I can’t fully recall most of my senior year in college. Seriously. When recollecting on Jaeda’s first year of life, more often than not, I am struggling to recall an event, a story, even one of those “first” folks make you think should be burned into your brain until judgement day. I recall her crib in my room, along with my tragic ass futon…yep, a Wal-mart futon. I remember the big pink and white bear my frat brothers brought to the hospital when whe was born. I remember the jingly clown bear my English professor Shelli Fowler gave us. I remember WIC and food stamps…yes, food stamps. No EBT cards then. Just the stinging humiliation of ripping off the right amount of stamps….a few tens, couple five’s, ones, etc. while the stares of those behind me burned a hole in my freshly trimmed neckline. Old white folks who had been in this college town since before my people were deemed “free.” It sucked, but I ate. And more importantly, so did Jaeda.
I remember a constant state of harried movement; flurries and rushes and reacting. Always reacting and responding to external demands. The baby. Homework. Swollen boobs. Baby. Laundry. Work. The baby. Homework. Old bills. The baby. New bills. Sick baby. Cheating boyfriend. Baby. Flat tire. Homework. Baby. Blind date, drunken stupor. Deep sleep. Baby. Step show. Baby. Groceries. Baby. Socialize. The baby. See a trend here? go go go. respond, respond, give, give, figure it out and keep it pushing before it has time to sink in.
Survival comes at a cost. It means there is a great deal of contact without process or sensation. You see the bills, but can’t always pay them. You go to class, but don’t learn a damn thing. You go to bed, but don’t rest. And you do this over and over, again and again, until you come out on the other side. Diploma in hand, I began my drive back home and took the first real deep breath after a year of surviving. Proud of myself for making it through, but I do mourn for the fear and self-hatred I endured in the process. It is God’s grace I don’t remember every day of that last year in college. To do so would jade the triumph of graduating. Fuck that, I made it out with a healthy baby girl, 4 job offers, and the wherewithall to to wax my own eyebrows and dye my hair while delivering stellar essays, ensuring adequate tummy time, and hosting legendary fish fry’s (a skill I still utilize). Recalling every detail is just unnecessary.
It seems so long ago…that baby is graduating from high school this year. It’s like a previous life. But the bittersweet sting of that journey is a battle scar that I show to the other sister soldiers still in the war. I’ve dressed it over the years but it will never fade because unplanned motherhood is some traumatic shit. Beautiful, yes. But traumatic nonetheless.