Sunday, May 4, 2014

Starbucks and Thongs

       Today, I wore a thong.
       Gabriel was very excited.

       I haven’t been able to wear one since July 8, 2013. Of course I had the convenient excuse of pregnancy. What pregnant woman wants to wear lacy underwear and thongs?  I certainly didn’t. I wanted full coverage and granny panty comfort. I also didn’t want to remember the feeling of that thin fabric being ripped away from my vagina. I reclaimed dresses and leggings, conquering the associated physical memories. I’ve even been able to wear a dress made of the same fabric I was wearing that day. But I was never able to wear a thong without triggering a memory too dark, too deep to withstand. Today I was ready.

       Ever since Theodore was born the fear has shifted inside of me. Before, Gabriel and I were still waiting. Waiting to see how our lives would change—unsure of how we’d feel. Now, our son is here. We had to fight through the first two weeks of his life in the hospital, but now, hopefully there are no more surprises. I’ve stopped preparing for the inevitable, and I now feel permission to plan for the future. A few days after coming home from the hospital, after all of our family had left and we were on our own, we went to Starbucks and made a list of dreams and a list of goals. For the first time since being raped, I felt a stronger hope for my future. With my son in my lap I felt grounded and a little freer.

       In the one month of Theo’s little life I have gone out of the house alone more times than I did in the previous 9 months combined. While I used to be confined to our bedroom by fear, now I move about the house freely, and even sit on the porch alone. I have gone to the mall alone several times and found that I can sit in a Starbucks without counting the number of people in the room. I can sit with my back to the door and not feel the hot, lead taste of panic rise in my throat. I notice myself not breaking eye contact with men as quickly or as often. My heart doesn’t race as I walk down the street.

       I was so afraid that when Theo was born I would have a perfectly packaged excuse to never leave my house. It’s easier to stay home with a newborn. Goodness knows my back would appreciate not lugging around my huge purse full of diapers, wipes, pacifiers and baby clothes. But as soon as we were discharged from the hospital, I felt a fire in me to get out of the house. I wanted some independence again. I knew the longer I waited to leave the house with Theo, the harder it would be and I was tired being stuck inside.

       Maybe all of the drama of his birth and the hardship of getting sick made the big bad world seem less scary, but I think it was more than that. Being pregnant was difficult for me to say the least. I felt trapped and suffocated by my uncontrollably changing life and my invaded body. My pregnancy was intrinsically entwined with the most hellish day of my life, and finally meeting my son meant the end of being pregnant. Not only was I gifted with a stunningly beautiful son, but I was freed from a body that linked me with July 8, 2013.

       I’m tempted to feel sad that I didn’t have the glowing, restful, miraculous pregnancy experience some women do, but I’m growing to see how poisonous regrets like that can be. Now I have a beautiful, perfect son and maybe someday, if Gabriel and I make the choice to have more children, I will have a more joyful pregnancy. But my first pregnancy will always be remembered as a burden that yoked me to a painful past. Now I am in a stronger, new body that is tingling with independence the more I heal. This body is more nervous of a newborn melt down in H&M than the man standing alone at the bus stop. This body can wear a thong without being paralyzed by heart tearing memories.

       A trip alone to Starbucks, and a lacy thong are small mountains, but I am grateful to have finally overcome them. With a new sense of freedom and sexier undergarments, it’s time for this little family of three to stop waiting and to start moving forward.