as bad as osteoporosis, but it's got me downing calcium pills like candy. I'm also looking at a future hysterectomy for a prolapsed uterus, something I thought only occurred after multiple childbirths. Surprise. My grandmother, who had two children, had the same problem.

My eyes don't quite match due to the after-effects of Graves' Disease, which hit with a vengeance in 1999 and required radiation to burn it into remission. But you can't see any of this from the outside, any more than you can see that I have never given birth. What you can see are the signs of aging. My hair is streaked with gray now. The lines around my eyes follow the same trail as my mother's wrinkles. in our family, we gray slowly but wrinkle overnight, like cheap cloth.

Most of my body is not aware that it isn't 13 anymore. I still get down on the floor to play with the dog. I follow her on my hands and knees, copying her walk. When I happen on a playground, I still pull myself across the rings and bars and climb up the jungle gym. I run, and I dance when no one's looking. I exercise. Would I stop doing these things if I were a mother? Would I have to stop playing? I hope not.

This is the body of a woman who never had children. How is it different from yours?