If this time last year you told me that I would be up at 4:25 AM with a half-asleep baby boy latched on to my right breast on a bed in my uncle’s living room writing a blog post, I’d… um… I don’t know, nobody would ever tell me that.
But it’s happening, and sometimes it all seems so unreal that my life changed so drastically in a few short months. How does one even go from being an exemplary final year university student to being an unemployed single mother so quickly? Frankly, you have unprotected sex and don’t get a morning-after, then shrug and say “Oh, nothing will happen. I’m not that unlucky.”
But if you want the extended (and condensed) version, and you have some time on your hands, read on. I’ll just go put the baby down (he is fully asleep now), get some fever grass tea, and cue Maverick Sabre’s Innerstanding in VLC.
Hey, I’m back.
While making the tea, I was thinking about whether I’m going to post this. I’m still not sure. I just know my cup is full (the teacup too), my fingers are dancing across the keyboard, and I just need to pour the words out. If I post, I might give a few people something to talk about, a few people some answers to questions they were too tactful to ask, a few people some surprises, and maybe just one person some inspiration. If I don’t post, I’ll keep the draft and hope I remember this when I am a retired billionaire and I’m settling down to write my autobiography. That way, I give myself some memories to help me make some more millions.
Well anyways, you are here to find out how to lose and find yourself in a year. Read on for detailed instructions. Please note that results may vary, and I advise that you do not attempt this unless under direct supervision of a trained psychologist.
Step 1: Get on the Scene
It’s your final year of undergrad, first semester. You feel as if you are on the launching pad to something great, being somebody great. There as an uncharacteristic sense of calm to your life, coming down from a chaotic summer. School is going well, your portfolio on hall is going well, your relationship with your boyfriend going well (or as well as it can go after being broken and bandaged in the holidays). All your friends are still your friends and family is still family. You are happy enough. Your life is good.
Step 2: Get Silly
It’s around the second weekend in November. You have tons of overdue assignments to do, but you are a professional at last minute winging, so you go to a party. You know you can’t hold an ounce of liquor, but all the free jello shots are just lying around at your disposal. A friend buys you a Smirnoff, and the moonlight hits your boyfriend just right, so you leave with him to ***this section has been omitted to keep this blog G-rated***, followed by a pledge to get the pill the next day. You wake up late to a hectic Saturday morning, and get called home Saturday evening. There is a 5K Sunday morning, and a headache and closed pharmacies Sunday afternoon (and one open pharmacy that doesn’t sell the pill to males apparently). Overdue assignment rushed on Monday morning, followed by a full day of classes, and a “nothing will happen” shrug.
Step 3: Get Pregnant
Now it’s the last weekend in November. You are doing somebody’s hair and suddenly get weak in the knees. You make some coffee, but throw up halfway through it (you never throw up for any reason). The next day your boyfriend gets you two pregnancy tests. Both are positive, which must be an error, so you google the brand and the circumstances under which you get a false positive. You still don’t reaaalllyyy believe, so you put the tests away and go to class.
Step 4: Get a schmschmbortion ….. or not?
So, a few days pass and with each new morning you wake up feeling sick to your stomach, reality sinks deeper and deeper – This is real and it’s not going away… unless you make it go away. Your boyfriend (or whatever the relationship is at this point) has made it clear that he is not ready for a child, but it’s your call. Deep down you know that you are not ready either, but you just don’t know. You don’t even have enough money to get a schmschmortion done anyway, where are you going to get money from to take care of a child?
You spiral academically. The classes that you do make it to, you either daydream there or fall asleep there and dream for real. You cry every time you open Microsoft to look at an assignment. Your social life becomes a series of postponements. But with all of this, you get attached to the idea of a little girl growing inside of you. When you manage to scrape through that semester with a B average, you start feeling a little better about the situation. You know you’re keeping it, come hell AND high water.
*See my blog post on abortion here.
