The drive from the hospital was better this time. The potholes on the road didn’t worsen my discomfort, unlike the last time, when every bump was a bullet through my spine. I knew I had a fresh cut, but that was all there was to it. I starred out the window looking towards the unknown that was not more than fifteen minutes away: life at home with two kids. As Boo of life reversed into our assigned parking bay, I turned to look at the two human beings in the back seat, breathed a sigh of whatever-it-was and got out of the car. The climb up six flights of stairs wasn’t as difficult as the first time I had a C-section; it didn’t feel like a climb up Mount Everest, it felt only like Kilimanjaro, and I was grateful for every little victory. As we stepped inside, Drama Queen began throwing a different kind of tantrum, one forged from the awareness of another ‘centre of attention’ in the house. I was confused. For a moment, I looked around me and realised I was all alone, even though I physically wasn’t. Without thinking, I walked into my room, closed the door behind me, sat on the floor and began to weep. The journey hadn’t begun and I was already overwhelmed, so I cried, and cried and cried until my tears were tired of flowing. Minutes later, I wiped my eyes and made the decision to walk into what had become my new reality, after all, I had no other choice. So I got up, left the room and promised myself that I’ll never weep like that again . . . if only promises were strawberries . . .
It was two years before that. My bump was a fair size. I enjoyed going to work every day because every workday was one day closer to my due date; working helped me keep count of the weeks with weekends as barriers between them. I had a few months to go and looked forward to it, especially because I thought my mum would come around to spend those precious moments with Boo of life and I. It was our first child, and her first grandchild, so yes, it was special. But when news came that she had been refused a visiting visa for reasons best known to whichever immigration officer handled her application, I was broken beyond measure. After the first trimester of Drama Queen’s pregnancy, I was quite healthy, it was one of those nothing-to-write-about-to-the-doctor-from-the-midwife kinds of pregnancy; until the news: mum wasn’t coming. The afternoon I got the call, I sat on the couch as Boo of life tried to tell me how alright it was all going to be, and of course, I wasn’t listening. Without thinking, I got up, went to the bathroom, shut the door behind me, sat down on the toilet seat and began to cry, and cry and cry till the tears became tired of rolling out. It was only lunchtime and we both had to get back to work, so I wiped my face, got out of the bathroom and promised myself that no matter what, I’d never cry on account of the situation anymore . . . but of course, I don’t grow strawberries . . .
I was born and raised among a people with a tremendously high resilience level; the ability to cope in any situation. Think about it, Nigeria has suffered from series of multiple human disasters which have morphed its citizens into extra-terrestrial beings that can survive in any environment. I used to say that any country in this world that isn’t home to at least one Nigerian must have nothing at all to offer. So with this mentality, it’s easy to go through certain challenges in life and they get waved off as nothing worth addressing, after all, there are others going through worse than you. And that was my approach to the difficult times I had faced in the advent of becoming a mum of first one and then two. I pushed the pain away. Each time I spent in introspection that threatened to bring tears out of my eyes, I thought about those who don’t have kids even though they wanted them; they must think me ungrateful. I thought about those who have lost a child or two and wondered what sort of tears they must be crying if my tears are flowing just because my child has refused to latch on properly and now I have bleeding sores on my nipples. I thought about those, who from one complication or the other, never made it home to nurse their child. I thought about all these seemingly worse situations than mine and I sent my tears flying back because in my opinion, and in the opinion of those who might hear me complain and wonder what I’m on about, my struggles didn’t deserve my tears.
But did the fact that there were some people out there going through worse situations than I was mean that I wasn’t going through anything deserving of attention?
The world has created a comparison spectrum that ignores certain things that people go through because it’s nothing compared to . . . And this kind of system subjects a good number of people to certain levels of depression that they themselves are afraid to admit. I was amazed at how suddenly the cries for mental health awareness skyrocketed, it was like Pandora’s box blown open by a dynamite. And as a person who strongly believes in the reality of the spiritual, I quickly ignored the urge to be Nigerian and shrug it away, because the truth will always be the truth: People’s minds are being attacked one way or the other, and once these minds give way, there is no telling what the consequences might be.
SO . . .
I ADMITTED my struggles. It was tough, but the moment I told myself that I was getting depressed, I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. It was only then I could look out for someone to speak to who would actually LISTEN to me as I let it all out, and who would ACKNOWLEDGE my struggles without stripping me of my dignity. Such. Refreshing. Experience. Then I PRAYED for help, and God heard. He gave me a circle of friends who are willing to go out of their way to assist me any which way. These FRIENDS have become the FAMILY I have in a place far away from family. I fondly remember one day when a certain dear friend of mine asked me to leave my kids at hers while I go home to take a nap, even though just for an hour. You see, this friend is also a mother of two, but that day, she saw into my heart and knew at that moment, that her hands stretched out to help me might be my only saving grace. All the days of my life, I’ll never forget her selfless act of kindness. And to her, I owe a deep level of GRATITUDE. It has now become a habit of ours to babysit for each other every once in a while. Around ourselves, we’ve built a circle of SUPPORT. Also, in these times, I have learnt that my WORDS really do matter, so I watch them carefully. I remember when I had just started to feel like I was getting a hang of it until an innocent statement from some random person threatened to send me spiralling back: “I see you’re ready for number three, what are you waiting for?”. I laughed, but I confess that the response in my mind wasn’t very pleasant. Having been guilty of the same crimes of careless words to others, I let it go, and I have tried to be a lot more gracious. After I realised how tough this journey is, I have also learned to PRAY for others. I might not be able to take the day off to help them babysit, but I can ask the Helper of all to send them helpers of their own. Because we all need HELP, one way or the other. And CRY, if it’ll make you feel better, even if only by a minuscule level. No finger is equal. Never let shame stop you from reaching out for the salvation you desperately need. Some people might shrug you off and downplay your pain because they are made of steel stuff, that’s fine. But if only they knew that it was GRACE carrying them through, they’ll be more COMPASSIONATE to the broken reed.
It’s been over a year since the day I walked out of that room wiping tears from my eyes. In the midst of the hard times and sleepless nights, I have learnt that the knowledge of a much worse situation than ours should never prevent us from addressing our struggles, but should only drive us to a place of gratitude. And I am grateful, for Boo of life who everyday has decided that we would BOTH raise these children together. And we would BOTH build this home together. And we would BOTH build our lives together. There’s something special about a man who understands the principles of submission: submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ. Because at the end of the day, we’re BOTH playing for the same team, and anyone who scores, scores not for him/herself, but for the team. And when the team wins, we all win. So I’m grateful for team support in him and every other person who has one way or the other cheered the team on like great sports fans. It surely has been a bit easier just because of . . . YOU!
So, mum, I’m here, cheering you on too. You’re doing great!