When you’re pregnant, you think a lot about the body.
What a miracle it is. How the baby growing inside can accommodate itself. How your own organs shift into temporary places to give her what she needs.
And when you’re in labor, you feel the body as you’ve never felt it before:
the push and pull waves of contractions, an intense pain you endure thinking, “This is what will bring her into the world. She’s making her way down the birth canal now.”
the elastic stretching of the cervix and then the vagina.
the slippery rush of baby, then the placenta, and then an unexpected amount of blood.
Afterward, there’s the tenderness of the body, its temporary depletion. Tuesday evening I kneeled down on the floor to look for something and felt a searing pain as I stood up again, a pain that stayed with me all night. “Don’t do too much and don’t lift anything heavier than Mariel,” my mom said when she left last weekend. She knew, as moms do, the body’s limits.
When the baby is born, you stand over her and marvel again at the body. That all one needs to live is inside this compact little shell, but that it will all grow over time. You think of breath, the rise and fall of her chest, her fluttering eyes, the flicker of her tongue as she practices curling and uncurling it, the science of reflexes as you tickle her feet, the sensitivity of skin as you clean her neck or put lotion on the little fingers she has rubbed raw with sucking.
You think of miracles and you think of how many things could have gone wrong. Could still go wrong. You think of friends who lost their baby this morning. You think of the body. Its mystery.