I’m pretty ruthless when it comes to clear outs. So ruthless in fact that after Little P was born I gave away almost my entire wardrobe leaving me with just a few tops and trousers. Most of my clothes were stylish workwear that no longer suited my lifestyle, so they went to the charity shop. Following a year of breastfeeding I dropped two dress sizes so even the trousers and t-shirts had to go too. Now I own three summer dresses, one pair of jeans, one pair of black trousers, four tops and two jackets. Along with underwear and nighties that is the sum total of my current clothing supply. As someone who previously had two overstuffed wardrobes I feel a zen like peace since I downsized!
But there is one piece of clothing I can’t seem to part with, even though it’s gone into the recycling bag more than once. It’s a nightie. Not very pretty and the cotton was so fine that at this stage it’s frayed and even torn at the seams. But every time I touch it or wear it I have such visceral memories that it’s almost like a relic to me. It’s the nightdress I wore on the morning that Little P was born.
There were four nighties in my hospital bag. Three were new and one was a spare that my Mum made for me from a summer dress she never wore. I’m quite fussy about nightwear. It must be cool cotton, long and sleeveless and the four in my bag were perfect. The first one was destroyed when my waters broke so that had to go. In my panic at the increasing frequency and intensity of the contractions I changed into the ‘spare’ nightie. Maybe because it was the old one or maybe subconsciously because it was the one my Mum made and that gave me some much needed comfort. Either way about one hour after I put it on I was holding my new daughter. The nightie escaped the whole experience relatively unscathed (which is more than can be said for me!) so I kept it. It was the perfect breastfeeding nightie so I used it a lot in Little P’s first year. Then it got a bit shabby from being washed so often. Then I snagged it in a door handle and it got a small tear. Then Little P found the tear and now it’s a big tear! But I can’t part with it. It’s odd because usually I’m not at all sentimental about clothing or things. I gave away all of Little P’s tiny baby clothes without a second thought. But the nightie takes me right back to what was easily the most intense experience I’ve ever had. It reminds me of the fear, the excitement, the pure joy and the amazing sense of empowerment that I experienced.
The nightdress is the physical thing that reminds me that I brought Little P into the world, I was the one who made it happen. Because a few days after her birth it almost felt like it had been a dream or a strange out of body experience
I know that women are giving birth all the time, I can only imagine how many babies have come into the world even since I began writing this post. I know that there is nothing remarkable about my experience. Except to me. Because no matter how common or how frequent it doesn’t take away from how profound, joyful and intense giving birth can be for each individual woman.
Beyond my partner I certainly wasn’t encouraged to talk about it afterwards. Many of my family and friends appeared uncomfortable or awkward if I tried to discuss the birth in any way. ‘Too much information!’ or ‘We don’t want the gory details thanks!’. But I found that, for me, not talking about an experience as significant as that left me asking had it really happened to me? Had I really brought this beautiful baby into the world? When I look at the nightdress I remember that for one morning, like all Mums, I was superhuman and I feel very proud.