Hi, my name is Danielle Slaughter and being a strong Black woman is killing me. It’s not even killing me rapidly. No, it’s taking its time and slowly sucking all the life from me, and yet I can’t just not be a strong Black woman, can I?
What’s a strong Black woman? Well, first of all, it’s a myth that’s rooted in white supremacy and patriarchy. It’s this idea that Black women possess some supernatural strength that allows us to do ALL the things. No, really, we’re expected to be nurturing mothers, domestic goddesses, bad ass glass ceiling breaking bosses, sensual kittens, and the list goes on and on. We’re supposed to do all these things without breaking a sweat and make it look easy.
I know you’re thinking that if I know it’s not real then why am I letting it kill me?
Strong Black Woman disease usually starts when you’re young. You’re expected to work extra hard in class so that you’re the perfect student but then you also need to help take care of your family in some way. The disease spreads the older you get and the more responsibility you take on. If you try to complain, someone will remind you of everything that all the Black women who came before you sacrificed in order for you to do all these things, so suck it up buttercup. If you ask for help, someone will inevitably remind you that your mama did more with less and so, what do you do? You suck it up, buttercup!
I’m trying to pinpoint the exact moment when I realized that being strong in the face of pain would be the reason for my demise. The moment that immediately comes to mind was in the delivery room after having my second son. His birth was so quick that our car was literally still running downstairs because the ER’s valet driver was on a break.
I know what you’re thinking. How could I possibly have these thoughts after such a beautiful moment?
I’m not really sure. All I know is that as I delivered our son’s placenta and the nurse asked me if I was ready to hold my baby, I started to see my life flash before my eyes. I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be leaving the hospital with my family. I felt cold and anxious but I never said those words out loud. When the nurse pressed on my uterus to try and stop the bleeding, I tried not to wince in pain even as she apologized for hurting me. I mean women do this all the time, so crying isn’t going to make it stop.
Suck it up, buttercup!
I sucked it up. I laid in that bed and felt like I was suffocating from the inside out but didn’t tell them that because what if I wasn’t and then they took my kids from me? Instead, I simply answered the questions asked of me. I told my husband the passcode for my phone, so he could take pictures and videos. I tried to smile at my oldest son as he excitedly talked about his baby brother.
When the nurse noticed that I was shivering, she asked if I’d like a warm blanket. I said yes. When she asked if I wanted a minute before holding the baby, I said yes. I let her think I was waiting to hold the baby because I was shivering but really it was because I thought I was dying. I didn’t want to take my last breath holding a baby I wouldn’t get to see grow up.
But I didn’t say any of that… being a strong Black woman means sometimes you have to suffer silently.
My body eventually warmed up and they brought my baby to me. And when he opened his eyes to look at me, I knew he saw me. Like really saw me. And I knew that I had to figure out what was wrong so that I could see him too.
A few weeks later, I went to my postpartum checkup where I was diagnosed with postpartum depression and anxiety. I started on Zoloft and slowly started to feel “better.” I knew the medicine was working BUT what did taking the medicine mean for me as a Strong Black Woman? How could I still hold up this ideal if I needed medicine to make my brain work properly? And how do I tell people that this depression and anxiety isn’t just from giving birth? It’s always been there. Shouldn’t Black Girl Magic mean I don’t need these things?
But I did need those things… I DO NEED those things, and I’m still a Black woman, so maybe this would be my chance to bring some humanity to what it means to be a Strong Black woman. I mean I don’t know if we can completely end the myth but I’d like to reclaim it. I’d like to say that Black Girl Magic doesn’t mean we’re not human beings, and maybe the magical part is in the words of Cardi B “knocked me down 9 times but I get up 10.” But what if we let others help us up during those last 5 times because dammit this shit is hard. And magic always works better when done together, right?
So, hi, my name is Danielle Slaughter and being a Strong Black Woman is trying to kill me but I’m fighting back and I hope you will too.
This post originally appeared on Mamademics.
About the author: Danielle Slaughter is a wife, mom, teacher, crafty mompreneur, and doctoral student, who encourages parents to raise social justice advocates. She shares her experience navigating motherhood while finding her place in the academy on Mamademics.com. Danielle is a graduate of the University of Michigan-Arbor and Georgia State University (GSU). She is a Detroit native currently residing in Atlanta with her husband, son, and pet turtle. Danielle is working on a doctorate in English at GSU and hopes to finish in 2017. She is a contributor for the Huffington Post, winner of Type-A Parent’s 2015 We Still Blog Awards, and a BlogHer ’16 VOTY honoree.