Banana Daughter: Creation and Depression

It's Mother's Day and everyone is posting pictures of their mothers with captions along the lines of: "I wouldn't be who I am without you," or "You've turned me into the woman/man I am today." I wonder if on days like today we sit on how much (or how little) our mother's gave up for our existences. I, myself, have failed to do so. But on THIS Mother's Day I recognize, that my Mami gave up a ton of her sanity for me, and I don't know if there's a way to repay that or if I'll ever be doing the same.

Although postpartum depression is beginning to be normalized, depression while pregnant, antepartum and/or prenatal depression, is seldom spoken of. I have found that mothers that do express depression while pregnant are often looked at as selfish or incapable. Although I haven't had the experience of carrying and delivering life, I panic and I am full with anxiety when I think of the process of carrying. Having someone take space inside the deepest parts of my body frightens me. I don't think it's cute to see the outlining of limbs on stretched skin. I can follow natural birth pages because I recognize power, and I imagine the release of baby into world is exhilarating and liberating for both baby and mom.

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I imagine I inherited the fear of creating life from my mother during the time I myself took up space in her womb. During the 9 months I lived within her, the world around us was a chaotic, to say the least. My mother was fearful of bringing me into the world due to its constant state of messy, and I felt it--the way I still feel it today. 

My mother had left the Dominican Republic seeking a kind of liberty that her well off campesino parents couldn't give her no matter how much they cultivated. She wanted to hold a blue passport and take part in all the dreams it promised. A couple years after arriving in the concrete jungle, she found my father, an undocumented Dominican street pharmacist. She fell for his sleek, black hair, his fashion sense, the way knowledge of the world he knew came out of his lips like poetry.

It wasn't until she was pregnant, that she learned he had 7 daughters , a son, an absence of documents, and rigorous street cred. Within weeks she took on the care of two of my older sisters, his constant state of absence, and his physical, emotional, and verbal abuse. Bills and rent suddenly became her responsibility and when suppliers came by she was often the receiving of their threats. She was often picking up the phone to hate calls and unwanted visits at work from other women. Her sisters, who were her only kin in the states, began to alienate themselves from her. In short, my mother was going through it. Her growing belly was a reminder that life was going to get tougher; I wasn't coming to aleviate a thing but to add to her list of struggles.

On one of the largest snow storms of February 1991, my mother attempted to bring fate into her own hands. She jumped in front of a taxi, who managed to swerve around her body despite the icy roads. As he came out of the driver's sear, he yelled at her, but in his rage he said all the things she needed to hear: "You're carrying a child, you don't get to decide it's future...no matter what you are going through, no seras la primera ni la ultima (you won't be the first or the last.)" Depression did not stop there for her, but it subsided enough for her to rejoice at my birth. My mom didn't confess any of this until I was in my 20's, but she did not have to because I've always felt it. I am sure trauma, thoughts, and moods transfer to babies the way nourishment is passed through umbilical chord. Regardless of the low points during my mother's pregnancy with me, she did the best she could to nurture me. What I most appreciate is that she never gave up on mothering even when she felt she couldn't offer me the best of the best. She made it work for all of us.

 

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Jehan and I had a discussion about motherhood on a coach bus filled with forty plus fourteen year olds on our way to six flags. I was speaking about my sister, who did the creating life thing twice, and made it look easy. I told her about my fear of being pregnant because I cannot visualize something coming to be inside of me, I'd feel limited. "Well, mothers are normally best at one of two things: creating or nurturing. And that's ok. Your sister sounds like she is good at creating. You'll probably be best at nurturing." I started thinking of all the kids I have nurtured, about the fact that I cannot discipline a student of mine without feeling terribly guilty.

The truth is I love babies and kids. After they're here. Babies, toddlers, and kiddos are my thing. In fact, a handful of my wisest teachers have been children. I know I can raise the hell out of a human being cause I got everlasting love and patience.

Creating life is probably not my forte, I would probably suck, and I am ok with that. 

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Happy Mother's Day to all the Mamis, Mommas, Godmothers, expecting Mothers, Creators, and Nurturers out there! All the days is your days.

-LA