I’m lying there, staring at myself. I’m about two inches away from the mirror, and it’s the closest I’ve been to one in a long time, because I can see each and every pore on my face. Some moisture has collected on the inside rims of my glasses, right near the non-existent bridge of my nose that leads to the increasingly bulbous nostrils. It’s the only proof that I’m hot and sweaty from the pain, but I have to stay still and wait for Ruth to finish with me. I’m trying to seem nonchalant, but what I’m going through makes it hard not to bite my tongue in half from the pain she caused each time she pulls a strip.
I’ve tried several distractions since I clambered onto Ruth’s bed: from small talk to tracing out the patterns on the ceiling to focusing on the gentle breeze created by the fan. It’s funny the things you think about when someone is all up in your modesty yanking out your hair so you don’t have to go through the discomfort of having a nurse give you a kienyeji shave with a razor when you’re being prepped to give birth.
I’ve been steeling myself for this moment for months, and now that I’m here and not yet dead from the pain all I’m focused on right now are the new stretch marks on my thighs. They look like rivulets, running down from my waist to the curve of my hips. They remind me of the fat on a healthy steak, but not in a way that makes me salivate.
I’m horrified! I have been lied to. What’s the point of all that moisturisation I’ve been doing since I learned I was pregnant? I got a bloody allergic reaction to some shea butter a friend brought me from abroad, which I applied liberally trying to ensure that I didn’t get any new stretch marks, only to end up with an itchy rash that required a very long doctor’s visit.
These marks reek of betrayal in the city. They are a validation of every single fat day I have each time I remember how much I weigh. Now if you know me, you know I’ve always had this thing with weight. It started when I was little, and my elder sister had already developed the classic Coke bottle figure that girls are killing themselves for now. I’d stare at her boobs and tiny waist and wonder why that couldn’t be me, never mind that I was only 12 and she was already in uni. I looked like the Michelin man’s offspring; like Slimer from Ghostbusters. At least in my head.
I am absolutely, positively sure they were not there a month ago. Wasn’t I the one being the humblest of brags when talking about how fortunate I was not to have any new stretch marks? I was low-key boasting and Cheshire cat grinning all the way to the freaking stretch mark-free pregnant women section, kumbe they were bubbling under.
Ruth yanks out some hair from a particularly sensitive section and my thoughts are interrupted. I wonder how many lady bits she’s seen in her years of waxing. She’s completely unbothered, so I decide not to focus on whether she’s looking at my body like it’s unique, because I happen to think it is, and on this new feature.
A few minutes into analyzing each mark, something happens. A realization of sorts that makes me look at the stretchies in a whole new light. Suddenly, they’re not an enemy of my progress; they’re evidence of my progress.
Here I am, speeding as fast as my 94kg-heavy body will let me (yeah, I’m 94-BLOODY-KGS!), towards 37 weeks of pregnancy, and my body is still doing some pretty amazing things. I’m a freaking factory you guys and my first product is almost out, and I can still walk around without waddling (ok sometimes I waddle when tired); I can stand in the kitchen and cook (though it’s getting harder and less interesting), I haven’t bought maternity clothes (my vanity wouldn’t let me), I can lace up my own shoes and moisturise my own feet (most days), I can stay out late with friends and let my progressively caustic tongue speak its mind the drunker they get and the more sober I realize I am, I can still manage 20 squats while brushing my teeth, without keeling over from the effort, and I can still laugh at fat jokes (shout out to my boss who isn’t afraid to make them – may he not catch me on a bad day because I * claps * will * claps * cash * claps * him * claps * ousside).
So yeah, I weigh almost a tenth of a tonne now, I have new stretch marks, there’s a good chance I’ll develop a few more by the time Gong gets here, but you know what the best part is? I’m OK with it. Dear universe, don’t get it twisted though. I’m not welcoming new ones. I’ll still step on the scale at the remaining doc’s appointments with my eyes firmly glued to the ceiling, praying fervently that the nurse won’t mention how much more I’ve gained. And Gong will not hear the end of this story of how much my body changed, and how carrying her was a sacrifice she should be eternally grateful for.
And when you meet me, just tell me how slim I look and how well I’m carrying this pregnancy. It’s the only thing I care to hear right now. If you don’t know how to do it, ask My Lover for a tutorial; he’s a champ when it comes to nyunyizaing me with confidence when I have none.