Lessons from My First Year of Motherhood

Do not drown yourself in a man.

He will leave you struggling to breathe.

On July 12, nearly one month after the twins turned a year old, I broke my silence to ask him if we could talk after the babies went to bed. “Sure”, he shrugged. We went through our bedtime routine, bathing, singing and reading. I watched him, knowing damn well that he’d better fucking enjoy it while it lasted because he was going to miss it when it was gone. When we finished, I stood at the kitchen counter and instead of him joining me, he walked into the living room and took his usual seat on the recliner. From the kitchen, I asked him was he ready to talk. He sighed a, “Yup”. If it were possible for my insides to spill out, they would have been all over the counter with the nerve it took to say what I needed to say. “I want to break up”, I revealed. “Me too”, he said, simply.

Healing comes in waves

And maybe today

The waves hit the rocks

And that’s okay

That’s okay, darling

You are still healing.

You are still healing

Motherhood is FUCKING HARD! We don’t say that enough. We don’t give ourselves permission and other moms won’t give us permission to say that. But, I’ma say that shit cause honey, if there is anything that has tested my patience and ability to be selfless while at the same time, forcing me to be selfish, it’s motherhood. Being a mother (of twins, especially!) is easily the hardest thing I’ve ever done!

When we lived with their dad, yes, being a mom was hard since I was doing it mostly by myself with him working long hours and then his slackness when he was home, but it wasn’t this hard. I had some moments of solitude. Now, my children be up under me from 7:00am to approximately 7:30-8:00pm, with the exception of the three days a week they’re at daycare. Now, let me tell you this, I was against daycare down to my core. I would be damned to let these strange (usually white) people be my children’s caregiver for the majority of the day without me being present. I was terrified of the idea. Their dad agreed to not put them in daycare for similar reasons, so we were on the same page about that. Since being on my own, if I hadn’t put them in daycare, neither me or the twins would be alive to tell the story.

For me, I don’t get to enjoy motherhood the way I want to. Put aside the fact that I have two of them and I already didn’t get to enjoy the newborn stage of cuddling with your infant for that one on one time. Nah. We had to make that shit work, breastfeeding two babies at once. One under each arm, two titties being sucked and pulled and pinched. It was more of a “let’s get this over with” than a “this is so cute”. To top it off, both of them cluster fed at the same time. It was awful. I never thought I would miss it but now I do.

Being the only caregiver of the two of them, doesn’t allow for much unintentional joy amongst all of the duties that their survival depends on. From the time they wake up, to the time they go to bed, it seems like it’s all work and no play. I have to consciously choose how to prioritize shit based on whether they can get done later or another day. For example, I’m someone who hates when there is dirt and food on the floor or when dishes are piled up in the sink. I’m not a super neat freak but I grew up in a household where my mom made sure that the house was clean, whether she did it or had us do it as chores. I didn’t realize how much effort that took until now, as I raise my own family. Word to my mother ’cause she made that shit look easy and it is not easy by any means. Dirt and dishes have been somewhat of a source of anxiety for me. It’s like, given that my whole world has fallen apart, the least I can do is keep my house clean. Mind you, we live in a three bedroom townhouse so keeping the whole house clean 24/7 by myself is fucking unrealistic by any standard. Still, whenever the twins required my attention and I was trying to do the dishes, instead of leaving the dishes til later, I would yell at them to let me finish what I was doing. I know they don’t know what that means, which would make my mom guilt skyrocket, but I needed to do what I was doing in order for my brain to feel organized. It was at least a month at the new place before I realized that the world wasn’t going to end if I didn’t do the dishes after every single meal. And, you know what? It felt damn good to leave the dishes in the sink, dry my hands and pick up my crying child(ren) who wanted nothing but my attention. But, it took work. It still takes work. Half of our play time consists of me thinking about the dishes and everything else I need to get done but at least from their perspective, Mom is playing with them.

Aside from the difficulties of maintaining a house and giving the twins the attention they deserve, the real difficulties were happening internally. I was so lost. I had little to no time to myself and even when I did, I didn’t know what the fuck to do. I wanted to not be sad but truth was, as necessary as the break up had been, I was still grieving it. My whole world had crumbled around me and I had so much to deal with that I didn’t even have time to think about how I felt. I still grieve occasionally, not for what was but for what could have been, for the family I was supposed to have, for my sense of security being taken from me, again.

I am learning to be patient with my healing and never to close my mouth when my scars scream.

