Finding Healing & Pumping Iron
Over the last few months since the whole breast-pumping thing (I honestly can’t find another noun that fits the bill), I’ve learnt so many things. I’ve learnt from mothers around the world how rife discrimination against and judgement on motherhood truly is. I’ve learnt that movements such as #MeToo can bring about (hopefully sustained) change. I’ve learnt that there are amazing civil servants who still believe in just retribution. I’ve learnt that there are way more good than bad people here in South Africa. I’ve actually known all of this, but something I truly came to realise for the first time was the true impact something like this has on a tight-knit family.
Now, just to be clear, I’m quite aware that I had but a peek into the experience of what many, many, many women and their families around the country deal with. So although it might seem like it at times, I’m not trying to make grand, sweeping statements.
That morning when I phoned my husband to explain what happened to me and to assure him that I’m okay, my heart broke in a very different way than you’d imagine. It had quite an impact on me that my hurt was hurting the man I loved most in this world. That my defenses could not shelter him from my hurt. That a sickening schrapnel got to him too. And that, at least for the time being, I won’t be able to help him heal. For the first time in our relationship of more than eight years, something instantaneously broke down both our spirits. At the risk of sounding dramatic, I’d even add “to the ground” to the end of that.
My husband is a selfless fixer at his very core, and to find me some help to work through this mess emotionally was at the top of his agenda. And we did and I did. I managed to strike a new normal in my work and home life with the added pleasure of now receiving funny/inspiring/infuriating feminist- and parenthood-related memes and posts on a daily basis from new and old friends. (For those who know me – I take true glee in this and am, for a change, not sarcastic. So please keep them coming.)
While I healed and refamiliarised myself with proper belly laughing, my husband carried our little guy and me without a single complaint. For months he just got in bed behind me when I hid under the covers and held me while I cried. He left me when I told him I needed space. He brought me all the food I loved when my appetite returned with a vengeance. He listened when I was ready to talk about it. He gave me solutions when I asked him to. He took on many of my responsibilities when it came to caring for our son.
And when I finally told him I don’t need to be carried anymore, he cheered me on. He stayed right beside me. He laughed at my very bad jokes. He constantly reassured me that I’m “a rich pie strong with knowledge. I will not be eaten.” That I’ve got this. That I’ve always had this. That he loves me.
He refrained from skipping the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt theme song when he saw how giddily I sing along. I think I even saw him sing with once or twice.
On that morning when I called him, he wanted to come to me and take me home – but I asked him not to. Because neither of us was quite clear on the forensics of the incident and because he honestly could not at that moment do anything else for me, he crawled the web in search of his wife’s boobs on truly disturbing sites to shield me from unwelcome eyes. Just to protect me in some form or shape – because that’s what he’s always done.
But when my wounds scarred over, and especially during the last few weeks, I’ve seen the heavy, heavy impact this has had on my best friend. His hurt stuck around a bit longer and some of his wounds got a little bit infected. But I’m on it. We’re working on his belly laughing and I’m secretly training our now-toddler to burp the the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt theme song – a rendition I’m sure he’ll appreciate. I’m listening and carrying and cheering on as we go. And man alive, but we’re pumping iron. We’re becoming so strong.
I don’t know if there’s a way for us to have found healing at the same time. But I know that given the chance, he would carry me all over again. And I’m filled with gratitude every time I realise that.
This whole 16 days of activism sometimes leaves me with a bit of doubt, but I do know it’s important to also reach out to the loved ones of those who’ve been victimised. If you’re a carer – know that we’re cheering you on as you carry your loved one and his/her burden. It might go unnoticed but I promise you, you are bringing about change.
And if you’re a victim and lucky enough to have a support system, let them help you when you feel ready. It helps them too. And remember… you’re a rich pie strong with knowledge. Don’t let some douchebag make you think otherwise, have a bite or even take a fucking whiff.
P.S. The court/law/criminal proceedings are moving along and everything seems on track to be finalised early next year. If you would like to support me and help #NormaliseBreastfeedingSA, drop me a message and I’ll let you know when I know more details.
P.P.S. And if you or a loved one needs help, please check out For Women. It’s a great site aggregating all the resources you might need to find and give help.