CARLA ROJAS PAZ
★ ★ ★ ★
Mona waited to hear her husband turn the key in the car ignition before untying her robe in the bathroom. She stood before a full-length mirror with the robe partly open and felt afraid. She hadn’t seen herself naked since giving birth six months ago. Her body was once a modern dancer’s body. It was lean, strong, and moved like water. It could contract, release, and form new shapes in the air. Her body flowed, swayed, leaped, pulsated, and moved in any way she wanted. But now, she couldn’t feel it.
Mona pulled the robe open, and it slipped down. She stared straight ahead into the mirror and took in the blurred outline of her body from her peripheral vision. She shifted her gaze to her breasts. They were rounder, suppler, and had grown two cup sizes. They were a pro-bono, on-demand milk factory. Her husband loved her new breasts, but she hated them. She preferred her cupcake-sized breasts.
Her eyes paused on her stomach. There were pockets of skin shriveled around her belly button, which protruded because of an umbilical hernia. Highways of dark and light stretch marks travelled down to her pelvis. Where she’d once had firm abdominal muscles, she felt a soft hummock of pudge. “You have diastasis recti,” the gynecologist had said at her post-partum checkup. Mona’s friends and magazines called it “mommy tummy.” What a horrid phrase.
Mona had waited to have children until she was in her late 30’s. She never wanted children, but she got pregnant because her husband wanted kids and she couldn’t imagine a life without him. Now, she didn’t know how to live with him and her secret. She had searched the internet for help and had found private forums where other mothers shared the same taboo secret. Would her husband stay if she told him the truth?
“Mona? Mona?” said her husband from the bathroom door. He had forgotten his phone and had briefly returned home. He was looking at her, but she didn’t notice.
She swallowed hard to dislodge the secret in her throat that weighed like rocks.
“I regret it,” Mona said underneath her breath.
“Regret what?” asked her husband.
Carla Rojas Paz is a Honduran American writer and editor based in Berlin, Germany. She’s currently unlearning many lessons from the first 40 years of her life and channeling the new learning into her writing. She believes stories are one of the most powerful ways we make sense of our humanity and will advocate wherever she goes for funding for the arts and humanities. She lives with her partner, two sons, and the hope that one day she will finally get a fluffy and cuddly pet.