The one about the female body.
I'm not totally sure I've ever properly had a relationship with my body. Maybe, if pressed, I'd say I had mostly a neutral or beige relationship with my skin suit. Like, it houses my consciousness - which I adore it for - but beyond giving a home to everything that makes me a human I don't pay it much mind.
I inherited a really stellar metabolism from my mother, and it served me well from childhood energy levels that could power a Tesla right through to eighteen year old who can subsist purely on Fruity Lexia and still glow like Blake Lively. That is, until, a rather strong and prolonged dose of immunosuppressing steroids threw a spanner in my works and I blew up like a bouncing castle at a primary school birthday party.
I spent my twenties drinking too much cheap wine and indulging in home delivered KFC - but my changing shape didn't really affect me a great deal. For the first time in my life I had the kind of boobs that you need to strap into a bra, and so my jeans were a bit tight, who cares. I flirted with vague excuses for exercise - we've all done a Barre class, let's be real - but nothing stuck and my new found curves were still cute enough to warrant attention from Tinder matches.
Up until the point I fell pregnant, I'd never had to think about my body as more than what it was - a collection of limbs that moved me from A to B. Parts of me ached and were stiff and I didn't bounce back from hangovers the way I used to, but there was nothing going on that warranted much more attention. When I fell pregnant there was suddenly something inside me that needed my body to be operating at full capacity. There was a tiny speck of a human who I loved in a weirdly abstract way. And she was trying to kill me.
Hyperemesis Gravidarum is the intense sounding name for a constellation of symptoms largely thought to be sustained and severe morning sickness. Why do all awful pregnancy symptoms and side effects have cutesy names? I was struck down only three weeks into my pregnancy and the nausea and vomiting - a staple of HG - continued until five minutes after I delivered my placenta. You read that right - my girl arrived when I was 39 weeks and 4 days pregnant and I vomited every single day of it.
For the first time in my thirty years on this ball I needed my body to function in a specific way. I suddenly needed it to keep me alive and to keep someone else alive too. Oh, and I needed it to grow two eyes, some limbs, a bunch of organs and a face. And they all needed to be put together in a very specific order - the failing of this would have disastrous results. But all the while this was happening I couldn't eat more than a couple of slices of peanut butter toast. And forget about drinking water - or anything for that matter - liquid was a no go zone.
Survivors of HG - and it is a condition that kills both mothers and babies so survivor is the right word - often refer to intense feelings of failure when discussing their pregnancies. The guilt women are born associating with their bodies tells them that because their pregnancies were fraught with difficulty and they didn't glow like Kate Hudson on a summer holiday then they failed at the one job they were biologically designed to do. We’re taught we must eat only organic food, practice daily meditation and yoga in order to produce healthy offspring. And HG renders you unable to do anything but lie on your bathroom floor - so you're a failure as a mother before you've even begun.
And then, after months of chronic and debilitating illness you give birth. The single most painful phenomenon a human being can experience - that's actually been proven, don't @ me - ignoring the Niagara Falls like hormonal fluctuations that come with it. Your body goes through every kind of physical and mental sensation conceivable. And then after a six week grace period you're expected to continue on living in your skin suit as if nothing remotely noteworthy has taken place.
Thirty stitches, a blood transfusion, a catheter, four cannulas, countless stretch marks, a cracked tooth and gum disease, burst capillaries in my face and nerve damage in my back have made me keenly aware of the physicality of my being. If I had ever paid proper attention to my body before, I'd probably say I didn't recognise it now. But I've never felt that my body defined me - that's what my mind is for, and while that part of me has been changed irrevocably I still recognise it as my own.
I reject the idea that HG survivors have somehow failed at pregnancy. My baby is strong, robust, bursting with rude good health and pretty cute - independently verified. She sleeps and eats and laughs and is curious about the world around her and has hit every developmental milestone asked of her. She's exactly the sort I wanted. And I didn't fail at pregnancy because I made her.
Now I'd say my relationship with my body does exist and is a little north of neutral. My body made my baby - and even though she vomits on me a few times a day, she is a gift I will never stop being stoked to receive.