being enough whether she sits in abundance or is dying of thirst. Mothers save what we think are the last few drops for the ones we bear. We forget the Nile is ever flowing.
They speak in their native tongue. Their words muffled against the floor boards beneath me. I hear his mother speak in a language I can only feel. I am touched by the joy, the authority, the worry, and at times, the sadden tempo of her voice. She flows into our home and makes him better; makes us all feel something. Today, they exchange words like a beating drum that carries out a rhythm of mutual respect.
He laughs so loud it shakes us quiet. The banging of plastic dishes against the toy stove of the girl’s make-shift house, stop. In the next room, our oldest briefly stops mid-text to listen. And I lay here.
I lay on the floor of my closet, gripping the plastic Mrs. Lee placed over my black nine to five.
My thoughts have shifted. I find sugar in his voice.
I see his white teeth and his dark skin. His cheeks are so high; they force his already slanted eyes shut as he smiles and laughs with the Nile. They share memories in a language even the people of their land aren’t privy to. This elation carries over the sea that separates them. The sea they call the pond, a term used to soften their reality. They laugh. Their memories, this joy, a son’s indivisible respect for his mother carries over borders, and walls, and man’s divisive ways.
The Nile is endlessly flowing through this home; filling the children both of us women beared. Her voice loosens my grip and the tension of the wire hangers against this metal rod.
Tears run across my face, onto the floor. I smile because I have seen that grown man turn to butter when he talks to his momma. He finds ways to speak her into our exchanges. He tells us stories of how he would get beat up for sneaking to lick a spoon or take a nibble from her kitchen before dinner. And how he would rest his head on her lap and just be. He tells us how that fierce woman with a strong, yet sweet voice with a dialect that makes one smile, would make all six of her children attend church. And whoever didn’t go would be locked out the house until she and the others returned. As he reminisces, he is there; oceans and countries away with the Nile. The girls and I don’t interrupt these visits. Life has already kept him here, away from her for too long. We listen as he talks about the land, the people, his father and his mother.
I hear little giggles on the other side of the closet door. The door slowly opens. I quickly press it close with my foot. The girls run away, yelling, “She’s going to get us!” They don’t know I’m in this closet hiding from pathology, and seeking strength.
Motherhood calls for a woman to disregard herself, to come back if she has time. It demands her to be whole. It pushes her to gather her pieces so she is enough to nurture her children, whether the child within her is healed or not.
but, what happens when the Nile is yearning?
I sit up and stare at my framed vision boards of 2017, 2018, 2019. There, top-center, is a picture of the child I promised to care for. A child once abandoned, now sitting here in a closet, not trusting anyone’s love. For the last nine months, I’ve tried to remember if there was ever a secret love language shared with the child who is pinned to this board. I am still this child searching. And hiding in the ways passed down to me.
Merriam Webster and all alike try defining motherhood in few words: the state of being a mother; maternity; a female parent, a woman in authority. [short for motherfucker] sometimes vulgar: MOTHERFUCKER. None of this defines the strength needed for such a vocation. There are no terms that uphold this role in which she leads. Motherhood must be stood in so it can be felt. Only then, its complexity is truly understood. Although Webster and his friends’ attempts are lacking, I found the latter to be fitting, because motherhood can be just that . . . a motherfucker.
When a child leaves the womb, tears are shed. The birth of a baby can bring a grown man to his knees, and scare him enough to get him quickly to his feet and running. For the ones who stand in fatherhood, they run from the hospital to the house to regroup. . . But for the mother, there is no leaving. There is no time to regroup. She’s been sitting in motherhood since conception, but now that baby lies against her stretched skin, sucking her cracked nipples. And her depression is so bad she doesn’t know whether she is coming or going. She just knows she is the source.
Motherhood is the act of transcending. It is a sacred connection between mother, child and a higher power. It’s escaping death to give life and depending on her color, the risks are greater. It takes a year for a woman’s body, and mind to heal after giving birth. Life dismisses this necessary healing. Having no choice, she goes back to work four-six weeks after birthing a whole human.
What is Motherhood?
There’s motherhood and then there are the complexed layers. There are situations, emotions, colors, environment we have to navigate through. These obstacles can hold beautiful lessons or have adults moving in ways a child does, attempting to be fed . . . or freed.
Motherhood is staying on the phone and waiting in lines for assistance from the man who knows nothing about the hood in which she mothers. The cost of formula alone can make a comfortable home, uncomfortable. Childcare is one third of a yearly six figure income. Motherhood is finding ways to feed her child when the man denies her assistance for making a bit more than the limit he sets in place.
Motherhood is being shamed for breastfeeding her child in public.
Motherhood is constantly worrying when your child is out of sight, or being the child who was abused out of sight. . . I look at my neatly paired shoes and hanging clothes. I remember being as young as my youngest daughter, seven, and not liking people in my space, particularly, my bedroom. Every toy had its own space. I remember having lots of toys from fast food joints. I would neatly line those toys up on my dresser and on my vanity. I would get so much anxiety when someone came in my room and upset when they touched my toys.
