When I birthed my son on Christmas Morning, I was overwhelmed with joy to enter the enchanted forest of Motherhood. I looked on with great wonder as I imagined the two of us foraging through trees with wild leaves, jump frogging across lily pads with sun-kissed skinned and all the fanciful adventure accompanying that of being a #BoyMom. Our beloved Honeymoon Baby joined our lives the same year our marriage began. He’s not only part of our origin story, he’s a leading character in the sequels to come. He is the one who made me a Mama!
In the 16-weeks that followed, my maternity leave was filled with excitement from sun up to sun— wait, I’m not sure the sun ever set during those incredibly long days that seemed to last months at a time. However, though the days were long, the weeks zoomed by fast and furiously. From sleep training to early teething, on-demand feeding and intermittent napping, the time had come for me to lace up my big girl boots and prepare to leave home to brave the world as a #WorkinMom. Well, then came coronavirus wreaking havoc upon the global community. In a matter of days, my husband was back home full-time merely weeks after returning to the office following parental leave; on the other hand, there I stood having never gone back to the pre-corona normalcy of work. My maternity leave was capped by COVID-19, so instead of commuting each morning to go sit in a cubicle all day, I had the newfound privilege of logging in to my laptop and working remotely from the comfort of my home.
This meant additional time reveling in the discoveries of my new baby and enjoying daily lunches with my husband. No longer was it a priority to create and publish a [breast] pumping schedule on Outlook Calendar to justify my recurring absences. I didn’t have the worrisome burden of leaving my infant in the care of someone else or struggling to pin down couple’s time somewhere between our baby's bedtime routine and late dinners. Contrarily, my days have been filled with the glorious quirks of my ever-evolving little one and video conference calls with the camera off, of course, so I can nurse while contributing to the larger discussion at hand. This is not to say that balancing white-noise induced infant naps with competing work projects hasn’t been a moving target with wavering success. Undoubtedly, there’s the mommy guilt of all the screen time my small child has each day as mommy types and his eyes are drawn to the blue light of my screen. Still, though, I would take baby-wearing while working any day over the alternative that was my fate.
Nonetheless, while my shared narrative has been filled with sunshine and rainbows, I understand it has been overcast and gloomy for countless others. As a former ICU Social Worker, my heart pains for my former colleagues who are in the trenches fighting this deadly virus. Even more, I am devastated by the lived experiences of relatives, friends and those in my online networks who are made to choose financial security or their health and well-being. How devastating and downright defeating to live in a “Free World” that doesn’t require paid parental leave during the postpartum period or paid sick leave during a pandemic!
From being laid off in the height of the pandemic to negotiating a new offer shortly thereafter, I am continuing my trek and enchantment with being a newlywed new mama. Making my way through the forest of first-time motherhood has been filled with surprises— like the fact that it’s actually a rainforest that has murky grounds and the heaviest of downpours followed by bright, sunny days with flowers that bloom in minutes sprouted by nothing more than the sweetness of a baby’s coo. The explosion of coronavirus has extended my time at home to bask in this blanketing warmth. Even while marveling at my beautiful boy as he is wrapped snugly across my chest, I can never be fully content as I think of the hardship faced by countless other #WorkinMoms who are parenting in a pandemic.
On another note, as the wife of a Black man and mother of a Black boy, I absolutely refuse to engage in discourse about Black men and boys’ humanity to shift the perception of their supposed monstrosity; even more, I refuse to sit comfortably on the throne of respectability while finding peace in their “exceptionalism.” Relating to intersectionality, the aforementioned isn’t noted to make a connection to the presenting circumstances of racial injustices and upheaval because my connectedness is inherently fostered as a Black woman in America… It is deepened because of the interwoven ties that lace my identity as wife and mama.
In fact, I sometimes think of the transitional period when Black children shift from cute to criminal and what that will look for my own beautiful, bubbly Black boy. Is it immediate or is it a change that takes place over time? With bated breath, I fear the day my own son is seen as a threat armed with nothing more than the melanin skin he inherited directly from me. Black boys become Black men who are threatening, monstrous terrors in America’s mind. In mine, he’s a boy who’s Black like me who becomes a man beautifully draped in Blackness like his Papa and all the men who came, labored and loved before him from the tobacco fields of Virginia to the cotton fields of Georgia and Florida. His deep brown skin and sprouting 4C hair tell the most beautiful story— one that I read every day! It's an anthology of poetry, prayer and prose with bits of history, mystery and romance, too. What a shame that it’s categorized as horror to so many in America.
Surely, parenting in a double pandemic is not for the faint of heart. May the best parts of old time’s past re-emerge and may those who are both working and mothering during this unprecedented time be met with the strongest coffee in the morning and the finest wine at night!