I must say, despite the negative self-image I had stockpiled before potion-ing my way to skinniness, I was feel great about myself. All those self-help books and happiness gurus seem to say that happiness won’t come from your weight—if you feel badly about yourself at 200 pounds, you’ll find something to feel badly about yourself at 120.
But I was pretty damn happy.
Of course, it wasn’t perfect. I was pregnant, after all—my potential perfect figure was royally wrecked by my protruding belly. But I tried not to let it get to me. Instead, I relished in my newfound lightness and tried to get back to having fun.
We laughed. The lie was half the fun—I was one to give it up easy. But men like to think there’s a mystery, something to chase.
Remembering to actually sell things in the shop was becoming a bit of a problem for me, I’ll admit. I don’t know how much merchandise was actually leaving my store, if I’m honest; but I’m certain that it wasn’t a lot. I was far more focused on interacting with the customers—getting to know them, listening to their lurid tales, flirting with them—then pushing a sale on them. It just wasn’t my style. And the whole gamut of retail interactions just… bored me. What was fun about selling a flirty painting if you couldn’t be flirty too?
Contrary to what my sales reports would show, however, from the outside looking in, I appeared quite dedicated to the shop. I was there constantly.
I even started sleeping there, on late nights. You know, Janelle, lingerie stores (especially the kind that I was beginning to run) don’t always do the best in the light of day. Customers like to enter and exit under the cover of night, leave no evidence behind. That sort of secrecy was the birthplace of the shop, and I didn’t want to let go if it (or those customers) quite yet. So sometimes I just stayed open. Didn’t close the shop at all, just let the customers browse while I slept in the next room. When someone was ready to check out, then *ding*, they’d ring a bell, I’d wake right up to check them out, and then they’d be on their way.
It was a good system.
I mean, it probably wasn’t the best environment to be pregnant in—certainly, being on my feet that often was comfortable—but nothing’s perfect.
And I made myself comfortable in other ways.
The newfound confidence that I was finding in my own skin was revitalizing for me. I’d always been relatively comfortable in my body, wearing short dresses and crop tops and tiny shorts and the like. They were the most comfortable for me, like wearing a second skin. But the moment I had felt uncertain about my weight, they became emphasizers of my shame. I felt like I needed to cover up, hide my body away.
Now, I… well, I’ll be honest, Janelle. I wasn’t completely confident in my body. In fact, I was mostly unconfident—the baby belly was only growing larger, and it would only continue to grow larger, and the idea of once again being large—even if it wasn’t because of being fat—was more than a little terrifying for me. I was not confident in my body. But I felt like perhaps I should be, because I had done the thing to make me skinny, and now I was skinny, so I should be happy. I should be confident. I should be able to strut around my store in my underwear and not want to hide myself. Because that kind of thing was fun, not mortifying.
As the weeks went on, I tried to stay positive about everything. I hired an employee, worried about how often I was on my feet.
I promptly fired her. No one could be better at this job than me anyway—or, at least, that’s what I figured. And plenty of moms worked while they were pregnant, especially single moms. Just because I was nineteen and without familial support didn’t mean that I couldn’t be a good parent and still do what I loved.
It wouldn’t be the easiest thing to balance—the mom of me and the fun bits of me—but, then again, I was having trouble balancing at all with the size of my stomach, so I figured that not much could be more difficult than that.
Luckily, I wouldn’t have to carry the weight around my longer.
It was in the middle of store hours when the first contractions hit. I wasn’t sure what they were at first, and continue to waddle around the shop floor, giving my advice on beginner’s waist trainers and offering opinions on a woman’s first gift to her boyfriend (she went with a sheer chemise and lace thong set, intricately detailed) and flirting with my regulars.
But, by mid-afternoon, I could no longer ignore it. With an uncharacteristic explosion of emotion, I hustled everyone from the shop, and shut my doors.
I hadn’t been thinking about this.
You know, Janelle, I had been considering the difficulties of balancing work and momness. You know, what it would mean to care for something at the same time as having to deal with other, work related responsibilities. But, in a way, I had been thinking about it the same way I had thought about taking care of a… of a pet, or something. Like—oh, if I leave it alone for too long, it’ll get lonely.
But no. This was a baby. My child. I couldn’t leave it to get lonely! And if I did, it wouldn’t just be my own guilty conscious that would bug me, but their sad eyes and their later abandonment issues and the hours of therapy I would feel obligated to pay for.
I wasn’t ready for this! I was nineteen! I was going to royally screw this baby up!
After I checked in at the hospital, somewhere around four o’clock, I ran off to the bathroom before a nurse could catch up with me. The contractions weren’t that strong yet; I had enough time to panic.
I wasn’t convinced. I wasn’t as spooked by ghosts as my mother was, but I still wasn’t sure that they were wholly natural. Why didn’t they want to move on, after all? Wasn’t the afterlife meant to be so much better, or something?? What’s wrong with them that they wanted to stay here, on this messed up place that we’re forced to call home until we die.
…morbid thoughts for what was meant to be a happy occasion.
But, like I said, Janelle, I was not in a good place.
I was convinced—utterly and completely and totally convinced—that I would not be successful at raising your brother. I was 98% convinced that he wasn’t going to grow into a young adult with all his limbs intact, much less without any mental scars.
Parenting children, I already knew, was not going to be fun. It was going to be hard and trying and exhausting, and I was going to do it all wrong, and this was a definite negative to the great fun that was sex.
Dammit. I thought I had just gotten over my block for having fun—I had gotten rid of my fatness! That’s what had been preventing me from having fun before, right!
Well, there was no way to prevent myself from this result—the baby was happening.
But there was a way to keep it from happening in the future.
In the moments before the baby emerged, when I was screaming from the pain of the contractions and everything felt like it was on fire and my body felt like it was being ripped apart, I vowed that fun could not be fun unless it avoided the un-fun consequences (like babies). I was certain that I did not want that consequence ever again.
Clearly, I changed my mind Janelle.
And your brother is what did it.
It was like being struck by lightning. Or, or… I don’t know, something else sudden and powerful and simultaneously life ending and life beginning. The moment I held him in my arms….
I adored everything about him.
I had always sworn that I would never be dependent on another person for my happiness. But I knew, in that moment, that I needed this little boy to be in my life forever. Without him, I could never be happy again.
And, surprisingly, I was alright with it. I was alright with knowing that I needed him.
But nothing’s perfect. Life Lesson #5: Nothing’s perfect.
But in that moment, which was as near to perfect as it was possible to be, mostly was damn well good enough.