For the last four years, my body has not been my own. I have been its landlord, renting it out to temporary tenants who needed a place to start their lives. I have held babies in my belly as they grew and in my arms as they nursed, every day for the last four years. For nearly fifteen hundred days, I have awoken to the cry of someone thirsting for milk, or fallen asleep as they nestled next to the beating of my heart. I have been their first home.
When I was younger, I was neither particularly displeased nor pleased with my body. I was, however, always most comfortable when the cool breeze of fall meant I could wrap myself in jeans and sweaters. I have never fully outgrown the feeling that I was all knees and elbows, topped with a mess of red hair. The exposure of that southern summers necessitated seemed to amplify this feeling. The freckles that danced on my pale Irish skin were emboldened by any hint of sunlight, and the shorts and sandals, to me at least, highlighted my awkward adolescent legs. I was always glad when Semptember, and long sleeves, returned.
Nowadays, I have little need, nor ability to cover myself. I often joke that there are few people in the state of Montana who haven’t see my breasts. I have nursed while hiking in the park, during Sunday mass, in the Capitol building before giving testimony, while the dentist cleaned my son’s teeth. Hiding my body now seems like a silly inconvenience. My legs have turned into a lap to be sat on, my hair has been twirled by sticky fingers, my freckled cheeks have been kissed by little lips. For the last four years, my body has been loved.
It is a funny thing, now that I consider my body as something to be useful, rather than something to be beautiful, it has become a bit more of both.