When I was twenty weeks pregnant, I asked my doctor about a peculiarity of the developing being I was carrying. I said, “You know, everything I’ve read has described this early fetal movement as fluttery and like bubbles. Mine feels nighting like that.”
“What do you mean?” he asked.
“Well…it hurts. I feel real strong jabs and stretches. Nothing gentle. The force already wakes me up at night.”
He smiled, “Sounds like you just have an aggressive kid.”
When Lyra was born, one of the first things I noticed about her extra-lean body was how muscular she was. In particular, she had a distinct line separating her front quadriceps from her hamstrings. She looked like an olympic sprinter. A little gymnast. It was as though she had been doing daily bench presses. And judging by my still-bruised insides, I think she had.
Although her kicks are as string as ever—stronger even, quickly forcing you to move her feet away from you as any solid object quickly becomes a sparring partner for her kickboxing practice—the deeply toned muscles she had at birth have been covered by something I’m more familiar with. At four months old, they’re staring me in the face: my daughter has my thighs.
Her legs now look like delicious drumsticks, plump and round from hip to knee and quickly narrowing to a slender calf and bony ankle. Their mass is solid. The flesh is somewhat mottled, almost like cellulite, but much more subtle. I want to feel proud that she has inherited this quality of mine, this shared rump that all of the women in my family have. She came out looking so different from me (so different that I have considered buying this shirt), I think I should be pleased with seeing any of my physical traits emerge in her. Instead, I anguish over all of the jeans she will struggle to wear.
At the same time, I feel saddened that I feel any anguish over her physical traits at all. When all of society is sending her messages that she isn’t good enough, isn’t pretty enough, just as she is, she will need me to fight those messages. To reassure her and convince her that a plump thigh is a desirable thigh. If my disdain for my own body sneaks in, she will sense it in a moment. She will know I am a phony and a liar.
And now we hit the tip of that iceberg. All of the reasons that I hoped my developing baby was boy, even though she showed herself to me in every dream exactly as she was: a girl. I knew a girl would force me to go front and center with my stuff. I knew how early girls receive messages to hate themselves. I wanted a boy because I am selfish and I am lazy. I didn’t want to have to go there with myself. And I felt like having a boy would easier: no girl gossip, no body image issues, no Bratz dolls. No problems.
But what I have is a girl. I will only ever have a girl. Fate has intervened. Lyra is it, my one and only child. Now I guess I better start figuring out an unconfident, body-loathing mom is going to raise a confident, self-loving daughter.