I don't really have a desire to be any of those moms.
I've decided to create a new category for myself.
(Listen,.. I know Black Panther is a dude. But he's my fav LOL).
The Black Panther Mom
It's probably not what you think it is. And honestly, I am working on the definition myself. But I am clear about what it is not. It is not any of what I listed above. And it most certainly is rooted in cultural depth. We aren't talking HOTEP-ness Erykah Badu levels of Granola crunchy. Just a rootedness (thank you Toni Morrison) in Diasporic appreciation.
A black panther mom is vigilant about protecting her young. She wants them to be strong, nurturing and independent but also kind, compassionate and considerate. She wants them to be appreciative of people who are different. And most of all, an appreciation of self, of culture and of the value of their lives in a society that tells them otherwise.
The black panther mom sees to this by starting early with self love and awareness. From the books we read...to the food we eat... to the music we dance to in the living room., the child of a black panther mom knows that these are subtle rights of passage for any black child. But we also know that society may not value those things that we find near and dear and may use them as cultural cash crops.
The black panther mom tells her kids to let people know.."move or you will be moved".I want her to learn how to be a badass on her own terms without cowering to others.
I just want my Gogo to be strong. And fearless. And have a mother that shows her that being a black woman is a lot of things. Most of all it is not the stereotypes out there about us. I want to be the type of Black Panther Mom that respects my child's gifts and individuality yet raise them with a firm but loving hand. I want to break away from slave mentality and physical abuse as a way to discipline... I want to encourage achievement not only for herself but for her people. Because she not only represents the best of US (her father and I) but the best of US (black people of the Diaspora).
I could go on and on. But as I work on being a Black Panther Mom... I know it's a lot less "superhero" than it is super-human. I want the humanity to be on full display as a mom. I want people to say "Wow, Gogo.. your mom is cool. She talks to you. She keeps it real".
... I guess in essence. ,I just want to me like my own black Panther mom.. who was all those things and more.
Roots, the landmark 1977 miniseries based on the work of Alex Haley, was remade in a modern and edgy way via the Will Packer produced 4-night series which aired starting Memorial Day. Like most African-Americans, I hold Roots near and dear to my heart. I connected with the stories of Kunta, Kizzy and Chicken George..... and I was really skeptical that a remake was going to be good.
I was so wrong.
Not only was it gut-wrenching, it was well researched and visually stunning. The team of historians integrated and interwove elements of culture, music, food and art into not only the scenes involving the Mandinka, but were also careful to show the ways in which the Middle Passage didn't destroy our cultural ties. I was moved. Some things were hard to watch but so necessary. And I totally scoffed at the idea that some black people were "tired of all these slave movies". I never hear Jewish complain about the Holocaust movies... or Vets complain about war movies..... We can never forget our history no matter how much THEY want us to. And as Silla (played beautifully by the handsome Derek Luke) reminded us... "The shame is not ours". No, we shouldn't be ashamed of slavery. And while that isn't the totality of black experience in America, it has profoundly shaped the black experience of those of African descent.
My husband and I sat there,watching, and holding our daughter with tears in our eyes... wanting to know more about our people.... and our history. We did, however, take a first step as an anniversary present to ourselves.
Last year for our first anniversary, my husband and I decided to give the traditional gift of "paper" . Our interpretation of that was an AncestryDNA kit. I was pregnant at the time and I wanted to know my history and ancestry before the baby came. My husband and I were both excited, thinking about what we would impart to our little one. She is a mix of the American South and the Caribbean. We couldn't imagine what it would say...
It took almost 10 weeks to receive the results. By that time, I had given birth to our little girl and I thought that this would be the missing piece to the puzzle.
My DNA results were as follows:
The ethnic results made all the sense in the world. I was mostly C'ote d'Ivorian/Ghanaian, a crucial slave trading area of the time. Despite what my father wanted to attest to, I was clearly NOT Native American (as are most African-Americans....) and a lot of European (that was a given due to the nature of slavery). On my face and in my DNA told the story of the Middle Passage. My big almond eyes could be attributed to the 2% Asian in my DNA as well as the West African. I was excited. I had something to tell my daughter about her matrilineal line (because as a woman, that is all my DNA could tell me) and her father (whose DNA produced more European than African results actually, with Nigerian being the main country represented) could piece together her paternal lineage. Although I was disappointed that I was not able to pinpoint the exact tribe I was from, I felt like this was a start.
As I look at my daughter who is the perfect mix of my husband and myself, I am reminded that my roots matter. OUR experience as people.. as stolen African cargo matter. The fabric and fiber of my DNA and my existence matter to her, even if it doesn't matter to a society who systematically wants to kill and destroy black people, especially black women.
