Beating Shame, Staying Trill.

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The author with her two gorgeous children

The last time I thought I had it all figured out was one year ago today, February 21, 2013. That was the day the man I loved told me he didn’t want to be in a relationship with me anymore. I was eight months pregnant with our son.

It’s not been my intention to keep the anniversary in my head, but there are noteworthy dates in close proximity that built up to it. It was thirteen days after I’d written him a letter detailing my fears and concerns and my needs and wants. Eight days after a hurtful text argument sprung from said email that culminated with me telling him we were done and he was free. Seven days after Valentine’s Day, when I asked if he wanted to see me to talk about it in person and he declined. Five days after he barely spoke to me at my pre-birthday dinner. Two days after the loneliest birthday I’ve ever had. That week between the break up and the actual in-person talk was agonizing, really. There were indeed incidents in the relationship that had taken a major toll on me and I knew he felt the same way. Still, I was certain we could get past it. After all, I was about to have a baby. I’d canceled a move to Pittsburgh to build with him. We were going to get an apartment in Brooklyn together–me, him, my seven-year-old daughter, and the upcoming babycake. He’d called me the game changer and said that he was excited about our future. We were in love and made a commitment to each other. He assured me that he wasn’t going anywhere. We’d even talked about the timing of the next baby after this one. Expecting a baby is a lot of pressure, though, particularly when it’s unexpected, so bumps in the road are par for the course, right? When I told my Mom we broke up she actually laughed. “Break up? You’re about to have a baby. Work it out.”

He had another perspective, however. On 2/21 he said that he wasn’t interested in working it out. He listed a lot of reasons but the one that hit me the hardest was that he didn’t believe God wanted us together. It knocked the wind out of me. I cried a lot. It felt abrupt and ridiculous and sickening. I’d be walking (kind of waddling at that point, actually) down the street and wondering what that sound was…that whimpering. “Oh, that’s me.” That’s when the first beads of shame started their trickling. Being miserable while pregnant? Uh uh, honey. Pregnant women are supposed to be glowy and adorable. Our backs and feet are expected to ache, sure, but we’re supposed to smile through that because worthy sacrifice. Not cry on the 3 train on the way home from work. That’s when the panic started, too. “Oh my God. I’m pregnant and…single.”

It was unfamiliar territory for me; I had a happy pregnancy with my daughter. Her father and I were very much in love and he was supportive and affectionate. We lived together and had combined our finances, so a few hurdles were already out of the way. That was my association with pregnancy–joy and security. So I was devastated that this time around was so different. I kept telling myself that this wasn’t supposed to happen to ME. I was embarrassed and afraid that if people found out they’d look at me negatively. They’d think I was so unbearable that he couldn’t even stay until the baby came. That I hadn’t done my womanly duties to “keep” him. Not special or worthy enough to be anything more than a babymama. And then I’d beat myself up incessantly for beating myself up in such a manner. I’d never been one to believe that a woman’s worth is tied to her relationship status, or that it’s up to the woman to keep the man from leaving. I would certainly never let any of my girlfriends talk that way. I knew that the concerns I had raised in that letter were legit and I wasn’t wrong for broaching them. Nevertheless, I became obsessed with chastising myself. His critiques of me echoed inside my head and became louder than my self-affirmations. Much of my pregnancy had been about him. He wasn’t as far along as I was in his career, education, mental health journey, emotional maturity or parenting, so I knew there would be some major growing pains. But his adjustments, his process, his state of readiness became more paramount than my feeling safe or being tender with myself. And it seemed that expressing my wants = getting dumped. That was the equation. So jumping to shame wasn’t much of a stretch.

My son was born April 16, 2013 after 27 hours of labor–the same number of hours I’d labored with my daughter eight years before. But whereas I’d given birth to my girl naturally, my boy required a c-section delivery. It was the first major surgery I’d ever had, but at that point I was exhausted and just ready to see my baby. It was worth it, of course–he was healthy and beautiful and looked just like my Dad. I was elated. “Look what my body did. Again!” I now had two amazing kiddos. Although the pain from the c-section was unexpectedly severe, I felt like a superhero for a bit.

