letter 2 of 19.
to the little girl who has the power to transform energy when she rests her head on your chest; the one that kicks and screams when she can’t get her way—a hunger to go all out for her wants; my daughter who probably holds the record of Most Sesame Street Episodes Watched by a 1-Year-Old, on her the anniversary of her arrival:
i told your father and your Godmothers that one of two things would occur during the first week of 2017; you would make your entrance into this world earlier than expected, or it would snow on the day of your baby shower.
you arrived 14 days early, the only one that broke the home that held you for 37 weeks and 6 days. there was a blizzard the day of your celebration, and at five days old, you were the guest of honor. i should have known from then that you were to be an unexpected kind of child, encompassing an element of surprise that would take everyone aback.
just like your brothers, you were born in four hours in the same hospital they were birthed at, but unlike their deliveries, i spoke to you at every interval during your transition. i knew what to do this time around and trusted that the synchronization of our mother-daughter spirits would show itself during labor. when you carry a long-term prayer inside, there’s a peace you possess that makes labor feel effortless.
“your baby should be here a little before midnight, mommy.”
that would be in six hours. it’s already 6pm.
no, she’ll be here in the next hour.
it’s a confident kind of clapback that had the staff stare at me in the same way your father and i look at you when you do something confirming for us that your spirit roamed the Earth at one point in time.
there’s no way this woman knows exactly when she’s going to have this baby.
wouldn’t it be incredible if she was right?
that a woman knew her baby strongly enough that she defied science and operated on the time of her body.
so when i knew you were coming, i stayed silent until i needed feminine support around me. we’re a lot alike in that aspect–that need to demonstrate to others that we can do it all on our own. but girl, let me tell you, you will know about how divine and magical and necessary support from women is at some point in your life. you have (great) aunts for laughter, grandmothers for wisdom, and Godmommies for guidance. you have help. you have helped.
do you know that you sat with me in therapy?
i sat on the bathroom floor a few nights when i couldn’t pump enough, when i didn’t feel i was enough, and cried louder than you. but i needed more to be more for you, so bathroom isolation became joint collaborative sessions in a room with a therapist. you became startled hearing my cries, but i felt comfortable enough letting you see me like that.
because superheroes need saving, too. because my mother hid her pain thinking it would be consume me. but letting you see me at my most vulnerable wouldn’t be your story. Kairie, allowing you to see and hear that side would enlighten you to how strength is birthed and how it becomes you. if ever you were to see me as strong, know it’s been because you saw me in a small room trying to repurpose my trauma. trying to water my wounds with tears that would fall on you to help me bloom. security looks like you holding my finger with your own two during that initial session to signify that you got me.
so from beginning to end, it’s been me and you. every battle you fought as you squirmed your way out, was accompanied by a prayer to get through to you; to reach you and let you know that your mother was here. always would be. because you would, subsequently, be there for me.
i didn’t know then what i know now.
and less than the hour, there you were. the first of my children that i held with vernix clothing you, impatient in wanting to feel the legs that kicked, stroke the arms that stretched, rub the back that rolled against the womb that held you first. i’ve never felt more powerful than i did then–more energized than exhausted with my bare breasts exposed. i didn’t want to cover up. because in that silencing space of blood and bodily fluid; in the quiet of the room without the snapping of photos to collect these memories that take residence in my head; i wanted you to know how beautiful it is was to give birth to you. there would be no embarrassment about the hairs that grow wildly on my skin; no dishonor in the rolls of my flesh; no shame in the sag of the same breasts that would feed you exclusively for six months straight. it’s funny that you kick off your shoes, snatch off your socks, stretch yourself out of your clothes in a way that mimics that moment. those four hours of bringing you to Earth, and the time thereafter. (i’m gon’ get to you stretching out clothes you ain’t pay for in the years ahead. wait on it.)
we all reenact that moment of being brought into this world as a gentle reminder to our psyches that the spaces we occupy and are most comfortable in, are for only a time. that everything is temporary, and that we were born to live without limitations and exist outside of confinement.
you just want to be free, baby girl.
