My journey to motherhood has at once been a step forward into uncharted territory and a step back into an almost forgotten vulnerability. I am Black, Queer, Woman. My journey to the point where I could harmoniously claim these aspects of my identity has been far and long. Last year, I reached my hands into the wet clay to begin molding and shaping my new identity as a parent. My fingers trembled with a familiar anxiety. The anxiety of being judged in a society that, despite its progress, still hesitates to recognize the fullness of my humanity and receive my presence with ease.
Heads would turn and glances would linger as I went about my daily life with my wife and our now one-year-old, then newborn twin daughters. In the first few months, I constantly parried thoughts of ‘am I doing it right?’ all while dancing a violent tango with ‘what does queer motherhood look like?’ My wife is feminine-presenting and so are all of the mothers in each of our families. Motherhood is regularly represented in the media by feminine-presenting women as well, with the occasional feature of a white, “tomboyish” Ellen-type.
Surrounded by mothers, yet invisible. The anxiety brought me to consider retreating into myself. It teased me and attempted to place anger in my heart. It would bat its long, curly eyelashes at me; tempting me to have a bite from the apple to make me smaller for the comfort of other people, under the guise that it would be for my own good.
The more visible this new part of my identity, the more keenly aware I became of the heteronormative expectations our society holds about motherhood. A well-meaning healthcare provider directed questions about our children to my wife, making eye contact with me infrequently as if I were less-involved or less-responsible by default. Once in conversation, I mentioned the quality time I enjoyed spending with my daughters across a weekend and was complimented for “giving mom a break,” as though the possibility that I genuinely wanted to spend time alone with my own children could not be fathomed.
When our daughters were nearly two-months-old, we made a trip to the mall. While there, a stranger saw nothing wrong with asking, “Who’s their real mom?” Later on, I reflected on that moment and flashed-back to the weeks I spent traveling to the hospital with an insulated lunch box full of breastmilk to bottle-feed our newborn daughter in the NICU; returning home to care for our second newborn and my wife as she recovered from a C-Section. My undying love and sense of purpose was the only thing that kept me going during those sleepless weeks where I was so worried about my family, I regularly forgot to feed myself. An a-ha moment dawned upon me with a remix of Sojourner Truth’s famous words…
And ain’t I a mother?
It was at this point that I decided my strength should come from trusting in my innermost self. To give myself permission to be imperfect and to make mistakes in order to make possible unlimited opportunities to learn and grow and break free of the box within which society expects mothers to fit.
My innermost self is the molten core that houses the raw material needed to create my own definition of motherhood. This unique definition need not live up to any expectations save for my own. I had known this truth all along, but becoming a mother threw me for an unexpected loop that had me second-guessing myself and seeking validation from the very folks who have yet to truly respect the intersections of my identity to begin with.
The love my daughters express affirms that I am ‘doing it right’. I set the standard for myself about what queer motherhood looks like, and though I hope to serve as a role model for the next generation, I love that my fellow queer sisters have the freedom to define motherhood completely for themselves as well.
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