As I gazed down at the two lines, one bright, one still pale enough to cause doubt, I knew my days of self-inflicted starvation were over. I had spent the previous two years running, starving, crying, carving the fat and calories from my flesh until all I had left was self-hatred and sagging, once-full skin.
My disorder had taken over my life, eclipsed school work and time with friends, including my boyfriend, who became my husband only four months before I took the test I held in my hands. At that moment, I knew things had to change. Recovering during pregnancy was a necessity, but it still hurt. The morsels of food that I once saw as calorie-laden enemies now grew and sustained what would become our Little One. At each doctor’s appointment, I dreaded the number on the scale that rose, not-so-slowly, erasing all of the hard work I had put into becoming thin.
But at the same time the number was growing, so was Little One, morphing from clumps of indistinguishable cells, to something wriggling, letting me know it was there, to someone pink and perfect, exploding into existence with a piercing cry.
Two mornings after her birth, I examined the mirror, expecting an overwhelming repulsion. Instead, I was greeted with the tired, but happy eyes of someone who had birthed a child. My body had changed. Indeed, I was rounder, fuller, but somehow also deflated. Stripes ran from my hips, to my stomach and surrounded my breasts. Yes, I had changed. But I did not hate what I saw. At some point, the emptiness I felt that made me hate, made me starve, had been filled.
Even now, a year-and-a-half later, I have not returned to my former size. But, I am learning that it is okay. Little One and I have a game that we love to play. “Where’s your belly button?” I ask. She giggles, raising her shirt to show me the round, firm belly that comes with toddlerhood.
“Belly bo?” She asks me, lifting my shirt in turn to expose my stomach that is now flatter but still soft and lined with pink branches. I do not pull my shirt down but instead mimic her own squealing laugh as she pats my tummy.
“You used to be in there. Did you know that?” I ask.
She shakes her head and toddles off to find a book or a block. I pull my shirt back down to cover my stripes, the bulge of where she once was. And I smile.