My first child, William, was born in 2014 when I was 26. Even after he turned 1, I found myself with a lot more “belly” than I ever had before. It bothered me more than I liked to admit, and I started a strict diet-and-exercise regimen that put me back in my pre-pregnancy jeans but left me exhausted and feeling bad for caving to the pressure to try to look thin. Then, two-and-a-half years later, I gave birth prematurely to Holden and Theodore, identical twins who had suffered from twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome, a disease of the placenta. I held Theodore for the 30 minutes that he lived and as he passed away in my arms. I met Holden after he was delivered stillborn. I found myself leaving the hospital a day later with a swollen belly and my breasts aching from milk, but with no babies to feed. Irrationally, I hated my body for not being able to save them.
On Valentine’s Day 2017, I found out that I was pregnant with our fourth baby, Hugo. It was a difficult and complicated pregnancy. I was still deep in grief. All I wanted was to bring home a live baby. I watched my belly hold him and grow, despite my emotional and physical pain.
Hugo is now a happy, healthy 6-month-old. William will soon be turning 4. Recently, I stood up and my pants sagged around my waist. I looked in the mirror and noticed that my belly was starting to flatten out again. My first thought, immediate and unfiltered, was an excited “I’ve lost weight!” But contemplating my reflection, I realized: I don’t get a prize for taking up less space. This is the way I look after four babies. My body is forever changed with stretch marks and sagging skin and fat where there once wasn’t. Each pregnancy has added different marks and shapes and scars. With my twins, that’s all I have left of those babies. Motherhood changes your body. And that’s okay—it’s even miraculous.