He whispered to me, "it's going to be alright. Trust me?"
It was a question, certainly, but one that didn't require an answer. He knows I trust him. He has known that since the day I first laid eyes on him. I gave him my heart, my soul and my children. You can't not trust someone when you give them the gift of your children. The children you didn't have together, but have raised together. And now, now that I look down at the scars across my tummy, the three horrible scars that say, "you will never, ever have a child with this man. Ever..." I feel weak as a woman. I feel as though I have lost my empowerment, the ability to give life. The choice to do so, should I have ever chosen that route again.
Certainly we knew with my husband vasectomy in 2004 that the decision not to have any more children was the right one for us at the time. And yet, there was this knowledge, somewhere in the back of my brain that knew that vasectomies are reversible. Someday, I could fill this belly with the seed of the man I am in love with and make a beautiful little human being out it, because I was a woman and as a woman, I am the cradle of life.
These scars across my abdomen. These three, jagged scars. They tell me, "never more."
I put my hand in his. I trust him. He turned the water to the shower on. He stepped in, checking the temperature, making sure that everything was in place. This was my first shower post surgery and the moment I had been dreading the most. The sight of myself naked after the violation of my smooth, soft skin. Worse still, the moment HE saw me naked again with the addition of these three scars on my body. I was on the verge of tears. I knew it wouldn't take much to make me cry. One word spoken out of context. One "Oh, it doesn't look so bad, baby." One furrow of his brow and I would be reduced to a sobbing mess because somewhere on that operating table, along with my uterus, my cervix, my tubes and my ovaries, the doctor took away something else. He took away a good portion of my self esteem. The very thing that made me feel womanly which, ironically enough, was the bane of my existence, was now gone. No more periods was suddenly replaced by...oh my God. No more periods. I am this empty vessel now. This useless, empty vessel capable of nothing but the ability to accessorize well...and even that felt like a challenge as of late.
He stuck his hand through the shower curtain and extended it in my direction. I couldn't bring myself to drop the towel in front of him though I had been naked before him millions of times. Sensing this, he stepped back into the shower, leaving his hand extended for me to hold on to as I stepped in to join him.
"I only want to be in here with you so you don't fall," he said. "I'm just worried you're going to fall."
And those words, which should have filled my heart and said "look how he loves you", somehow translated into "I don't want to be in here with you. I am not attracted to you any longer. However, since you are my wife, I am obligated to make sure you don't hurt yourself."
I dove into the shower quickly, turning my scarred body toward the onslaught of water. He can't see my scars now and more importantly, he can't see me crying.
"You like a lot of lather in your hair, right baby?"
I nodded. He washed my hair, careful to make sure every strand was perfectly lathered. He massaged my scalp. I felt his body pressed against mine and noted, as any woman feeling particularly vulnerable would, that he was not "excited". Normally, the sight of my wet, curvy ass would drive him into a frenzy, but...nothing. He rinsed my hair and then, poured a ridiculous amount of conditioner onto my head, making sure all my hair was coated, root to tip.
"We'll leave that in while I wash you, okay?"
Wash me? He is going to wash me. He is going to take inventory of what is still there. What has been removed, what has been replaced. He is going to see me "unlandscaped", legs with four day old just out of the hospital stubble with underarms to match and those scars. Those god forsaken scars, still fresh and oozing all sorts of goo and grossness. He loaded the loofah up with some Dove body wash and washed my back in smooth, soft circles. He washed my hips, my ass, the length of my legs down to the tips of my toes. And then, he turned me to face him. My arms were wrapped around my breasts as though I were covering them, making myself invisible, like a little kid does when they cover their eyes. "I can't see you, so you must not be able to see me," was the thought process. My head was down, the water tasted like coconut conditioner as it rolled across my swollen lips. He lifted my chin.
"Let me see those beautiful brown eyes."