That recovery time in the hospital was nice. I loved seeing my son’s father hold him. He was so proud and so in awe. He held him so gently. I was full of love for them both just beholding it. I wished that he would touch me. Maybe put his hand gently on my bandaged stomach that I was so worried would look horrendous. Tell me I was beautiful, perhaps, cause I felt pretty rough. I talked to my best friend about how badly I wanted to put the past behind us and be a family, so she suggested couple’s therapy. I worked up the nerve to ask him if he’d be willing to do that. He said he would think about it, but only to build an optimal co-parenting relationship, not to get back together romantically. He considered couple’s therapy something for married people who had “something to save.” Devastation set in again. He’d watched me give birth to his baby and even that didn’t trigger a desire to be with me. That whole superhero thing quickly faded. I let it. Depression is an unfortunately familiar place for me and it washed over me like the ocean. I told everyone I felt great, though. I had no reason not to–look at this adorable, chunky baby! I had no right to be sad. That’s shame at work.

We were home from the hospital for just a few days when I developed an intense migraine late one afternoon. I’ve had migraines in the past so it wasn’t immediately alarming but this one was so bad I became nearly incoherent. My pulse was beating like thunder in my brain. Every beat made my body stiffen and jerk. My Mom called my son’s father because a hospital run became imminent. I don’t remember the ambulance ride, I just remember waking up in the ER in a hospital gown. My mom told me through wide, teary eyes that I’d seized a few times and they suspected eclampsia. She said that for a few terrifying moments she thought I was going to die. I’ve seen my Mom cry maybe three times in my life. I’d truly scared her–shame on me. I spent an additional three days in the hospital being treated for skyrocketed blood pressure. So many doctors came in and out and eventually I stopped courtesy smiling for them. All I could think about was my newborn. I missed him so much; he was only nine days old and I had already failed. I couldn’t even push him out and now this. Shame.

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A lot has happened since then. A hell of a lot, and much of it has hurt. There are ultimately beneficial things I’ve learned (or re-learned) about relationship failure and single mom shame and overcoming, however. And today seems as good a day as any to share them with the class. This can become the anniversary of me taking back the narrative. The age-old adage “Huny went through that so you ain’t have to go through that” applies:

Shame is a demon that you should absolutely fight like it stole something from you. Because it has.

We display all of the symptoms of trauma when we are in the depths of shame and it can very likely lead to PTSD untreated. My social anxiety and depression are completely exacerbated by my feeling shame for being anxious and depressed. What a vicious damn circle. Both Brene Brown and bell hooks have echoed this. And the former has gone on to say that empathy is the most powerful enemy of shame. So wrap yourself in the confines of the people who love you and offer you huge, necessary doses of empathy and let you know in no uncertain terms that you are not alone in your feelings. Because:

Your feelings are valid

All feelings are valid–a simple but oft-overlooked nugget I picked up from a friend years ago. Feel whatever the hell comes natural. Feel it deep inside and let it radiate into your extremities. The people who don’t think you deserve to be as hurt as you are or think you should just get over it sure as hell aren’t in your room at night holding you. They’re not sending you any encouraging, helpful words. Basically they’re stranger b*tches who want to police your feelings because authenticity makes them uncomfortable. Their voices should never be louder than the ones of those who love you. You’re not foolish for feeling betrayed and disappointed because someone wasn’t who they said they were and didn’t do what they said they’d do. That’s valid.

As well, who says that “getting over it” is this linear experience? Sure, with the passage of time anything that hurts is going to become more bearable. And when that happens, send a thanks up for sweet, tasty numbness. But sometimes you’re going to inadvertently take two steps back. Something is going to trigger you, and when it happens I highly suggest you pat yourself on the back for making it through the day without using your AK. The small victory of not going postal? Immerse yourself in it. Sure, sunshiney positivity can take us far–we are more powerful than we realize and can manifest great things from our thoughts. But I have also become deeply realistic. And the reality is that sometimes sh*t kind of sucks. Valid.

Co-parenting can be a beautiful thing

My daughter’s father and I take great pride in our friendship. And believe me when I say it was hard-won; there was a time he was my straight-up nemesis. I wanted to pretty much rip his face off for a spell. To call that transition from lovers to co-parents a rough patch is an understatement. But he has remained someone I love dearly and trust implicitly. He was the person who took care of me through my father’s battle with cancer and death. He’s been a voice of encouragement on a constant basis. Most importantly, he’s been an excellent dad to our sweet, complicated daughter (she get it from her mama) and a caring, and deeply respectful co-parent to me. At my most hurt, I never once felt like I couldn’t trust him when it came to parenting. I know now that’s because we had such a strong foundation to begin with.