Step 5: Get dumped (Happy new year, by the way)
Don’t act surprised, you saw it coming. He was withdrawn (the irony) for some time now, and you felt alone in this for the whole dreaded month. He has his reasons too. He feels trapped. You’ve been paranoid since summer, and now your paranoia was on steroids, thanks to all the new hormones running loose in your body. He says he will be there for the child (whatever that means) he just can’t be in a relationship with you. You are lost. You don’t know what any of this means, except that you are a single mother before you are even a mother.
Step 6: NOW you get the schmschmortion?
No. You probably would have done it in the week he left you, had you had the money. You wish you did it a few times after that when you saw him around, especially since he was now spending so much time with his pretty, un-pregnant “friend” again. You even lied to him that you did it once, just to get a reaction out of him. Nope. Still not coming back. But you still hang on to the pregnancy like you hang on to the hope that he will return. You get a job in the laundry room and save the paychecks, and any other money that comes your way, for the famine that you know will come when your parents find out.
Step 7: Get depressed.
You are highly intelligent (if I do say so myself). You, however, are severely handicapped when it comes to controlling your emotions. Things get to you a little too much, and every problem in your life so far can be pointed back to that one fact. So, what do you do when you have a semester of school to complete, a child to carry, and a broken heart to mend? You stay in bed all day every day and cry, of course. By now your roommate knows you’re pregnant (the vomit bucket by your bed is a dead giveaway), and other people begin to suspect that something is up, despite your spectacular ability to smile in public like your life is an ad for a hotel on the north coast. One night in March, when a particularly sweet bottle of Ensure has you feeling bold, you call up your parents and tell them. Your mom tells you point blank you can’t keep it, not with your whole life ahead of you and yadayadayada-you-knew-she’d-say-all-of-this-but-you-don’t-care-because-she-is-abroad-and-she-can’t-make-you-do-anything. Your daddy comes through quite nicely though, so in April when you decide that you just can’t do it anymore, you get a leave of absence from the semester, pack your stuff and head home.
Step 8: Get Isolated
Out of sight, out of mind, right? Wrong. You spend your days in rural St. Catherine pining away at how everyone is living their lives without you, father of child included. By now everyone knows you’re pregnant and at home, so that’s the only thing you are now. Pregnant and at home. All the people you can still call friends say congrats and get back to their studies. Nobody really wants to talk about your backache and baby kicks now, not with graduation around the corner. Your relatives hear and judgement is passed. How could you get pregnant now, when everyone was waiting for you to graduate and become somebody, so they could pretend as if they were all supporting you all along? Some nerve you have!
So, you spend your days eating the few things that your son (yes by now you know it’s a boy) will allow you to eat, and doing the few household chores your growing bump will allow you to do. Your nights are spent reading “What to expect”, drinking vanilla Lasco, and crying your heart out.
Step 9: Get used to it.
You are growing impatient, and just generally growing. Won’t be long now. It’s June. He is due either at the end of July or the beginning of August. You are tired of waiting, and just generally tired. Your birthday comes on the eleventh, and you spend the afternoon eating ice-cream with two friends. It isn’t much, but it’s such a great feeling to be out of the house and it’s not a clinic visit, for once. It’s good for you. Later that month your sister abroad sends some stuff to help with the baby when he arrives, and you finally feel like things are looking up. You are excited. You even start to come to terms with the way your relationship ended (or whatever). You remain friends (or whatever the relationship was at that point) with him, and you buy into the “He will come around when the baby is born” line you always get when you tell people you are not together. You even go back to the campus to see him sometimes and he comes to visit you once, and you “catch up” on old times. Not like you can get pregnant twice, right?
Step 10: Get frustrated.
Yes, you’re still in June, because it lasted three centuries this year. By now you spend most of your time in bed (lying on your left side like they said you should) with an aching back, a dead left shoulder and a bowling ball between your legs. Your father, who, by the way, has never been pregnant, becomes displeased with your lack of activity around the house. Arguments develop (oh, how your hormones love these!) and it gets to a point where he tells you off and you move out.
