In a recent spate of spring cleaning, or more accurately ‘any-season minimising’ the amount of stuff I have, I opened a box that I had assumed contained baby clothes. I knew I’d had trouble with the idea of throwing away my daughters clothes from her first year. As she’s grown the clothes have become less important but the little tiny baby dresses and jump-suits really captured my heart, and even though I was fairly certain I would not have another child, I couldn’t bring myself to give them away.
So opening this box was a surprise when I realised it contained all of the clothes that I’d worn whilst pregnant and the 6 months or so after while my body adjusted. Stretchy trousers, large t-shirts, loose dresses and so many tank tops. Special feeding tops with removable inserts, clips to allow discreet access, hardly worn soft bras, the top I was wearing when I tried to share a difficult memory with the baby’s father and he was more interested in something (anything!) else. And the giant pairs of underwear. Specifically bought high-waisted to be sure not to aggravate the c-section wound. All of it in the softest of cottons, as if my body had been unable to tolerate anything harder. I found the wrist guards I’d had to wear at nighttime when I developed painful carpal tunnel in my wrists. I found an opened box of breast pads, some tiny nappies and clothes that weren’t even maternity wear but that I had spent a lot of time in whilst pregnant.
And then I remembered putting it all there. I had wanted to close the lid on that time, separate all the clothes from my other ones and stop seeing them everyday. The box was a capsule in time, like I had rampaged through my room and confiscated everything that had a hint of the hard times. It was a way to shut it all up and put away those thoughts that came with it, the ones of inadequacy, the ones that said maybe you should have done this or spoke of failure. But I didn’t know this at the time. It only occurred to me as I took in the contents of the box and the memories came flooding back. What power a t-shirt can be – a reminder of a time in life.
Now, I have placed all but 2 of the tops back in the box and tomorrow I’ll drop it all off at the Salvo’s and they can send them to someone who needs them, and will hopefully create happy memories with them. I’ll most likely end up taking the 2 tops as well, perhaps not the undies tho? I’ve just realised I put the undies all back in the box too! I really don’t think I saved them because I thought I would use them again, they were just part of the whole deal, guilt by association and I think I just packaged it all up and put it away so as not to think about it anymore.
Does this have anything to do with being chronically ill? No, and yes. I suspect it’s a common trick of the mind to package ‘stuff’ together – events, reasons, repercussions – and hide the thoughts away. Something I’ve been doing lately is trying to catch my thoughts and assumptions and asking if they’re true. I can’t do that… well really, can’t I? Letting the thoughts out of the box and checking what’s marked on the box to see if it needs updating. It takes some time to hear your thoughts, and lots of energy to question them. I can see why I put all those clothes away till now.