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A Bath Motivated Me To Leave An Abusive Relationship

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Trigger warning: domestic abuse

After you have a little human … your sacred body takes time to heal and needs delicate care and love and intention.

My relationship with a nighttime bath was a coping mechanism to me … nothing about my life felt pure, felt clean, felt sacred, felt peaceful or of my own.

I would curl up to the faucet, and try to breathe in solely the sound of the water, and focus only on the warm water gracing my skin.

But the reality of domestic abuse awakened in me one late evening when I wasn’t able to step into my sanctuary, my place of therapy, and my place to try to cleanse all of me from my very own reality.

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My very sore, healing, and completely exhausted postpartum body was craving a warm bath. I wanted to take off the oversized cotton panties that I took from the hospital. I wanted to remove and replace the huge pad catching the days healing of my body that carried an odor due to not even remotely paying attention to myself or my linens for hours. I wanted to allow rest and relief by taking off the pads pressed against my breasts that were sore, unbelievably painful and raw from breastfeeding for the first time in my life. I had the deep desire to take off the clothes I had not changed in what seemed like days; they were caked to my body, postpartum but still looking about seven months pregnant, after a long, beautifully humbling, and intimate day with my newborn.

I finally had gotten him to snooze in his crib with his name above it, in his jungle themed bedding. It had been a long, long night of finding ways to love and soothe my new human for hours as we got to know one another in our first ability to bond outside of my body.

Quiet.

It was time to step into my sanctuary.

Courtesy of Jess Amburgey

But this night was a shift for me.

I walked past the bed and grabbed a new set of clothes; it was dark in the room, and I was careful to only slide the door open a bit so I could catch a ray of what seemed like heavenly light. I could already smell what being still and bathing myself would do for my soul, and for the body so sorely in need of it.

The covers rustled, the yelling began, and my sanctuary moment shattered into an awareness I had not felt before.

I was selfish, stupid, and how dare I bathe when he was trying to settle in and rest.

The yelling became louder, and the awareness became clearer to me than ever before, as I was told — instructed — in forceful and hatefully cruel tones that I, in fact, was not going to take a damn bath.

The covers were thrown off the bed and the door swung open so hard that I knew it was going to wake up my sweet love, the baby that I had just spent hours praying and pleading would find some rest.

I quietly shut the bathroom door, with the clean clothes in my hand, the smallest light on so that it wouldn’t leak through the bottom of the door and cause more yelling, and knew I had a choice. A legit burden of tears filled my eyes, and a deeply confused, yet clear understanding rocked my soul to its core as I looked at the empty tub.

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I knew I wasn’t going to clean myself tonight. It wasn’t worth it. I wasn’t worth it.

I looked at the mirror and couldn’t bring myself to start the water. I couldn’t sink into what I wanted to heal me and save me all in one. I had no energy to fight anymore. I was broken and fearful, and now I had another human who I knew would wake up if he heard even a word more.

Silence.

That night I went to bed dirty. Pads soaked in day-old blood. Clothing disgusting. Unwashed, greasy hair. Soaked and crumbling pads in a breastfeeding bra that hurt so incredibly every time I moved, with an occasional scent of various types of creams I was using to soothe the pain.

I turned off the light, before even opening the door, and laid down in a bed that I had cried myself to sleep in more times now than I could count and I fell asleep alone.

This dirty I will never forget. Ever.

This dirty brought me to the couch the next morning after less than an hour of rest, breastfeeding my beautiful and precious human, on the phone with my sister where I couldn’t help but ask her if this was right. “Is this healthy?”

Her tone and her response both validated and terrified me. I could hear her pain, and her calm yet fearful and concern-based reply: “You need to get out of this.”

I know she was both deeply sad that I asked, and deeply sad about the weight of me being in something so very deep.

This is when I began to see the depth of what I was involved in, the massive amounts of silence I had grown accustomed to, and how this filth was affecting me. I was running out of sanctuary spaces, running out of ways to cleanse and wash away the feelings that I wanted to believe weren’t true, and my idea that “things would get better.”

Going to bed in all my postpartum pain, rawness, brokenness, loneliness, bleeding, sadness, exhaustion, and utter silence was a gift in the most painful of ways.

I didn’t want to live in this anymore.

When I had laid down, without standing up for myself and cleansing my sacred body, I knew I was in a very scary and controlled place — and I knew I was allowing it.

I had fallen asleep knowing this would be one of the last nights in this bed. Because I fell asleep alone, still abiding by what he said.

The empty and abandoned tub that night resembled exactly how my soul felt, and I was trying to refuse to ever walk away from myself again.

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