Mom guilt is real y’all. Even more real than the reasons that we tend to speak on. I mean sure, mom guilt spills from our conscience when we get a babysitter and go out for the night with our girls. Something as simple as buying ourselves a new pair of jeans warrants guilt. But, I carry my guilt a little differently. I carry guilt for not providing my children with a present, healthy, enthusiastic father. I bear the weight of having to raise another young, black male into a man, by myself.  

One of the contributing factors to a young person being sexually exploited is that they come from dysfunctional or “broken” homes. That same fear I’ve had for young, black women who are at risk of being sexually exploited, is now a fear for my daughter who will grow up without her father. It breaks my heart to know the conditions that contribute to such a crime and still be forced to bring her up under those same conditions. There’s a whole lot of grief in my chest and sometimes, I can’t breathe when I think about it.

Mother, I have pasts inside me I did not bury properly.

Some nights, your daughter tears herself apart

Yet heals in the morning

Despite everything that I’ve felt or suppressed myself from feeling, I know that this observation of motherhood is one that is unparalleled to anything I’ve experienced in my life thus far. In my first novel, “The Teen Sex Trade: My Story”, I detail my life, including being sexually exploited. Being a victim of human sex trafficking was easy compared to being a mother. Being trafficked prepared me for motherhood in the ways that it forced me to adapt and be brazen. What it didn’t prepare me for was the speed with which I had to demonstrate that ability to adapt. While being trafficked, my pimp’s actions were grossly unpredictable at times. In the strip club, I had to be slick with my words. In the spa, I had to be quick on my feet. Generally though, I knew what to expect of the night.

Motherhood forces you to adapt minute by minute, sometimes second by second. Nothing prepares you for the unmitigated reality check of going from having two babies in utero to those first moments of realizing your children are now earthside and that’s it. You’re a mom, just like that. Thoughts run through your head, asking yourself, What the fuck did I just do? I can’t do this! I’m not ready! How will I take care of them? How will I feed them? What’s going to happen when I get home? Forget the fact that you just had approximately nine months, give or take, to get ready. You might have even had a baby shower or two. Literally nothing prepares you to be a mother, not even the pregnancy itself. I’ve gone to sleep many of nights wondering how I would manage to make it through the next day yet every single morning I rise to give it another shot.

Twice broken, three times more powerful

With all of that being said, motherhood has illuminated my strength as a person… as a woman. It has taken everything I am and magnified it. It has also shown me everything I am not. But, instead of wanting to hide from or dismiss it, like I may have in the past, it has (dis)respectfully forced me to own it and make it better. “Daughters do not have to inherit the silence of their mothers”Ijeoma Umebinyuo. That goes for my son too. I cannot and will not remain silent for any reason, especially when the survival of my family depends on it. I’ve bitten my tongue for those who have never held an interest in helping me to regain my voice. For the first time in my life, I genuinely feel unstoppable because I know that I have to make it happen, for all of us.

Do not apologize for owning every piece of you they could not take, break, and claim as theirs

As I write this, I sit with the peace that I can now claim my experiences. I can take accountability for my part in the collapse of the relationship I shared with my children’s father. I have been the victim, witness and perpetrator of abuse. I’ve been verbally abusive and practiced forms of psychological abuse. Although our reasons for abusing each other may be different, they happened all the same. I am no longer ashamed. I spent months disengaged, hiding from the public eye because for over a year, I tolerated treatment that I publicly and privately advocate against. I became one of those women who stay in a relationship “for the children”. I knew what it was and what it wasn’t (insert list of common “buts”)… Still, I’m grateful that it was such a short time of my life compared to what I’ve endured in previous relationships. I came to realize that abuse aside, he just wasn’t the one for me and that’s okay. I had to accept that my children deserve a healthy mom. They deserve a mother that is “… a lioness at night and a dove in the morning, word to Ijeoma! They need a lioness of a mama who gives her all, even if she is exhausted; who will rise to be a dove the next morning. Some mornings, that dove will be cranky and tired. Other days, she will peel back the curtains and sing, “Grand rising mama’s babies!” Either way, each morning would be theirs ‘cause they deserve the very best that I have to give. They don’t deserve to have to endure what’s left of their lioness mama after a man’s done wiping his wounds with her. They deserve love and so do you.

 Bolded texts are quotes by Ijeoma Umebinyuo from her book, “Questions for Ada”

 

Disclaimer: The use of excerpts are not endorsed by the artist in any way.