I’ve been thinking a lot about the experience of angel mom’s and the intense feelings of sadness and guilt that accompany the loss of our babies. One thing I consistently struggle with is the fact that I couldn’t save my babies. I couldn’t protect them from what ultimately happened to them no matter how hard I tried.
As a black woman, you want to, are forced to and believe sometimes that you can handle anything and everything. Black women are known for figuratively saying, “it’s handled” on some Olivia Pope ish. We pull it together all the time despite incredible odds, systems of oppression, financial obligations, toxic and dysfunctional family members, and the list could go on. We as black women are also notorious for going to bat for our kids. Sometimes even when they’re wrong or get on our nerves. Let somebody say the wrong thing to your kid; that person is gambling with their life that day! We handle stuff, we clothe and feed our babies, we love on them, we surround them with extended family and friends who love on them too and we stay handling it all sometimes to our own detriment.
In this instance though, nothing we could’ve done would have saved our babies. We couldn’t fight the doctor’s, fight the universe, fight the nurses and midwives to demand that our babies be ok. We couldn’t get our bodies all the way together like a black mom in church or the supermarket with a stern look or a grip of the collar. We weren’t able to fix this situation and be that mama bear that we’ve always been throughout history.
It made me think about the horrible experiences of slavery and how babies were taken from their mothers without care. How we were mated just to create more slaves, sometimes even with our own kin. I’ve always had an appreciation for the devastation of that kind of experience whenever I heard or read about it. But let me tell you, the sense of powerlessness you have when you have to give birth and then give up your babies is literally the worst, most heartbreaking thing you will ever have to do. You created this little person. In my case, I created two beautiful little people. Y’all they were so pretty! I stared at their little faces for hours and even though they were early, to me their faces seemed more formed, more expressive than their young age. In addition to creating them, you love them SO much! Like SOOO much it physically hurts and even feels a little scary. For many mom’s, myself included, that’s a moment you know for a fact that you would die for someone else. People say that all the time related to their significant other but usually, don’t really understand it until having an experience like this.
I think we them try to overcompensate for what we couldn’t do to save them. We try to make sure they’re not cold, we try to make sure they’re comfortable or what we think would be comfortable, we hold them so close hoping they feel our warmth and find solace in that, we plant a thousand kisses on them so they get to feel their mommy’s lips and breath, we make sure they stay close to their twins so they don’t feel alone, we dress them as we prepare them for their funeral services, we spend tune at grave sites decorating, sitting, etc all so they don’t feel like they’re by themselves. Most people don’t believe the persons soul is still in the body after they pass. I don’t believe that either. But I do believe that shortly after a loved one passes, their soul is nearby. Despite this knowledge, we still do all the things I mentioned. We still mother. Even if you haven’t ever had a baby before, your instinct tells you to mother your babies.
My instinct told me to keep my daughters super close. I placed them over my heart hoping the sound would be comforting to them since they were used to hearing it. I placed them close to my body to try and keep them warm. My instinct told me to check their fingers and toes to make sure they had them all…to look over their bodies to make sure everything was where it was supposed to be. My instinct told me to smell them and places kisses on their faces. My instinct told me to talk to them softly and touch them gently because they didn’t yet know what it felt like to be touched by their Mommy. My instinct told me to keep them close to each other because that’s how they were in my womb. Close to each other and then close to me. My instinct told me to lick my finger to gently wipe some of the ink that got on Aviva ’s face after they got her footprints and attempted her finger prints.
Despite all the love I poured onto my girls, there was nothing I could do to put them back into my womb and keep them safe until it was actually time for them to come out. That feeling of failure is real and this unspoken pressure from the world on women in general and then on black women is heavy af. There is this super-human expectation that sometimes appears to come easily to others but for us…it wasn’t attainable. It makes you feel less strong… incapable… incompetent… honestly, less of a woman. Maybe that’s just me and of course I do know in my head that’s untrue but in my heart… I struggle with that at times. It’s constant work to combat those kind of thoughts and to remember that Wonder Woman’s success doesn’t negate Nubia’s…that every challenge is not followed by a happy ending but that in some cases, the success is just not dying too. Everything is a lesson and though I’m still working through not seeing this as a failure but rather, just something bad that happened, I’m also recognizing my own strength in staying alive, staying present and doing my work. It’s all a reminder to me that I am stronger than I think.