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The One Thing I'd Change About My Wife's Body

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A few days ago, my wife sent me a message on Facebook, along with a link to Andrea Woslager’s “I Hated My Body After My Miscarriages Until My Daughter Said This.” Her message read:

“So I read this yesterday, and it kinda felt like I’d been punched in the gut. This isn’t all me, but it feels a lot like it. And no, I don’t want to talk about it.”

I read Andrea’s story, and in a lot ways, it’s our story too. Nic and I married in 2006, and a few months later were overjoyed when she found out she was pregnant. Everything went perfectly, and our beautiful son Finn arrived in August 2007. Finn grew wonderfully, speaking early with a precociously wide and deep vocabulary. As soon as he could form the words, he was asking us for a baby brother or sister. He didn’t care which, he just wanted one, and we desperately wanted to grant him that.

Nic got pregnant again just before Finn turned 2. We found out early but decided to wait to tell him until we passed 12 weeks. One day, while we were waiting for that milestone to tick over, we were all sitting together on the living room floor, and Finn put his hand on Nic’s belly (which was flat as a board) and said “I think there’s a baby in there.” Our eyes widened in surprise, and I almost broke silence to tell him he was right. It was so hard not to, but I’m glad I didn’t, as less than a week later, at 7 weeks, we lost the baby.

I won’t go into detail, but it took us a while to get over that. Eventually we did, and almost two years (and many, many continuing requests from Finn for a little brother or sister) later, Nic was pregnant. Again, we decided to wait out the 12 weeks before we told Finn, and with aching slowness, those 12 weeks passed. When we got there, we were both so scared of jinxing things that we waited another week, just to be sure – then, at last, we told Finn he was going to be a big brother. We were all indescribably overjoyed. Finn started picking names (“Ninja” got vetoed early).

A few days later, Nic came to me and said something felt wrong. We went to the doctor, who said everything seemed OK. She said she could schedule an ultrasound if we wished.

We wished.

That’s where Andrea’s story kicked me in the gut. We had that same moment with the ultrasound technician – the awful, hollow silence where the heartbeat should have been, the anguish as the technician’s face dropped, the knowledge sitting in our bellies before she even took a breathe to tell us. The appointment with the OB-GYN was worse. She told us that, given the point the pregnancy was at, the safest path forward was for Nic to be induced and deliver the 14-week fetus.

We had to wait a week before that could happen, and for a few days, we bunkered in, closing ourselves off from everything but each other and our beautiful Finn. Telling him was the hardest thing we’ve ever had to do, and we all grieved deeply. Finally, the week went by, and Nic was admitted to the maternity unit. The midwives were wonderful, caring and solicitous, but that night, watching my beautiful wife go through labor for a baby we were still grieving was awful.

I am to this day in awe of the strength she has.

We never really got to the point of trying to get pregnant again, but we decided to let things take their course, and if it happened, it happened.

For two years, nothing happened, and we began talking to Finn (who for months after the miscarriage would occasionally see a baby in a store or at the park and start silently crying) about the likelihood that he wouldn’t get to have a little brother or sister. He, like us, was sad about it but understood. We started getting rid of all the baby things we’d stored in the garage. I took several loads to local charities and then found some stuff I thought Nic might want to hang on to.

“Go through this, and pull out anything sentimental,” I told her. “I’m giving whatever you don’t want to charity tomorrow.” Getting rid of it all felt cathartic, as if we were finally turning a corner on the grief.

Then next morning, Nic said, “I’m not sure, but I think maybe I should take a test.” We had a few left over from earlier maybes, but this time, the line was there, clear as day. We went to our doctor, and Nic did the urine test, which came back positive.

We both freaked out. We’d finally come to grips with not having another child. Were we too old? Was six years too big a gap between siblings? And the big one: If the worst happened again, could we make it through intact?

We limped through those first 12 weeks, both of us half-expecting the worst. We – again – waited a little while more before telling Finn. When we finally told him, we couldn’t wait for the expected joy at the news, but what we got was a subdued, “What if what happened last time happens again?” We hugged him hard and told him worrying about the future was a sure way to rob ourselves of joy right now. It was exactly what we ourselves needed to hear.

After that, everything went to plan, and Dash arrived a week before his big brother’s 7th birthday. Finn and Dash have adored each other since the moment they met. Finn will do literally anything to make his little brother smile, which isn’t too hard; Dash thinks everything Finn does – including walking into the room – is comedic genius.

Here’s where Andrea’s story – and Nic’s empathy with it – gave me a new understanding.

Occasionally, in the months since Dash arrived, Nic has said to me that nothing has changed for me since our boys have been born, to which I respond that – like for every parent – everything has changed. My world is a completely different (and immensely more wonderful) place with them in it. She – not always but sometimes – has responded, “No, I mean your body. It’s just the same as it was before we had them.”

I didn’t really understand what she was saying because for me, neither had hers.

I never meant to disregard her feelings, but honestly, I just didn’t get it. I admit I’m not overly bright.

After reading Andrea’s story, here’s what I want to say to my wife:

If I didn’t understand how you felt when you were telling me that, it’s only because your body is as beautiful to me now as it ever was. Yes, it’s changed. Those marks you see as damage, I see as the ticket stubs for the boundless joy you’ve brought into our world.

Those marks are our wildly imaginative and ferociously intelligent Finn, who has no idea how wonderful he is. They’re our beautiful and mischievous Dash, who at just 7 months old has an attitude that suggests he could achieve world domination (if only he could get his hands on a hundred thousand warriors) and who must go to sleep every night with aching cheeks from smiling so damn much. Those marks are a tribute to the mind boggling gift you possess to create life, and as Andrea said, to keep it safe until it’s ready to enter the world.

Every day that gift makes my heart feel like it’s going to burst, and just when I think I can’t possibly fit any more love for you or our boys into it, my heart grows just enough to fit it all in.

Those marks are a reminder of all the joy you, and you alone, are responsible for bringing into our little world. They’re also my pledge: I’ll do everything in my power — every day I’m lucky enough to spend by your side — to repay you for all the joy you’ve brought into our lives.

Finally, I would say this:

If there is one and only one thing I would change about your body, it would be for you to be able to see it the way I do.

a mother looking at her baby son

Originally published: April 12, 2015
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