“When are you going to have a baby?” became my grandmother’s common refrain when I saw her.
Family gatherings turned into inquisitions about starting my own family with promises of unlimited babysitting support. I would smile patiently and answer noncommittally that I would have a baby eventually.
My grandmother started buying me rabbit objects – stuffed toys, t-shirts and odd rabbit themed sweatshirts that became a running joke for my friends. I began to wonder if she knew that rabbits are a symbol of fertility. I would graciously accept the gifts and became more resolved to wait until I was ready.
There was a world to save and I would have plenty of time for my own babies. I wanted to experiment with my life, stay open to new possibilities and take risks that I thought were not responsible with a child in tow. Working at a daycare with infants and children at an elementary school during my twenties and early thirties satiated my baby hunger.
Guilt and the disapproval from others were not going to change my lifestyle. Eventually, my grandmother stopped asking when I was going to get married and resigned herself to not getting a grandchild from me before she passed. Yet I expected my grandmother to always be here. I assumed that she would see my babies and enfold them in the same warmth and love that nurtured me. Then she died.
Guilt lodged into my chest like a tight knot. My children would never hear her laughter or experience the joy of her hugs. She would not get to teach them how to can fruits or bake cakes. I was supposed to get married and settle down like my peers. Instead, I gave birth to the Detroit Women of Color International Film Festival.
A few years later I did become pregnant. I felt anger, disappointment and deep sadness instead of joy. I admit that I threw a temper tantrum – lying on the floor crying hard hiccup tears of frustration and denial. Then I had a miscarriage.
I was initially relieved but that was mixed with shame as I wondered if my horrible reaction was the real cause of my loss. It was a harsh lesson during a horrible time in my life. My spiral into an impenetrable depression began. Just when I thought I hit rock bottom, the Universe revealed that the downward spiral was still spinning (more on this in a later post).
Once behind me, I promised that I would never put myself in that situation again and I went on a serious journey of healing shifting my focus to getting my life in order. I stepped out of the community and took the time to be still, write, read books on healing and self-love, pray, and create art. My experiences taught me that I could not be an asset to my community if my life was not stable. Babies were the last thing on my mind.
All that changed when I unexpectedly fell in love with a beautiful man who opened my heart to the possibility of having my own family. While the relationship did not work, my new found desire for my own family was a preoccupation. At 40, I was suddenly noticing babies all around me. I began wondering what my children would look like and how it would feel to raise a family.
Eventually became now. My casual approach turned from dating for fun to interviewing potential husbands. The comfort zone of being more than friends and less than committed was no longer enough. My experienced Sister friends warned me to be open to alternative possibilities. Even with the best intentions there was a chance that I would have to raise my child alone or end up with someone different than the father of my child. I heard their wisdom and the statistics support their advice.
But I’ve never lived my life following the dictates of what my life should look like. And I won’t start now. Despite the odds, I rest in the knowing that I will have my own family soon.
Photo credit: Ancestral Voices: Esoteric African Knowledge