I hope someday to travel to Accra with my family. To see the slave castles and to see the Kente cloth prints...eat some real jollof....to see my people..to see home.
For those who haven't seen it, the new version of Roots is available on Demand and via Amazon Prime.
AncestryDNA kits are also available via Amazon Prime at $99 each,
For Tribal matches, visit African Ancestry's website.
When I found out I was pregnant, I knew I didn't want to know the gender. I was adamant. So was my husband. We wanted to be surprised. For us, it was simple: I didn't want to pigeonhole my kid into a gender specific way of being from birth. Baby R would be a baby. Period. Knowing the sex isn't what concerned us most. Because my pregnancy was so difficult, all I cared about was if the kid was going to be healthy.
But we had no idea how folks were so obsessed with finding out. They didn't understand why we didn't care. They wanted to know what names we picked out even though we told them we had names for both boys and girls (aka unisex names). Why wasn't the room going to be pink or blue? Why did I not want pink at all?(for the record, I hate pink!) They didn't wanna buy us gifts (even though we had a comprehensive registry that was gender neutral and full of good basic items) unless they knew the gender. It was frustrating.
Look, a baby is a baby. Onsies all function the same regardless of color. As do pampers. As do books. I just didn't want to be inundated with one color clothing (again.. I hate pink). or gender specific toys. What if he wanted to be a ballerina? What if she liked construction blocks? Who gives a fuck!
But then.. After my chromosomal testing, the nurse blurts out "So you're having a girl! Wait.. Did you want to know??" I was fuming inside! NO! I didn't want to know!😡🙄but we kept the information to ourselves. We let people guess. We let them think they were right either way. But we wouldn't tell. Even our family didn't know (but they were ok and wanted to be surprised). Most folks respected that and others thought it was some sort of mortal sin. I didn't wanna hear the jokes or the comments about gender. The whole "dad get your shotgun or he's going to be a lady killer." It's tiring. And lame. And sets up a gender dichotomy that is harmful. It sets up expectations of sexual behavior. As as a black person, I am tired of us being wrapped up in our sexuality.
So needless to say, when SHE was born early I was heartbroken that people knew her gender. Folks were like "well since we know the gender I can get you something PINK! Or "girly". I still didn't want that. They asked if they HAD to stick to the registry (which again, was full of basic needs!) Folks told my husband crass jokes that involved gender stereotypes. One relative even commented on her "keeping her legs closed" when she saw her "fresh out the womb" photo. Uhm.. She was hours old! Minutes even! How on earth is that appropriate???
What I dreamed most happened though. The day of her shower came, and what did we get?: all pink everything. Bows and dresses and such. I wanted to hurl. While I appreciated gifts, we really wanted folks to stick to the gender neutral items we listed and the basics. But people wanted to do what they wanted to do, going so far as to say that it "wasn't fair to THEM" to have to stick to neutral things. It wasn't about them! It was about our kid. And when they found out it was a girl, folks quickly were like "now you have to try for a boy" as if having this miracle of a girl just wasn't enough.
I know it seems silly. But I want to raise an empowered human being, regardless of gender. She'll have trucks and dolls. She'll play football and princess warrior. My husband is already talking about taking her to her first WWE match. She can do all of those things. And if I had a boy, it would have been the same way.
Focusing on gender sends the wrong message, that what's between your legs is more valuable than what's in your brain. That boys are more "important" than girls and that girls are such a hassle. I look forced to the type of person my daughter grows up to be. It's not about her gender. It's about her heart.
My friend from grad school asked a simple question:
"Seriously... How the hell did our mamas do it all?"
I sat and pondered the question. I thought about it. As I typed, I thought of my own mother.
I wrote back:
Sis.. I don't know. My mama has been gone from this earth 7 months. Even in her last days she sat in her wheelchair and cooked, baked cakes and such. When I was younger, she worked 3 jobs despite having lupus. The short answer: black women are superhuman and extraordinary. And here I am.. Working, a newlywed, trying to get a Phd and feel like I'm going to fall apart. I don't feel like I'm made from the same stuff
My mama was. But somehow we get through it... We have to. We are deep down made from the same stuff. Just have to channel it... Conjure it.
Even after I wrote that response, I had to sit with it for a while. Conjure it? Can I conjure it? Do I even believe what I wrote?
Months after my response... I am still waiting fro an answer. Here I am.. one year and a day after the death of my mother...a new mom to a NICU preemie, working full time...trying not to use up all my leave because America's maternity leave sucks. trying to get back on track with my PhD because well.. spring semester was a total wash after my comps.. because I had the baby so early...... and still trying to balance being who I am with being a (fairly) newlywed.
