When worn properly, the garment provides protection against temptation and evil. Wearing the garment is an outward expression of an inward commitment to follow the Savior. – (First Presidency letter, 5 Nov. 1996).
The garments must be worn day and night.
Mormons are allowed to have sex, (married of course) swim, and shower without the garments, but they should be immediately worn again, as soon as possible. The prophet and the first presidency of the LDS church are all old men in their 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. They are not about to advise women on the pleasures of wearing garment bottoms and getting a period, or having a baby. We figure it out.
They make maternity garments, (belly and boob pouches!) and nursing garments (the boob pouches are designed with flap, to give access to the breast once the nursing bra comes down). They come in different fabrics, and necklines. I found them all to be drastically uncomfortable. I was painfully sensitive to lace, and even the simplest styles had trim that rubbed me raw. It was always hot, even in the winter months, wearing an extra layer under my clothes. I hated the way the fabric bunched up around the underwire of my bra, and caused my bra straps to slip around.
I hated sleeping in them, I hated golfing in them, I hated never being able to undress or dress in a locker room at the gym.
But, despite the physical discomfort, I wore them diligently, faithfully. I tried so desperately to embrace the life of a married mormon woman. I read material about the garments, their sacred nature, the blessing I would get from wearing them. I taught young, impressionable preteen girls about the importance of wearing temple garments. I told them how sacred and special they were. I left the church on those particular Sundays always wondering if they recognized how resolved I was in convincing my own heart. I wanted my new husband to see me as a valiant, faithful woman. I wanted Heavenly Father to validate my efforts with a boost of faith.
After our daughter Carly was born, we moved to California. I became pregnant with Lydia just six months after Carly’s birth. As I fed and cared for one baby girl, and grew in my womb another. My spiritual crisis flourished, growing as fast as the new life inside me.
Garments are worn as a reminder of the covenants and oaths taken inside the temple. They are to serve as a constant reminder of who you are, what your purpose is on earth, and the morals and standards you are striving to live. They keep you dressing modestly and behaving accordingly. Putting the garments on your body is like dressing in the armor of God.
These were the true reasons the mormon underwear was hard for me to wear.
It was an oppressive, constant weighing reminder of who I was – a latter-day saint (LDS).
I would step out of a shower in the morning and stare at the blurred outline of my body in the fogged up mirror.
I was disappearing.
I pulled the garments on, and the woman in the mirror became visible as the fog cleared. She looked like all the women in my life…my mother, my grandmother, my aunts and cousins, my ancestors.
It felt like chain mail under my clothes.
My underwear was immutable evidence that I was trapped, encapsulated in fraudulence. I hated when Rick would see me in them each day, knowing my garments were a reassurance for him that I was doing it. I was complying with the temple promises. It felt like a bold face lie.
I wanted to fall asleep at night, his skin and my skin unsheathed from our armor…my raw self and his. But it was against the rules, to spend a night sleeping in our bed, holding onto each other without the barrier between.
The lightweight cotton was becoming so heavy, I could barely get dressed in the morning.
It seemed that each passing day, as my belly grew larger, so did my discontent. I had managed to avoid buying maternity garments while pregnant with Carly, eeking by with my regular sizes and the nursing garments afterwards. But this second baby, fast on the heels of the first, changed my body quicker. The garments became uncomfortably tight, rolling up over my abdomen. Rick would ask me almost daily if I had remembered to order maternity garments, and I would always respond with, “tomorrow.” I couldn’t bring myself to do it.
I had respect for the garments, for the people who wear them, for their sacred and spiritual meaning for my loved ones. And there came a point where I could not put them on.
I had outgrown them.
I only had a month or two before Lydia would be born… I sat on the edge of my bed, Carly calling for me in her crib, and I could not put them on my body. I stopped wearing them.
Rick began to ask about it as gently as he could, and I would shrug it off, as if I simply forgot. Both of us knew forgetting was not possible. I could feel his fear building as the force of our spiritual storm began to build and take shape. I would try to be nonchalant, tell him, “tomorrow,” and almost gag on my words. His disappointed eyes and my guilt filled me up like wet cement.
In that last month, Carly, with her imploring blue eyes, would lift my shirt and pat my bare belly, press against me. She would squeeze my fingers and leave wet kisses on my cheeks. My daughter. My little girl, watching my every move.
And inside me grew a fierce and fearless Lydia, straining against my insides, running out of room, ready to come into the world and become.
And… there was…me.
A burgeoning woman who knew that the time was coming. The moment where soon, I would no longer be able to hold myself in.
I gave birth to us both.