I only ever visit Town Centre in Mitchell’s Plain for two reasons; abortions and weaves.
One event is very painful.
The other kills your baby.
But we will get to that. I have something I feel needs to be said.
I will always be a single mother.
On the Cape Flats, women, especially coloured women lose their worth once they have given birth.
“She is a really nice person, but she have a laaitie”.
You might as well say “she has the plague”.
This has haunted me whenever I tried to normalize my life after Sidney Jonah was born in 2010. Every time I met new people, I felt that they would change their minds about me if they found out that I had a child, alone.
When I went back to college, I was in a class of people aged 18 to 30. As one of the few coloured girls in the journalism class, I didn’t mention that I was a mother. Thinking back now, I don’t know why I cared, but naïve 22 year old Shana wasn’t equipped to face the world as a single mother. I don’t think I ever really mastered it. I just lived with it.
But this discussion is not only about me.
This isn’t a rant. I don’t have a quirky anecdote that no longer makes me cry.
I only have my observations… and I would like to share it with you… because I am a very… very angry woman.
Meeting men after having a child seemed even more daunting. But what I realized was that the men weren’t the ones who had a problem with me raising a child on my own. Their mothers were weary of me.
And this is the reason I am saying this.
For some reason if you have kids out of wedlock, or from different men, people think you owe them an itinerary or map of your vagina.
No Fagmieda/Brenda/Carol, how I got here is none of your business. All you need to know Is I have kept these kids alive thus far… And so it shall remain.
Now, the coloured mother struggle is an old tale. Even with the women who got married first, before having children… Many of the men of colour I remember from my youth left their women to raise the children alone.
Cleaning was the woman’s work.
Cooking was a woman’s job.
Raising the children was a woman’s responsibility.
(And in 2017. Actually working is a woman’s work too- of course, as well as the regular stuff.)
Daddy just came home from his job, assuming that he was one of the employed few- and not outside all day with his ouens- and played with the kids between supper and bath time… also two activities fully executed by mother.
But that ring on the wifey’s finger justified the neglect.
And yes, I say Wifey as a diminutive.
Regardless, whenever I met a mother, my mother in law included, as well as any other woman who places herself above me… I am always a wonderful candidate for their son’s wallet in marriage… until they learn that my vagina/womb has already been utilized.
(Apparently as far as they are concerned.. their son’s are unaware of their own penises… and I am about to show him a whole new world… get it? Cos I’m jasmine…… )
My friend Clifford summed it up in a message to me, when he heard that I was having another child.
“Congratulations Shana! Is it lekker that your daddy knows at least three brasse came in you?”.
Clifford really is a wonderful, dear friend.
But he has put into words the idea that all people who think they were raised in the proper religious way have come to embrace:
Single mommies let all the brasse cum in them… soema just.
They ignore the part of the story in which we were with the man for five years.
…or the fact that we didn’t have the baby on purpose. Like the person who impregnated us, the responsibility crept up on us too… the only difference is we stuck it out.
They conveniently forget that we didn’t give the baby up for adoption or abort (which is fine too if that is your choice as a woman). We got jobs and made sacrifices to give this human who has done no wrong a chance in this awful world.
And they forget that the children aren’t numbers, or statistics or Sassa cards… but people who will not always stay children.
They don’t think that the children can see how you treat their mom. That they know people look down on them, when they aren”t the ones who chose to only have one parent….
My favourite part about these women who judge us so harshly, is that they think we cannot calculate that their first born was born only three months after their wedding day.
Ek sien vir jou, Patricia. Foetcheck.
The mileage on my vagina says nothing about my character.
But as I have become more hormonal and angry in the last few months, the ability to smile politely at thinly veiled insults has abandoned me.
Let me take you to the night before my wedding.
Actually, let me take you to the years that followed the birth of my children.
