I never get enough of this photo.
I was breastfeeding both daughters at that time. My oldest was breastfed until she was about 2 years old; a tradition carried on from my mother, who also nursed me until I was two and she became pregnant with one of my two younger brothers.
My oldest called it Nursie, and always asked for it with a slight tinge of contempt in her voice for having to ask. She had no schedule; she nursed as often as I would let her. It was interesting because she would stare at me when she nursed, and sometimes smile.
I wondered about her thoughts, and about how I went from whatever life was before, to now having a little person nearly always on my hip, relying on me for sustenance, comfort, and explanations. As she became more vocal about her desire to nurse on demand, I learned more about her personality, as well as my own.
We even had lengthy conversations about my body being mine, and therefore the choice of when to nurse also being mine.
She disagreed but I saw and appreciated the ways in which my two-year-old tried to honor my assertion. One way she honored my assertions was saying things like, “Nursie soon, Mama?” instead of just pulling out my breast in public or private settings, the way she had done in a popular Jamaican bakery while we stood in a lengthy line for our patties with cocoa bread on Stone Mountain Highway. True story! Thankfully, a kind woman in line behind me reached over and pulled my shirt back over my breast as I stared at my daughter with a blend of laughter and embarrassment. I could see by her expression that she understood it was not okay with me, so I did not feel the need to chide her.
Through breastfeeding, I began to see—so early in our relationship—that we could understand and respect each other’s feelings and needs, even if we did not agree or oblige. Plus, I got big, cantaloupe-y breasts out of the breastfeeding deal—how fun! I felt like a Pam Grier photoshopped version of myself from the navel up.
Goddess Refrigerator Titties would have been my stripper name.
It was like cosplay time when I would prop up my daughters’ drinking mounds in cute blouses or fitted tank tops. But most of all, it was so dope to be able to give them something organic and life-affirming just by being whatever it is that I am. I felt useful and relevant in an entirely new way.
I never get enough of that photo because, just four months shy of a decade ago, I sat there, with those girls (and dem titties!), new to double motherhood, filled with curiosity and joy. And milk.
Seeing this image of that day, with those girls, being photographed by their King of a daddy, always reminds me to trust myself.
And to take my time when I make my choices. The way I did when I chose their daddy. And them. And every time I choose focus over fear.
That means, as a mother, for example, I am giving my daughters space to be themselves. I am encouraging them to be themselves by showing them how to choose for themselves, and how to look out for each other in the world.
It means I do not try to make them more convenient for me; I respect them, and I still guide and protect—but I give them space to be, and I work at consistently giving myself that same space.
That is how my daughters have raised my vibration. They challenge me to step up to myself, and to them. And to learn how to settle into my being so that I do not feel the need to control the things outside of me. I only need to lead me.
Now, as I write this, my daughters are 11 and 9. They are strong and spunky, and they are proof that God and Universe are clearly working in my favor, and that I do not need to make those girls into any particular thing. They are not mine to mold but my example can influence them. When my 9-year-old and I decide to Netflix and chill, for example, I do not need to pick a movie with a major life lesson so she can “learn” something. Instead, I just need to be present, and enjoy myself, and observe her interests so I can continue to facilitate environments where she can thrive.
Or, when my 11-year-old Black girl decides she wants to be a Seiyuu (a voice actor for characters in a native language version anime, usually Japanese), I do not have to have any experience in it, or even agree with it, to support her efforts and remind her to challenge and trust herself simultaneously.
Since becoming a mother, I have been mining my experiences and producing stories about the ways motherhood raises my vibration; raises me. And when I say motherhood, I do not just mean mothering my daughters, either. I also mean mothering myself in moments, and allowing my own mother to mother me as an adult.
Akilah S. Richards is an aspiring mermaid. But until mermaid life becomes financially sustainable, writing, unschooling and public speaking are her placeholder activities of choice. She writes about blackness, feminism, and womanhood for several publications, and facilitates sister circles for women to tap into their personal magic through personal manifestos. Learn more at radicalselfie.com
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