The Apologetic Body

In the weeks immediately following my first son’s birth, I experienced plenty of things I’d expected, at least in the abstract: a previously unmapped wilderness of love to navigate for this new human; exhaustion so disorienting my kitchen felt like the moon; the frightening weirdnesses of my healing and feeding and shrinking and expanding body.

One thing no book or blog had prepared me for, though, was the complete loss of any sense of embarrassment. As in, it entirely—poof!—disappeared.

It started, I suppose, with the pregnancy itself, all those months of offering up my body to hands and instruments, needles and monitors, in preparation for what would come next. And then, of course, there was the delivery, during which two nurses and a doctor coached me through pushing and reached into my body and helped usher out a yowling baby, all under glaring hospital lights. Though I cringed inwardly sometimes at all this unnatural intimacy, I rolled with it. My ability to manage those moments made sense to me. They, after all, were what came along with the version of pregnancy and birth I’d decided I wanted.

What I didn’t expect was what happened a few hours after my son was born. My husband and I were in our hospital room, playing music softly on the phone, our baby getting used to nursing, all of us stunned and blissed out. I had my hospital gown down around my waist so our son could latch on while resting warm against my skin. The door opened, and in came my mother and stepfather, just arrived after their through-the-night drive from Delaware to Mississippi.