As usual, based on real events in my life.
As I placed my infant daughter in her crib, I could hear the sound of water rushing through the plumbing.
I smiled. Celia, my wife, was finally getting that shower she'd needed, wanted, for three days. Caring for a small baby was time-consuming, of that there was no doubt. She was suffering a little post-partum depression; a good hot bath should ease some of that tension, I hoped.
Soon enough, the water stopped running. I waited a couple more minutes, and then wandered into the bedroom. My wife was sitting there, on the edge of the bed; her hair was tied up in one towel, while she was perched on the other, trying to reach places which only a year before had been in close proximity, now unfamiliarly difficult to reach.
She looked at me dolefully, her eyes red from more, I suspected, than simply soap and water.
I grabbed another towel and sat behind her to dry her back. As I patted her down, I felt her shaking. She was sobbing.
I put my hands on her shoulders and said softly, "Hey, what's all this?"
She shook me off. "You can't possibly love me now," she moaned.
I got off the bed and knelt before her, taking her chin in my hand and tilting her head to look at me. "Of course I love you," I said; it sounded lame, but there it was.
She grabbed the towel and covered her breasts. "I'm fat and ugly!" she wailed.
I tried to peel the towel away; she was having none of it. "You never hid the bosoms from me before," I chided gently. "They're still my breast friends."
"They're ugly and stretchy and saggy!" she snapped. "Plus they leak all the time!"
I was silent for a moment, then sat on the bed beside and slightly behind her. I turned her torso toward me, forcing her to lift her right knee onto the bed.
"You wanna know what I see?" I asked.
She shook her head as fresh tears rolled down her cheeks. "I've got stretch marks and fat. That's what you see."
I pulled her other leg onto the bed, settling her into a mostly prone position, propped by three pillows. I gently but firmly pulled the towel from her chest.
I placed a finger on a stretch mark, at its origin high up on her chest, and traced it down its length, ending somewhere around mid-breast. "You know what this is?" I asked quietly.
"Yeah, it's a stretch mark," she said peevishly, without a lot of heat.
I smiled and shook my head. "It's a tattoo. An organic tattoo." A slight smile played on her lips. "Know what it says?" I continued.
"Tell me," she whispered.
"It's the date of Emily's conception," I said, looking her right in the eye. "And this one?" I traced another stretch mark. "This one is Emily's name. And this one is my name."
She was trying not to admit she was pleased to hear these things, the way a small child tries to remain angry when a parent has them on the verge of laughter. Her mood had improved; her posture, too, as she was no longer huddled into a near-fetal crunch.
I moved my hand to her chestnut-brown nipple. I placed my hand under her breast, thumb on nipple, and hefted it. "And this," I continued, "is the source of my precious little girl's nourishment. One of two, anyway. And this," I paused to squeeze out a drop of milk, and placed it on my tongue, "is the sweet sustenance her little body needs. She's thriving on it. You make good, rich milk, and we're all benefitting from it."
By now, more tears were flowing; only they felt different. The smile on her face was a dead giveaway.
"Thank you," she whispered.
"Don't interrupt," I scolded lightly. "And this," I touched the top of another stretch mark on her abdomen, moving south as before, "is Emily's former address. It's where she grew into babyhood. Imagine that? She grew from two little tiny cells into a huge little baby in this home."
Celia moved my hand away, mostly because she was ticklish; but she looked a lot better.