By Deborah Lytton
Web Exclusive, July 24, 2006
During my pregnancy with my first child, I wasn't one of those women with issues about her changing body. I embraced my new self, I gloried in it. I marveled at my growing roundness, my hands lightly stroking the child growing within me. I loved my thicker hair, longer nails, softer skin. I teetered around town with my beach ball belly peeking out from under tight tank tops, over low slung jeans.
On the day I gave birth, I looked more beautiful than on my wedding day. After 24 hours without sleep or food, I positively glowed. I was a mommy.
This beauty had all but dissipated by week ten of my daughter's life. The sleepless nights had caused a pair of purple half moons to take up residence underneath my bleary eyes. The light blonde around my hairline had been replaced with dark roots, and the build up of grease from seven days without washing it didn't help either. The new shade of my hair conjuring up memories of Madonna wearing orange pumps and singing "Borderline" only drew further attention to the sickly pallor of my skin. My manicured hands, a weekly indulgence before child, had given way to scaly eczema brought on by countless daily washings. My body, once taut with child, was now crepe-y and sagging in all the wrong places—and my breasts, which had been a manageable size 34B since high school were now bursting out of a 40DD. Add all that to a mass of post-partum hormones and you've got one mess of a mommy.
But the worst part of it all was that during my pregnancy, my foot had grown. Not in width from swelling, but in size. And a full two sizes at that. I now needed a size eight. Only I didn't know it yet. So, in slamming my size eight foot into a size six shoe, I was jamming my toes up against the front of the shoe. I was so busy I didn't even notice the pain. But when I got a terrible ingrown toe nail, I couldn't ignore my situation any longer. So I had to have surgery. Post-surgery, I had to wear flip flops so my large, gauze bandaged toe could heal.
It was during these flip flop days that I put my beautiful baby into her stroller for a walk, stopping only long enough to slide a pair of sunglasses over my bleary eyes. So there I was, shlumping down the street in my slept-in, spit-up covered t-shirt, baggy sweats, bushy hair and bandaged toe when I ran into Her. She doesn't need a name, you all know her. She's the one you've known since high school. She has always, will always, look absolutely stunning when you see her. Right off the cover of a magazine (the kind you refuse to buy, but can't resist reading at the hair salon). Perfect pedicure, the hippest clothes, stylish hair, just-been-in-Maui tan and little flat stomach sporting a diamond belly ring. Yep, she's the one. It is easy to think she has it all.
I politely said hello, and she complimented me on my baby, and that was that. But later when I got home, I imagined how I must have looked with my leaking breasts and bad hair, and I felt that tightening in my stomach, that twinge of insecurity that seeing her always brings on. But just as the tears started to blur my vision, something happened. My newborn child looked up at me and smiled, milk dripping from the corners of her rosy lips. Her tiny hand rested lightly on the fullness of my breast as if claiming it for herself. I breathed in the sweet scent of her skin as her soft blue eyes locked with mine and my heart, already overflowing with love for her, filled even more. And I knew it didn't matter that I was having a bad hair month because I'd had years of great hair days, and I would have more in the future. It didn't matter that I was sleep-deprived and looked it. And it didn't matter that my belly button would never be the same again. Right then, all that mattered was that I was holding an angel in my arms who loved me no matter what. And that made me love myself just the way I was, bad hair, size eight feet and all.
Deborah is a single mother, writer and attorney who lives in Los Angeles with her daughters, ages 5 and 2. She has just completed her first novel.