I grew up learning to love my body – the way it looked, the way it felt and what it was capable of doing.
When I asked it to learn a new dance step, it did.
When I directed it to flip a Spanish tortilla, it sent it flying off the pan with gusto and returned it with precision and a golden brown bottom.
It could even rock a two-piece bathing suit without the echo of negative self talk.
So how could it be that the same body that had once powered me through bootcamp workouts, late night partying and sleepless nights with my two children, could not do what I needed it to do this time around?
Never in the first 30 years of my life had it betrayed me—until I tried to conceive my third child.
I’d never had the pleasure of relying on a 28-day, clockwork style cycle. My ovulation had always worked in wonky ways and made me turn to test strips and basal body temperature readings to try to zone in on fertile windows. It was a frustrating process, but somehow, when it came to conceiving my two daughters, I seemed to eventually get lucky both times.
However, by the time I was ready for a third pregnancy, those “glitches” in my anatomical functions would soon become a source of heartbreak.
Not once, but twice, did I get the happy news that a third musketeer would join our boisterous bunch. Not once, but twice, did I watch my HCG levels dive with Olympic speed, eventually leading to a loss.
Losing a pregnancy feels like your body transforms from pure magic to a trick gone wrong. My first chemical pregnancy led me down a dark spiral of self-blame, speculation and anger. Why had I skipped so many doses of my prenatals? Why did I drink that beer if I had been trying to conceive?
My husband said that “if it happened once, it would happen again”. But I was left with a big ‘what if’. I had lost a part of me and it didn’t matter that it was at a cellular level. To me, it felt like a huge loss.
After paying the doctor a visit, a nurse advised me to wait a few months before trying again.
Patience had never been my forte, though. I had heard that you became more fertile after a loss. So instead of waiting it out, I got pregnant within two months. I knew my body. I knew it wouldn’t betray me again.
The second time around, I checked my hCG (Human Chorionic Gonadotropin, known commonly as the pregnancy hormone) levels right away. I needed to see them climbing, and I needed to see the red stripes in Dollar Store test strips grow darker and darker. Two, four and six weeks came and went and my hormone levels kept climbing. (Editor’s note: in the first four weeks of pregnancy, these levels are doubling every day; as the pregnancy progresses, the numbers continue to rise, but at a slower pace). But they didn’t go up enough. By the eight week my specialist did an ultrasound hoping to find a little bean with a heartbeat.
He found an empty sac instead.
I’ll never forget the sight of an almost perfect circle, with nothing inside. As I endured the pain of a DNC (Dilation and curettage) at my OB-GYN’s office, I thought I’d never have another child. My “temple”, my “Porsche”, the reflection I caught in the mirror, was not meant to grow my family any further. I didn’t want to feel the pain that I was feeling again. It was the end of the road.
Days and months went by. I looked at my daughters – then five and two – and thanked my lucky stars for the blessing of being able to watch them grow up. As they both performed “Let It Go” for me in their Elsa and Anna costumes, I began to come to terms with my journey – and my body.
We teach our children to forgive. We teach them to let go of any grudge they may hold towards others. But we have such a hard time forgiving ourselves.
Through the seeming imperfections of my body, I was forced to love myself even harder. My experiences with loss taught me to forgive my body’s betrayals, imbalances and frustrating quirks – all of which had led to heartache. It drove me instead, to rejoice in the things that it did right…like embracing and loving the children it had managed to nurture.
Our bodies are perfection mixed with unpredictable doses of chaos. I chose to forgive mine, because it is simply my one and only. And because of the simple fact that if I don't love it, how do I move forward? How do I find the peace to keep going?
Months went by, and even though they didn’t completely heal the trauma of two consecutive pregnancy losses, the passage of time gave me perspective. I got pregnant for the fifth time, and it happened to be the time that my third musketeer finally stuck.