There is always a possibility your romantic relationship isn’t going to stand the test of time, but I feel very strongly that if love and respect are on consistent display, the foundation will make co-parenting much easier. It may even become joyous. You can’t just talk about it, you have to be about it. When you feel strong enough, take a step forward and reach your hand out. Your initiative might be rewarded in ways you didn’t expect.

This is going to make you better and stronger

It’s not really comforting when you’re in the depths of misery, but it’s so damn true: at the other end of a catatonic level of pain is enlightenment about what you’re capable of surviving. I believe that life is defined by these moments that shake our soul out the socket, and what you get out of that and do with it is your measure. There are no true “do-overs” but key “do-betters.” And as my cousin said recently “there is a comfort in being forced to face one of your greatest fears.”

Love is a battlefield

Falling in love isn’t the audacious act that sustaining love is. And there is no sustaining of idyllic love without battling in the trenches for it. That new love is a rush, but it ain’t where stars are made. To quote James Baldwin, “Love does not begin and end the way we seem to think it does. Love is a battle, love is a war; love is a growing up.”

You don’t know anything

And that’s cool. Knowing everything is probably boring. Be childlike in that you’re always willing to learn. Don’t study people who seem to have it all together (although they are totally fascinating–hi, Beyonce). Study the people who stumble but keep getting the hell up. The bruised but not broken. The broken but not the defeated.

You can always choose again

It’s painful to stop hoping in order to avoid disappointment. To stop being excited for the future because that requires hope. To feel too paralyzed to do anything about it, particularly when audaciousness was such a big part of you. One of my biggest hurdles is quieting the voice that tells me nobody will ever want me again because I have two children by two men. “One! Two! TWO babydaddies, ah ah ah!” (That’s my Count impression. I watch a lot of Sesame Street). I didn’t want to be The Girl Who Got Dumped While Pregnant. And indeed that’s not me, it’s just something that happened to me. It’s hard to see in the midst of trauma that it doesn’t define you, but as poet Warsan Shire writes, “I belong deeply to myself.” Not the world, not society, not men (or women). I don’t owe explanations and I won’t make myself small to avoid attracting wagging fingers or shaking heads who are somehow warmed by their base, simplistic assumptions about my situation and what I’ve been through.

I know now more than ever that life isn’t our own personal concept of fair, but I’ve always believed without fail that the universe is a constantly balancing entity. If you are a loving being, you will be loved in return. The failure of a relationship, even one that resulted in a child, doesn’t make you less deserving. Those of us who are picking up the pieces aren’t damaged goods just because our reality doesn’t match what society has defined as proper and acceptable. The beauty of family is that it doesn’t look just one way or come in one specific construct. So let’s just choose again. Not everyone is going to be ready for us. Choose again. We disrupt the forward trajectory of our lives rearranging everything to fit our bad decisions.

Here’s the facts: I made two beautiful kids. They are heavenly joy and hugs and kisses and curiosity and fearlessness and sticky applesauce hands. I know something greater than me is at work when I look at them. I know I deserve love–look at what I made with love. The Most High works through me. And I will always love the two men that my children call Daddy.

One of my more popular tweets goes a little something like this: I am sensitive and I love hard and sometimes that makes me quite vulnerable but it also makes me trill as f*ck.

I know there’s a future boo out there who likes ‘em just like me.

In five weeks time my new home will be Pittsburgh, PA. I’ve lived in New York City for fourteen and a half years so it’s a bit heartbreaking. The majority of my adult life has been this gorgeous, awful, amazing, expensive, fascinating place. My children were made and born in NYC. Maybe in another lifetime I do have that quintessential Brooklyn life with my babe and my kiddos. But in this one, the family structure I required to be happy and healthy here is no longer a reality. So you know what? I’m choosing again.

Sarah Huny Young is a web designer/developer who only has five more weeks to say she’s a New Yorker. She likes sushi, lingerie, 90’s R&B, and being one dope mom to two dope kids. Her various projects can always be accessed via hunyyoung.com.

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48 thoughts on “Beating Shame, Staying Trill.