In the show "Love Is____," Yasir asks Nuri “Do you ever think you can’t see the beauty in your home because of what’s in your past? When I was trying to analyze myself (a victim of sexual abuse himself) I remember reading some books on women who were obsessed with cleanliness, obsessed with their space, obsessed with the perfection of their environment because they didn’t have control of their own body.”
After watching the scene, I sat still in thought. Then I played the scene over a few times. It was a moment of hearing God, a moment of growth, a moment to feel for the child I would later place top-center of my hopes and dreams for 2019.
Motherhood is barely getting out of the shower to dry your marks of honor and reminders of nine month wars, before your child comes in asking for food. And before she leaves the bathroom, she reminds you of the baby weight that remains seven years later. “Momma, you kinda fat.”
Motherhood is cooking dinner, barely sitting down to eat with your family, before someone is asking for seconds, interrupting your thoughts of, "What's in the fridge for tomorrow’s dinner?"
Motherhood is to be all-knowing:
It’s folding clothes and knowing what shirt goes in whose pile. It seems like an easy task, but ask my husband to do it.
It’s knowing whether your child needs your shoulder or your backhand, and then being the only one who can effectively provide one or the other with patience and the mutual understanding between child and mother.
Motherhood is having a moral compass to tell your daughter when her clothes are fitting a tad tight. Motherhuood is also knowing how to insert yourself in a situation, to mother a mother (who thought it was okay to send her child to a school dance dressed like a hooker) and her child . . . but it’s also knowing when to remove yourself from situations to focus on your own child in the fitting room next door. A woman must not try to relive the good ole days on her daughter’s body; dressing her in clothes she wishes she could still fit. Motherhood is admitting her choice for her daughter’s homecoming dress is wrong. When her daughter says she’s uncomfortable, she must listen. She must see the problem, as her daughter hides her exposed stomach and pulls the tight dress from her thighs.
Motherhood is a hood she roams alone with or without a partner.
She keeps a mental and physical calendar of everyone’s appointments, so no one else has to remember. She remembers the snacks for soccer games, and being the cheerleader on five hours of sleep. She is the first to take off work when her child is sick. A duty that does not have to be discussed, just expected of most. And sometimes she is the only option, as she stands in parenthood alone. Single motherhood is another level of strength.
Motherhood is making difficult choices for your child when there is no father, no village, or financial resources. She worries about those choices and sadly has lives with the devastation when those choices end in tragic events. Motherhood is a woman being judged by her community for choices she makes alone, while the absent father is . . . absent. Yet, somehow he appears from nowhere to cast the first stone amongst the judgmental onlookers.
No matter the circumstance, we all are expected to move differently under yet another cover placed over us, to keep us in one way or another. And when we “selfishly” try to dream or simply attempt to collect our pieces just to be, we are put back in our place and reminded of our children’s existence. They remind us that only a mother can nurture a child the way a child needs to be nurtured. This is true! So it pulls us back to “our place”. If we go for our dreams or our pieces, our guilt builds a time clock in our being, making sure we are back before anyone notices.
I heard a mother say mothers don’t have to lose themselves in motherhood. But we do. Every single mother, present or not, loses herself in one way or another. When a woman births a child there is now a connection that has a woman sacrificing in ways no one else has to. Even a mother not present in motherhood loses her mind, thinking of the baby she could not care for. You can plant a seed and walk away. At times you’ll wonder what it became. But when you are the source of its becoming and you leave . . . there’s guilt so heavy a man could not bear.
Yet, I am an avid believer a woman must not be celebrated on Father’s Day, regardless of her single-mother home. There is a different kind of sovereignty in that hood we women know nothing about.
Motherhood is a calling, entrusted by a higher power to carry out a plan that is greater than us all. The power within motherhood cannot be altered by words or science.
"To be a mother is to have humility; humbling herself enough to come undone. But being strong enough to sort that shit out"
A mother must speak softly when she guides, so her child listens close, avoiding unforeseeable paths she once faced. To be a mother is to have humility; humbling herself enough to come undone. But being strong enough to sort that shit out! Motherhood for me is being with the man who smiles through borders and walls. My daughters must know how a good man moves. He is a man who supports me when I am not together and, at times, throwing my pieces at him and around this house. But quick to get me together when enough has been had!
Motherhood is showing my daughters the beauty of love, but to always have their own, whether they are alone or with a man. Showing them the Nile still flows because she is always abundant. She must not only buy the table. She must buy the food, cook and sit at that table. And she doesn’t sit there to boast in her tributes. She must sit there to be the exemplar. A pattern her children will follow. When someone tells my daughter, “God! You look and act just like your momma!” She will not cringe, wondering if they mean the good or the bad. Motherhood for me is, knowing the magnitude of the power and purpose within this calling and funding the greater good.
Motherhood is dancing around the house with my daughters and showing them there’s a Beyonce, but there’s also a Solange. Letting them be kids and guarding their innocence. I braid their kinky curls and whisper affirmations so they are full and everything else tastes like dessert.
There is a power within motherhood that can keep a child still or transcending through walls. It’s a power that can have her child in a closet, gripping at plastic or across seas, reminiscing and craving her sadza neguru matumba and greens.
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