Exactly 8 months ago, a lot of light entered me.
At that time, as I lay paralysed, half-naked and fully conscious in a room where masked men were cutting me open, it felt like a blood-red full-coloured reenactment of an old black-and-white horror movie.
Surprisingly, it probably only took 5 to 8 minutes to cut through the seven layers – skin, fat, the coating outside the abs, the abs, that layer surrounding the organs, the loose peritoneum, and the uterus. (But then again, it only takes 18 seconds to debone a chicken, according to YouTube.)
Through the crack, they pushed you out – wet, wide-eyed and wriggling. You were such a funny little thing. They lay you in my arms even before they stitched me up. There was still a gaping hole in my middle. I craned my head forward to kiss you but I forgot to smell you. I should have memorised your smell.
You felt so small – almost weightless – it felt unreal. But you seemed to relax in my arms, as if you trusted me. And I think it was at that very moment that I decided I’d do my best for you. In the passion of the moment…… theoretically…… yes, for you, I’ll always do my best.
Then I brought you home, and the first couple of months became the most difficult two months of my life. I know some mothers are naturals. Not me. I was (am still) a mess. You were too small to latch, you were not drinking enough, you were not growing healthily, I was sleeping one hour at a time, I was still recovering from my wound, I still had work obligations, and Daddy started quarrelling with the nanny.
You know, those images that show mothers in an otherworldly Goddess-of-the-earth Gaia-like glow? Lies! Either that, or they have superior DNA. Because I’ve never felt uglier in my life.
I had probably put on 18kg and was sweating like a middle aged man. But because of a list of archaic confinement beliefs (see number 4 on this HoneyKidsAsia list), I could only take a herbal bath once a day and was not allowed to sit in front of a fan. As you can imagine, at 33°C, I felt and smelt like a decomposing piece of very fatty pork.
Another confinement practise I absolutely hated – I had to blow my hair dry every day. Who gets a blowout when they don’t have time to sleep? – I ask you. I just rushed through it, putting the hairdryer way too close to my strands that I emerged from my confinement with fried locks. So if you would, please add to your mental image a decomposing pig with burnt frizzy hair that stuck out in all directions. (Click here for furry pigs that look like sheep if you need a pictorial representation)
There are other visible scars. The wound, which I was afraid to even look at, was at first, a weird shade of mangosteen purple. My eye bags and dark circles looked like a bruised fruit that’d been dropped too many times , and no matter what I wore, I always smelt like spoilt milk.
I felt grotesque.
But it wasn’t just that my body had fallen apart. My old life, my world, seemed to have fallen to pieces too. My new weight and the heat made me feel completely exhausted, all the time. And it didn’t help that I didn’t have time for self-care, for self-repair, and to do the things that helped create my old sense of self. Things that I liked, did, watched, read and thought were suddenly effaced.
Because there is less time in a day, everything I do seem to come at a heavier opportunity cost now. Now, I’d think – if I met a friend, I’d miss my only chance to get some exercise this week. If I read a chapter of this book, I’d miss my evening walk with you. During the first few months, I struggled with this sense of confusion, helplessness, loss, guilt and self-loathing.
Despite my self-loathing, you blossomed each day, and your laughter and squeals now fills the house like a tinkling bell. How could someone like me bring such a spontaneous, happy, angelic creature into this world?
Because you are so happy, your joy and delight also seep through my cracks and fill me up. So that my imperfections are no longer just grotesque – they are also beautiful.
We are beautiful not in spite of imperfections, but because of them, right?
That’s what I’d hope to tell you when you feel insecure or inadequate in future.
And as I slowly pick up the pieces and continue to navigate this new world and new life, I am learning to embrace my cracks, imperfections and inadequacies; and cultivate a deeper sense of beauty in my life.
Because the wound is the place the light enters you.