Just like I realized one day that I no longer have a baby—holy shit, she is a toddler—I recently realized my linea nigra is gone.
That dark line that snaked from my belly button on down disappeared in an equal but opposite proportion to the growth of my baby. In almost imperceptible ways, Kiwi got bigger day by day. She rolled over. She sat up. She crawled. And now, somehow, she grins and peeks around the kitchen island at me, itching for me to chase her down the hall.
Likewise, my linea nigra faded bit by bit, and I didn’t notice until it was gone. I was busy with other things, I guess—things like, you know, doing my damnedest to keep my new family of four alive. More recently, being a mother of two has felt easier, or at least less heartbreakingly hard. So it makes sense that I only now registered its absence.
More than just a line
My linea nigra is gone, but I remember exactly what it looked like.
That pigmented line looked like a crack, as if pregnancy and birth broke me wide open. It looked like a chasm, like the Grand Canyon seen from space, as if nothing could span the gulf from before I had my two daughters and after. It looked like a stripe of crayon on our hardwood floor, as if it were a teaser of the frustration I’d feel as our house devolved into a barely hygienic repository for bunny cracker crumbs, banana mush and evidence of my kids’ overenthusiastic arts and crafts projects.
Unlike women who asked on forums which lotions to slather over their bellies to get rid of the linea nigra, I loved mine. After I gave birth to my older daughter, I considered asking a tattoo artist to trace over it so I’d always have the physical evidence that my body once cradled life.
But I did not, and now it is gone. And I will never have that chance again.
Our complete family
My husband and I have decided that our family is complete with two curious, energetic, breath-catchingly gorgeous children, so I my belly will remain linea nigra-less. The grief over the absence of that little line surprised me. But perhaps it should not. After all, that crooked line was an outward sign that I held my daughters on the inside before I held her in my arms.
This new season of motherhood—in which both my kids can run (usually in opposite directions) and in which my tummy is marked by a grown-over belly button piercing scar but nothing more—is just the latest in my evolution as a parent. My midsection no longer attests to the fact that these girls are mine, but I wear bruises from them using me as a trampoline and glitter I can never seem to fully wash out of my hair.
Maybe the linea nigra stuck around just long enough for me to internalize the truth that I don’t actually need that physical proof. Sure, both my girls are dimpled and blond—dead giveaways that they owe half their genes to me. But motherhood is more than chromosomes and 40 weeks of incubation.
My daughters are not mine because I grew them inside me. They are mine because they run to me after scraping palms raw and after finding an especially beautiful leaf. They are mine because I sing them to sleep every night and gently wake them when they fall asleep in the car. They are mine because of the millions of moments that pile up, creating a mountain of love we add to every day—even the days that are hard.
Yes, my linea nigra is gone. But my children are mine, and I am theirs.