Stepping from the steaming shower in the pre-dawn hours, I stand dripping for a moment before I wipe my bleary eyes, towel off my hair, dry my body. Most times, I don’t even look at the reflection in the mirror across the room. Autopilot is in effect. I dry, I comb, I brush and style, I stumble out the door to work.
Some mornings, though, I stop. Take inventory. Survey the scene. I notice the sagging breasts of motherhood. The puckering stomach. I notice the fragile, wrinkled eyes growing older day by day. I’m still there, but different now. Stronger and more fragile all at once.
Inevitably on these days my fingers wander to the scar that stretches across my abdomen. I remember that the nurse in the hospital called it my smile. “How’s your smile feeling?” she had asked. I touch it, still reddened and angry from the hot water. I feel along the full length of it. I notice the “teeth marks”, the places where the staples that put me back together made their own scars. I marvel that two babies slipped from their wombs into the world from this very place.
Remembering their tiny bodies, my heart lurches. One of these babies rests in her crib, no longer a baby but a girl. A two year old girl. I imagine her breathing heavily beneath her blanket, dark hair tumbling around her face, clutching her Piglet in her arms for safety. I will be gone before she awakens today. I will miss her early morning chatter.
My throat still catches three years later as I think about my baby boy. How tiny. How beautiful he was. My mind tries to make things right again and again, but nothing about losing a child can ever make sense. This smiling scar, one of my only reminders that he was here. That he was real. His peach fuzz body and his high forehead and his tiny, tiny hands.
I have thought a lot about it, about how precious this scar is to me. I have heard that some women choose to reconstruct their sagging tummies and that the scar can be removed. I never want to lose mine. My scar is my reminder that it’s true. My babies are true. I know that many women don’t wear this scar. This is only how I had my babies; others know a different truth. But this scar - this scar is mine. My ugly, toothy smile. The most beautiful thing about me.