My son Nikola is currently mesmerized by belly buttons. He loves to touch his and he loves to find them on other people, mostly on me. Undeterred he will lift my shirt or pull on my pants asking to see it: "Button? Button?". When he finds it he stops for a second, a bit confused at first - because he can't find it right away, then excited - when he finally does and he then slowly puts his finger in it and grins. "Button!"
My belly button is not what it once was. I'm not sure you can call it a belly button anymore in fact. It is a dark deep hole hidden in countless thin folds of skin that was stretched three times way beyond its limits and is now listless and tired, like a balloon without air. The center of it is covered and resembles a bit one of those scary open-mouthed lions on ancient buildings, the kind Audrey Hepburn put her hand in timidly in the movie Roman Holiday. I took a picture of it actually for this entry, but seeing it blown up on my computer screen I scared myself so terribly, I knew it was nothing the internet ever wanted to see.
I can't say I am happy about that. A cute little belly button nestled in smooth elastic skin would be my preference, yes, but like Nikola I am also fascinated by it. I am still in awe of how this happened, of the fact that my children were once on the other side of it, that I was capable to grow people. It seems impossible my skin could have ever stretched that much even though I have palpable, visible proof that it really did. And to its own detriment. Irreparably damaged. The only way to "improve" it would be to have it surgically removed. An option I am not considering.
On most days I am strangely grateful for this "damage". It's the consequence of one part of motherhood but in my heart it stands for more. It stands for all the other irreversible things that motherhood caused that are not visible but I can feel on a daily basis. My nerves and my resilience will be tested beyond their limits and I will suffer irreparably. I can no longer live worry-free, ever. I am destined to heartbreak one way or another as my children will one day leave, hopefully only to live their own happy lives. My children are growing out of me, not just figuratively but physically. My belly button confirms that I'm not crazy, this is happening and paying the price is part of it .
My kids are all fascinated by my stretchmarked flappy belly. Occasionally when they talk to me about something, usually something emotional, their hands inadvertently wander under my shirt and they stroke the soft rumpled skin. "Can I touch your pudding?" they ask me (I have my mom to thank for teaching them that association...) and I let them and they get giggly. I am not a big fan of having this area touched, it is somewhat of a sore spot, but I let them nevertheless.
The truth is I am moved by that moment. My children touching the damage they caused. It's where they came from... The intersection of my death and their birth right here under my shirt. It feels sacred. It's a metaphor for our lives. The timelessness of love we create encased in the fragile and temporary skin of our bodies.Posted at 09:17 AM on May 10, 2010