What was the moment I gave myself away? It used to belong to me, this body. I used to own it. I controlled it. No longer.
My body has changed, it's true. The slender lines of youth have given way to the padded curves of maturity. Once-smooth skin is now decorated with fine lines and signs of stretching. Sometimes I stand before the mirror and marvel at the transformation that is this body.
These are just outside indicators of a deeper reality. A reality that my body is not mine. I gave it away and I did so freely. It has been several years now since it happened. Lying in a hospital bed, my body performed its last free act; its final sacrifice: I gave life to a child. I became a mother.
From that moment, and ever since, my body is hers.
With her newborn cries she demanded milk and my body listened. It hurt so badly but I fed her through the pain. It was her milk, not mine. Her needs came first. Her baths, not mine. Her naps, her nights. Her wants.
As she grew her needs changed and so my body changed with her. My legs were not mine to do with as I pleased. No longer legs, they became her supports--there to hold on to while I tried to cook or clean. My hands were no longer mine to do my work. Instead they were hers in the moment she needed comfort or help.
I was sitting in a church pew holding her hand when I realized that my lap was not my own. My daughter recognized it as hers and climbed easily into her place. Her head found her spot where once I owned a shoulder. Her arms wrapped around and held tightly where once I had a neck.
I remember back to a time before this child was born. I was worried that this would happen. I was afraid to give my body to another so completely--concerned that I would lose myself and forget who I am. But not now. Now I understand.
Now I smile when I remember the time I could exercise freely. At will, I could stand and do jumping jacks or get down to do sit ups. Those days are gone. Now my body is her jungle gym. The moment I get down I am a safe place for her to roll and climb and explore.
I think it understandable for a new mother to be apprehensive. She hasn't yet experienced what happens when you give away all that you are. I haven't lost myself or forgotten who I am. Instead, I've discovered and grown and learned and become so much more than I ever imagined I could be. I've found joy in providing for this baby's needs. I've found comfort while holding her through the night. I've found love in giving my heart so completely to this beautiful child. I am her entire world and she has changed this world for me for the better. This is motherhood.
My daughter is still young and she needs me. She needs me to be strong and healthy so I can keep her safe. She needs me to stand between her and this world. I know that someday she will strike out on her own. Alone in her own body she will have to experience Life. I want to give her all that I can, all that I am, to prepare her. I hold no false hope that my body will be returned to me then.
I still look to my mother's hands for comfort. I never gave them back to her. I hope my daughter never gives mine back to me.