Portraits of Motherhood [5]

motherhood

 

Kinky and Coily

Twice a term my daughter and I go through the drill—at the start of the term and just before the half-term break ends. She sits on a stool and we unravel unwilling braids. They tangle at every turn resulting in tugs and pulls. She scrunches her brows and lets out a yelp.

“Mummmyyyy! Not so hard! It really really hurts.”

I sigh and relax my hands taking some pressure off. We finally loosen the braids and then wash, condition, oil, and plait her hair in fat clumps, ready for the new braids or cornrows she will sport.

She touches her hair and asks, “My hair is long enough, why can’t I leave it to just flow down . . . all the way down to my back?”

“You know why.” I respond gently.

“Why?”

“Your hair is kinky and coily. If you leave it to air-dry without a plait, it will coil and shrink into an afro-ey puff that will tangle and be difficult to comb.”

As her brown eyes look into mine, I continue, “This is your hair, it is my hair too. It’s the beautiful and versatile hair that God gave us, and we will rock it and love it and share it with the world.”

About four years ago, I decided to wear my hair in its natural state instead of straightening it with relaxers because I wanted my afro to reflect who I am. I made the decision for my seven-year-old daughter also.

As she grows older, I want her to be proud of her hair and to experiment with different styles, textures, and colours and discover what works for her. So, I tell her about my days of perms, red hair, and many hair extensions. She laughs.

“What about you? Would you like a perm . . . so your hair can fall to your back and it doesn’t hurt so much to comb?”

“No.”

“Are you sure?”

She nods and I sigh in relief.

I like that she owns her hair and approves of my choice for her. When she is older, whatever she does with her hair is fine as far as she understands that externals do not define her.

Tamkara Adun@ naijaexpatinholland
Tamkara rocks her clogs expat style in the book, Dutched Up! with 27 other expats who share their perspectives on life in The Netherlands.

 

The Art of Pee

We were at the mall, and my daughter needed to pee. I took her to the public toilet, which was reasonably decent. I’d read that the risk of picking up germs from sitting on public toilet seats was low. I’d read that there are more bacteria on office keyboards than on public toilet seats. That dodgy information resides somewhere in my intellect, meanwhile, my heart moves me to act differently.

I lifted the toilet seat cover and tried to get her to squat. She pointed at the seat. I gave her a brief lecture on the dangers of actually sitting.

“Mummy, I can’t do it.”

“What do you mean you can’t?”

“I can’t.”

“Just bend . . .  like this . . .”

I squatted over the toilet to ensure a healthy distance between my thighs and the edge of the bowl, feeling and I suppose looking undignified, while my daughter watched and doubled over with laughter.

“Your turn!”

“Mmmmm—”

“What?”

“I don’t want to pee anymore.”

“You what!”

“I can hold it.”

I took a deep breath. When I opened the door, I was relieved to find that no one had been eavesdropping on our mother-daughter rite of passage.

Just as we were about to leave the mall, my daughter had the burning urge to pee again. Immediately, two damp circles stained the armpits of my blouse. To my chagrin, our training session ended with an empty bladder, a wet mother and a wet daughter.

At home, I tried to teach her the art of peeing in public toilets with marginal success. My instruction to pee before an outing was laced with undercurrents of meaning that her father and brother could not understand. For insurance, I carried paper toilet seat covers and antibacterial wipes. I learnt to defuse world war four by letting her innocent suggestion, “Why don’t you just clean the seat?” prevail. 

When I was a child, I played house and fed my children okro soup made by crushing hibiscus leaves and petals in an empty derica tin. I wanted to be a mom. Judging from appearances, my daughter also wants to be a mom. She bathes and dresses her dolls with patience that she does not reserve for herself. She dishes plastic eggs, bacon, and bread made in her Fisher Price deluxe kitchen, for them. Oh, the joys of motherhood await her!

