As my husband’s warm hands slid down my torso, I felt hot—like myself again. Our wrestling under the sheets that wintry afternoon was extra steamy, and not just because it’d been five weeks since we’d done it. I was now exposing a new but forever piece of me: a six-inch scar from my C-section.
This was our first time having sex since doctors had lifted our son from my body, leaving a scarlet streak behind. It felt weighty, important, nerve-wracking. In our hustle, I forgot all about my postpartum body—the squishiness of my belly, the stretch marks riding on my stomach, the angry scar—all the ways it had changed and all the ways I’d felt like it had failed me during labor. But now, finally naked again with the person who had supported me during the most intimate and difficult moments of my life, not even a puffy red scar could break my feeling of sexiness.
It was a rough road to get here.
At my three-week postpartum appointment, I marveled at my son’s teeny Lithuanian nose while simultaneously stewing about how a doctor might reduce the vividness of my C-section scar. “What’s going to make this fade into oblivion?” I wanted to know. It wasn’t just the scar I wanted to bury; it was the fact that I couldn’t give birth vaginally as I’d planned.
I felt like I had done everything right during my pregnancy in order to have the birth I’d always wanted: I partnered with a doula for weeks before my due date. I visualized for months that miraculous moment of propelling my baby into his new earthly home. I spoke with my medical providers about having a nonmedicated birth.
Twelve hours into labor, when doctors gave me an epidural, it felt like a gift from heaven. Maybe it wasn’t exactly the birth I’d pictured, but I was going to deliver vaginally damn it. But after hours of pushing with no progress, it was time to call it: I couldn’t present my baby to the world myself. Instead I handed my body over to gloved professionals to remove him from me. My husband sneaked glances of my insides while peering over the blue surgical curtain. I languished on the operating table in a cocktail of anxiety and leg-numbing drugs.
It’s important to say that I know a C-section is a perfectly valid choice—the right choice—for many women. Though not what I planned, I know that a C-section was ultimately the right choice for me, a medically necessary decision to bring my son and me through labor healthy and unharmed. I knew my femininity shouldn't be based on my ability or desire to have a baby naturally (or to have a baby at all). Intellectually, I knew having a C-section didn’t make me any less of a woman, or a mom. But still. There are so many messages flying around about how the “perfect” pregnancy should look, it was hard to overcome the idea that I wasn’t equipped for what’s often lauded as the most feminine task in the world.
“You handled it so well,” my husband gushed to anyone we shared the birth story with. But I didn’t feel like I’d handled it well at all. I felt like a failure, like maybe I wasn’t biologically fit for this motherhood thing. My husband was steadfast in shooting down these thoughts. He never once made me feel like a lesser version of myself. Even with the scar haunting me, he loved me and my body. All I had to do was figure out how I could do the same.
It turns out that tiny strips of silicone can help reduce the appearance of scars. You place them on top of the wound at night, and over time the scar fades. I wasn’t home a few hours from the ob-gyn before ordering a jumbo pack online. The sooner it came, the sooner I could start getting rid of This Thing.
Before the scar, stretch marks, and baby, my marital sex life was hot. We were the kind of couple who often wouldn't make it to the bedroom, christening the couch or a beach blanket in our desire. I felt confident as I figured what my husband saw in me was what I saw in the mirror: a former collegiate swimmer with small perky breasts and firm thighs. After my C-section, with grayish purple lines dancing around my nipples and lower abdomen, and a scar cutting through my pubic region, I’m not so seamless, the physical changes a reminder of what my body has been through.
When we were cleared to have sex after five weeks, I was excited to be close to my husband again but apprehensive about how it’d go. I wasn’t feeling particularly seductive—with breast milk leaking out of my nipples and my hair in an unwashed bun, I wasn’t exactly turning myself on. My body and mind had been through a transformation, one that felt far from anything bedroom-related.
But something changed when we had sex, my angry scar on full display. Naked again with my husband, I not only felt worthy; I felt hot. I felt reminded that my body is powerful, feminine. After all, it brought our baby safely into this world, vaginal birth or not.
“Pin me down,” I commanded, hardly believing how confident I felt. My husband grinned, never more willing to oblige. I finally felt like the strong, beautiful woman my husband had been telling me I was. His excitement for me—scar and all—reminds me to embrace myself more fully.
Our scars are difficult to accept. They remind us of something in our lives that didn’t go quite as we expected. But they are also a part of our journey, our story, our beauty. My C-section brought me my giggling babe. It brought me closer to my partner. Perhaps most important, it brought me closer to loving myself even when things don’t go to plan.
When I think about it that way, I don’t hate my scar at all. In fact, I don’t need those silicone strips. I never even opened the box.
Originally Appeared on Glamour