Ready to Blossom

In April 2010, four months after my first baby was born, I went on a shopping spree and bought $200 in new underwear. I walked into Victoria’s Secret like I owned the place even though the only clothing I’d bought in a year had been of the maternity or infant variety. I ran my fingertips along table after table of panties, forgoing cotton for satin, lycra and lace, passing up drab beige and gray and white for red and purple and orange. And hot pink. Oh my, hot pink! I piled cute, brightly colored panties and bras over my arm, a bigger and bigger smile on my face as I moved through the store.

I picked out underwear that matched top and bottom, something I hadn’t been able to do in longer than I remembered. I tried on a push-up bra in the brightest pink I’d ever seen and felt transformed from very tired new mom into sexy vamp. Never mind the $75 price tag. The feeling it gave me was worth twice that, even if it was only a feeling. To everyone else I still looked like a very tired new mom, but my new underwear made me feel confident, attractive and sexy.

My shopping trip wasn’t for a lover\’my husband was deployed with the Navy and I hadn’t had sex in months. And it wasn’t because I looked phenomenal\’I was four months postpartum with my first baby and though I had lost all of the baby weight fairly quickly, I was still shocked at how pregnancy had changed my body forever. No, I was not a woman on her way to a sexy tryst or fresh from a “mommy makeover\’I was a woman in need of a reminder and my new underwear wardrobe was entirely for me alone. It was my sexual wakeup call.

I know, I know how superficial it sounds to say some expensive underwear made me feel better. Self-esteem comes from within, not from a hot pink pushup bra in a hot pink bag. But… my new underwear was a catalyst for something. Those bits of satin and lycra and lace were a promise to myself. A promise for the future, beyond 2 AM feedings and baby bottles and spit up and infrequent showers. Those sexy undies were for the me I had been before I had gotten pregnant and had a baby and for the me I wanted to be again. Between pregnancy and postpartum recovery, I had spent more than a year feeling as if my body wasn’t mine. I had gone through a really rough postpartum period and I needed to be reminded that I was more than somebody’s mother, more than the exhausted, weepy, stretched out forty-two year old woman I felt like. Even if it was only a superficial fix, I needed sexy underwear to help me feel sexy again.

The irony of being an erotica writer who doesn’t feel sexy is not lost on me. There is an expectation that those of us who write about sex for a living also live and breathe sex in our personal lives. And sometimes I do, I promise. Maybe not as often as I used before I became a mom, but it’s still there\’a quiet, patient force to be reckoned with, my sexuality. And sometimes, like every other woman whether she’s a mother or not, I need to remind myself that I am still very much a sexual creature.

I had my second baby four months ago\’that’s two babies in twenty-one months\’and while this postpartum period has been emotionally easier than with my first baby, the physical changes have been more dramatic and unsettling. There haven’t been any underwear shopping trips yet and the Victoria’s Secret catalog has been tossed unopened in the recycle bin because I’m still making peace with my middle aged, postpartum body. It’s a slow process, especially after the second baby when life is busier and there is simply less time for me, sexual or otherwise.

In between chasing a toddler and caring for a newborn and maintaining a marriage and some semblance of a social life while also trying to cobble together enough hours to be a full-time writer and editor, I’m slowly  working on rediscovering my sexual identity. Pregnancy and motherhood may have thrown a few new obstacles in my way, but I’m finding my way back. No matter how cold and lifeless the winter may seem, spring is coming and everything will blossom in its own time, brilliant and beautiful.

Including me.

Airial Clark

As of May 2012, I will have completed my Master’s Degree in Human Sexuality Studies at San Francisco State University. Prior to attending graduate school, I graduated from UC Berkeley in 2007 with a double major BA in English Literature and Anthropology while raising two young sons as a single parent. At Cal, I was President of the Student Parent Association. I am a regular contributor to the Sex Positive Photo Project of the SF Bay Area and Shades Magazine. I have presented my original research at multiple academic conferences and symposiums. I will be presenting my Master’s Thesis Study at the OpenSF Conference this June. I have trained with Community at Work to be a group facilitator and am fully committed to the participatory process of decision making.

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2 Responses

  1. Thanks so much for your comments, Lily. I once was very much against cosmetic surgery, being of the “love your body” school of thought. But after having two babies by Cesarean section and dealing with not only extra skin but also that awful numb feeling, I have changed my mind. I still believe in loving my body, I just realize I might need more than exercise and new underwear to feel like myself. I’m so happy you have reclaimed your body and sexuality on your own terms! Wonderful!

  2. Lily says:

    This is delightful; it’s always good to hear about someone reclaiming their sexuality.  

    It took me much longer after I had children to do that.  Like you, I had two children very close together.  I loved being pregnant; the gradual changes of pregnancy felt very natural.  Delivering, however, was a radical, one-day change in my body that put me into a body that felt broken, and in a way, didn’t even feel like “my” body.  (I know that sounds strange, but that’s how I felt, like I was walking around in an ill-fitting people suit after someone had stolen mine from the dry-cleaner’s).  

    I didn’t feel good about my body; and the traditional approaches to bolstering my self-esteem didn’t work.  I found I couldn’t change how I felt about my body — so I changed my body.  I lost 35 pounds, and I also had cosmetic surgery.  (I did have a particular reason for doing this: I had a burn injury as a child, and since scar tissue is inelastic, after I had children, that skin did not want to go back to where it had started.  Because of the location it was nearly impossible not to touch during sex, which both reminded me of less happy times and provoked an unpleasant tingling/burning sensation due to the nerve damage in the damaged tissue.  So while I refer to the surgery as cosmetic, it could equally be called reconstructive).  

    The whole process — from conception through to reclaiming my body and my sexuality — probably took close to five years.  

    Still one of the best things I ever did.