Into abject poverty. You decide anywhere was better than a place where you are not happy or welcome, so you and your newfound nesting instincts vow to make a room in your mother’s unfinished house livable. July finds you waddling to your uncle’s house to use his bathroom and kitchen, and eating whatever you lay eyes on that doesn’t require much preparation. As the month winds to an end, you start having pre-labour symptoms, and you soon realize that July is a much longer month than June.
Step 11: Get your baby.
After several eternities, it is July 30, the date the ultrasound had predicted that your son would get here. You wake up feeling as tired as you do every day, and tell yourself that the crampy feeling in your abdomen is just nerves. Most first-time pregnancies go past the due date anyways. By 2PM that day though, you are lying on a bed in the Spanish Town hospital being fed through an IV with a doctor’s hand touching your heart through your vagina. You labour actively for the next 6 hours, being assisted by high doses of hormones in the IV and a very eager baby. After forever, when the pain is so much that it almost doesn’t hurt, somebody tells you to push. You push like there is no tomorrow but nothing happens. You try again, and this time you feel the baby pushing himself out too. He does all the work and the doctors tell you that you are doing well. You have a mini heart attack when one of them says “Wait, the cord is around the neck,” but you recover when someone else says “I got it” and they tell you to push again. Gladly! One final push does it, and now a doctor is dangling a disgusting little creature in your face asking “What kind of baby you have mommy?” You automatically answer “Boy,” thinking “How is he so big, when my tummy was so small?” You make a mental note of somebody saying the time of birth is 8:20PM. And just like that, with no experience holding newborns, or even being particularly fond of small children, you are somebody’s mother.
Step 12: Get close.
You spend the next four days in the hospital in a state of bliss. You feel accomplished and in awe that you created something so perfect. Your (you wonder what he is to you now) visits the next day and brings you food. He holds the baby and you don’t even know what you feel, but it feels good, and he looks as if he feels it too. Friends and relatives visit too, and you feel… happy. For those few days in the hospital you forget about your home situation, and your biggest problem is Keisha’s snoring on the bed next to yours. You love your baby, and you know that everything you went through during the pregnancy was worth it.
Step 13: Get Real
Can’t stay in the hospital forever, can you? You get discharged on Thursday night, and as the car turns into the dark, rocky lane where you live, your heart sinks in your chest. You put your baby down on the bed, and begin to swat mosquitoes. Suddenly the scent of the oil paint on the walls that you put on weeks ago becomes overwhelming. Your baby starts crying. You put him on the breast just like the nurse taught you to, but he is still crying. He is not hungry. You pace the small room with him. Back and forth. Back and forth. He falls asleep and you put him down again, this time noticing an ant on the bed. You look closely and realize that there is a trail of them in the room, coming from a wide space under the door, that leads directly outside. You sprinkle insect powder in the doorway, and get onto the bed, swatting more mosquitoes and looking for ants to kill. You break. Your ribs suddenly become too tight for all the feelings in your chest and it starts to burn. You choke back the first few sobs, afraid to wake the baby again, but soon you just can’t control it anymore and you cry. Morning comes and finds you crying silently.
You live like this for a few days. Nursing your baby, who is mostly asleep, and using your uncle’s kitchen and bathroom. One day while cooking by your uncle’s, it rains heavily and you and the baby get stuck there for the night. The next morning when you go home, you find the room wet, as water had blown in through the space under the door, and the roof was (as still is) leaking. You take some supplies for the baby, close the door, and go back to your uncle’s house. That night your cousin comes by. She says your baby’s breathing sounds odd, and that does it for you. You bawl your eyes out. Nothing is going right. You are trying to take care of a baby without help, and you are failing miserably. The child’s father had promised to be there for the first few weeks since it was summer but he had other priorities to take care of. Your mother, who was paying for your schooling, told you that you should seek a job as soon as you can because she won’t send you back. And now the baby’s breathing sounds odd? You just want to die.