so free is what you are with your Daddy. i’m watching you now, brushing his hair. maybe he’s pretending, but the stroke of the bristles is putting him to sleep. maybe he’s fighting back tears because he’s always telling you how much he loves you with a shaky voice that breaks my heart sometimes. maybe his eyes are closed because he’s reminiscing on the day of your birth, as i often do. your Daddy looked at you as if this were all new for him, but held you a little bit closer than he did just a few doors down, nine years ago. he didn’t have that frightening look on his face, uncertain of how to hold a newborn, unsure of how to raise another human being when he was still learning how to love himself. no, on January 2nd–one year ago, today–he held on to you with such strength and security and softness that felt like heaven to me years ago. isn’t he comfy?
and since then, his arms have since become your safe haven, always reaching up for him to throw you in the air. to feel what it is to fly. to have your heart drop on the flight down and to be caught. to take the chances of falling over and over.
this is love, Kai.
highs and heart racing, fears of dropping and desires to do it all over again. the thrill of elevating, and the excitement in coming down, only to be held again. repeat, repeat, repeat. you’re learning the process of love through your Daddy.
he kisses you ‘later’ in the morning and you call for him for eight blocks before you realize that he’s gone.
Dada. Daddy. Daaa-da. Daaaddy!
but just for the day. because when night falls, you catch the depth of his voice inching closer through the house. and you scoot towards the edge of the bed, anticipating his face to yank his beard and crack up in laughter with your head tossed back. waiting to rub your face against the scruff of his check. you are teaching your Daddy new ways to love because you are love.
love. you remind me so much of your brothers. equally. you hold a gentleness that is undoubtedly your oldest sibling. Kaevon is probably the only one to get the “girly” side of you. home alone, when my water broke, he was the first person i called, nervously. he delegated responsibilities and packed bags that i pushed off, thinking you would hold out a little longer. running through the apartment with newborn onesies that would be too big and breathing heavy as not to cry as a seven-year-old witnessing youtube videos become reality, he remained strong for me and for you.
that strength now translates to the times he grabs you close to him. to walk with you. to hug you. to dance and spin to whatever song is echoing in the space we live in. you lie your head on the cusp of his neck and clap your hands, excitedly, trying to catch the melody.
“this is for you, Kairie Marleigh!”
and you sway your little body to the rhythm of sounds reminiscent of the women who came before you in the caribbean. you’re at your best here. the essence of who you are shines with the help of your brother and dance.
but when the cuddling is too much for you, you push him away and i get to see who you are with your older brother. with Kamryn, you’re far from soft. in fact, you initiate these wrestling matches that always result in a loud
don’t play with her roughly!
and he’ll always tell me that you started it, but you’re having fun. occasionally, i’ll hear a grunt or a whimper, but you always laugh. because he lets you take control over the narrative and i think you know this. you feel empowered in these moments.
he waves his white flag–a t-shirt lying around–and informs you that you won. you clap for yourself. we all gather around you and fill the house with a long yaaaaay!
do you know how inspiring that is, nena? i want you to understand how important it is to cheer for yourself because life has so many moments similar to those bouts with Kam that’ll toss you every which way. and your Daddy may not be there to catch you then, but you’ll be okay. because he survived the unimaginable and is still here. because your mother documents experiences to showcase resilience. you’re going to fight in every aspect throughout your journey, but in the end, clap for yourself because it’s in your blood to persevere.
“we won’t have to worry about her being afraid of anything when she gets older.”
from Kamryn’s mouth, to God’s ears.
from Samantha’s mouth, to God’s ears, here you are.
your mother’s desires and rage–whew, you have an attitude. your father’s temperament and light. your oldest brother’s compassion and sensitivity. your older brother’s genius and introverted nature. the sneakiness of both of them. your grandmothers’ personality. your grandfather’s observant silence. the face of your great-grandmothers. you are everything that we once were. you are everything we are in this present moment.
happy first year around the sun, monster. with tears, i still can’t take my eyes off of you.
Mom (girl, why you still can’t say Momma?)