Storyteller Maureen Nicol and her community of fellow mothers share how they carried each other through their first year of parenting. Words by Maureen Nicol.
Before my daughter, Adi Rose, was born, I was given the advice to walk towards people who would have similar experiences in the neverending adventure of parenting. Digitally and IRL, I began to seek community by reaching out to loving friends or other parents who helped me feel safe and supported. These moms—Veronica, Stevi, and Diamon—and the community we created has carried me through.
Maureen and Adi Rose.
Adi Rose came at a time when my life was in disarray. Because of COVID-19, the shambles were mine to confront in necessary isolation. I remember worrying about how I was meant to get it all done, and naturally obsessing over everything needing to be perfect for my sweet baby. This community allowed me to realize that our experiences as parents will never be perfect and that pressures of “perfection” can cause suffering (and steal the joy from those early years).
Some of them I have met in person and others I have only communicated digitally, but still, we talk weekly, spam each other with baby photos, text worries in the wee evening, and vent. In honor of Mother’s Day (and our first year as new mothers), I reached out to them to express our thoughts, feelings, and ups and downs of parenting while navigating multilayered pandemics.
Veronica and Paloma.
The Heart, Mind, and Body
In many ways the addition of a new baby and learning to parent is traumatic—kind of like building a plane as you learn to fly. It is a form of trauma to the physical body and stirring in the heart that has taught us all our strength, depth, and power. As new parents, we have to confront things from our past, take the steps in therapy, and/or connect with nature to heal ourselves to show up for our children.
Stevi vulnerably shared that after 16-months with Mecca earthside and 9+ months of carrying her, she only recently made herself a priority. Stevi shared, “Recently, I have made sure that I do things that make me feel more physically and emotionally confident… Having daily mental walks to clear my head is crucial to checking in with myself. Also, ensuring that I stay on the path of being emotionally intelligent. I ask people to show up for me by holding me accountable.”
Stevi and Mecca.
Before giving birth I was inundated with information and unsolicited advice on what would happen to my body. One friend described labor and delivery like the body being hit by the cutest school bus ever. In my experience, it seemed that each time I saddled into a version of my body, it would change. From acne and postpartum hair loss, to my boobs breaking up with gravity, I had to learn to accept the uncertainty of how weird (in all connotations of the word) my body would get. Every week I was learning a new version of myself while learning a new version of Adi because she was changing so quickly.
I am learning to accept this body while mourning the person I was before my baby. When I feel down about an extra roll (I call my rolls the “good bits”) or the extra grey hairs, I have to remind myself that “this body gave life,” “this body has fed another human,” “this body protected someone else,” and this body continues to give in the form of cuddles, hugs, kisses, and more. This body is a literal miracle. The body keeps giving.
Diamon and Solar.
“Motherhood has made me realize that women unlock a new level of endurance when we become mothers. I’ve literally carried my son, his car seat, groceries, and a suitcase simultaneously. My younger self is always so proud,” Diamon shared.
The body, mind, and spirit are all united and this interconnectedness is what meets our parenting—a mirror of our highest and lowest selves. This tension between our best and worst sides requires us to remember we are good enough. Veronica expressed that trusting her intuition has supported her mental and emotional journey: “I’m surrendering to and trusting the process 100%. I’m of the mindset to not compare my parenting style and choices to anyone else. What may work for one parent or child may not work for me or my child. Everyone’s on their own journey. In multiple facets of my life I’m leaning into all that is uncomfortable and becoming a parent has been the ideal challenge and teacher.”
To ensure our strength and capability for ourselves and our children, we have to affirm our whole selves. Veronica so elegantly sums it up in a mantra, “I am strong and capable and I am enough for my child.”
For Diamon, it’s asking friends to show up for her in the form of skill sharing, resources, and meals. For me, it’s building tolerance for uncertainty, calling upon my friends, partners, and family. The common thread between us all, is not compromising boundaries in how we all sustain, maintain, and thrive.
