The lights are dim, and the house is finally quiet after a busy day of visitors. I turn on the water and watch as the steam fills behind the glass door. My second or third of the day, I’ve lost count. This shower routine has been my secret to surviving this fourth trimester.
A newborn sleeps peacefully in the next room. Knowing I have a limited amount of time before I’m needed again, I step in. I let the scalding water cover my face and my aching shoulders. I close my eyes, and I breathe in the steam. No one needs me here. For a short period of time, no one can ask of me. And that feels life-saving at a time when so much has been asked of me and of my body.
I stare down at my toes, and as hard as I try to hold them back, the tears begin to fall. This feels like the 100th time I’ve cried today. I begin to criticize myself, unsure of why I’m crying but then stop. I just gave birth to a new human being who needs me 24/7. My body grew her and safely brought her into the world, and it’s now recovering. I take a deep breath and turn my face to the water, promising myself that I’ll let my body and my mind recover.
My husband doesn’t understand why the water needs to be scalding, but how could he? Despite being able to enjoy the same growing family, he maintains autonomy over his own body. I, on the other hand, am reminded that my body is not my own as the tears and the milk, and the blood drip from my body. Mixing with the steaming shower water, I watch as they circle down the drain. The hot water feels as essential as food and water these days as it washes away the day’s literal and figurative blood, sweat, and tears.
In this small space, for a short amount of time, I feel like I can think clearly again. The hot water rinses away the fog that hovers in between. It feels like a new chance and a fresh start. I know after this, I’ll put on new clothes, swapping out my milk-stained items from the day. I’ll start with fresh pads, and for a moment, I’ll feel like myself again.
I know that this phase will pass. The bleeding will fade. The tears will lessen, and the milk will find some sort of routine just like I will. I will feel like myself again. I’m not sure that I’ll ever have the full personal space I crave for a long, long time, but soon enough
I’ll have a busy baby crawling around, and I’ll miss this constant touch.
Reluctantly, I turn the water off and step out of the shower. I can hear my husband talking to my daughter in the other room. I step into new pajamas and back into my role.