I Saw What I Dislike About My Body in This Photo. Then I Saw This.

At first glance, I see my round face. I see what I dislike and what makes me feel most vulnerable. I say, “Yuck, I won’t be showing this one off.”

That angle is not my best. Anything but that. I’m 35 weeks pregnant, and with each pregnancy, I seem to carry this plush padding that I otherwise don’t carry on my frame. It’s foreign and a wee bit scary to me.

I can also see the fatigue in my eyes, even though I’m trying hard. That day was a rough one, and nausea and aching back bones nearly had me collapsing in the grass. It was one of those days where I really didn’t want to capture the beauty of pregnancy.

You see, pregnancy and I often bonk heads — hard. I am one of those women who sheepishly admits I don’t like being pregnant. I know it’s awful to say, since many women struggle with infertility, but I have my own struggles in my physical body that just make pregnancy dang hard.

When I first saw this photo, I kept scrolling. Oh dear, I thought. But then I felt a raw burning in my eyes and emotions creeping up and into all of me. I saw what I failed to see at first, blinded by my own judgments towards myself.

Michela , pregnant, holding her daughter outside on the grass

Looking at this photo a second time, I see so much more.

First, I see my daughter’s beautiful, precious feet.

I see feet that are crooked, because she hasn’t ever walked. I see feet that can cause her pain. I see feet that have been wept on, kissed a thousand times, bruised by IVs, covered in plaster and casted. I see feet that bring good news, shod with grace and glory. I see tiny seashell pink toenails, and a milky brown beauty mark smack dab in the middle of her left foot.

I see legs I know so well, covered in luscious layers of fat, but lacking muscle tone. These legs have been caressed and cradled in our arms since day one.

I see a body, wholly dependent on me to carry her, near or far.

I see my precious child, unable to move but full of delight and joy and inner strength.

I see how my hands hold her, just so. Curved around all the vulnerable parts, careful to keep them tucked in so they don’t fall by her side and threaten another fracture.

I see my blonde curls and hers, too. She has my curls.

I see just how breathtakingly beautiful she is, just as she is.

I see the smile on her face that says: This is so fun, don’t ever let me go, Mama!

I see it in my face, too. I will never let you go, my darling.

I see the wings of a protective mother enveloping her daughter. I see a very pregnant belly, hanging low. Inside, a baby feels the weight of his or her big sister against its bum.

I see my titanium and bone spine that bears the weight of a quickly growing baby and a 3-foot-tall toddler.

And then I see it, and my eyes start to fill with tears. I’m thankful no one is around to watch me cry over a photo of my own self and my little girl.

But I see it, I finally see it. Strength.

I see the years…the years of hard laboring and weeping and groaning under the weight of all the brokenness in the world. Maybe that’s what’s lining my eyes, pooling there around the rims.

I see a mother.

I see hope.

I see beauty.

Too many woman don’t accept their bodies and fail to see the beauty in front of them: I need a face lift, I need to lose weight, I’m too skinny, I’m too fat, if I could just change this, if I could just lose that bit there, if only my hair looked less drab, if only my skin were clear, my teeth straighter.

But I choose to see beauty. The most beautiful people I know accept their so-called broken bits and misfit pieces — the typically unwelcome features and attributes in this perfectionist world.

There is a lot I would change about the photo if I could, and it wouldn’t be the angle. It captures a moment on my timeline as a mother, one that I will never experience again.

Four weeks after this photo was taken, I gave birth to a healthy boy. And seven months after that, my precious daughter passed away.

This photo means the world to me.

Read more from Michaela at Michaelaevanow.com.

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