I’ve been a mother for over ten years. I’ve had three cesarean surgeries and my share of postpartum back spasms, but no real injuries or accidents…
Until a few weeks ago when I was sterilizing my son’s cup with boiling water and the top flew off. The water hit my abdomen and scalded the loose, stretched skin on my post-baby belly.
Where the babies once were is the most sensitive part of my body. I remember looking in the mirror after being scalded to find the skin hanging off. I stared at the inflamed, skinless area on my abdomen and said with disdain, “great, now it’s even more imperfect.”
If you didn’t know, second degree burns are extremely painful. The worst part is leaving the wound uncovered to allow it to heal. Healing can be painful. And burn wounds hurt the most when exposed to air. The nerve damage and sensation of touch is an excruciating feeling.
I remember wanting to keep the burn area covered, and not just because it was reducing the pain. I couldn’t take how bad the wound looked! As long as it was covered up, it gave off a better appearance. Therefore, I felt better. The hideousness was hidden.
Also, because I’m a Black woman and I’m technically supposed to be superhuman, I admonished myself for a whole 48 hours after scalding myself. “I don’t have time to deal with this. How could I do that to myself? Why wasn’t I more careful? Why wasn’t I focused?” I sometimes forget that I am only human— that things will happen; and when they do, it’s important to be positive and gentle with myself.
I went to the urgent care clinic and the Nurse Practitioner told me I would need to leave it uncovered (protecting it from infection, of course) so that it could properly heal. After listening to her and my husband preach this message, it still felt better for my psyche to just keep it covered; but in changing the wound dressing, I started to understand what the NP and Keith were trying to teach me about the healing process. When covered, the wound was absorbing too much moisture.
I didn’t start to see real improvement until I took the dressing off and let it breathe— allowing God’s natural medicine to heal me.
We hide things well, don’t we?
Our use of things like camera angles and filters, for example, to hide imperfections and insecurities are of no avail because cover ups are a usually a response to something happening in our psyche. We often convince ourselves that our past and present injuries are best left covered because, really, who has time? But by hiding these pains, truths, and scars, we develop unhealthy tolerances and dependencies tinged with self-conscious behavior.
For many women, acknowledging our pain and imperfections simply clashes with our strength code and society’s expectation of us. I was burned. I covered it up for sanity’s sake and allowed the suffering to manifest inward. It literally stopped my healing process. I couldn’t completely heal until I exposed the wound. Yes, it was unbearable when left uncovered, but I could look at that wound site and witness healing happening– new skin coming through…
Talk to someone.
Be gentle when it comes to your healing.
It may have left a scar, but you’re here.
Clinnesha is a wife, mom, daughter/sister/auntie, literary artist, humanities scholar, and social entrepreneur. Her advocacy work is at the intersection of black/feminist thought, arts, culture, and community.