Am I meant to be a conjure woman? Is Black Girl Magic just endowed within me? How can I tap into it?
I do not think that being a black woman means to be superwoman all the time. But it is about having balance and being unapologetic. It is about not only doing it all.. and doing it well.. but doing it however you want.. when you want.. on your own time schedule.. and with your own about of "give a damn" about it. You conjure up the authority to deem what's important to you.
Yes, black women are made of earth and steel and gold and clouds and sound and fury.... and somehow we make magic our of nothing. We are doing the world's work with none of the recognition... with a heavy boot of double-oppression on our necks. Whether we be single mothers or single professionals.. or married professionals or married work-at-home-mothers (because Stay at HOME isnt the thing really... you are indeed working)... we are making it happen.
I guess I say all of this to say.. I don't have all the answers. I'm still trying to figure out out.
But I am sure I will pull out my willpower and fortitude from my deep, ancestral place..
I think when we last left off on this journey,way back in October 2015, I was talking about how happy I was but yet I wasn't willing to share EVERYTHING that could be attributed to this happiness. I know.. from a blogger's aspect this is probably death to a blog. But hell, as long as I own this domain name... it's going to be going. And evolving. (Even if I am not sharing everything)
Speaking of evolving... I can at least share this. This blog started as a way to express the trials and tribulations as a divorcee' trying to navigate single life in the Deep South's largest metropolis. Since then, I've dated..been hurt... loved again....gotten engaged... gotten married... bought a home... started a Phd program..passed my comprehensive exams... and now
I had a baby <3
(pictured: HubbyDude and GoGo having K-care time )
Yes, I had a child. It was the one thing I had doubts that I would ever do in my life. Not because I couldn't have children (although my chances at one time appeared slim to none) but because I didn't think I'd have a partner I'd want to share that with. I had resolved that by the age of 40.. if I was unmarried, I'd just adopt, strap the baby to my back, and travel the world. Move to London, and a bunch of other stuff... but all of that changed. And I am ok with that.
I had a difficult pregnancy. I was told by this wretched fetal maternal med doctor with no bedside manners (the doctor they send all high risk mothers to) that my child would probably be stillborn. But.. the devil is a liar and sometimes has MD at the end of their names. I believed in God and we had a team of people praying for us. At 36 years old, this was absolutely maddening. I went through so many emotions. I was too old. This was bad timing. I am defective (because of the news I got about my daughter not growing properly in my womb). I had talked to several of my friends who had preemies and who were also around my same age... supporting me
My daughter (who for the purpose of this blog we will call GoGo) was born almost 10 weeks early. Doctors told me I wasn't going to make it to term.. so I expected to delivery early. But not THAT ear.
Little one was. 1 lb. 12 oz. and could fit in the palm of my husband's hand. Frightening. I had been put on bed rest twice during this pregnancy. The first time was New Year's Eve.... The second time was on my husband's 35th birthday. Needless to say, all the plans we had got cancelled, including his 90s themed birthday party (Bummer). I was in hospital about 4 days when a rush of nurses and my OB entered my room at 12 midnight, yelling "MRS R! WAKE UP! WAKE UP! WE have to deliver the baby!" Her heart rate had dropped and I was preparing for an emergency c-section. I had to wake my sleeping husband (who was home trying to prepare for work the next day) who rushed to the hospital in 15 minutes. At first, he was confused, thinking the baby would come later in the day. When I called back and said "NO DEAR! the baby is coming in the next HOUR" he got the picture. As he was on the way, I sent a text and said "Today is the day you meet your daughter" (Note: We found out the sex a while ago.. but I'll save that for another blog) By the time they rolled me out to the delivery room, my husband was standing there.. with a big old grin on his face....and I was nervous. I was shaking as they prepped me for the spinal... and as I became numb...my husband was holding my hand... and less than an hour later.. the neonatologist was bringing over my baby... who was pink and wrinkled like a piglet...and after asking what we were going to name her...whisked away to the NICU. I do not remember much after that...except waking up and seeing my Father strolling down the hallway as I was in recovery and eager to see and hear about his grand baby. He was thrilled....
And I was scared but relieved she was alive. My baby was hooked up to wires and was so tiny. When I finally got to see her the next day, I was a pool of tears next to her isolette, looking at her breathing very hard. But the neonatologist and the NICU team were fabulous, reassuring me that because she was breathing on her own, that was a VERY good sign... One day I cried.. and a chaplain came up to me. She didn't say a word.. simply took my hand and began to pray. I told her "I am not crying because I am sad. I am crying because I have joy. She is proof that God is able". The chaplain squeezed my hand, said a few words and walked away.