I, Shana Genever, Left my abusive fiancé. Found a job. Put my kids in school, clothed them. Fed them. Showed up at every crèche concert, surf walk, Father’s day, first day of school, sick day, hospital stay, nightmares, bed wetting, sex talk, is there a monster under my bed… why don’t I have a daddy 21 questions… Bought every school Raffel ticket, cheered the loudest when Sidney graduated grade R. Worked overtime to afford Christmas presents, birthday presents, civvies days…
And never received as much as a thank you card from their fathers.
When my daughter’s father died I, the Jezebel who had his laaitie wasn’t welcome at the funeral.
I fought depression.
Not only my depression… but my son’s realization that he had a father in the world who didn’t want to see him, because he was a mistake made in a youthful, spontaneous moment.
I didn’t run though.
Well, I did. And then I ran back and manned up.
I made sure that mistake was hugged every day. I made sure that mistake felt loved.
And now, up until my marriage and beyond… I made sure that I experienced every part of that mistake’s life.
Both of my mistakes.
How many women have that same story?
And what happens?
What do other women say to us? After knowing just how useless men can be?
Knowing how much pain a woman can endure?…
I sat down in front of my soon to be new family and heard the words come out of a fellow woman’s mouth.
“Ek hettie gedink hy sal met jou trou nie. Maar dis sieker oraait”.
Other women have said similar things.
Women who know the struggle of aint shit men. Fellow warriors left me in the dirt.
“Haai, gat hy jou vat met twee kinnes?”
“oh you pregnant? At least this one was made from love”.
“Riyaahd always said he won’t take a kin with laaities. But okay”.
The list goes on.
But let me say whether you are family, friend, reader, random person off the street… after what single moms have to go through to give our kids the best we can…. Your opinion is not going stop us from doing anything…
And just like the people of St. Phillip’s Catholic Church in Strandfontein, Circa 2015
You can all go kruip saggies in your poes.
AND NOW. BACK TO OUR REGULAR PROGRAMMING
“Mama this guy is stupid”.
“Jonah we don’t say things like that… We think it in our head and then we write passive aggressive blog posts”.
I stared down at the piece of paper in my file. A file I hadn’t seen since June 10, 2013.
“Shana Genever. DOB 14/12/1988. Reason for termination: Abusive relationship.”
I didn’t recognize 2013 Shana’s handwriting. It looked rushed and panicked.
For a second I considered removing the page from the folder. But like in life, I was certain that it had already been saved on a hard-drive somewhere, a permanent stain on my record.
The moment was surreal, and I even considered taking a picture of the page. It felt like a momento. The floor was still as dirty as I remember. I had accidentally walked into the MOU instead of the emergency room. The pregnant women lined up against the wall.
Just like last time.
My husband held my hand as we entered.
“Hi, I am 13 weeks and I have terrible cramps. I was told to come to the emergency room but I don’t know where it is”.
“Who told you that?”, the clipboard behind the glass semi-shouted.
She was polite-ish, which I was willing to accept because my vagina weighed a ton.
I was holding cement in my kegels.
I was ushered to the maternity section… Just in time to hear a fellow inmate of gestational prison give natural birth.
Up until this point- I too considered giving birth as nature intended… with great difficulty.
And of course… the waiting area was a wooden bench, I assume to add to the construction site mounting in my anus.
I would have been more comfortable on a black label kussie.
“Ooooooh…. susssterrrrrrr…. ” I heard the inmate shout from deathrow. “Iss seeeer!”.
I folded my legs. (A little too late, most would say).
I turned to the girl next to me. I always make awkward conversation with strange women when I feel uncomfortable.
“How long is she pushing?”
“Nee sy is so heel oggend hier. Van 5 o clock af”.
The other inmate chimed in. “Ha ah it was worse for me. I was three days in labor.”
I didn’t feel it justified to add my elective c-section story into the pot.
I used to have medical aid once. I know how the other side lives.
I shut my bek even tighter than my thighs.
Someone please give this kin an epidural.
And then I smelt it… the blood I recalled from my last visit. I wasn’t just in the ward where birth happened…
Down the passage was the abattoir.
Of course the universe waited until I was carrying a baby I actually wanted, to bring me back to the place where I killed my son.
And I remembered something that I have never shared before…
(To be continued)