Rosie is 11 months old and I’m in the midst of planning a small little birthday party for her. Yes, I have been a mother for nearly a whole year and the time didn’t so much as fly by but shoot past with the speed of The Flash.
It’s been an amazing almost year. I’ve not only learnt things about how to look after a baby, but I have learnt things about Mr H and my relationship (he has been amazing, I never thought he wouldn’t be) and about myself. The latter, has been a real eye-opener and sometimes I pinch myself because I have changed as a person so much that it’s hard to even look back at a life before Rosie.
What’s been the biggest change? My heart.
For many years I believed that to be emotional was the worst thing a woman could be; Showing emotion was to show weakness and was to compound your sex into the blubbering, volatile stereotype that women are made out to be. In fact, no matter your gender, you should never shed tears or let people know how you are really feeling. I felt disgusted when women would cry over relationships – I am ashamed to admit that I couldn’t even understand why people would be upset over grandparents passing away, as if you should be expecting it. I definitely didn’t get why people would care about their pets.
I didn’t watch rom-coms and thought that people who read Cecilia Aherne’s books where nothing but plankton. I didn’t necessarily share these views with those around me, but I would harbor this resentment towards people I deemed as weak.
Where did this start?
As a coping method when my brother died, I put everyone at arms lengths and refused to be pitied.
I could not bear to be the child that had had her life torn apart and would then have to suffer sympathetic nods and pats on the back accompanied with “how you hanging in their kid?” Of all the emotions in the arsenal of Shante, my pride decided that she was going take over and run the show and she went to town on locking away grief, benevolence, empathy, and all my memories – 9 years of a life with my best friend was reduced to a flicker of ash because I couldn’t bare to let the cracks show.
I absolutely hated to be asked how I was feeling because for me, feelings were pathetic. They were now inconsequential and betrayers of those that felt them. I was no longer a feeler. I forced my self into a restraint that I believed would make me stronger and would make the world see me as impenetrable.
For months, I wouldn’t let my mum touch me (I don’t recall this, she has told me) as I set about beating and hammering a suit of armor to keep the world out.
So many years were spent cramming my soul and my heart into an exterior of metal and urgently patching up the holes where my emotions would try and flow out. So many years were spent keeping friends and relatives in boxes and being angry when they tried to get out. So many years were wasted trying to control, to subdue, to resist.
Then I had Rosie. And in 6 hours of labor, my armor was incinerated.
I believe my labor was a very spiritual experience, a Godly experience. It was the only time in my life where I have been able to rely fully on something other than my own defenses. I believe that in doing so, I was freed of so many burdens. I believe that it helped me finally embrace the need and power of feeling.
At first, I was horrified that I could no longer control my emotions, that there would be tears in my eyes and a quickened heartbeat over things that I would normally, callously describe as menial. For instance, finding out my friend had given birth three weeks after me made me cry big ugly tears. Madness. Learning about another’s pregnancy had me rejoicing. I suddenly became invested.
I thought that I should hate it but the more I stopped resisting, stopped fighting, the more I felt I was being the real me instead of 9 year old Shante who thought she needed to be everything and anything different in order to preserve her life.
Am I alone?
Can I be the only one who has lived, or is living a life that hides their inner beauty and ascribed personality just so they can fool those around them and keep their heart “safe”?
I feel like we spend so much of our life, and depart with so much of our soul, in order to show the world that we are strong and capable but at the detriment of chipping away at our most human emotions. We swap our realness for bravado and it is so costly.
And the real me now?
I’m still defiant. I’m can still be abrasive, bolshy, ridiculously headstrong and proud. But those are real personality traits that don’t come across half as bad when they are coupled with tenderness, acute loyalty and the desire to build people’s self worth…all things that were lacking when I chose to censor myself.
I am so thankful that there has been a change, saddened though that it took so long to come but I am now determined to keep unveiling my heart and to place my pride in knowing that…
I am sensitive.
I am all consuming.
I am gentle.
I am ferocious.
I break the shore or I pull out the tide.
I cry for my friends.
I am no longer indifferent.
I am no longer afraid to be seen.