My maternity clothes are artifacts from a different self. Taking them out today made me remember in a way I haven’t for a long time who I was before the birth. My first pregnancy was delightful and I enjoyed every minute of it; I showed off my belly and my feminine body and I was afraid of nothing. The education I had received from my amazing family and upbringing had created a strong and self-assured woman – intelligent, eccentric, full of the glory of self-realization.
None of this was false and I’m not poking fun at my old self or at anyone who may be in that stage of life. It’s gorgeous to think you know what it is to move through the world as just yourself, to be an amazing woman that others admire, to throw yourself fully into everything you do and believe that nothing can stop you except the limits of your own ability.
She’s still here somewhere, and outsiders often can’t even tell she’s changed. “You live so fully,” they say. “You seem to have made a perfect recovery,” say the ones that know me a little better. I am creating for myself the good life that I’ve always wanted; I’m vibrant and loud and eccentric; and I’m still among the strongest and bravest folk I know, physically and mentally.
But the woman who wore those bright summery maternity clothes did not realize the limitations placed on her by a society that doesn’t always see women as humans. She didn’t realize that not only could she be brutalized at any time, but that this brutality is an integral part of her culture. She did not know that simply because she is a woman, being held down and physically violated is something she could expect to happen at some point in her life.
The thing is – I still believe I can somehow protect myself. I don’t know if this is naive or wise. I do believe that I will find a provider to be the guardian of my choices and my agency no matter what happens. I believe I can hire a doula to be the gatekeeper of my home or the bodyguard of my body in a hospital. I believe talking to an attorney and fully understanding how the law does and does not protect me will help.
I can’t decide if this is contradictory to the sweeping exuberance of the woman who wore those maternity clothes. She planned her birth, she understood the dangers of nature and of man, she had some idea of how to fight. And she, she’s the one who opened fully to the monkey-mind and the raw adventure of pain, she’s the one who embraced the change of plans, she’s the one who welcomed the endorphins in to change her consciousness into something she did not previously know, for all her high school experimentation with psychedelics. She’s the one that proudly walked into the hospital building as if she was worth more than the entire city. She’s the one I want to know again before I do this second labor, she’s the one I am trying to protect with all these guardians.
When I put on her clothes in a few weeks, I hope to begin to channel something of her innocence and toughness and confidence. I’ll never be her again, but she was the one who believed you could be a different kind of goddess every day of your life. And I still believe her.