I have read before that a woman loses her man the moment she loses her mystery. My mother told me same when I was getting married. She said that the tricky thing about being married was staying sexy in the eyes of the man you take turns at the toilet with. She told me when I got pregnant that good reason did not a disgusting thing pretty make. So as much as possible I was to try and keep the puking, spitting and so forth private.
I tried to keep this in mind all through my pregnancy and I found that keeping ickies to myself wasn’t the hard part. It was finding the inspiration by month eight even to comb my bloody hair that was. Still I kept hearing mom’s voice in my head and I struggled through it. Then came the baby. Labour is a painful, painful thing and Kofi, bless his heart was there singing to me the whole time. Or so I thought. I just found out that he deserted me to watch one scene in Stomp the yard. I have vowed never to watch it. He defends himself that it was during the hour, early in labour, that I was asleep. Humph! Anyway so after Dové came is when the true hold-my-mystery challenge came. I got a long tear in my vagina during delivery and was sewn up almost to my sphincter.
Here in Ghana, a new mother sits over a bucket with some boiling hot water, camphor and salt twice a day for the first two months of her child’s life at least. The point is to get the steam inside you to heal your womb. Though initially somewhat painful, it sounds worse than it is and you actually feel good afterward; kind of like massaging sore muscles with a mentholated balm. It feels good but it doesn’t smell so hot. Or look too sexy. Afterwards, the bathroom smells like you just cut up some freshly killed chicken in there.
Those early days, I was somehow struck with a desire to make him see all I was going through so he could feel the weight of what I had had to endure to make us a son. I wanted him to see my episiotomy and be grossed out by it. I wanted him to see the blood clots that fell into the bucket while I was purging and the milk squirting out fountain-like from my breasts when they were too full. I guess he was so thrilled about the baby I wanted him to be concerned about me too. It wasn’t the same for me you see. He and his baby were both great. I had a great baby but I wasn’t great yet and I wanted to bring him down to the same plane. So he could give me the support I felt I needed. At the same time, I didn’t really want him to think of my vagina as the patched up one or to give him a clear vision of my sphincter. I didn’t see how I could recover my sexiness from there.
So I kept it all to myself, sometimes raging inside about the unfairness of it all. How is it that I’m the female and I have to be macho? Sometimes I would feel very alone in my misery. Other times, my feminist strains would awaken and yell at me for being a slave to a man’s superficialities and letting his sexual preferences supersede my emotional needs. It would goad me to let him see all that went into this baby-making thing. According to the voice that would force him to respect me, “he better. You did all the work…” and on and on it would go. Somehow I managed to shut her up and would sit on my hot water after he went off to work and before he came home, apply my wound’s treatment locked up in the bathroom and when it hurt, I’d retire early. My reward was the pride in kofi’s voice when he told everyone that I was a soldier and the respect in my mother’s eyes. I have great respect for my mother’s toughness. Overhearing her telling kofi that I am a very tough cookie, made it all worthwhile- at least until the next hot water session.
Our son is 5 months old. Memories of the first weeks have all but faded, with all the new ones he gives us everyday. And I’m gladder than ever that I never let him touch the wound, or smell the chicken, or see the sphincter. I’m back to being smart, and sexy and funny and gorgeous and my post birth issues are long gone. Everyday I feel thankful (and vindicated to my pushy feminist voice), that I resisted the urge to subject us to group pain and disgust. Now when he gives me the appreciative once over, I know he does not see a sexy body over a patch-quilt pussy.