Timi @livelytwist
© Timi Yeseibo 2015

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Advertisements

Portraits of Motherhood [4]

Motherhood4

A Question From My Daughter

After a day that threatened to break my distress-tolerance scale, I could not refrain from disintegrating in front of my five-year-old daughter. We were sitting in our kitchen and I was looking at her through eyes red and swollen, from crying.

“Mama who is your mommy?” she asked while typing gibberish comprising emoticons, punctuation marks, and jumbled-up letters on my phone. “I want to tell her you are sad.”

I giggled as though she had just pounced on me with one of her random tickles. I was pleased that she was brave enough to ask things I never dared to ask when I was a child.

“Your grandmother . . .  the one we visited recently . . .  where we slept over, is my mother,” I stuttered.

“Oh,” she replied.

I expected more questions but she seemed satisfied with my answer.  I, however, felt discontented. My answer contained only one half of the truth. How could I explain that I have two mothers or that it was possible to have two mothers?

Would she understand if I told her that I had been brought up as my grandmother’s sister’s child because my grandmother’s daughter, my mother, had given birth to me at a young age? And that the woman she called grandmother was really my mother’s maternal aunt?

In 1981, if you were twenty, schooling, and living with your parents or grandparents, as was the case in many black homes in South Africa, you were a child. Children did not raise children. They went to school. How could I tell her the truth—that sometimes mommies gave their babies away through a process called adoption? Would she not think that perhaps I too might give her to another mommy forever?

I decided to keep the answers in my things-to-tell-my-daughter-in-future file. I remembered that I was once a child who needed answers about the people who made up my family.

Unathi Kapa shares her thoughts on identity, culture, belonging, and purpose on unathikay

 

An Extra Mouth to Feed

In the shower, steam shrouds me but does not insulate me. I am thinking about money. I worry about my lack of it.

Once, when I manufactured a few minutes to play with him in the park, he threw the ball to me, an easy pass that I should not have missed.

“Mom you’re not looking!”

He was right, again. I am rarely present; I am in our future worrying.

“I’m sorry. Let’s play again.”

I threw the ball so it spun in an arc that began its descent farther away from where he stood. He was already moving back, calculating the trajectory of the ball. Before delight widened his eyes, weariness had narrowed them. How easily children forgive and forget.

Kalanne said that ever since she got a nanny, she was a better mother. By way of illustration, she said when Sowari spilled his milk, instead of screaming, “What’s wrong with you! Why are you so clumsy?” she now said, “Aw, darling be careful. Don’t worry Tari will clean up.”

I think that if I had money, I would be a better mother. I would not shout as I had done over the loss of his monthly bus pass, berating him with words from a tornado inside me.

I sigh and adjust the shower settings so hot water stings me like needles. When I leave my frugal pleasure-penance behind and open the door, he is there.

Steam rushes to embrace him, but it does not insulate him either.

“Mom, I’m sorry. Don’t send me to my dad. When I grow up I will buy you a car.”

Dangerous thoughts had been circling my mind. How wonderful to be free again. How much easier life without an extra mouth to feed.

I pull him close and wrap him in a fierce hug. My tears mingle with water droplets and disappear into his hair.

If the love of money is the main root of all evil, the lack of it is the secondary root.

Timi@ Livelytwist
© Timi Yeseibo 2015

 

The Empty Crib

We do not interrupt the drive home from the hospital with small talk. When we pull up in front of our house, the neighbours spring out from theirs. Their merriment uncoils in laughing smiles, waving arms, and dancing legs.

The confusion begins the moment I step out of the car. Their eyes travel from my empty arms to my ‘flat’ stomach and from my flat stomach to my empty arms, until someone blurts, “Where is the baby?”

We had not discussed how we would answer their questions. I go inside, while he stays behind to explain.

Death is a thief. It also stole my sleep. The sedatives they force me to drink, freeze in my digestive tract. I walk from room to room weeping for a daughter I never held. It is a long time before my legs give way and I lie on the carpet in the room with yellow walls and the empty white crib.

