Today is my two year wedding anniversary, and two years ago I was 14 weeks pregnant at my wedding (gasp). But yes, I had my dress altered specifically for a belly that grew too fast and I kept a zofran in its bustle in case of a morning sickness attack. While my husband sipped champagne, I had church ladies making sure I was taking my scheduled water break. But in all serious, my wedding was beautiful. It was the happiest day of my life, and I’ve never been more sure of anything that I was marrying my husband.
But I couldn’t look at the pictures. For the better part of those two years. In fact, sometimes when I see them hanging up in my home I glance past them as fast as I can, and I don’t pick them up when they get knocked over on the coffee table as fast as I should. And oftentimes, I can’t make eye contact with myself as a bride in my photos.
It’s because that is the last day I recognize myself. That was the last day before stretch marks and high blood pressure and extra weight gain. I was so beautiful that day, like all brides on their wedding day. But the truth is, that was the last day I felt beautiful. After that day, pregnancy overtook me and motherhood consumed my life. Before that day the only double digits I was used to seeing on clothing were 0 and it’s friend 0. I gained 70 pounds during pregnancy, and I was only able to lose 50 after. Which means I still look different than I did on my wedding day, with stretch marks and loose skin and varicose veins and scars from my PUPPS rash. It’s different…that’s for sure.
There’s grief for the person I was on that day. I wish I could tell her “buckle up because this ride is about to get scary and scary fast”. I wish I could tell her how much she had to learn. I wish I could tell her how beautiful she was then. And I wish I could tell her to cherish the 6 months of marriage she’d have before she became a mother, because for the next couple decades, she’ll be lucky to get a few minutes alone with her husband.
But there is so much good, so much new beauty that comes from shedding the trappings of naive youth and the inherent selfishness that respectfully and naturally comes with single-hood. The humility that is required in parenting and being a loving spouse softens our edges and blurs our lines. It’s so beautiful, and so so hard.
That day represents a new beginning and an end. It was the beginning of my life as a wife, as a daughter in law, sister in law, and member of a whole new family. It was the beginning of a new type of independence. And it was the beginning of many days where I’d never be alone. The beginning of a life of love. But it was the end of my maidenhood, my youth in some ways, and myself as an individual.
Marriage teaches you so much, how to live with someone whose hair is thicker than yours and therefore always clogs the drain (truly I’m just writing this article with the hope of getting my husband to unclog the drain). It teaches you how to enjoy new things (I never thought I’d willingly go to a Dave Matthews Band concert). It teaches you how to share your soul because in marriage, you can’t hold back even an iota of your being.
When you get married, you say goodbye to your old self and welcome in a new self. You realize that beauty or good looks and chiseled jaw lines are not enough to pull you through, and that even when those things fade or when parts of you fill out or start to sag, somehow you’re still standing. It’s been hard to accept that I love what marriage has done to me. I love that the pictures of me on my wedding day represent someone on the verge of an adventure, on the verge of change, and on the verge of losing herself and her size 2 waist. I love that my husband loves me for me, because that’s not always an easy task. And I love our family, the family we created when we said “I do”. It’s been a wild adventure, and I’m fully buckled in now.