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photo-31This is an open flow. Been stumbling over the words for weeks. I’m just going to write what’s up top and start the journey from there. Here goes.

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The afterbody is what is left after the baby is born. After the initial movements of birth have passed through. The bleeding, the cramping, the leaking, the aching. After these new frequencies have normalized and you have become somewhat used to the weight of your new self. The center of gravity having dramatically shifted with the baby now on the outside of you, but still very much attached to you. After you have managed a shower or a bath and have had to touch the places that have remained with you. After you have searched for your belly button and come up empty handed, save for the dark and wrinkled mass loosely covering the abdominal wall that split in order to accommodate an expanding uterus. After you have realized that your feet are not coming down anymore and you will now need to make a commitment to shop for your size. After you’ve seen your thighs and face and back are all wider than your remember. After you look for yourself in the photos they all want to take of you and do not recognize the woman holding the baby. After you pass by a mirror long enough to confirm that there is no going back.

The afterbody is your new home. Everything takes getting used to, after all. At some point you will surrender to your maternity clothes because they are the ones that still fit. Yes, months after the baby was born, you still need an elastic waistband and the thought of stuffing the bounty of your body behind the unforgiving button closure on your favorite jeans is nauseating. Comfort becomes your second most-made prayer, after your baby’s happiness and wellness of course. With all the sensations pulling and tugging on your afterbody, cosmetic considerations can aptly fuck off. However this need to feel beautiful again will not just disappear with other people telling you that you look great. That you are glowing despite the dirt collecting on your skin and the diminished sleep collecting in your eyes. It will never matter as much to them as it does to you that you hate nearly every picture you’ve seen of yourself with the baby. And you’re the mother.

The afterbody is not offended when you don’t say ‘thank you.’ The afterbody is not confused about who she is/was/will be because there is no desperate search for a past life. No distressing race towards the next life. Her primary focus is helping you and baby acclimate to the world as independent beings. And this work is all consuming, every breath devoted to some critical task. Those infinitesimal responsibilities that some body’s got to do in order for you and your baby to stay alive. Regulating hormones, digesting proteins, producing breastmilk, building red blood cells, eliminating waste.

The afterbody knows everything is temporary. That one day you will shed the parts that seem unflattering and put your reinvented stomach back in front of the camera. That you will smile, finally, inside the family photos, and disremember what it looked like to be a new mother in a new body. That only in the smallest of places will you allow some remnant of the afterbody to live on anyway. A generous fold of skin, a stubborn trail of stretch mark, a slightly bigger something. After while, the afterbody grows unremarkable. Its existence shaped in the fading light of whatever you salvaged from your own need to soften the proof that birth happened here.

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Ok, just had to put something down, a placeholder for what’s been brewing. Will return to this discussion later.

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Check out my mothering journeys and read other related conversations, essays, and art explorations in the Motherhood collection.

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