In the days following, they tell me I am lucky to be alive. I do not feel lucky; I feel empty. They tell me I am young; I can have other children. But, I wanted this one. Oh God, how I wanted this one.

In the beginning, I held a vigil for her every year, so she would know that even if everyone else forgot, I would not. Then one year I looked at the calendar and realized that while I was driving my son to football practice and watching my daughter pirouette in ballet class, her birthday had passed. I had not known that pain could fade into oblivion.

Now I understand what they told me many years ago: I will go to her, but she will not return to me.

Timi@ Livelytwist
© Timi Yeseibo 2015

 

Can a woman forget her baby?
Can she forget the child who came from her body?
Even if she can forget her children, I cannot forget you.
I drew a picture of you on my hand. You are always before my eyes.
Isaiah 49:15-16

 

 

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Portraits of Motherhood [3]

Motherhood3

Caramel Kids

My husband John is white and I am black. Our first daughter was conceived after a lot of body heat measurements, lovemaking, and consultant fees. As a newborn, she looked nothing like me but everything like John—dark blue eyes under straight black hair, set in pale skin dusted with freckles. Twenty-two months later, her sister was born.

My beautiful girls have always seen and described themselves as caramel. They say caramel is the mixture of white and black. I also see them as caramel. However, I refuse to raise them as caramel. I am raising them as strong black African women to give them a sense of belonging.

When my seven-year old (who had played all day), wanted to play with her friends some more instead of studying, I said no despite her tears. Her friends in question are white, middle-class, and privately educated. She is mixed race, middle-class, and in a state school. In May, my daughter writes her SATs, her first exams.

Because I worry about my daughters’ academic potential, I constantly emphasize the importance of working hard at school. Only this time, her naïvety irritated me. I told her, “You will have to work twice as hard as your white friends to get where you deserve to be.”

In England, caramel is closer to black, and society regards them as mixed black Africans and not mixed white British. People see their sex and race first. They are not immune to this reality. As a warrior mum, I want them to know who they are and I want to give them every advantage they need to succeed.

Still, my main parenting ethos is to ground them in the kind of love I never experienced. Love, which is professed. Love, which cuddles. Love, which kisses. Love, which makes us spend time together. Because knowing you are loved and accepted unconditionally is a bulwark against ‘colour’ coding and separation.

Yvonne is crazy about retro and vintage fashion. She writes passionately about things that get to her at RealYvonneBlog

 

#Electiongate

E1 ran for house prefect last term. Three girls and a boy competed for the two positions. She wrote a speech and campaigned round school. After the elections, E1 came second. The highest vote was nine. She scored eight, the boy scored three, and the other girl one. E2 excitedly told her sister, “Well done, you got it.”

Imagine my shock a couple of days later when E1 reported that the other spot had gone to the boy.

I let off steam at the school office and emailed the secretary expressing my displeasure. A meeting was scheduled with the head teacher where she confirmed that because a boy and a girl traditionally filled the positions, the second post had gone to the boy.

I contended that since the candidates were not informed upfront, the entire process was a mockery. I decided to pursue the matter further as I felt E1 was robbed. Outlining my grievances in a letter, I pointed out that by denying my daughter equal opportunity the school was teaching her that gender is a deterrent to success in a society where gender discrimination is illegal.

It was a lonely and long fight. Well-meaning people asked, “What’s the big deal?” In the meantime, E1 was offered other positions. I told her it was okay to accept another position, as long as she made it clear she was still holding out for her elected post.

Countless emails and acknowledgements wearied me to the end of my tether. Then one Friday, at the close of school, the secretary handed me a letter. I ripped it open once we got to the car. E1 had been awarded the prefectship!

I turned to her, “You see why it’s important to stick to your guns and fight for your rights?” She nodded, joy brimming from her eyes.

I am trying to raise my daughters to believe that there are no limits to what they can achieve or how far they can go. They know that sometimes, they will have to fight. And I want them to know I will always have their backs as God gives me strength.

