Alyssa Garrison: Two Bodies to Love
I’ve always felt proud of my relationship with my body. Though I’m occasionally prone to picking myself apart just like the best of us, on average I’m pretty comfortable in my own skin, thankful for my strength and my shape, the way I know just how clothing is going to fit before trying it on and the way my muscles almost always seem to snap back into shape when I need them to. That is, until I became pregnant.
I have wanted to carry a child and be a mother for as long as I can remember. I’ve always felt deep in my bones that this was what I was meant to do - some people are born to be astronauts, I believe I was born to be a kickass mom. As my twenties slipped by I couldn’t help but constantly hear that ticking clock of mother nature in my ear, my body first whispering, later crying out that it was ready for this mission. There was only one major problem standing in my way: no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t seem to find a worthy partner to create a tiny human with.
My relationship with dating has always been a lot less stable than the loving, understanding relationship I have with my body. I tend to get swept up in the daydream world of possibility, committing myself to someone who isn’t right and shelving my priorities to try and make it work once I realize the puzzle doesn’t quite fit. For years I struggled with crippling anxiety and depression, cycling through medications almost as quickly as I was cycling through romantic partners. Every man I dated told me to slow down, to chill out, that I needed to stop rushing toward motherhood, but my bones were telling me a different story. Every month when I got my period it was as if my body was rebelling against me, furious that I had once again let my dreams fall to the wayside for the comfort of a crush. Everywhere I went, no matter how far and how exciting, the little voice inside my head wouldn’t stop nagging, endlessly repeating that my body had bigger plans for me.
A few more bad breakups later and I had made a plan to quiet the voices - if I didn’t have a serious partner by the time I turned 27, I’d do this mom thing on my own. I couldn’t ignore the undeniable pull in my gut any longer - no matter how successful, how fit, how healthy I got, it wasn’t enough to feed the baby-sized hole in my body.
Shortly after my 27th birthday last autumn I stopped taking birth control. A couple months later I went to see my doctor about options. In February I found a donor and attempted insemination. On Mother’s Day 2018, round 3 of trying, I finally gave my body what it had been crying out for most of my adult my life. By mid June I had seen my growing baby’s heartbeat.
No matter how much you want it, how many seconds of your life you have spent wishing for it with everything you could muster, pregnancy is tough on the mind and tough on the body. I was so sure I’d love every second of being pregnant, over the moon at the sight of each pound gained and each bra size up. But while my mental health has drastically improved since I stopped holding myself back, my relationship with this new alien body has become strained in ways I never could have expected. The clothing I used to be able to “fit to myself” off the rack no longer makes it past my widened hips, skin pours over waistbands and dresses ride up with every bump-heavy step. You can have all of the body confidence in the world and love yourself to pieces, but pregnancy is a whole other beast. After years of getting to know one another, you and your body no longer see eye to eye: you find yourself exhausted from a flight of stairs when you used to easily run 5k, and your favourite restaurant now turns your stomach. Each day I fold up more clothing that no longer fits, placing it on high, forgotten shelves in the hopes that one day the body I knew so well will return. At less then halfway to my due date, I can’t begin to imagine just how foreign my body will feel later, and how much more foreign still after giving birth.
It’s a struggle, a whole new way to learn to love yourself, but I’m ready to do my diligence and re-educate myself on what my body is made of. You learn to love in new shapes and forms, to celebrate when the numbers go up on the scale or when another pair of jeans no longer buttons, because it means the body growing inside your body is healthy and strong. It’s not just about loving one body anymore - it’s a matter of loving two bodies within one.
Words by Alyssa Garrison.
Photography by Johanna Martin.