I saw you today.
You were walking through the park, pushing a stroller with one hand, and clinging to your iced coffee with the other. Your newborn babe was sleeping soundly, and I could tell by the bags under your eyes that you wanted to be sleeping too, but instead you walked. You let your feet wander and your skin soak up the sun as your eyes darted around from object to object, and from person to person. Whenever you caught someone’s gaze, you responded to their wide grin with a weary one. Whenever you saw another mother, you both exchanged that knowing nod. (The nod that says “I get it. I understand.” The nod you exchanged with me.) And when you saw a young woman, glowing and round and “ready to pop,” you instinctively placed your hand atop your own stomach, but instead of feeling your unborn baby, you felt your postpartum pooch.
You felt your stretched and puffy skin, and what you felt was empty.
What you felt was deflated.
But the truth is, this feeling was more than physical. This sense of depletion and desolation — this hollowness, waste, and wanting lay beyond your stomach. It permeates every aspect of your body, your mind, your heart, your being, and your soul, because I can see through you facade.
I saw through your facade, and I saw the strength it took you to turn your lip upward and fake a smile. I saw the pained expression on your face and the tears in your eyes. And I watched you blink rapidly to keep them at bay.
I watched as the tears slipped out, one by one; but you pretended not to notice.
You let them roll down your cheeks without blinking. Without moving. Without pulling out a tissue.