But I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

By Kristi Pahr
Oppenheim Bernhard/Getty Images

At 35, I wasn’t in great shape. I wasn’t in bad shape, either. I was the average weight for my height, could run if I needed to, and didn’t get winded climbing the stairs. I had no chronic conditions. Internally, everything was where it was supposed to be—none of that bulging disc nonsense, and I only vaguely even knew what a hemorrhoid was. Nothing hurt more often than it didn’t. I was fine. Good. Average.

But I didn’t realize what a triumph that is—to have a body that cooperates—until I got pregnant with my son at 35 and my “average” body turned against me.

I had some preconceived notions about pregnancy. From what I heard from other women (and saw from the moms of Instagram), I expected to blossom into a radiant mother goddess and become the epitome of life-giving and love, or something equally gauzy and soft-focused. Sure, there’d be a little discomfort, some acid reflux, some vomiting. My husband would definitely need to rub my feet, run out at midnight for eggs and peppers, and listen to me cry. But I thought it would be an otherwise textbook birth with no complications, pain meds, or stitches.

I didn’t expect to be in and out of the doctor’s office, rotating between a regular OB and a maternal/fetal medicine specialist every week. I got vaginal ultrasounds—every week. I wasn’t allowed to lift anything or do anything particularly strenuous. I had cramps and anxiety, and every twitch or grumble became contractions and preterm labor in my head. And on top of all that, I was swollen, puffy, oily, and hairy. I had things coming out of my body that I didn’t know could come out of bodies. I once found a hair on the very front of my neck, right there in the middle of my throat, that had grown four inches long. (How does that even happen?)

I was OK with it, because I thought these changes were only temporary. I understood there would be long-term changes. I knew the C-section scar would linger. The baby weight would stubbornly remain, of course. But I thought the other “wacky” changes, like my hound dog sensitivity to smell and influx of skin tags would go away. I figured my body would go back to something resembling normal after I gave birth.

And some of these pregnancy-related ailments did go away. Kind of. The heartburn stopped. The swelling went away. The weird cravings and the emotional chaos finally subsided. I stopped puking. But two and a half years after my final pregnancy, my body is still wrecked. My core was so shot after I gave birth, that a back injury lead to the sciatica I have today. The hemorrhoids I got during delivery are still hanging around, my hair is thinner than ever, the skin tags never went away, and I have acne again—at 40.

Some moms don’t have hemorrhoids or skin tags. Some don’t have postpartum depression. Some don’t pee when they sneeze or have scars in weird places. But all mothers struggle with something. For some of us, it’s the physical aftermath. For others, it’s the constant worry that we aren’t doing it right. But no matter what struggle we face, we somehow keep going.

Do the hemorrhoids and chronic pain suck? Absolutely. But I’ve come to look at them as reminders of how amazing it is that my body could even make another human in the first place. My leftover battle scars? I now see them as a reminder of women’s unique resilience. Our fortitude. That even though it might be imperfect, painful, uncomfortable, and frankly sometimes weird, it will somehow all work out in the end. And, of course, that if I ever decide to do this again, I should steal more of those ice packs and Tucks pads from the hospital before I check out.

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