The Post-Pregnancy Body


Belly: There was extra room there for a while, in case he wanted to come back, I suppose. Now there’s just a subtle roundness, like the ghost of a pregnancy haunting my old dresses and t-shirts. Now, the belly is for laughing. The belly button, an unblinking eye. He puts his hand there as if to say, mine. I put my finger on his own. I gave him this scar, a present to take with him into the world, to remind him of a time when he needed me long after he doesn’t anymore.

Hips: They remember his weight long after it’s gone. The choreography of my walk seems permanently altered. Even my footprints in the freshly fallen snow look different. They’re still carrying the baby, even when I’m not. But when I am, my hips don’t ache or strain. They seem relieved. Finally, they can move and sway freely, like a missing gear has been put back into place.

Breasts: Their landscape has changed, their architecture, their plumbing. They feel different, too, in ways that are difficult to detail. But the thing I notice most now is their scent. It’s subtle and earthly. It rises to my nostrils when I climb into a warm shower. I recognize it, faintly, from the lips of my lovers, but mostly from my baby’s sweet sleep after midnight nursings, the smell of my body on his breath.

Arms: When people watch my intrepid, energetic toddler bounce around, run at walls, climb anything that will hold his weight, they remark on his fearlessness. Of course he’s fearless, I respond. What is there to be afraid of? No matter how fast he runs or high he climbs, he never gets hurt. He doesn’t even know it’s a possibility. These arms are always there to catch him.

Hands: They’re still good at stacking blocks and itsy, bisty spider. They’ve retained the training from my own childhood. I keep the fingernails short now; his skin, still new, is so fragile. My fingers have long-conquered the mountain of his body. I can recognize all his textures in the dark. If you dusted him for prints, you’d find mine everywhere.

Eyes: Wider now, which is good because they’re perpetually half-lidded. The night-wakings make the eyelashes heavy. Still, they seem to see more. Or maybe they just see different things, smaller things: the way his face changes before he cries, the little strips of skin beneath his fingernails, the rising white cap of a tooth about to break.

Tongue: It knows the lullabies, the nighttime songs, the ways to shush and sing. It has also hissed and cajoled, doubted and disciplined. It makes the boy laugh. It used to wrap itself around Our Fathers and Hail Marys with something more like muscle memory than purpose. Now, at three a.m., it turns my quiet breathing into “Boots of Spanish Leather” without me even telling it to. It has stories, too. So many stories.

Heart: I won’t be so cliché as to say the post-pregnancy heart is enlarged, but I will say I’m more aware of mine. When I hug him, my son presses his ear to the thin skin of my chest and I can feel it thumping between us. He knows it better than me, its clockwork, its various ticks and tocks; he has heard it from the inside. Sometimes I wonder how long it took for him to stop missing its steady sound, rushing constantly into his ears. Or if he ever really will.


Featured photo credit.

Aubrey Hirsch is the author of a short story collection, Why We Never Talk About Sugar, and a flash fiction chapbook, This Will Be His Legacy. Her stories, essays, and comics have appeared in The Nib, Black Warrior Review, American Short Fiction, The Florida Review, the New York Times, and elsewhere. You can find links to more of her work on her website and follow her on Twitter: @aubreyhirsch. More from this author →