Shanicia Boswell: Oh Sis, You're Pregnant!
Pregnancy lasts for roughly ten months. Your labor in delivery can last for any time period between twenty four hours to three days - this is a very vague estimate. As you read in the last chapter, your postpartum period can go on for a year or two after the baby is born. After all of these processes, you are still going to have to show up for you. After pregnancy, labor, delivery, breastfeeding, and postpartum, you will still have to wake up every single morning, take a deep breath, and remember that you sis, you deserve it all. You are still a woman. I could not conceive writing this ultimate guide to Black pregnancy and childbirth without bringing out time together to a close by affirming just how powerful and wonderful you are. I needed to let you know this. I want you to feel this deep within your spirit because it took me many years to discover that I was still a person after giving birth.
One of the important factors of my inner drive to continue my platform, Black Moms Blog, is to help mothers understand that they are not in this mamahood gang alone. I believe that by using my own motherhood journey as my reference point, making note of the times I felt isolated, confused, stressed, and out of my own body, I could write about these occurrences and hopefully save at least one mama from the inner conflict of feeling like she just was not good enough. Good enough. What does that even mean? Believing that you have to be “good enough” as a mother is the mentality that you are never allowed to have any days off. It means that you wake up every morning with a smile on your face and show up for each and every person in your family and your life, including your friends, bosses, and companions before you determine that it is okay to show up for yourself. It means taking that line, “sweatpants, hair tied, chillin with no make up on” entirely too literal and forgetting that you can still put on makeup, some sexy lingerie, and still be fine - even with your stretch marks. Drake was wrong about something. Your outer appearance, no matter if you are dressed down or dressed up isn’t when you are the prettiest. Your attitude and confidence, your self love, is when you are the prettiest. There is absolutely nothing wrong with remembering who you are. If you have not found her yet before becoming a mother, you will certainly discover her after childbirth.
There is an evening in the onset of parenting that always sticks out to me. I had put my daughter down for bed and I thought that my partner and I could enjoy a few hours of alone time before she would awaken for her next feeding. My daughter may have been two or three months old so a full night’s sleep was still not on the roster just yet. At best, we were lucky for four hours of napping or relaxing in quiet before I would have to breastfeed again. On this particular night, I was craving to have a nightcap on the back porch with her father. I wanted to sit on our sofa, light a candle, have a glass of wine, and just take a deep breath. Motherhood was taking its toll on me and I had made myself numb to the idea that this was my new normal. It had not quite settled in yet. While I loved my daughter, my days felt robotic. I felt like all I did was steal moments of sleep and breastfeed my daughter. On this night, I placed my daughter in her crib, managed to light a candle, settle into my place on the couch and make it through half of my glass of wine and she started to cry. The cry rumbled from deep within her belly and escaped first as a gentle gurgling whine to a full on hysteric scream. It was a cry that I had familiarized myself with and learned that it meant sleep was nowhere on the horizon. We were back on the baby’s time.
I jumped up from my seat on the couch and hurried down the hallway to pick her up from her crib, at first trying to comfort her in which I knew was inevitable but hoping that maybe a few gentle rubs would convince her to close her eyes so that I could return to my moment of peace. To no avail, I gathered my tiny infant into my arms and brought her into the kitchen where I sat to breastfeed her. I breastfed her after drinking half a glass of wine. I was twenty three, exhausted, and while I would never recommend any mother drinking and then breastfeeding, at that moment, it was all I could muster up to do. As she began to suckle, I looked down at her and felt as if I had been transported out of my body and was standing there, almost like a fly on the wall, and watching the interaction between my small family. Her father was sitting cross from me, watching, almost proud as I breastfed our daughter. At that moment, I felt the exact opposite of proud. I wanted to scream. I wanted to cry myself. I remember thinking, is this my life? Is this what I have done? I could not believe that I had chosen to become a mother. It was not because I did not love my daughter. I loved her deeply from the moment I found out I was pregnant, I felt connected to my child. It feels weird to say but my feeling in that moment did not have anything to do with her as much as it had to do with me. I felt lost, confused, and to be frank, I felt like a child myself. I did not believe that I could do this.
Looking back at this particular experience and others like it, I realize that I had experienced mild postpartum depression. As a Black woman and as a new Black mother, I had already subconsciously adopted the mentality of believing that nothing was really wrong and whatever I was feeling, I could conquer it myself. Like many Black women do, I put on my superwoman cape and fought through the hard times of feeling that I just was not good enough to be a mother. During these instances that I felt overly anxious, paranoid, isolated, and downright depressed, I still struggle with calling what I went through postpartum depression. I know there are women who truly do struggle and their cases may be more extreme than the sadness that I felt. As Aiyana Black mentioned in the last chapter, postpartum depression cannot be conquered alone. It is important to touch on that as we move through this chapter and I speak on affirmations and remembering who you are. Most likely you are reading this chapter while you are still pregnant. These words may not jump from the pages just yet and tap into your inner thoughts that you do not release to anyone around you. If after your baby is born and you remember how I told you in these next few pages how you are supposed to remember your self worth and you just don’t feel that you are able to, do not feel guilty sis. If you are experiencing postpartum depression, this book will not be the only avenue for help. Seek professional help. Do not guilt yourself into speaking to someone who has years of schooling to help you overcome your depression. Postpartum depression does not mean that you do not love your baby or you regret becoming a mother.
Shanicia Boswell, Oh Sis, You're Pregnant!