  1. Awe huny I’m so sorry you had to experience all of that, you have always been so awesome in my eyes no matter what.. Guess what though I have a daughter(first) and son….and Two baby daddies and that doesnt make us less than… Keep being you full of awesomeness and your husband will find you like mines found me… You know my story did you ever think I’d be married to a minister? Lol I know not in this life time.. I have realized that my life doesn’t belong to me in a sense but to my higher power and he guides my footsteps and will never forsake me.. Stand strong and don’t look back… I love you girl forever…

  2. Huny,

    I have always been in awe of you. And your writing has only increased the level – you are so smart, beautiful and, indeed, trill as f*ck. Sending you love and support for your newest move (pun intended). You empower women like me when you express yourself this way. Thank you.

    Xx
    Netta

  3. What strength… I wish you all the luck on your new endeavors. Thank you for being vulnerable & sharing your lessons learned

  4. I am amazed by your courage in sharing all of these personal details in a blog post. Your courage inspires me and will help me have more respect for single parents. I am very proud that my cousin chose to marry a beautiful black woman who was the single parent of a teenage son.

  5. I cried, reading your article. It made me realize how deeply entrenched in depression, fear and shame my life has been for the past few years. My struggle, though, lies in what I view as my ‘professional and educational’ failures. I was the first one in my immediate family to attend college…not earn a degree. I was supposed to be successful…can’t seem to hold a job. simetimes, I feel so helpless and have all but given up in a way. I put on a brave face around family…I’ve severed ties with many close friends…but, to quote the late great Bob Marley ” I’m hurting inside…” and I want help, but my fear and shame and depression keep me from reaching out for that love and support that I know can help me get through…I’m supposed to be the strong one, but this burden is crushing me. I know it will pass, but this storm is breaking me. Thanks for sharing your amazing journey; it has given me hope.

    1. Shana,
      reach out to someone you trust…I bet they would be right there ready and willing to support you through your pain. sometimes we live in the what should be, based on others expectations. think about what YOU want for your life at this moment in time and go towards that. we cant change the past, we cant change how we handled something in the past, we can only live in the here and now and move forward. I pray that you will no longer define yourself through others eyes because that can become a burden that crushes. Live for you! Discover what makes you happy and then reach for it, go towards it and live. Live your life the way you want and how you want. Praying for you. ❤

    2. It’s so damn difficult to shake off the disappointment of our reality not matching our expectations, right? It’s a challenge sometimes to give ourselves credit for anything less than that exalted thing we said that we’d have/do. You are far from alone. I’ve started measuring success by the tiniest steps forward instead of leaps and bounds. And also being really good to myself; as good as I am to my loved ones. Ask yourself what you would say to a friend who felt like you. I bet you have beautiful affirmations you offer others that you don’t extend to yourself. Look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself that you’re the sh*t. That you are capable. That missteps are the greatest learning experiences. That you can start over right now if you chose to. That failure isn’t your story. Do it everyday as awful as you feel until it’s echoing in your head. Your story ain’t over yet.

  6. Thank you for writing this article and sharing your story. The universe knows just what we need and always delivers. I feel support just by reading this article. To hell with shame and long live caring, creative, loving dope mamas!

  7. Reading through tears, I declare my love for you. You are my SisterMama & I love those SnackBabies. Your strength inspires me and as I’ve told you before my admiration for you knows no bounds. Fck shame! You are amazing and are worthy of everything! ~peebz.

  8. Ms. Huny. This is so powerful and so moving, I have tears in my eyes. One of the things I have been missing on the 2014 version of the internet is Black women speaking their TRUTH(S) to one another. Not, yelling, not reactionary, just what ever the fuck is on our hearts. This post is transformational and I appreciate your willingness to bare your scars, uncertainty and hope. This post challenges us to be willing to heal publicly, so the young folks behind us can have easier access to those hard learned truths. Lord knows it isn’t easy. ~Reneens (Happy Birthday)

  9. I’ve always (since the turn of the century[!] or thereabouts) been kind of in awe of you. not ’cause you’re superhuman, but because you’re superbly human. your willingness to be raw and honest in your writing is what drew me to that writing in the first place, and that hasn’t changed.

  10. I was in tears reading this. I have read a lot of your writing over the years but this right here….Thank you for sharing your story. It has surely helped and empowered many. Best wishes on the fresh beginning at home surrounded by love. The future is bright cause you are amazeballs.

  11. Thank you for your honesty and the wisdom you’ve expressed. I honor you and your journey!! Wishing you luck in Pittsburgh!

