June 18. 2017
As I'm writing this, my baby boy is getting burped by my mama and I can hear his cooing sounds in the background. I know babies are born everyday everywhere 1, and it's a miracle every time, but as a young single black female, I'm extra grateful for this miracle. Since his birth, I've had a bunch of hip-hop quotables resonating in my head, from 'it was all a dream' 2, to 'we wasn't supposed to make it past 25' 3, to 'we outchea' 4, to my personal fav 'we gon be alright', 5, There's nothing like birth to make you extra aware of your life's preciousness and fragility, particularly as a black body; but before I get into all that, let me backtrack a little to introduce myself and our story.
My name is Annick MF and, as I mentioned earlier, I'm young, single, black, and female. I'm also a new mom, a master's student, a creative maker and a community organizer. I just gave birth to my precious baby boy a few weeks ago and the two of us make a beautiful new family unit. Now, before you consider pitying us or judging our situation as yet another black single mother statistic, let me specify that I chose to be a single mother and no statistic could ever describe our story.
What is our story? Well, to be honest, the roots of this story are much older than I can trace back to, but I guess I can start with my grandmother - who, as a widow, ended up raising her five beautiful children on her own in small town in Haiti. She moved through mothering with such strength and grace that her youngest, my mother, decided that her number one goal in life was to become a mother as well. As life would have it, my mother also became a widow, when I was just five years old, so in all my palpable memories our household was led by an amazing single mother. Growing up, I never understood the stigma and presumptions around single mother households' cause my home did not look like any of those narratives. Our home was full of languages and laughter, stories and songs, food and friends, and many other playful pleasures. Outside of the house, my mother always had me by her side and I just loved to watch, observe and learn from how she moved through life. From work to community involvement to errands to museums trips, she never skipped a beat, and I grew up in absolute awe of the matriarch. One day, I would dream, one day I'll be the matriarch who provides all this love to my family. It never even occurred to me that my mom was partnered when she started her family, as was my grandmother, and so on and so forth.
Fast forward two decades or so, and I was finally feeling ready start a family. I satisfied my definitions of success, I could provide for a child and somewhere deep down in my guts I just knew it was time. However, I didn't have a partner -- as a matter of fact, I didn't want a partner. Nothing against partnership, it just wasn't where I wanted to focus my energy (still isn't). I had mused with the idea of getting inseminated for many years before this, but in early 2016 it was like, 'Yes, this is what I want to do and how I want to do it'. I didn't know anyone who got inseminated at the time, so I had to trailblaze my way through the whole process. What type of donor to pick? Where do you find donors? Where do you even get inseminated?! The whole journey was a surreal trip, cause even though I knew it was the best choice for me, it felt odd to be creating a road map that goes against societal expectation. How daring of me, especially as a young black woman, to feel that I am whole on my own; to feel in control of when and how things happen to my womb; to feel empowered and intentional in the preparation for my child. My journey with insemination and childbirth made me realize that though having a child is one of the most intimate choices a person can make for their life and body, it is also one of the most public, regulated and politicized undertakings in this society.
As a black girl, I'm used to my mere existence being a revolutionary act; but in preparation for the arrival of my son, I had to actively engage in the revolutionary acts of loving and trusting myself because the politics that surround my skin, gender and civil status would have made me believe that we are not worthy of love and life. I am so glad to have taken on the revolutionary act of mothering my little black boy. It means so much for our past, present and future. I am honored to offer healing to my ancestors who weren't able to choose what happened to their own wombs; to walk in line with my ancestors who were told they were unfeminine and undesirable because of their strength and spirit; to continue the lineage of my ancestors who were told that their seeds were not worth sowing. I am proud that I had trust in my abilities, in my worth, and in my right to mother whether or not I fit in prescribed norms. Most importantly, I am privileged to have welcomed this beautiful light into this world. As I'm finishing up this piece, I have him wrap up against my chest (just like the many generations of mothers before me have carried their children as they worked) and I feel so joyful. Joyful cause I believed in his right to be here and now he's here: blooming and thriving.
Thank you for taking the time to read our story,
For more about me you can check out:
1 I got the term 'everyday everywhere' from a book I've been reading to my son on a daily. It's called 'Everywhere babies' and it's written by Susan Meyers. Definitely worth checking out if you have little ones and like board books that rhyme.
2 'It was all a dream' is a hip-hop quotable from Biggie Small's track 'Juicy'. I use this quote in reference to the fact that having a child used to be a dream for me and now it is thankfully my reality.
3 'We wasn't supposed to make it past 25' is a hip-hop quotable from Kanye West's track 'We don't care'. Kanye is making reference to a survey from the 80s that said inner city males had a life expectancy of 25. I use this quote because I can relate to the feeling that society does not expects you to live long or thrive because of my skin and gender.
4 'We outchea' is a hip-hop term that means 'we are out here'. I use this term in reference to the fact that beyond all odds my baby boy and I are out here in the world thriving.
5 'We gon be alright' is a hip-hop quotable from Kendrick Lamar's track 'Alright'. Kendrick uses this term as a message of hope for Black people despite all the pain and suffering particularly in relation to police brutality in the United States and the Black Lives Matter movement. I use this quote because as a Black woman who has birthed a Black boy, I need to hold onto these messages of hope.
Annick MF is a Mama, master's student and creative maker living in Montreal.