Our society has strange views when it comes to mothers. On one hand we exalt mothers, heap praise upon them (Mother’s Day), yet don’t provide concrete support for them such as universal childcare. As a matter of fact, majority of mothers are treated poorly on a daily basis, especially Black mothers. I often see mothers struggling with kids/strollers/bags/toys etc., while people push past them in a hurry. Usually, it’s mothers who will help other mothers by offering a hand or comforting an upset child.
I’ll never forget flying back to Portland with my 1 1/2 year old. He started hollering on the plane. There were other mothers on board. One sent some of her children’s snacks to me via fellow passengers. Another played with him to keep him distracted. One tried to carry on a normal conversation with me, to calm me. It was my first time traveling with my toddler, so it was a bit overwhelming for me. Recently, I saw an article about a mother who went through a similar situation at an airport. When I read that, it resonated with me.
Funny enough, I never wanted children. Honestly, I didn’t think I was mother material. And still wonder at times. I was surprised when I found out I was pregnant, but decided to keep chugging along. Curiosity got the best of me. I’m an older mom. I had my son at 41. So, it was a huge life change for me. My journey into motherhood has been interesting. I tend to have mixed feelings about it. I love my son, of course. I enjoy watching him come into his own. He’s a quirky kid, which I like. However, I miss my freedom sometimes. I think my ambivalence towards motherhood, is due to how it started out. It was chaotic and traumatic.
Four days after my son was born, we were homeless. I’d moved back to my original hometown, to be closer to family. My mom had passed away, years ago, so I was feeling sentimental. I thought being near my family, would help cure my loneliness, since I didn’t have my mom to turn to. I stayed with my biological father, which was a big mistake. His wife, my stepmother, frankly was cruel to me while I was there. My dad was indifferent/aloof, for the most part. That tends to be his personality. I see why he and my mom didn’t last too long.
At the hospital, I was mostly alone. A relative did accompany me to the delivery room, as I had an emergency c-section. The baby was in distress. Everything turned out okay, although he was born with a sixth finger (it eventually was taken off). I can’t wait to tell my son that one day! A few days later, my biological father came to pick me up. He hadn’t visited me at the hospital the whole time I was there. He seemed annoyed while helping me get the baby and things into the car. By the time we got to his house, tears were pouring down my face. I was really missing my mom. I know she would’ve embraced me with love and joy.
My biological father and I got into an argument. I can’t remember what it was about, but it was my breaking point. It was bad enough, I had been physically assaulted by his wife, but him treating me and my child like a burden…was too much. I gathered all of our things and called a cab. My dad helped put our stuff in the cab, he didn’t give a damn. The cab driver felt bad for me and the baby, so he drove around trying to figure out a place we could stay.
He knew an organization that helped women and children. The place he took us to, the lady urged me to go to the one shelter in town. I lucked out. They had one room available, and it was a newborn room. The room had a crib and everything for a new mother. The directors expedited my paper work and by that afternoon, my baby and I were resting in the room. It was all very nerve-racking for me, though. And literally painful. Remember, I had had a c-section. I had fresh stitches. I would be bent over for weeks so as not to bust them.
My stay at the shelter was an experience I will never forget. I lived there for eight months. It was a space exclusively for mothers/children/single women. I met some characters at that place, that’s for sure. Overall, the women were loving and supportive for the most part. I became especially close with the other Black mothers, since it was just a few of us there. When my time at the shelter ended, I was looking at possible homelessness again. It was a Black mother I befriended at the shelter, who let me and my son stay with her. She’d moved out the shelter into her own place.
She watched my baby, once I got a job. Really, if it wasn’t for her I don’t know how I would’ve made it. Mothers helping mothers.
My road into motherhood was a rocky one. It’s why I feel anxious about it. There’s been a lot of ups and downs. Once you are a mother, you realize how vulnerable you are. Particularly, as a Black mother. You have this child depending on you, in a society that often creates barriers for you to successfully thrive as a mother.
As Mother’s Day approaches, I don’t know how to feel about it. I’m always shocked I’m one of the millions of mothers who will be “celebrated” on this holiday. It’s still an odd thing to me that I’m a mother. I probably will do something with my toddler, just because. I will of course give a shout out to my own mom, because I really miss her. But I will probably also reflect on the complexities of motherhood and all the things I’ve been through with my child at this point.