Joxy, wife, mother, bookworm, bookaholic, ardent Scrabble player, tennis fan, and foodie, writes at Justjoxy’s blog.

 

A Heart of Gold

My thirteen-year-old son is not special needs. He has special needs and barely qualifies to have some of them met in school. If you met him, you would not imagine that my well-spoken boy struggles in school. This challenge began in pre-school and has now progressed to annual team meetings with teachers.

The meetings always start with, “What are your concerns about Damon?” I exhale before I rattle off the same yearly list, lack of focus and mathematical comprehension, poor grades, etc. His teachers smile sadly and nod because they see it every day. In that moment, I don’t feel alone even though they are witnesses for only nine months.

What happens next is my favorite part and it happens every time. Sure, their faces drop when they describe how Damon hunches over his paper, so they won’t know he hasn’t written anything. But they then mention how his hand shoots up above his brown curly hair to volunteer to read; and my mind travels to the years he cried because he hated reading but persevered until he loved it. They smile as they recount his eager participation in class discussions, which elevates the conversation. We all laugh at the way he smiles and assures us that he’s, “Got this!”

And yes, Damon’s got this, this being the heart of life. He carefully scoops up infants in the church nursery where he volunteers each week. He emanates warmth as he greets homeless people whenever we hit the streets to hand out supplies. You see, I mother a child who on his best day puts in twice the effort to receive half the grade and has done so for nine years. Yet his perspective of the world and himself is untainted. Once when I checked his phone for inappropriate content, I saw a text from a friend who stated he wants to be incredible like Damon.

So yeah, parenting an out-of-the-box kid isn’t easy when it comes to schooling, but witnessing his spirit shine in the face of obstacles is better than perfect marks.

Brina Harwood, recent returning full-time student, aspiring writer, and working mother of four, blogs on occasion at My Life in Crowd Control.

 

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

 

Portraits of Motherhood [2]

Motherhood 2

An Undulating Journey 

I had no burning desire to be a mother. It was one more thing to tick off my life’s to-do list.

Medical School – check.
Become a doctor – check.
Get married – check.
Have children – check.

But my journey was to be an undulating one.

It was two years into my marriage before I realized ‘have children’ wasn’t just going to happen. There was a problem. The day I sat across a colleague, as a patient, and was told our hopes of having children naturally would never materialize, I died a little.

I understood the diagnosis and the limitations of medical science from a doctor’s stance. I would need to go through series of infertility treatments. Nevertheless, our faith in God held us steady.

As the years turned like the pages of a book, my longing to have a child became stronger. Each day seemed like a year, every menstrual cycle, a thousand years. I established myself as a general practitioner in that time. I examined mothers and their babies while aching for mine. Everywhere I looked someone had a baby in her arms except me.

Almost ten years later, during which time I had three failed IVF treatments and we leaned towards adoption, I held my son on my birthday. We had received a miracle. I cannot put the emotions I felt on paper. At my son’s Dedication Service, I rolled on the floor at the altar—all my yearning, hoping, waiting, crying congealed into worship.

My journey into motherhood began when the magnitude of the responsibility to guide this little person from childhood to adulthood hit me. Two precious daughters have joined the fold. It’s an honour and a privilege to be called mum.

Taye Umole enjoys sharing uplifting stories about how medical science and faith can complement each other. Running is a passion she and her husband share.

 

A Mother to Those Who Matter

From a young age, I mothered my siblings. My dad was present but absent while my mom was absent, not by choice, but present by proxy. From her phone calls, I learned to parent, nurture, discipline, and correct on the go.

So, by my mid-twenties I was certain I didn’t want kids of my own; biological, adopted, borrowed, or otherwise. However, when my siblings and best friends started to pop out little humans, cute and fair, my heart trembled and betrayed me.

Last Christmas, I met my nieces Tara, Didi, and Edikan for the first time. They hugged and kissed me as if they have known me all their lives. My nephew, Jedd, and I are yet to embrace, and I can’t wait to hold him.

