Some time ago, my mother was comparing stories about how our births as her three children, varied in labour pains. It was a conversation between her and my younger siblings but the part about being alone when she gave birth to me, caught my attention. I cut her mid-sentence and demanded an explanation, how was it possible that an 18 year old faced her first child birth by herself?
Where the hell were her people?
But I was immediately sorry for asking. I realized it was a question she wasn’t ready to be asked. With a bewildered look on her face and her hand furiously waving away not only my question but what seemed to be the memory that came with remembering, I wished to take back all my curiosity!
My heart was beating faster than usual, I’d crossed an unspoken boundary that I hadn’t before. I should’ve felt brave at my attempt of having her open up for the first time but somehow I was overcome with immense guilt. She didn’t say much after that, the nostalgia quietly dying down while my sisters directed accusatory stares my way.
My mother and I never talk about the unwanted pregnancy, the love child that became me. For the longest time, I obsessed about knowing everything. I wanted to know her pregnancy cravings? What became her most favourite thing to wear? How she managed to process her first love’s rejection and wondered if she’s realized time hasn’t done a good job of healing all those scars?
I’ve had to admit that it’s always been an unfair and selfish curiosity. I needed her to affirm my insecurities about my place on this earth, maybe even romanticize teenage pregnancy and convince me that I hadn’t been the worst disruption.
I still can’t help imagining her as a young rural girl with an unwanted swollen belly that labelled her as loose and an embarrassment to her family. And the young man she loved, who denied not only the paternity of the baby but even the existence of the love they shared. I guess, I’ve always yearned for her to erase that picture from my mind and put some color to all that grim.
Mama Bear might never tell me a thing actually. It’s her story after all, and if she’ll never be ready to read it out loud, I need to be okay with that. I’ve had to let go of being too sentimental and make peace with who she is. To celebrate her more for solely making the best out of what seems to have been the worst time in her life, out of all that shame and heartbreak, out blossomed me.
Twenty eight years ago today, she was all alone at the Frere Hospital Labour Ward. A day later, it was just the two of us. I’ve had to believe that beginning is enough, it’s brought me this far ❤
Cover Photo: Lonwabo Zimela