I’ve never really spoken in depth about my body after giving birth. About a day or two after having my son there were no physical signs that I held a human inside of me for 39 weeks. That he grew and moved all my organs out of the way and I watched as my skin expanded to accommodate this huge tiny life. I couldn’t find a stretch mark. I couldn’t see anything.
That left me with a bag of mixed feelings. I’ve never been prouder of myself for what I was able to accomplish and at the same time, I had no evidence. As far as I was concerned, it was like he was given to me and I didn’t go through the ring of fire to bring him here. I knew I belonged to the tribe, but I didn’t get my mark. I had nothing.
Now that might sound ridiculous to most, but it made me feel fraudulent for a while. I lost all the weight I’d gained during pregnancy plus 10 pounds, essentially putting me back to my move-to-Amsterdam, wedding weight. I wasn’t thrilled when I initially gained those 10 pounds because it was definitely fat and not muscle and it happened rapidly. I never gain weight quickly. Well, not before then. I’ll blame it on a honeymoon (fries-induced) phase.
A year out, I’ve lost even more weight. Breastfeeding is really kicking my ass. I was looking at myself in the mirror and I just felt rail thin. I am not used to seeing my ribs at all and I shook my arms and they weren’t firm. I know I don’t exercise so no surprise that I’m not in great shape, but I walk everywhere and carry him around ALL THE TIME. I definitely don’t expect my body to blow in the wind.
I am sensitive about my weight because it’s not easy for me to gain so when I got on a scale and saw I lost another 7 pounds, my mind flashed on all the times I’ve thought I look malaise. Seven pounds might sound small, but it translates to 4 inches off my waist. When I moved here I needed all new jeans because everything was too tight. I’ve been wearing those since and now everything can literally slid down while zipped and buttoned.
I started freaking out about it one weekend a few months ago, but I’ve calmed down since. I embraced my body as is in New York. I started to regain some of this weight. My body is strong and capable of plenty. I’ve seen it do some amazing things so with patience I can have that and more.
I’ve also struggled with my water intake so most of the time I’m dehydrated. That’s not been very helpful for my skin or my insides. I get headaches and forget that I haven’t had a thing to drink for hours. I’ve been working on that as well and feel some improvement but I notice the second I relapse I’m dying of thirst and get extremely irritable and instantly fatigued. Water is so important to us as humans. I’ve always loved water and I’m just waiting for my brain to switch on again and crave it.
I honestly felt betrayed by my body. On one hand, I was in extreme physical pain for months. On the other, I had nothing to show on the outside. A year and a half later, it’s very sobering to think about how hard I was on myself. I still am, in different ways. It didn’t help that I had bouts of hopelessness those first few weeks when it came to breastfeeding. If anything motherhood is showing me, it’s how much I need to learn to be softer to myself. I change in some ways, while remaining the same in others.
Let me be clear: Unarmed college hopefuls don’t deserve to be shot. Unarmed kids heading to work or trade school don’t deserve to be shot. Unarmed kids floundering aimlessly through life don’t deserve to be shot. Unarmed kids who have been in trouble—even those who have been nothing but trouble—don’t deserve to be shot.
The act of pinning the tragedy of a dead black teen to his potential future success, to his respectability, to his “good”-ness, is done with all the best intentions. But if you read between the lines, aren’t we really saying that had he not been on his way to college, there’d be less to mourn?
That’s dead wrong.”
Something happened to me years ago that changed me permanently. I’m incapable of ingesting all of the ugly, terrible and soul tearing brutality that happens to my people in America, regularly. Some time around Katrina, while that affected Blacks and Whites alike, it was still and moving images of people who look like me and my family that I watched bloated, floating in streets.
I didn’t have health insurance at the time, but I’m certain it’s some form of PTSD. My heart seems to break much more consistently over the years. All the blood that’s fallen for no reason at all. All the murderers who are now embolden and lauded. I try my damnedest to not be consumed by this, because it would leave me immobile. And while it is honestly easy to escape it living abroad, I still must know the names, and eventually the details.
I don’t know how anyone can ignore what’s happening. Especially if you are a parent. Especially if your child is Black, in part or in whole. Especially if you are human. Especially if you have a heart. It is not enough to say you don’t know the details or you don’t know what to do. I’ve moved beyond rage when it comes to the state of Black life in America. I’ve moved beyond fear. But I don’t know what I’ve moved to just yet.
I might have more words at a later time, but until then I want to share the work of others who have said something in the now about what’s going on.
From “America Is Not For Black People” by Greg Howard:
The United States of America is not for black people. We know this, and then we put it out of our minds, and then something happens to remind us.
The cop shot him once, but Brown pulled away, and the pair were still able to run away together. The officer fired again. Johnson ducked behind a car, but the cop’s second shot caused Brown to stop about 35 feet away from the cruiser, still within touching distance of Johnson. Multiple witnesses say this is when Brown raised his hands in the air to show he was unarmed. Johnson remembered that Brown also said, “I don’t have a gun, stop shooting!” The officer then shot him dead.
Because instead of looking away, sometimes we really need to be confronted with reality.
From my friend and writing heroine, Stacia Brown’s brilliant piece, “When Parenting Feels Like A Fool’s Errand: On the Death of Michael Brown”:
Daughter, I said I didn’t have it in me to sit with the killing of Michael Brown last night and comb my social media accounts for first-hand anecdotes that would likely be more accurate than anything the news stations would report. I didn’t want to watch the Vines or read the Instagram messages under a photo collage of police presence at the crime scene, wailing friends and neighbors, the boy’s father holding up a scrap of cardboard scrawled with, “Ferguson Police just executed my unarmed son,” and the barely covered body of the boy himself.
But I stayed up anyway, because his neighbors had not gone home. They had held vigil and recorded and tweeted and planted their feet as a helicopter shone floodlight into their faces and a tank rolled into their apartment complex and barely restrained dogs bared their teeth and growled like they were hoping to be sicced.
My entire life I have never thought of raising a child anywhere else other than America. I was born there and assumed I would most likely always live there. I sometimes feel guilt because I now speak from a privileged standpoint, living physically so very very removed from that reality. My heart is still there, though. I don’t know that I’ll ever shake the horror of it all.
Being a parent does feel like foolhardy work. Especially in America. It is unnatural to bury your child. Unnatural. A parent isn’t supposed to raise their child and prepare and attend the funeral of said child because they were slaughtered in the street. It is unnatural that there are entire groups of people who are raised in this reality, while others co-exist in peace. It is unnatural that we just suffer and suffer and suffer and continue to suffer.
May God raise you up, Mike Brown. Raise you up up all the way up. And may we keep your family and community in our prayers.