I never went back to not wanting kids. Well, when the ones in my life start acting out, for a minute, I’m thankful they aren’t mine. Although I am older, I haven’t given up on having kids. I’m not paralyzed by fear of my biological clock falling apart from ticking for so long. Nor do I care about societal expectations. In the serene peripherals of my mind, I yearn for mine. But, I will not let this desire so consume me that I forget to enjoy living in my now.

My friends are gracious and let me share their kids. Like Elim, who is five going on seventeen. He still calls me Sunshine even though he says I’m not as bright as the sun. Did I already say he is five?

Sometimes, I lose myself in the lives of ‘my kids’ until their mums walk in and reality gives me a big slap. For me, contentment is knowing that I am loved as much as I love.

Every Mother’s Day I get phone calls and kisses from kids who add vibrant color to my life. Because in wiping tears and snot, kissing boo boos, clipping nails, giving baths, braiding hair, doing laundry, and in every other sense of the word; I am a mother.

I just didn’t get to push. Not yet.

Elaine Otuije loves media production, TV, movies, and film. She shares her opinion about most things on her blog.

 

The Bikini Cut

My eyes were glued to the monitor in the private hospital room. Why would my body not go into labour? What had the doctor said? Your contractions are too weak. The excitement that followed my water breaking sixteen hours ago was giving way to worry.

Waiting. Whispers. Deliberations. Phone Calls. Then: we’re going to deliver your baby by caesarean section. The ‘sentence’ sounded awful. I began to cry.

“Can we wait a little?” I had been praying, faithing, confessing, I am like the Hebrew women . . .

“We can’t take any chances Timi; it’s been over twenty-four hours already.”

“But I want to have my baby like normal women . . .”

I sobbed all the way to the OR. I sobbed while the nurse wiped the nail polish from my toes—bye bye pretty red toes. I sobbed until they held the gas mask over my nose.

When I came to, they brought him to me. Long, fair, a riotous mass of black curly hair. “Pretty like a girl,” the nurse said. He latched onto my breast and I latched onto his heart.

I was happy but ashamed that I had been less than a woman. I lied and painted sketches of a vaginal delivery whenever I found myself trading birth stories with other women.

This shame, where did it come from?

For my next pregnancy, I elected for a CS. I could not, would not, go through the trauma of trying for a vaginal delivery and be denied last-minute. Time had not healed my disappointment.

My friend shares a similar story. She would gaze at her preterm baby, a minuscule wonder lying in a glass spaceship, and feel gratitude and guilt and shame.

This shame, where does it come from?

Watching kids play in the park, I cannot tell which one was preterm or which one came by CS or birth canal. Does it matter? They are healthy. The doctor said my scar healed beautifully. He is right. After all these years, I hardly see it. I cannot feel it. I must look for it.

Bikini cut without choice. Bikini cut by choice. My scar of love, my bikini cut.

Timi@ Livelytwist
© Timi Yeseibo 2015

 

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

Portraits of Motherhood [1]

motherhood 1

Bye Bye Guilt

Working forty hours a week means I’m the mom who can’t always be there. Quite often, I miss school events and after-school activities. Sometimes I have to sacrifice evenings and weekends with my family.

I felt so guilty but I shouldn’t have because during the summer months with long, light evenings, I made an effort to get home early. However, my reward upon returning home was lots of kisses. Then off my kids went to play with other children on the street, coming back only to eat when darkness fell.

That they didn’t ‘have time’ for me was my wake-up call to make time for myself.

I went to Paris with a friend who was leaving Europe for India, her home. I did miss the little darlings, but upon my return home, I realised they had survived without me, and I without them.

My children make choices to be with their friends at certain times yet I often pass up opportunities to go out with mine because I worry about leaving them. And so guilt swarms and swamps, as though my having a life lessens my love for them. They, on the other hand, go away with friends but I never doubt their love for me.