After having a baby, we celebrate the power and resilience of the body and how the heart grows and expands in ways, shapes, and forms we never thought were possible. Our bodies, our hearts, and our families will make room for the new experience of having a child. Because all those things are flexible, forgiving and indeed, surprising in nature. Nature, after all, survives hardships and drought, but always moves in the direction of healing and new growth.
Adi Rose turned one just a couple of weeks ago and I am not sure where the time went. When she was just born, I was confused how I would make it to the next day because parenthood was all so new and exhausting. It felt like all I did was pump and feed. The days and nights seemed long, while time continued to move fast. Now, time keeps moving while I am evolving, as are my desires of what I wanted in this world.
With Adi in tow, I have been deliberate of how I guard my joy. I want her to see me as a person who walked uphill towards happiness even though the road was curvy, long, and bumpy. I want her to know that whatever life she chooses is correct because she made that choice for herself. Choosing myself every day is a radical decision as a Black woman and it is important that I instill a right to freedom in my daughter.
Having a child has unimaginable and surprisingly joyful moments and victories. There have been the sweet moments like Mecca saying “I luhhhhht ju” (I love you) to her mom, Stevi, and Diamon being shocked about how much her son Solar, a sponge of cuteness, absorbs. Veronica shares that her biggest joy was Paloma’s birth bringing her family closer together and how that has helped her family work towards healing trauma.
Our visions for the future are equitable and abundant. Diamon’s vision of freedom for her and Solar is a place where ancestral practices would be centered, where Solar and his friends are frolicking on acres of land and this community would share skills, resources and materials. Veronica would like a world where people learn to live in balance and harmony with nature and one another—a world so deeply rooted in love that there is no discrimination.
Stevi desires a world where she can continue to be visible with her displays of love and nurturing to her children and wife that challenges discriminatory opinions and actions towards LGBT and queer families color. For the first time this year, Stevi’s family was able to affirm their visibility and existence on the U.S. Census. Imagine if we all could live in a world where there was equity, respect and inclusivity for everyone—where everyone could be seen. It does not exist yet, but in our individual homes we are taking the steps and supporting each other along the way.
Parenting as Political
Diamon’s most joyful moment was laying eyes on her son for the first time. I echo this. The first moment Adi laid on my chest felt like the deepest, truest and most human form of love. This love is a love that hurdles you to envision a future—a world big enough for you, your child, and this infinite love. We have all had to confront our past selves, heal from family trauma, and lick the wounds from the pain of being women of color who live complicated lives in a world that does not always privilege our complexities. So, we create this world in our homes, in the dreams for our children, and in our community. Therefore, our parenting is a political act of love and care.
As a blended same-sex family, Stevi’s parenting is an act of love and resistance to traditional and discriminatory views on parenting, family, race, gender, and sexuality. Diamon’s love for Solar refuses social constructs and traditions against patriarchy, racism, and facism. She says, “My love is infinite, honest and abundant and that in itself is a movement.”
Veronica shared, “Being a Brown, alternative parent and being authentically me is a political act of love and resistance: raising my child to be bilingual and proud of her multi-racial background; showing my child unconditional love in our very own language, far removed from conservatism, traditional religions, and judgement. Moreover, in that same nurturing and love, informing and instilling that I am a safe place for her to express herself, however complex that may look.”
Stevi is proactive about pursuing equity for her children by being intentional with dismantling traditional gender role expectations and behaviors in dress, play, physicality, and activities. She continued, “I want my children to know that we are not limited to our race, gender, sexuality, or the like. Contrary to popular belief, the sky is not the limit! We have the capacity to explore far beyond that.”
As mothers of color we know the world may attempt to set limits on us but our bodies, minds, hearts and communities continue to knock down those limits. As we learn to prioritize ourselves and continue to dream our dreams, we are attempting to heal from the past, make a future and make time slow down as we chase the present. Subversive, challenging, caring, futuristic—I have found Veronica, Diamon, and Stevi. Each of us are on this journey of parenting as we cradle our dreams, our babies and each other.
In each of these moms I have the embodiment of pushing beyond the limits to manifest deliberate openings for the future that are limitless for Adi Rose, Mecca, Paloma, Solar, and other babies and their parents try to live full, complex lives on their terms.
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