I looked at him with a careful vulnerability that said, "this is your moment, my husband. please. please. please. don't mess it up with words. just get me through this. please. please. please don't make me hurt more than i already am hurting. my femininity can't take another hit. please. please. stay silent."
He washed my shoulders, loving, soft concentric circles. He moved my arms away from my breasts, one at a time, so that the other arm could remain there, hugging my body, saving it from the hollow feeling of uselessness. He washed my breasts one at a time, giving me a delicate kiss on the cheek each time. I glanced down. His body gave him away once more. This was not sexual for him. He was not aroused by this. Normally, we are clawing at each other like two animals by this far into the shower and I am bent over, hugging the towel bar for dear life as he pounds against me in his neanderthal "Me Man. Me Must Make Beastly Love to Woman" stance.
This...was not that. It was the complete antithesis to that. And I felt my heart deflate. He no longer finds me sexy. He doesn't think I am hot any more. Then, just when I think I couldn't be in any more emotional pain, my husband of nearly 10 years drops to his knees in front of me. The water is running off the curve of my breasts and sliding onto his cheeks. I am looking down at him, crying. He is looking up at me with those warm, gentle brown eyes that swore to me so many years ago that he would never be responsible for a day of pain in my life. Every promise he every made me were swirling in the mist and haze of his eyes.
"I'm going to wash those scars now, baby. I promise you. I'll be careful."
He put the loofah down. "I'm not going to use this. I'm going to use my bare hands." The thought terrified me. He was about to be face to face with them and then, on top of that, touching them? This was emotional pain overload and I truly thought I was going to pass out. But he didn't take his eyes away from mine. He was waiting for me to be ready. We stared at each other. He put the body wash into his hands but he never lost eye contact with me.
"Are you ready?"
I bit my bottom lip, already swollen and sore from where they roughly forced a tube down my throat before surgery and nodded slowly. His eyes moved from mine to my lower abdomen. He stared at the holes in my stomach. The left one. The right one. The large one where my once perfect "innie" belly button was. He gently touched them. My stomach quivered under his touch. His naked fingertips slowly washed away the dried blood, the coagulated ooze, the surgical glue. He looked back up at me and smiled. Not a big, beaming smile, but a smile that said, "this is okay. i'm not freaked out. you shouldn't be either."
And I exhaled for the first time in what seemed to be months.
His fingertips went from the scars on my abdomen, to the "Y" between my legs, touching me lightly. And when I looked down at him again, kneeling before me in the shower...I noted "signs of life" between his wet, taut thighs as well. I closed my eyes, and smiled. He stood up, rinsed me off and kissed me lightly.
"Want to take this to our bed," he whispered.
And yes, yes I did.
I know there are going to be challenges along the way. I know we cannot have sex (the Bill Clinton definition thereof) for another five weeks. I know that my hysterectomy will sometimes inhibit my ability to have an orgasm. I know that it means lube will become a necessity, not a playful thing to add in now and then. And I know that it is going to mean having to adjust my way of thinking about what it means to be a woman, to be a sexual creature.
But I also know that I was blessed with a life partner who is willing to embrace me no matter who I am. More important than being desired is the fact that I am loved. And he spent all the gentle, wonderful time in the world last night proving to me that while yes, things will be different, the love that I have come to know will always be the same. It will be patient, it will be kind and it will be reminding me that no matter what, it will heal me of whatever ails me.
And life, my life? It just got a little bit more fabulous.
My husband once told me a long time ago, that the stretch marks on my lower belly didn't bother him. They were reminders of how that belly of mine once cradled our children, nurtured them, gave them life. Now, the scars on my belly...they are a reminder that while that era of my life is over, a new one has begun. A new, pain free existence where I can learn to enjoy my body once more, not dread the last two weeks of every month. Where I don't have to worry about wrecking the "good sheets" or not buying the "pretty panties". A sexually liberating time in my life that means that my husband and I have to rediscover the new and different ways of gratifying each other.
If last night was any indication of what is to "come"...bring it on. We're ready. We are SO ready.