May 3, 2009 § 9 Comments
1. i come from a traditional black southern christian family. well really its more like a clan. from northern south carolina.
its important to know where one comes from. in order to know where one is going.
and after christmas 2006 i realized that where i came from was seriously messed up. and where i was going was away. far away.
2. i was 7 months pregnant. visiting my family for the holidays. habibi had stayed in minneapolis to work.
christmas season had already been exhausting. my mother was determined to constantly ‘improve’ me and tell me that the choices i was making for my pregnancy and birth were wrong. obviously i would not be able to have a home birth. obviously it wasnt safe. obviously i had no idea what i was doing. obviously my hair clothes well general appearance was subpar.
then christmas came. and for christmas dinner my moms brothers and sisters arrived. with their children.
and my moms brother and his wife decided that there was something very very wrong with me. the wife kept asking me why did i look the way that i did. why had my breasts gotten bigger? why had i gained weight? didnt i know that breastfeeding was *stupid*? didnt i know that you needed a c-section? didnt i know that you cant travel with a baby?
you may at this point be reading these questions thinking: had she ever been pregnant, had kids? why would she asks such *stupid* questions?
she had two biological children, my cousins. age 16 and 18.
as i got up from her rounds of critiques framed as questions, my uncle was standing in the hall way.
3.break: now my uncle, my moms younger brother, is also my godfather. and in a black traditional family that means alot. he is basically like a second father. who has promised that if anything happened to my parents he would take care of me as if i was one of own children. its deep.
4. he starts by talking about how much weight ive gained. then pokes me in one breast. then the other one. hard. then pokes my pregnant belly. harder. laughing the whole time. then when i turn around to get away- he slaps me on the ass.
i go upstairs. calm down.
go back down stairs. decide to go to the living room and check my email.
he is standing in the hallway. wont let me go by. blocking my way. laughing. calling me chubster. i am asking him to please get out of my way so that i can go on the computer. and he wont let me through. reaches out to touch me and i look at my cousins and other family in the living room. my mom and his wife are in the kitchen behind me. and i say…
all of you can go fuck yourself.
and i go back upstairs and cry.
call habibi. hoping for some sympathy. he is with his parents. his parents seem more disappointed that i used the word fuck than that i just got sexually harrassed by my uncle.
my mom comes upstairs a couple of times to yell at me…how dare i disrespect my uncle, her brother. and on christmas day no less.
the family eats dinner downstairs without me. open gifts without me. leave without saying good bye.
my mom gives me the silent treatment for the next 24 hours. and then lectures me on using the word fuck. and then demands that i apologize to my uncle for offending him.
5. this is the christmas that i realize that i have no family. or at least no one with whom my connection by blood or marriage is any thing mor than a connection by blood or marriage. it just is. it doesnt determine whom i love or respect or who loves or respects me.
i choose my family. my family chooses me.
i had one side of my family explaining to me that because he was an elder i could not address him in such a manner no matter what i did.
i had the other side of my family who diminished what he did and said that i was just ‘sensitive’ about people touching me and my belly during pregnancy and had over reacted. and oh yeah…curse words are bad.
6. when i finally returned to minneapolis my mom refused to speak to me for the next two months. and did not return my emails or phone calls until i was 36 weeks pregnant. when she (after mocking my decision to have a home birth and telling me i could never do it and refusing to let me have a home birth in her house because she ‘didnt want to clean up the blood’) demanded to come to the home birth.
i had a c-section because of ftp (failure to progress)…(gee i wonder why i wasnt progressing surrounded by all that stress and more oh much much more…)
7. probably the c-section was the healthiest thing my body could endure at that time. who was i around that i could be vulnerable with? the racist classist midwife? my mother? my supposed friends/labor support who were ‘tired of waiting’. there was a little bit of love and respect during that labor/birth. and a whole lot of guilt trips, what i supposedly owed others (my time my attention my gratitude my body my birth my child), abandonments, and emotional pressure.
who knows what horrible things could have happened during a vaginal birth. what would have come out of my mothers/friends/midwifes/partners mouth/hands/actions. maybe the csection scar is visible. but invisible scars often burn harder.
8. i dont identify with those families anymore. they come and go. in and out. sometimes they are helpful and i am thankful. sometimes they are not and i walk away. i came *through* a black traditional family not *from* them. to emerge as myself. a part of the human community. connected to sentient beings everywhere in every time. just as my daughter came *through* me. to be her own person. unowned. unbought. unbossed. connected to the universe and free.
9. i dont know what is wrong with people. why they act like respecting another persons body wishes agency is such a struggle. its really easy. stop thinking that *somebody* is in control and start respecting that a person decides for themselves what is best for them. and your job is to support them (not influence them, not take away all their other choices until the idea of choice is a joke, not decide for them/tell them what they need, not assume that you know better than them, not tell them how they should respond, be stronger, get over it, deal with it later,etc.) and their decision every step of the way.
just stop thinking that you are an expert on another persons body/life. just stop thinking/acting as if you know better than them. stop thinking that you have all the right answers.
how hard is that?