We have been together for 25 weeks; by now, you have discovered the bulges and sprouts of your body. I know this, because I can feel you, testing its limits. At least twice a day, you knead a tender spot of flesh, just above my pelvis, or else I feel you nuzzling a space against my navel. I can only imagine your activity: the rubbing of an eyelid with a closed little fist; the wide-armed sprawl of a yawn; a casual crossing of legs after meals; an elbow jab to clear a favored uterine space. For some reason, I rarely imagine you kicking.
You have likely noticed your size—just over one pound and one foot—and how your bones have begun to gather weight and roundness. There are new discoveries to seize in each moment, intimate observations, to which I am not privy. I know you are marking all your fine hairs and appendages, each nostril and elbow and knee, and under the gums, the buds of what will be teeth. You don’t yet know the names of these things, have not learned all the uses of a tongue, beyond taste, and how powerful and painful its lashes. But they are present to you now, these delicate and crude protrusions you will own every day of your life.
I’m sure it thrills you now as, of course, it should. But there may come a time, when you will touch your tiny nose and you will frown as its flatness or point. You will pinch at the fat ’round your hips, and blush at how much of it bunches between thumb and forefinger. You will tilt your head and lament that your eyes are not a comelier color. You will wish your breasts were larger or smaller or less prone to the slight imbalance in size you will likely inherit from me. You will accrue scars that tell stories of mishaps you’d rather forget. You’ll grow wistful of ganglier days, before newfound curves began drawing unwanted attention.
Then one day, just before you’re ready, blood will begin to seep from a sacred orifice, pulling with it a pain as acute as it is indescribable. And slowly, you’ll forget how it felt to be carefree, when just a bath full of toys and bubbles left you feeling fresh and scrubbed, when you didn’t need an arsenal of puffs and pads and antiperspirants to prep for each new day.
It’s possible there will come a time when you’ll worry over why you were created woman, why you were trusted with such power, without being afforded the series of secret codes required to successfully mine it.
Sometimes, I’ll find you crying over woes you can’t articulate. And then there will be other times you’ll catch me at the same.
I hope you won’t inherit my catalog of insecurities, and I will bear the onus of buffering your esteem.
But as a woman, little, stray laments over looks and dreams and talents will always find their way to your core. You are thinking outwardly, anticipating the expectations of others, and often unwittingly shaping yourself in ways that meet them. Even if I make you feel like Supergirl or She-Ra, you’ll still squint in the mirror at the faintest sign of acne and you’ll wish you didn’t have to face the world, wearing the shine and scar of it. Even enveloped in love, you will find some small moment to doubt yourself.
We women are different this way, ever conscious of our beauties and our ugliness, too.
I’m just glad you didn’t know me at twelve, when my skin was mottled and pocked, my hair full of poofs and unpermed. I did not believe myself capable of outward beauty—and prettiness was a coveted commodity for me. I’d just had a growth spurt, but still bore the chubbiness of childhood. I walked among a group of girls more confident than I and wondered after the wells from which they drew their worth. (It would take me fifteen years to find my own.)
I wouldn’t have been very good company for the girl I hope you’ll be.
It’s best that you’re inheriting me now, after I’ve discovered how to look at myself and see only the potential for praise or improvement. Even as I sink into fits of insecurity over the uneven heft of my breasts, the tent and the tarp of my shirts, the incremental creeping up of pounds on hospital scales, the broadness and the widening of my face and feet and thighs, I can force myself into proper perspective and see the weight and weirdness as talismans of power.
I will teach you to embrace each part, the gorgeous and the ghoulish. And you will be a force, a gale, a woman who’s mastered her weaponry.