A letter to my daughter. For you, Baby K…
On their first go ‘round or their fourth, a lot of parents ask for healthy babies and only that. Others can specifically name what it is they wish their child to be and give you 101 reasons why.
“I want a boy for starts so that he can be the leader of the pack of kids I plan on having later on.”
“I want a daughter so I can see myself in miniature form.”
For me, I wanted a girl first.
When I found out I was pregnant with your oldest brother, I called one of your grandmothers after an hour of hesitation to tell her the news. I was afraid. I was not a teenage mother. I was not living in her home. I was 21 with a great paying job and afraid of her; scared of what she would think of me, of what she would think of your father. The relationship between your grandmother and I was a rocky one, with me as a small child drifting off into daydreams transported by glass windows, wishing for security and praying for stability. I always felt her own sense of those very things were distorted and her journey to searching for happiness was clouded by a past that I often felt was rooted in my existence with her bringing me into this world at the same age.
The stories of our foremothers, both spoken and silenced, are transmitted through our DNA. Through this, we learn the power of either embracing or releasing.
When the pregnancy test confirmed that I had life growing in me, I made promises to myself that I would pick apart the moments of my childhood where Anita’s “Sweet Love” spread throughout the apartment or that time I wanted to stay in 1995 when “Dear Mama” was Tupac’s tribute to Afeni and my anthem for Angela. But I also wanted to do away with the adolescent era that created the divide between she and I. Growing into her in many ways, I attempted to fight the inevitable. Afraid of what I was becoming as time passed. Afraid of, ultimately, who I was.
Fear. You will have encounters with it often. Fear of not living up to expectations, of repeated mistakes that would live on through me and passed on to you. Fear consumed a lot of my life. Because of it, I knew
I was not ready for you.
And I am thankful Kaevon, my joy, came first. The fearlessness you will find in me is not a self-taught skill. It was birthed from him. A gift developed unbeknownst to me while in a labor, delivering him into the world naturally. When doctors told me that my journey with you would be drastically different because of genetics and unidentified cells that could harm you at any stage in your journey, that intrepid nature birthed on the 10th of February in 2009 played the biggest role in what would be a spiritual excursion of bettering my health, mentally and physically. I hadn’t acquired that until then and I didn’t know I needed it before I needed you.
So, I wanted a daughter second.
When I was pregnant with your older brother, I went to the emergency room one night where the doctor informed me that I was carrying a girl. During the prenatal visit that would follow in the subsequent days, your father and I were told that your brother was in fact, a boy. Your father rejoiced and I felt that the cosmos rejected my pleas to find solace in bringing me someone that could help me right familial dysfunction wrong.
I asked that same Universe–that same God that I hope you grow to know and believe to be real–that when I knew who I was, it would grant me an experience where my womb is blessed to know what it’s like to carry a thought turned spirit, transitioned into a human body, transformed into a little girl that would one day turn into a woman.
When I had Kamryn, I was 23, a mother of two, and I still did not know the intricacies that made up my being. I did not know my body although I welcomed the expanding of skin, fell in love with the movements of your brothers in my belly, and felt the magic of what it is to be a woman when my body served as a tunnel that would bring all three of you into this world in a mixed moment of pain and pleasure.
But I knew that I could not be a mother to a daughter when I had to look to your father for confirmation that I was still beautiful on days where clothes no longer hugged corners and curves of flesh.
I do not want that for you.
You will grow up in a world of insta-glamour and pseudo beauty where phone screens serve as mirrors and acknowledgement of worth comes from outside forces. If we raise you in the streets of New York City, you will hear young girls be called by perceptions of their bodies rather than their names amongst sirens, train rattling, “Ayo’s,” hip-hop and bachata.
The world is fogged with so much noise, but in the turbulence of it can someone find silence and self without being consumed by it.
Let internal sounds–intuition–remind you of who you are. That voice matters more than any other.
I was not ready for you.
However, I am eternally grateful that Kamryn, my heart, came next. The compassion you will find in me is rooted in a child-like spirit that I still possess–a quality your father loves, a rare gift in today’s world brought forth because of your brother’s presence.
