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I had no legs

A BodyStory #6

"Every woman has their own story of giving birth, but you only hear them after you've given birth.

When I was pregnant, big and bloated and full of myself and another life, I felt whole. I felt, for the first time in my entire life that this was what my body was made to be and do. I loved every painful and cranky moment of the swelling belly, the very odd reactions to smell, the gas leaks, the swollen ankles and the uncontrollable crying, heartburn, and eating of chips and petrol station sandwiches.

I had become accustomed to my body being drastically changed and had embraced the newness of myself and my future role as mummy.

It was early morning and the nurse came round to tell us all to get up.

I had to get up and take a shower. The nurse was a no nonsense woman.

I told her I couldn't move. I told her my legs wouldn't work.

She told me I could go last and moved on. I stared at this little person who was sleeping beside me and looked at the flat disk of fat and flab that lay as a husk of a shell deflated on my body. The room was sleepy and full of joy and pain. There were children making those first day sounds and there were mothers making those first day sounds. There were the mothers who were well used to it who were up chatting away to one another and ready to fly out of there it seemed.

The nurse came back with a young assistant. 'This one won't get up' she said. So they heave hoed me out.

When they stood me up on my own I wobbled and fell to the ground.

What happened next I cannot tell. It happened very quickly and I was on my own.

But I remember the shock in my body. I remember how I couldn't wrap my brain around the fact that my legs just couldn't move.

I had no legs. I had no legs. They were there but they were not there. They weren't listening to me. It felt strange. I am writing this now and wiggling my toes to remind me that I can. But that morning, with a new baby, I sat on a bed and wondered how I lost my legs in the process. Where did they go. I began thinking about existential reasons. Perhaps my soul deemed me unfit to run around after a baby and cut them away from me. For it felt 'soul-ey', it didn't feel like this could happen from a physical mistake. A physical endurance and a physical needle in a physical spine. A body error. My body in error.

Months later the power returned slowly, painfully and with a lot of help and physio.

People remarked at my ability to be graceful. I didn't feel graceful when someone was showering me. I didn't feel graceful when I couldn't turn my ankle in the direction I wanted no matter how much I tried. I didn't feel graceful when I slid my baby across the floor on a towel with my teeth as I crawled to the bathroom.

It has been years since this body went through that episode. I wasn't graceful. I was in shock. My body had buried the emotional response that wanted to say HOLY FUCK WHAT IS GOING ON and it kept it somewhere where I could deal with it later.

Over four years have passed and the journey now begins to face what happened and to make peace with it and to forgive the institution that allows women to birth in a birthing factory."

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