My stomach felt as though a chasm was growing deeper by the second inside of it. I had unknowingly balled my fists up so tight, I released by clenched fingers, blood rushed through them, returning the pink hue to my palms and yet the rest of me still felt numb.
Back to the growing pit of nothingness in my stomach. I placed my hand on it. Willing peace to descend on me. Nothing came of it. I’ll try again tomorrow.
Tomorrow came and so did the result of my final exams. I passed well. My required course credits to pass on to the second year of my undergraduate degree had all been met. Around me was a mixture of reactions, hushed curses, collective sighs of immense relief and what may as well be prayers for deliverance. I whispered my own prayer. To deliver me from the anxiety that was kicking me over and over again into the ever growing chasm in my stomach. Walking away from the administration building, I stepped into the midday heat, heading back to my dormitory. I changed course half way, the campus canteen my new destination. Straight to the public phone. It was time to call home.
My best friend walked into my room. My back to her, laying on my side facing the wall. She sat next to me, placed a hand on my shoulder,
“You called home didn’t you?”
Turning to face her, my visibly puffy eyes, face sticky from the streams of tears, answered her question.
No more words were said. She simply curled up next to me, and held me quietly while the tears ran silent new streams down my cheeks.
If I could write a book of all the whys and hows that have been running an endless loop in my mind, it would be as long as the essay I was currently editing. All ten pages of it, crumpled and filled with red crosses and side commentary. Second year was, for a lack of better description, an absolute bitch. I stood up for a stretch, my back cracking after all the slouching. A freshman timidly opened the door whilst knocking, informing me of a visitor outside. I thanked her, shuffled my papers together and walked out to see my aunt walking in, a container of food in her arms, smiling at me she gestured for us to go back into my room. Closing the door behind us, she set the container on my desk and sat on my bed next to me, placing a hand on my stomach asking,
“How are we today?”
“No more throwing up, I don’t feel like eating everything in the food cupboard and I think I’m used to the egg-yolk-milk horror I have to drink. Good signs?”
My aunt chuckles and nods, “Seems you’re well past the morning sickness stage now”
We eat together, she lets me know how the rest of the family is and I fill her in on how my second year at university is going. At the dormitory door, I hug her tight as she whispers,
“She will come around. You focus on school. If you need anything, call us, your uncle and I will always be here.”
I whisper a tear choked thank you.
The chasm in my stomach did not go away if anything it seemed to grow more intense with each passing day. 6 months on, my bulging belly was very obvious. It would draw the mixture of reactions.
There were the Starers, those who would stare at it for a good few minutes, amazed (I think) at the human body’s capability to stretch the skin that far and not have it burst out ones innards.
Then there were the Fawners, mainly women who were course-mates or female lecturers, who would ask to place their hands on my protruding belly and go on to either advise me or ask about what changes I was going through.
And then there were the Creeps. The ones who would make passive comments, hinting at what they must have deemed was my one mortal sin, to make a human being whilst I was still in university. Some hid it well. Others not so much.
A particular male lecturer had the audacity to say quite blatantly to me “Why didn’t you wait for me?” And no. It was not an attempt at some sick joke. He had, prior to my falling pregnant, tried to have me spend some time alone with him under the guise of me collecting an assignment from him. I never fell for it but it seems my being with child now had insulted the man. I would have loved to confront him about his disgusting remark, but like other women who have found themselves in this helpless situation of having a male authoritative figure make a pass at them, I had no choice but to let it slide.
Was it hard? Incredibly. No one prepared me for the landslide of changes that would take place. Not just the physical, of course that was a given but the changes that were the most profound were those that came about from areas in my life that I held the most meaning to. I was the least expected in my family to be found in this position and yet here I was, becoming a mother so early. Not to say I was without support, far from it, I was surrounded by loving family members and friends all of whom would go out of their way to ensure my well being was well taken care of.
Given my circumstances, I was beyond grateful for all these wonderful people and I made a mental note to tell my child every now and then in the future about these people as a reminder that it really does take a village, one that is compassionate, kind and non-judgmental.