An Epiphany

by Michelle Tung Kwok '98

In seventh grade, I would have done anything to modify my ears, especially after a boy in my English class called me Dumbo. I was devastated. It didn’t matter that these floppy ears are signs of blessing in the Chinese culture or that I have perfect pitch. What was awful was my imperfection was made known to everyone in class.

Through adolescence, my concerns about my ears decreased as I got better at camouflaging them. My worries about the rest of my body, however, increased. In my medical school class of 190, I recall just one overweight classmate. Were we so good about keeping our bodies healthy—because we didn’t want to end up with a huge clot in our arteries like the cadaver we dissected—or were we obsessed about looking good?

When I became pregnant last summer, I was told by a clinician that I had gained too much weight too quickly.

I bought a scale and started to weigh myself. My weight could fluctuate seven pounds in 24 hours! I started to do prenatal Yoga. I divided my food into smaller portions so I could eat all day long. For the first time in my life, my body wasn’t mine. It didn’t matter that friends and family said I was “all baby,” or that I didn’t feel all that heavy. The numbers on the scale were more important.

Fortunately, my husband made sure I went on walks, ate healthfully, and reminded me often that I was growing a little person. I gave birth to a healthy little boy, who at 8 pounds 15.8 ounces really wasn’t so little. Even though my body no longer carries this “parasite,” it still didn’t fully feel like mine. While I could boast of an actual cleavage for the first time in my life, breastfeeding was quite odd; it made me feel like a cow.

I now can fit into my pre-pregnancy clothes and breastfeeding feels less strange. I reached my epiphany as I looked at my son’s face as he ate his morning snack. My wish is no longer for smaller ears or toned abdominal muscles. I wish for a body that will enable me to breastfeed him for one full year, that will someday provide a sibling for him, and that will be useful for a long time.