So now, taking care of Number One is top of my list. Shortly after this dawned on me, I began writing a food blog, chronicling my kitchen escapades. Through it, I have found me in the leaves of green vegetables and the pages of cookbooks. For you it may be gardening, walking, or Zumba. Whatever it is, do it, because nothing liberates the spirit as much as finding personal purpose, over and above being everything else, even if it doesn’t pay the bills.

For if you aren’t full, how can you fountain? 

Read full article

Ozoz is passionate about food in its entirety – cooking, eating, dreaming, writing and photographing it @ Kitchenbutterfly

 

Milk Milk Milk

At the airport, shiny floors, blinking signs, and morning-rush people captivate my daughter, even though she hasn’t slept enough. She points at everything and says, “Wow! Pretty!” before letting go of my hand and breaking into a run. Her giggles drown in the orderly mayhem.

I grab her and we sit down to wait for our 10 a.m. flight to Italy.  Opposite us, a couple neck as if it is their last time together. When he gropes her breasts, I imagine they will soon pop out from her low-cut blouse.

“Mummy, what’s that?” my daughter taps me and points at them.

I look around. People calling, texting, and iPad-ding.

“It’s nothing.”

“No, mummy what’s that?” She is still pointing.

How do I explain? The man’s face has lowered; it is closer to the woman’s blouse now.

“Mummy look, milk! I want milk!” She tugs at my top.

“No, not now, later okay?”

“Milk! Milk! Milk!”

I look around. People still calling, texting, and iPad-ding. So I cradle her in my arms, undo my nursing bra strap, and pop my nipple in her mouth, no flesh exposed. As she suckles, I feel as though I’m being watched. I look up to meet cold stares from all directions.

I should be used to it, but this time I will not let them get away with it. I lock eyes with one woman and say, “This is my two-year-old daughter and yes I still breastfeed her! Do you have a problem with that?”

She looks away and so do the others.

Women are the ones most offended with people like me—mothers who breastfeed in public, mothers who breastfeed longer than six months, mothers who still breastfeed toddlers. They tell me, “You’re actually the one enjoying it and not the child. Oh your poor husband, how is he coping? Once the child can walk up to you and help themselves, you are abusing the child because God made your breasts for your husband.”

I’m giving my child milk for sustenance and that man is sucking the life out of his partner. Why am I the one getting the evil eye? Are a woman’s breasts for sexual pleasure or breastfeeding or both?

Afi Boboye is a wife and a mother who is passionate about breast-feeding.

 

The Aliens in Your Nest

We have five children, eleven grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren. Each child is incredibly different. And while nurture has some impact, they come into the world as varied as wildflowers. The key to the fine art of mothering is recognizing and valuing their differences.

Every personality trait has an upside and a downside. The stubborn child that drives you to anger management class by resisting any parental authority may well persevere to become your hero. In our family, that child and I had the most conflict, because he was the one most like me. It was a case of irresistible force meeting immovable object.

This beautiful child, who charmed the world, knew unconsciously how to push all my buttons. It took some years, but we can finally relate without being like two porcupines trying to dance. In fact, he is my hero. He currently teaches at an orphanage for children born HIV positive, in Cambodia. Got to love God’s sense of humor.

I am sure my mother thought I was an alien. Sadly, our dissimilarities were barriers to close connection.  Learning about personality differences opened my eyes and heart to her gifts. While caring for her during her years of struggle with Alzheimer’s, I recognized her language of love. We never got a chance to enjoy each other, but I learned how to love her unconditionally.

My only daughter and I are also opposite personality types and although we express our spirituality through different religious preferences, it is our deepest shared value. Because of this, we have a much better relationship than I had with my mother.

Our family is a sapling with variegated leaves spread around the world. Each Christmas, thirty-plus of us gather. Love, and our warped sense of humor—one trait we all share, make it a high point. At seventy-seven, I take delight in all the ‘aliens’ in my nest.

Eileen O’Leary Norman is a consultant on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. She blogs at Laughter: Carbonated Grace

 

 

Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Timi Yeseibo and livelytwist.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.