I walked by the mirror today, and it stung.
I caught a glance of my reflection and saw that my body was slowly returning to shape. Slowly morphing back into even lines.
I've lived over a year with extra skin, extra marks and extra fat, and I've cursed my body the entire time. I'm not thin. I'm not toned. I'm not picture-perfect, and yet I envied the people to whom it all came naturally -- all the women who pop out baby after baby and after two weeks postpartum have the figure of a marathoner.
With my first child, breastfeeding made the weight fall right off. Within a few short months, I fit back into my favorite jeans. It was as if I never had a baby, and I was so proud.
With my second, after seven months of pumping, my body would not budge.
"No, I am not pregnant again. Yes, this is just fat. Thank you for pointing that out."
And yet, as I walked by the mirror today, I turned back and stood. I saw the transformation occurring in my body. My stretch marks are lightening. My skin is becoming tighter again. My belly no longer looks like I am 12 or 20 or 30 weeks pregnant.
I am getting what I wanted, and you'd think I would be happy. You'd think I would be glad to fit back into my jeans, to have a tighter stomach and a prettier figure.
This isn't like my first time. This time is different. This time I'm sad.
A little over one year ago, I gave birth to my second son, a beautiful baby boy. He was perfect to me, but medically speaking, his heart and lungs weren't. I carried him for nine months, as my heart swelled along with my feet and I dreamt up a future with two boys, growing together, side-by-side, the best of friends.
I was lucky to hold him in my arms for nearly seven months, but the day came that my dreams were crushed. My little boy left me, and now all I have left are ashes, memories and stretch marks.
Stretch marks are a different story for baby loss moms.
While the rest of the world curses them, we know that they are reminders. Reminders of life. Reminders of love. Reminders of the sweet bond between a momma and her baby.
While the rest of the world exchanges tips on how to lose our baby belly, we cling to some semblance that we did carry a child, even on the days where no one utters their name. They weren't pretend. They weren't imaginary. They existed. And the pain we feel inside is justified.
As our hearts ache, I can remember that for nine months, he grew within me. My heartbeat was his lullaby. He was safe, and he was already so loved. My body bears the signs and screams out he was here. He was here. He was here.
Even when the world moves on. Even if they forget. My body reminds me that he existed. My child grew here. My child was nurtured and loved for every second of his life. My child left a permanent mark in this world, even if the only heart touched was mine.
Every mark. Every imperfection. Every flaw. I'm sad to see it go. I'm sad to see my form returning, because I am losing one more sign of the love, the connection, the bond we had and still have.
I don't want to lose my stretch marks. They remind me of life, of love, of my son.