I feel very, very swollen. The slightest texture in any surface leaves its imprint on my skin. Irregular patterns, illegible impressions. The crease of a bedsheet, the checkered covering of a sofa cushion, the stitch bordering a blanket. Fabrics that formerly brought comfort are now biting back.

I’m full of fluid, bursting with all the extra blood and water in my system.  My skin is darker, tinged with a faint red. And along with this, every scar on my body has somehow been made more prominent. Pregnancy has infused them all with a dark pigment, making them stand out in fresh, fierce relief. A trail of chicken pox scars trace their way up my abdomen and scatter across my breasts – a constellation of pockmarks, the mythic story they commemorate yet to be told. The surgical scars on my neck stand out anew in angry, red lines. In my mirror I see the victim of some medieval pox, the broken body in a slasher film.

I feel battered, ravaged. When I was diagnosed with cancer nearly a decade ago, I lost faith in any control I thought I had over my body’s well-being and gained a profound lack of confidence in my own physical self.  Even after multiple surgeries and subsequent radiation treatments, the cancer will likely never leave my body; this kind just doesn’t. It can merely be kept at bay with the right balance of hormone supplements and regular monitoring. Most women with my kind of cancer history do well in pregnancy with the right attention and adjustments. But still, it is quite possible that the radical hormonal upset of these recent reproductive adventures could cause it to come back, reassert its presence. Not terribly likely, but possible. Yet another way in which pregnancy, for me, is now a convoluted tangle of life and death, a small congress of souls deciding their directions.

I was so happy in my pregnancy with M. I was swollen, but that time with wonder at what my body was doing, hope for a kind of redemption from my earlier misadventures in physical health.  Then she died, my worst fears confirmed. My body, failing, again.

Lately, I’m tired and teary, exhausted with all this extra weight and water. I feel far from beautiful, worlds apart from woman-power, confused about notions of control and capability.

And no matter how much I cry, the water remains. A conspiracy of molecules collected under my skin – maybe for, maybe against. Dense, heavy, and wet.

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