The relationship I’ve had with my body has always ebbed and flowed. I grew up an athlete: tall-ish and awkward, a tomboy creature with no fear of bruised legs and scratches. The trees outside my great aunt’s home went climbed every summer with scrapes of my skin dotted along its trunk. The scar on my left knee that seems like a rite of passage for nearly every Black girl has is a part of my armor. I don’t even think about it – it’s simply part of me. 

My story goes as follows: I went to college and gained more than the “Freshman 15”.

At a modeling shoot, the creative director yelled at me to “suck it in!” until I nearly cried on set. Family members made a point to tell me my stomach was spilling over the top and sides of my jeans whenever the moment presented itself. The little bit of body confidence I had crashed to the bathroom floor when I dared to look in the mirror. 

And then, I got pregnant.

I envisioned a house filled with children. Multiple feet pounding their way down the staircase of our two-story home. Family portraits taking far too long to complete due to our rowdiness. Building a special relationship with each child. Wondering which one would take after my penchant for writing, nerdy tendencies and “ball is life”. 

When I got pregnant with my daughter at 22, my world shattered. Following the procedure that revealed that “yes, this is Endometriosis. Your chances to have children go down from here”, after months of trying to no avail and taking meds that promised conception, I had resigned myself to an empty home. What should’ve been a happy moment shot a wave of fear and regret down my spine. After a tumultuous pregnancy and  a C-Section delivery where the sound of the heart monitor still echoes in my ears, I’m left with a mangled belly and scars as a constant reminder of that day, that specific trauma.

When I look in the mirror, I see a survivor still ravished by pre and postnatal PTSD. My delivery almost killed me, and the badges of honor weigh heavy — so much so that I no longer want any more children. After the end of my marriage and the two failed relationships following where my weight — mainly my stomach— was one main source of abusive contempt, I fell deeper into despair. The sun rose each day but I didn’t pay it any mind. My daughter kept growing, yet all I could see is how I failed. 

Many of the years since her birth are a depressive blur. I wish I knew the moment something clicked. The breakaway second when the disdain I held for so long against my body now seemed completely unfounded. Late last year, the desire for goodness and no longer pain became louder, for me and my child. I lost 20 pounds starting around December 2019 and have successfully kept most of it off. This led me to discover what my body was capable of without shame — not because I was smaller, but because I gave it a chance to live and be loved.

During basketball games, I was always conscious of my legs. Where they were, how they were planted, that they were always moving. I carry the most scars on them. I’ve done my best work with them. In shedding those pounds, they began to move forward more prominently, and I noticed how neatly my fupa greeted them when I sat. A kiss on the top of my thighs, they initiated a new way of viewing my body. I’ve slept nude for most of my life. Having a weird relationship with my body meant even when there was nowhere to hide from myself, I found ways to avert my gaze. I began to view my own nudity as a gift I give myself. I started writing naked, take longer to get dressed after a shower, grabbing molds of flesh and smiling just because I wanted to. 

I formed a new bond with being naked as a form of worship. At night, drifting to sleep, I hold my fupa for comfort, running my fingers across my jagged and dented c-section scar. Acknowledging the spaces that are still slightly numb to the touch eleven years later. I give space to the feelings that I’m not always happy with what I see, but I’m grateful. The fact my body still responds well to change –  a different play, a different routine – without folding is a magnificent thing to witness. And I’m beyond thankful for how my body has led me to see the full scope of me.

The journey to self-love is rocky. It doesn’t play out sweet and cute, especially when trauma informed the monument to self-hatred currently being destroyed. Building upon a new foundation takes legitimate heart, patience and the acceptance that we may have to start from scratch multiple times. What others have placed at our feet – their projections, expectations, willful ignorance and spite — doesn’t belong to us. 

Return them to their owners and hug yourself, knowing you are beautiful at every level.

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