Making life-affirming decisions: Choosing joy, solo motherhood & pound cake
Candice Marie Benbow has made a major decision for 2021 that she believes will transform her life and bring a great deal of joy.
"I've made the decision to pursue single motherhood," she announced on social media. While Benbow acknowledged that she is nervous and scared, she said she is "ready for this phase of my life."
Her plan involves three initial rounds of IVF treatment with her doctors, and if those don't work out, she will reevaluate her options. She's open to fostering or adoption.
Benbow hadn't expected to pursue parenthood alone. But at 39, she'd begun to see that the stories she'd grown up being told about how a woman's life "should" unfold, are based on fairy tales.
"I was like many who believed that we'd graduate, get a job, find the man of our dreams. We would get married, live in a nice house, and have 2.5 children and a dog, right?" she laughed, when talking to Tapestry host Mary Hynes.
"That sound you hear," Hynes said, "is me sighing heavily — at the way life just doesn't follow your damn plans at all. I mean, you sketch out this, this, beautiful life and then life does its thing."
"Exactly," said Benbow. "And I think a lot of us felt that last year."
'We didn't survive 2020 to live small'
Tragedy, including her mother's sudden death in 2015, and the loss of many close to her in 2020 to COVID-19, taught Benbow life is unpredictable, and short.
The global pandemic made her rethink what she could actually control in life. It was a year "that really tried to take all of our hope away," she said.
"We were not given the gift of being able to survive last year to not live these big beautiful lives that are of our making," she said. "You just have to say, 'I deserve to be happy, because I am breathing. Because there is breath in my body. Because I wake up every day.'"
As lockdowns pointed to a continued uncertain future in 2020, Benbow sought to re-prioritize her own happiness. With the help of her therapist, Benbow began questioning her heart's desire.
"When I think about what life and abundance for me looked like, it was starting a family," Benbow said. "It was being a mom and being able to shape a person, this little person, in this world, as much as this little person will be shaping me, so that we both are better humans for this world."
It took recognizing that this wasn't a selfish decision, she says, but was in fact "deeply, deeply holy."
My love surrounds you. It goes before you. It follows you. It is everywhere. Everywhere that you are, my love is.- Candice Marie Benbow
"I do believe that there is a true and divine right of women to create the lives of their choosing," she says. She wants women to see that they shouldn't have to wait for a man to "choose" them before they can become a mother.
Honouring her own mom
Benbow looks to her mother's parenting as an inspiration.
"She'd never tried to make me conform to the daughter that she wanted," Benbow told Hynes.
"I realized that not only do healthy parents, well-adjusted parents, love and support their children unconditionally.... They also give them room to thrive and become the people that they are supposed to become."
Benbow plans to do the same as a mother.
"My mom always said to me, 'My love surrounds you. It goes before you. It follows you. It is everywhere. Everywhere that you are, my love is.'"
Benbow holds a master's degree from Duke Divinity School. Her upcoming book Red Lip Theology: Essays at the Intersection of Faith and Black Feminism is set for release in 2022.
Pound cake & other pleasures
"Baking became therapy to me," Benbow said of the days since her mom died.
Despite the fact that her own mom didn't bake ("My mom would say, 'Why would I do it when Mrs. Fields and Mrs. Butterworth and Betty Crocker do it better than I ever could?'"), Benbow honours her mom's life by doing what brings her joy.
"You can't rush a cake," she said. "You can't rush the baking process just like I could not rush through my grief and I couldn't rush through healing."
"We still have the ability to rise," she says, "We can still have a beautiful and delicious life. The hard things in the company of the good things can still lead to a beautiful and sweet life."
Candice Marie Benbow's Five Flavour Pound Cake
- 3 cups of white granulated sugar
- 1 cup of unsalted butter, softened at room temperature
- 3 cups of sifted cake flour
- 5 eggs, at room temperature
- 1 cup of whole milk, at room temperature
- 1 teaspoon of baking powder
- 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon of lemon extract
- ½ teaspoon of orange extract
- ½ teaspoon of strawberry extract
- ½ teaspoon of almond extract
- pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 325º F/162º C.
Prepare bundt pan with butter and flour or cake release and set aside.
Combine flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl and set aside.
Using a stand mixer or using a hand mixer, cream sugar, butter and extracts together on medium speed.
Alternating each on medium speed, add dry ingredients and milk.
On low speed, incorporate eggs one by one.
On medium to high speed, mix well for one minute.
Pour batter into cake pan.
Bake for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until inserted cake tester comes out clean.
Once done, allow cake to cool in pan for ten minutes before inverting onto cake pan to cool completely.
Written and produced by Kate Adach.