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Dear daughter (15 and 50),

Dear Daughter,


The last week of January is a quiet treasure for me. This week every year since you were born in 2008, I take it a little slower, drowning out the chatter of the world, and remember the large mass of my body holding the tiny promise of yours deep inside my womb. I wrote you eviction notices that week hoping that my words would prompt your arrival. You were not interested in my words and stubbornly stayed put until the doctor induced labor on January 29. And then, there you were. Alive and healthy. We both were. We made it.



This is not always the case. This life creating business is not exactly simple. Some quick stats from the CDC and National Center for Children in Poverty--in the U.S.:

  • Infant mortality rate = 5.4 deaths per 1,000 live births. *

  • Break that out further and you'll find 10.6 deaths per 1,000 live births for black women.

  • Maternal mortality rate = 23.8 deaths per 100,000 live births.

  • 41 percent of babies are born into low-income families and 19 percent, approximately one in five, are born into extreme poverty. *

I can hear your eyes roll into the back of your head. "Why the stats, mom?"

  • Because we have been lucky.

  • Because we don't talk enough about the complexity of bearing children nor the chasm of care across our country.

  • Because I often wonder about the messages you receive from the world at large. Or don't receive in a world committed to shaming women and restricting her autonomy.

  • Because I want you to know that your body and choices about the quality of your life always belong to you. You are not beholden to anyone. Full stop.

  • Because I had to make a difficult choice during our complicated pregnancy and luckily, the risk paid off--I got to keep me and you. I had the freedom of choice. This likely would not have been the case in other parts of the country with less resources; to someone darker skinned than me.

I like to think you get to defy the odds as I watch you become strong and solid. I can't imagine you letting anyone take your agency and choice from you. I mean, really, I've seen you throw down over a basketball, clawing your way to possession on the court. If your freedom and/or life was on the line, we'd likely be looking at World War III as your response. Your generation seems different. I thought my generation seemed different, too, and yet here we are 7-months into the reversal of Roe vs. Wade, which would have turned 50 yesterday.


So, I feel like I can't take my way of life for granted. There is an urgency to sharing more than less and speaking up on behalf of those who have lost not only their voices but their bodies to systems intent solely on increasing political capital.


Daughter, in this quiet week before your birthday, I cling to the hope and stoicism I see in you on the daily. I see your strength, and I hope that you see mine. For when we hold each other, we are capable of anything.


Love,

Mom




Sources:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/maternalinfanthealth/infantmortality.htm


National Center for Children in Poverty:

https://www.nccp.org/publication/basic-facts-about-low-income-children-children-under-18-years-2016/



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