By BASSEY IKPI
The doctor says I’ve lost weight in the last two weeks. The doctor says that the growth is even bigger now than it was two weeks ago and huge compared to two weeks before that. The doctor says he’s having trouble hearing the baby move. He says, “Don’t panic. I’m just having trouble. The mass is like a soundproof booth.” I say, “Okay.” He asks me about the eating and the sleeping and the vitamins and all I can say is, I’m trying. And that’s the truth. I am trying, but the trying is clouded by all this real life stuff.
My friends are the support and the village and it’s so real and so true, but the first few days alone in the new apartment make me feel like I am a village of one. There is no TV, no radio, no internet, no other person making noises and music in the next room. There is just me and the quiet that scares me and the man on my fire escape at four in the morning Sunday and no one to help me close my windows at two in the morning on Saturday and the phone conversation on Monday that threatened to kill me.
There is an alone that sits on my chest at night. And I know, I could pick up the phone and call someone to come and help but there is the thing in me that says, “It’s not supposed to be like this.” So the fear gives way to anger and resentment and then gives way to fear and sadness. And the sadness holds steady and the food comes more slowly and the reasons become fainter and it’s all too familiar. Because months of pretending that my depression doesn’t happen anymore only makes the water behind the dam that much more powerful and with one misplaced phrase, the crack forces it forward.
The thing about depression is that it eats you. It devours you from the inside out and by the time it’s worked its way into a part of your brain that recognizes that it’s a hoax, it’s too late. Your body has already been tricked into believing that if you get out of this bed, the churning in your stomach will crush you. So better to just lay here and cry than attempt to leave and have the weight of it all fall on you. It makes no logical sense. And if you’ve never been there or allowed yourself the magnitude of it all, then it's easy to say, “It’s all in your head.” But those who know, know that yes, it is all in your head, but that’s like saying, dancing is all in your feet. Yes but also no.
I’m thinking about this baby. I’m thinking about how I’d imagined that if I ever got pregnant, alone and depressed, some sort of uber maternal instinct would kick in and say, “Bitch, this ain’t about you. Eat something.” And I have been—just enough for the baby. But just enough for the baby is no longer just enough. It is growing and I am shrinking.
I’m okay. Just okay. I’m scared, of course, but I’m breathing and moving and dancing through it. But as with most things in this space, it takes just one movement on the wrong side of the scale and there is something that breaks and leaks a melancholy silicone against your bones and you don’t even know it until the second you inhale too steadily and exhale and the slick and poison of it shocks you into holding your breath. I try to avoid those conversations. The ones that rival sticks and stones and break my heart but sometimes I provoke them. Sometimes I need to feel something so badly that I pick a pain I think I can handle and let that be the oozing. But often, it backfires. I’m hypersensitive. So even the hurt I control has the potential to aim too low.
I need to cocoon. I need to wrap myself in something and see if I can remember where the center of it all is. Especially now. I can’t afford to lose this baby or myself. I need to be ruthless. Forget the feelings and the expectations and the future I want to preserve. There will be no future if my now isn’t protected so I’ll protect it and if it means I keep my walls up and paint flowers on only the side I can see, then I’ll do that. Fuck if he can see them. Tell him to paint his own damn wall until he’s ready to see me on my side.
My brain has figured out it’s a hoax. I’m just trying desperately to remind the rest of me. Encourage myself that a carton of yogurt and half a bowl of cereal isn’t enough for anyone, let alone someone growing a something. Encourage the sleep, despite the men who linger on fire escapes and the windows that will not close.
Despite the men who don’t understand that sometimes the words come wrapped in fear and fire because that’s the only way they will make it over both the walls. Despite the doctor that never wants to frighten but can’t fix his face fast enough to say, “Let’s get you a specialist.”
So I'm sitting and waiting now. I need to. This kid needs me almost as much as I need him (I'm convinced it's a boy). So I can't afford to sit in this, but I'm so exhausted. I want only to sit in it and pretend half a carton of yogurt is enough and three hours of restless sleep is enough and conversations filled with anger and hurt and resentment and violent silences are healthy. So I make no more apologies for the choices. I make no apologies for the lack of strength that black women are supposed to continuously conjure up out of thin air.
There is no air here.
Only this something in my belly that kicks and flips and tries to live.
I'm still learning how to swim.
* * * * *
About our MyBrownBaby Contributor: Bassey Ikpi is a Nigeria-born, Oklahoma-bred, PG County-fed, Brooklyn-led writer/poet/neurotic who is the single mother of an amazing man-child, Elaiwe Ikpi. She's half awesome, a quarter crazy and 1/3rd genius... the leftover bit is a caramel creme center. A strong advocate of mental health awareness, Bassey is currently working on a memoir about living with mental illness and producing Basseyworld Live, a stage show that infuses poetry and interactive panel discussions about everything from politics to pop culture. This essay originally was published on her site, Bassey's World.
If you would like to be a featured contributor on MyBrownBaby, email your essays/ideas/blog posts/rants/musings to Denene at denenemillner at gmail dot com.