  12. Thank you for sharing this with us. I feel like God led me to this beautifully written post so that I could hear exactly what I needed to hear to get out of this funk. I saw this post mentioned on my Twitter TL a couple days ago, but there was no link, and I didn’t even know what it was about; just that it was a great read. I looked for a couple minutes and gave up. I logged into Facebook this morning and the link to this post was the first thing I saw. I’m so happy that I was able to read your story. I needed your strength, so I truly thank you. I may not be where I need to be in this walk with god, but I do know a blessing when I see one, and Huny – you are a blessing.

  13. Beautiful and powerful story of your life. It was very touching and it took me back to a time when I had shame in my life and how I over came it. Maybe the way in which you saw being a single mother as shame another woman in the same situation would see it as courageous and fearless. They would see it as pride and determination because you did what you needed to do even though you didn’t feel like you could. Kudos to you Miss Huny. Good luck in the future.

  14. I stare at the flashing cursor trying to find the words to thank you for that blog entry…but there truly are none. God works through his angels and today, you have served as mine. I have been in an incredibly toxic relationship for years and I could never understand why I allowed it to continue. Unlike your situation, my partner chooses NOT to leave me…rather stay with me and continue the emotional torture because he has full control. Trust me, it is not because he wants to stay…he just chooses to dictate which direction this marriage will take. I stay because of my child but you just made me aware that I am really staying because of my shame. I also realize that I have been depressed for years due to the constant instability of being “validated”. Allow me to say that I am an educated woman who has carved out a pretty successful career and on the outside, no one knows the misery I feel. But today is the day I let that be known and find the support I need. Emotionally abusive men thrive on the privacy of their actions and I have been silent for way too long. Thank you for your brutally honest words because without them, I would have never seen the light. God bless you and best of luck to you on your new trajectory in life!

  15. Such courage displayed is a blessing to us. I don’t think I will ever publicly share some of the trauma i’ve experienced during this thing called co-parenting, but your post inspired such hope, such a testament to human resiliency. Thank you for share. Many blessings as you move into your next chapter.

  16. You have a book in you and I hope you write it and have it published. Your story will inspire countless people, because it’s a story of courage and victory.

  17. Very good piece. I used to feel this and still do at times. I recently started running and it has helped a lot with these feelings. It’s like running to the point of exhausting myself helps. 🙂 I pray your future looks up and your future husband comes soon.

  18. Ms. Sarah Huny Young,

    Thank you for this fantastic piece and the courage that you embody every single day. There are so many places within this expression that are familiar to many many many mothers and fathers out here, including yours truly. Your endurance through this race is evident, your genetic sense memory that pulls upon our mothers, grandmothers, and great grandmothers resounds. YOU ARE TRUTH and BRILLIANCE DEFINED! May you continue to question, explore, expose truth, and LIVE!!!! We are behind you 10000 percent!

    In light and love, Ayanna D. Mackins

  19. Reading this post, I just kept wondering how you knew MY story, how did you capture the depths of MY soul, how could you articulate MY emotions so well…and then I realized, I am not alone! Thank you!

  20. This quote right here…

    “I am sensitive and I love hard and sometimes that makes me quite vulnerable but it also makes me trill as f*ck.

    I know there’s a future boo out there who likes ‘em just like me.”

    Is pure awesomeness!!!

    This was a great read, something I needed to read TODAY! Thank you for writing it.

  21. very well said. single mothers should NEVER feel ashamed for what they go through or how they are perceived. Single mothers are the last stick of glue holding the Black community together. Be proud of your accomplishment that you have given birth to two beautiful children, still have every bit of your scruples and love enough to share your story. thanks.

  22. I found you by complete chance on Facebook via “For Harriet” I’m so glad I clicked on the link and came to your blog. Your story has been heartening and inspiring. Thank you so much for sharing something so personal, As a woman who herself was dumped 12 days before my first wedding anniversary (major long blog post) I do empathize with you. What I see here is a strong woman who has picked herself and her children up by the boot straps and moved on. Wishing you the very best in Philly. Looking forward to reading more.

  23. Please let me know if you’re looking for a author for your blog.
    You have some really great articles and
    I feel I would be a good asset. If you ever want to take some of the load off, I’d absolutely love to write some articles for your blog in exchange for
    a link back to mine. Please shoot me an email if interested.
    Thank you!

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