If I run my fingertips along the outside of my left thigh, the feeling there is dull and numbed, more irritating than soothing. The sensation contains an eerie kind of distance, as though I were touching my own body through layers and layers of cloth.
It’s been that way since I was pregnant, when the weight of my growing uterus pressed on the large nerve that wraps around the pelvic bone and extends down the femur. It was worse then, the numbness so overwhelming sometimes that I had to sit down and rest. After my daughter was born, things never completely went back to the way they had been. The feeling, though muted, remained.
Add it to the list of things about my body that haven’t been the same since the day I became a mother. My waistline is thicker. My ribs are wider. My breasts are saggier. A patch of pale pink lines adorn my stomach, and whenever I sneeze, I pee a little.
My body isn’t the same on the outside, nor is it the same on the inside. I’m a bundle of nerves. Every day, I worry that something or someone is going to hurt my child. Will we get into a car accident on our drive to school? Will she fall on the playground and break her arm? Will today be the day we get that earthquake everyone’s always talking about? Will she huddle beneath her desk, scared and crying and waiting for the shaking to stop? Will she encounter a pedophile? Will he be a stranger or someone she knows, someone she trusts?
Sometimes I wonder if I shouldn’t have had her, not because I don’t love her but because I do. Too much. More than I can bear. I don’t know what to do with all that love. It presses on me from the inside, leaving me frozen and fretful and anxious for her to come home.
At least when she was inside my womb I could keep my eye on her. Now she’s out in the world, exposed to things that terrify me. And as she grows, the risks only become greater. Will she make friends? Will she feel lost? Will she do drugs? Will she drink and drive, have sex, get pregnant? Will she be depressed or angry or confused? Will she get sick? Will she love her body? Will she love herself? Will she love me?
That patch of skin on my thigh may still be numb, but I can run my fingertips from knee to thigh and feel every single thing.