Step 14: Repeat Step 9 (Get used to it)
You accept that there is no way you can keep the child healthy in your “house” and ask your uncle if you can stay by him for a while. He allows you to and you move your bed and some stuff for you and the baby into his house, and this is where you live to date. Your state of mind heals with your body over time, and you become so busy learning to care for your little one that you don’t get bothered by all the uncertainties in your life that much anymore. At two weeks-old, daddy comes by for a few days, and nothing is said about where you stand. Things seem to be on the sunny side, though, so you don’t push it.
You roll with things, watch your baby grow, and love your baby every day.
Step 15: Get Restless
You find the spot where you buried all the feelings of being pregnant and alone and proceed to dig them up. A little dusting off and you refashioned them into feelings of being stuck with a child while everyone gets on with their life. The new school year has begun, and social media has you – a chronic busy-body – soaking up whatever pieces of orientation and campus life you can. The friends you have left are all either returning to school, traveling, getting married or falling into new jobs while they prepare for graduation. You are happy for them, but more than that, sad for yourself. You want to get out there. You want to do something. You want to be more than just a mother. You want to get back to being you, too.
But you can’t. You can’t go back to school because you have an outstanding balance that will not be cleared until you can afford to do so, and you will not afford to do so until you get a job. You start job hunting, but you are applying for the same jobs as your freshly degreed peers. Who in their right mind will hire you over them? You have been at it for a month and have only made it to one interview, for which you haven’t gotten a call back. At the same time, you are looking for somewhere to rent, and you have no idea who will keep your baby if you do get a job. You cannot contact day cares until you know where you will live. You cannot get somewhere to live until you have money. You will not have money until you get a job. You will not get a good job without a degree. You will not get a degree until you have money. Just great.
Step 16: Repeat Step 2 (Get silly)
So, you remember when you were pregnant and everybody said “He’ll come around when the baby is born”? Well, they lied. At two months postpartum, you are now a pro a one-handed diaper changes and one-eyed nighttime feedings. You are a great mom, you’ve been texting your… well… child’s father every day, sending pictures, videos, the works. Things are going well in that department and they seem to be getting better. He visits one weekend and you smile making memories and cry making the bed. Silly girl. Nothing has changed, what did you expect to happen? While you were adjusting to living for two, he was adjusting to living for one, and frankly, he has moved on. That ship has long sailed. What are you waiting for?
Step 17: Get Better.
It’s October 1. After a particularly low moment, you are thinking about your life, and you realize how far you’ve come. You regret many decisions you made, many situations you mishandled, and many people you’ve allowed to hurt you. You realize though, that every single one of those events have caused you to develop a certain strength in your character. You acknowledge that getting pregnant when you did was careless, and yes it was a mistake, but you also acknowledge that had it happened any other way, you would not have your baby. Yes, you would be just fine graduating now if you didn’t have a baby, not feeling as if you were missing a thing. But you know that if you were to choose between the two, after knowing the joy of Kymani smiling at you for no apparent reason, you would do this all again. You are not satisfied with where you are now. You are not completely happy either. You know that if you ever want feel truly fulfilled with who you are and where you are in life, you need to move on. You need to let go of a failed relationship, and open your heart again, so that whenever that kind of love comes by again, it will feel welcome. You still have no idea when you will finish school. Perhaps by some stroke of luck you might still be able to complete it this year. You are still unemployed, but you are trying, and there is nothing else you can do about that now. You are not in your ideal home, but that is bound to change eventually. You have anxiety about leaving your baby in the care of anyone but yourself, but you know that when he is old enough to understand, he will. You are still not completely in control of your feelings, and an unruly tear or two still escape every now and then. But you are in complete control of your actions, and how you allow yourself to be treated. You are not where you want to be, but you are getting better.
So…… I lied in the title. I didn’t exactly find myself. I am forever changing and adapting to whatever life throws my way, and that requires my concept of “self” to remain elusive. I think the moment I say “Yes, I have finally found myself” is the moment my life will end.