Holding On To The Stories Our Hands Tell

“Becoming a mother is the most transformative shift in identity from being the ‘daughter of’ to the ’mother to’, from individual identity to collective.” –@birthofamama

At an early age, I caught a glimpse of what it is for a woman to lead through a pen. My introduction as a writer came from the placement of my mom’s hands over my own, guiding the direction of the pencil to help me trace and form letters that would become stories twenty-something years later.

For someone who knows what it is to struggle, I cannot let go off the scenarios that rummage through my mind of her using her hands to produce something out of nothing for dinner, learning the concept of hustling in the home instead of out in the street.

In trying to find God, I discovered new parts of what her quiet strength felt like when we knelt before crosses and locked hands at altars on Sundays.

I misinterpreted love when her hands would hit and subsequently try to heal hurt with hugs. Hands are like home; hands can also create distance and make the familiar feel foreign. 

Do the lines in our palms expose narratives about our lineage? What energies transmit through a mother’s hands to her daughter’s? 

It’s a question that I’ve reflected on for 31 days since your arrival. I’ve thought a lot about how the start of this new year, the very first day, brought about a lone resolution:

Be a better mother.

I spoke to you hours later on what would be your birthday as contractions crashed in and thought about how my own mother stood bedside, holding my hand in the same hospital eight years prior. She would not be present during your birth, nor would she know about my pregnancy with you, but as someone’s child, for just a quick second, I wanted my own guardian there. I went from holding her hand and using her encouragement as strength to pull through, to squeezing bed rails as I pushed you out of me without her presence. What an exchange in almost a decade’s time–the intimacy in holding her hands, to holding onto you as if I depend on your existence more than you do mine. 

In a month’s time, your hand and my sole finger join together as if we’re praying together. You and I are finding new connections while in communion with God.

In the silence where early mornings can be confused for late evenings, I pray for the end of ancestral trauma and the beginning of generational healing. Pray quotes that read “let’s raise children who won’t have to recover from their childhood” over your head.

I am fascinated in the complexity in mother-daughter relationships and frightened at how the grip in our hands loosen over time. I can still feel the influence my mom had maneuvering my hands over paper; still taste the love blended into the food she conjured up with her fingertips; continually travel with the prayers we said when our hands met at the tabernacle; will always live with the history of how those hands changed in my life.

And so for that reason, I can admit that I don’t want to let go of the feelings you’ve stirred within me during the last month. I’ll hold on to your fingers firmly today as if to hold on to this moment…to you…forever. 

Happy one month, Baby K.

To Be Bold About Your Body When You Breastfeed

(Originally published on my Facebook account on the 24th of January)

So, I breastfed my daughter in public for the first time today…

Knowing I had an appointment I could not miss the day before, I subjected myself to hours of painful pumping, trying to fill bottles that would fill her during our time away from home. I told myself that she could feed from plastic nipples so that I wouldn’t have to experience glances from people I didn’t know and would never see again who were uncomfortable at the sight of a woman nursing her child. I said a long prayer the night before that she would sleep longer than the waiting time in the office so that I wouldn’t have to show skin in a space occupied by men who glare in fascination, but feel offended that my body is being used for something other than to pacify their personal desires.

What I was telling myself without fully acknowledging it was that I was going to subconsciously give others power over my body while taking away natural nourishment for Kai. I was going to give into the continued sexualization of breasts and add to the limitations women face, instead of celebrating liberation in the fact that I was able to provide for my child with my body. For the first time in my life, I was able to give of myself in ways other than carnal fantasies being fulfilled or being a portal that could bring forth children. My womanhood, once again, started to transform right along with the evolution of my skin being stretched out with the lines drawn across my stomach. My body, I found, continued to have purpose to it that would feed and fill my daughter.

I left the bottles behind.

And after an hour of napping, she woke up with the brightest eyes and started smacking her lips together, code for ‘It is time.’ I won’t lie when I tell you my own eyes scanned every crevice of the room as to wait for judgement to pour in. Her father, without saying a word, grabbed a blanket and covered us, giving me an added boost of confidence to do what I was given the natural ability to do. Thankfully, we are pushed into situations during moments of hesitation that call for us to be bold in our actions to remind us how our thoughts, more than others, can make us prisoners.

And he sat next to me with his ‘I dare any one of y’all to say something’ facial expression and I rocked and hummed. Fed and locked eyes with hers. I went back to the months prior during pregnancy and did that exchanging of words with her sort of telepathically, telling her “we did it!”

And she looked at her dad afterwards with a look of contentment that would have never been had I listened to the limitations placed on women regarding what we can do with our bodies. She looked at me again, three weeks in, and smiled as if she knew what it was to say “thank you.”

 

When the Heart Becomes Home in 7 Days

(Originally published on my Facebook account on the 9th of January)

“Sometimes, home has a heartbeat.”

We made it to a week. Without any pacifiers or baby formula–my go-to’s I relied on as a mother when I had Kae and Kam. But I didn’t know how much I needed the heart until Kai.

They say having a child is to know what’s it like to have your heart live outside of your body. That your child is the only living being on this planet to hear your heartbeat from within. For Kairie, the sound of me and Robert’s heart have been the catalyst in getting longer naps in. For getting sleep, period. The left side of her father’s chest is, hands down, her favorite place besides breasts. She smiles more when she’s placed over it. She lets out these silent giggles that let us know her heart is just as content as ours. Skin-to-skin has taken on a new meaning for me as an exclusively breastfeeding Mommy and for Rob who has exposed a different side of himself as a Dad to a daughter.

 The heart: the meaning of what it is to be a parent becomes surreal when you hear your child’s beat through use of a fetal Doppler at 12 weeks pregnant. Or see it flutter on an ultrasound machine at 130+ beats per minute. The heart has new significance when you see it lightly thumping through a newborn onesie in the middle of the day or night to ensure your baby is still breathing like a worried Mom every five minutes.

The heart. You depend on it. For the last seven days, I thanked it. Over and over and over…

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