I learned compassion when I judged other women for their personal choices with their own bodies and found myself standing in the shadows of their decisions not so long ago–a symbolic time for me as I fought to find internal peace while picking up shattered pieces of myself from floors and the hands of others.
I glued myself together with writing, publicly and privately.
I found comfort in discomfort.
Wounds were made whole and healthy through prayers in ugly places and dark pits.
I healed without the bandages I’ll one day place over your scraped elbows and knees and without the hugs I’ll wrap over your body when your heart feels motionless. Often, you will know “pain is weakness leaving the body” to be true. Healing does not happen without the hurt or overnight. It’s timeless. Knowing this:
Don’t forget to pray, nena. For strength. For guidance.
And while you will undergo your own versions of experiencing compassion and humility in its many forms, it is my wish that that story does not intersect with yours. I do not wish that for no woman; I do not wish it to be your own. But you will know what it’s like to undergo love and loss.
That is life.
Going into 29, I was finally wrapping up a never ending chapter and finding closure when it came to my father, your grandpa. I still do not have all of the answers and I may never get responses to questions I’ve had since the age of seven, or questions you will ask me later on down the line. I do know, however, after taking a trip to Puerto Rico–the country where I became pregnant with you–that peace comes to the surface when:
forgiveness is found,
the understanding of a journey you have no control over no longer feels like a battle,
you look at the hardest moments of your walk through life to be the most significant,
you can weed out lessons in the mundane,
you can find answers in self-reflection.
This part of your story, this lesson threaded in your DNA, is inescapable.
I now get that in my circumstance surrounding my father.
I will never know what it is like to be raised in a two-family home, but for most of my pregnancy, I have thanked the Higher Powers that be that you will. Papa and I are still learning what it is to be protectors and caregivers. I am continually learning about what it is to have a father in watching him with your brothers.
I want that for you.
I pray your first love is the man who cut the cord that tied us together for 37 weeks, but I hope you know, I will forever be there, connected to you through hand and heart for as long as I live. I do not wish for a mini-me, but a better me.
Struggling with health, I yearned for your survival–in the womb and Earth side as a Black girl–as much as I do my own now.
During your formation, I prayed for fearlessness to vibrate through your body’s most vital organs. Your spirit and story needs it to thrive.
I shot up pleas to the Universe for your voice to be as loud as the construction of constellations and the roar I let out when your transitioned into new realms you could call home.
Be a better me.
I hope that our ‘Mommy + Me’ nights are more than lacquer and laughter at girlie flicks, but conversations on revolutionaries of color, the complexity and magnificence of being an Afro-Latina, shattering cycles that limit our ways of thinking, critiquing literature centered around womanism while dissecting legendary sounds of art like Nina Simone’s I Put a Spell on You or L. Boogie’s The Miseducation…
Parenthood and what it looks like has evolved for me over the course of 29 years, but today, it has more meaning than ever before, just as the words in this letter will change for you over time.
When God gave me you, I knew then that I found the answer to the most difficult question we all encounter: “Who am I?”
And while my answer will not be yours, I hope you are the accumulation of wildflowers, personified, a Willow Smith-spirited, free flowing goddess wherever you step foot. If you are organically liberated in your soul like Kaevon, I hope you never allow anyone to make you feel confined or conflicted about the essence of who you are. If you are quirky by nature as Kamryn is, it is my wish that you do not feel restricted to fit the molds of what popularity looks like. Being yourself is more of an attainable aspiration than squirming your way into boxes that are neatly packaged and specifically designed for others.
In the meantime:
I thank you for being the answer to whispers sent up to God at midnight as a child, the fruition of prayers that did not go unheard under stars, cigar smoke, raised wine glasses and revelations between Daddy and I at 2:00 A.M. on a balcony in PR.
In late April of 2016, in a small town called Manatí, I knew I was ready for you.
I am finally ready for you.
On the day of your conception, birth, and forever…
I love you, Kairie. You have changed my whole world.