But as the weeks have progressed... so too has my GoGo. She filled out, becoming even more beautiful. She began to breath on her own and gained weight. She learned to feed from a bottle and is slowly learning to breastfeed. She's still in the NICU but we are counting down the weeks until she is home. Her shower (held after I delivered) has happened... we've decorated her nursery and gotten all the necessary supplies. Other than a manual on parenting (lol), we are prepared as much as we can be.
And trust me, the fact that I lost my mother last year only to become a mother this year... was not lost on me. My mother, prior to her death, had declared that I would have a baby next year. She was off by just a little bit.... but I am sure she had everything to do with this child. I am in tune with the fact that I had a daughter and not a son. I feel like it's just a continuation of my relationship with my own mother.... and yes, my daughter even looks like her too. It's scary! But beautiful...
Beyond anything I am grateful. I also think this journey into marriage and now motherhood has inspired a new focus of this blog. I hope you all will be along for the ride.
You know.. I am so terrible at blogging. *sigh* I wish I could tell you some fantastical story that I won the lottery and I just was trying to get used to being rich and having a driver... but that isn't the case. I haven't blogged because I have been very busy.
I am still in school. I have my comprehensive exams end of October. I am developing my prospectus. And I am working still.. full time and involved in big projects. I am still adjusting to being a wife.... along with other things. And trying to work out a schedule that allows some self-care. It's tough. And although I love Wonder Woman... I cannot be her 24/7. Shoot.. I can't even watch TV without feeling a tiny bit guilty... I guess Scandal has to wait.
I go through moments where I feel great about life.. and then moments where I feel like at any moment it can all come crushing down on my head. There are things going on in my life that I am so delighted about. Given the loss of my mom that I experienced early this spring... I am so excited about things... Nervous but thrilled. My heart is swelling. My husband is the bee's knees. We celebrated one year of being married and he still takes my breath away. We are settled and happy... and moving right along as a unit........
I am so happy that I am shouting it... just at a whisper level.
I realize I am on social media. I have two blogs. I have a YT channel.. and I have a pretty good social medial presence. With all of that... it doesn't mean that I want people in my business. I do not want people I barely communicate with speculating on my life. My mama used to say "everyone doesn't deserve a front row ticket to your life". Therefore, the people who need to know will know intimate matters in my life. Not some chick who I talked to on occasion via some website. Not someone who follows me on Twitter. Not someone who looks at my Instagram. I am talking old, "down like 4 flats" friends are the only ones who get to share in my life...all its ups and downs.
This makes it hard to have a social media presence. There are things I'd love to share.. but given my privacy... (and my husband's privacy).. I chose not to. I am sure part of it will make me lose out on blog sponsors.. and other exposure. But would I rather leave myself exposed to the world? Or be happy in my cocoon? It isn't that I live my life with rose-colored glasses on. But I just want to cherish my happiness. I've waited 35 years for it.... I've worked hard for it. So has my husband. So has my family.
Recently, I had a couple of incidents of personal invasion that bothered me. Someone decided to post unsolicited inquiries in my inbox, speculating on my life. I didn't bother to answer them directly and I still won't. Then, a week later, someone (whom I assume could only hear ramblings of my life either via my other blog... or another social media group I used to belong to), decided to post something on my personal Facebook wall. Luckily, I had friends who are fiercely protective of my privacy and also alerted me. I deleted it. My life isn't internet fodder. I am no longer 25. I do not have the protection of a private blogging space (a la Xanga back in the 2000s).. I have Facebook mostly for my family and college friends/sorority sisters. Also, most of my very good friends live out of state. Email has gone the way of the dinosaur these days.. so social media it is. But If I cannot have some modicum of privacy... then gosh.... what is it all for?
I partly blame myself for being too open with folks in the beginning. I shared a lot. I shouldn't have. And now as I knock on the front end of 40 (YIKES)... I know a lot better.
Maybe there will come a time where I share something amazing and wonderful on this blog. Maybe I won't. Until then... it is my choice. And no one has the right to violate your space. I will continue to shout my good news... praise my husband... brag on my family... and share silly stories of the adventures of my Godchildren...
... but it'll have to be done in a whisper . And for certain ears only.
Just a 30-something African-American woman living in the Deep South's largest metropolis (for now) who is a lover of all things shoe...the higher the heel..the better...who is also navigating the world of dating, mating, and all things in-between post-divorce.
For PR opportunities contact me at : firstname.lastname@example.org
*NOTE*: I do not claim the rights to any of these photos that I use. If there is an issue, please contact me directly.