On April 1, 2008, I was a graduating senior at Northwest High School. Honors student, Class President and Athlete. On that day, I took a test that would forever change the course of my life. I remember it like it was yesterday. I ushered my way into the nurse’s office, complaining of cramps. It was during 6th period study hall. But what I really needed was a restroom, not a Midol or a nap. I needed a restroom, for a quick pregnancy test. Purchased by my girlfriend who worked at Walgreens.
Those few minutes between urinating on that damn stick and awaiting the appearance of lines seemed like an eternity. Then it happened. It seemed to have flashed, “POSITIVE” it read. I remember falling to the floor–not praying or speaking or thinking, only sobbing. As I reflect on that moment I am left reminded about how young I was. I am reminded about my level of emotional maturity and so many other things. I sat there, on the cold floor trying to problem-solve a non-existing problem. I texted my boyfriend who’s mother, just a few weeks prior looked at me, out of nowhere, and said, “Marquisha, you’re pregnant. Does your Mom know?” I laughed and said, “No I am not!” and I left it at that…or so I thought. I went home and looked at myself in the mirror. My young, slender body… how could she tell? I thought. . What did I do or say? Cause I don’t look any different, I continued. But none of that mattered. I needed to take a test to be sure. So I did. And now, I sat there thinking, crying, panting. . . I knew what people would say: I was too young. I wasn’t married. I ruined my life. I made a bad decision. I didn’t know what I was doing. I was stupid and the worst assumption of them all: that my unborn child was a mistake. I knew two of the assumptions to be true:
- Yes, I was young.
- No, I was not married.
Contrary to popular belief, my son was not an accident. I asked for him. I was young, but I was also in love. Looking back, I now understand it would have been best if we allowed ourselves to mature and then, if still committed to one another, we commit ourselves through marriage and then bring children into the world. However, in my 18 year old mind, I had it all figured out. We were friends since first and second grade. Quite frankly, there were many years we spent as rivals. Him pulling my hair, dipping my pony tails in paint. Me crying if my father made me sit next to him in the backseat on the way to practices and any other time I had to be near him. At the boys and girls club, we stayed in age-defined groups. I spent much of my time asking for my father to put me in a group with my older brother. Each time, he replied, “Nope. You gone stay with Dunk.” He told me it was important that I make friends and connect with people my own age. I did and I found him, as I grew older, to be one of my best friends. He was there for me when I needed him, in ways that I didn’t know how to articulate then, and didn’t have to. We had a level of love of understanding that produced the little being I love more than anything in this world. He was also only 17 years old and that alone, brought forth its own set of challenges, as my being 18 years old likewise did. But there was one thing we both knew we’d do, no matter, whatever: and that was to love on, provide for, and raise King. And so we have.
Ten years ago I could not imagine my life as it is today. I knew and prayed for it to be better than it was, but God has a way of taking our minuscule plans and prayers and blowing our minds with his abilities. That is exactly what he has done for me, in my life, with and through King. I prayed while I was pregnant, for a healthy baby boy. That was all. I wasn’t emotionally stable, I didn’t have the coping skills I needed to deal with the challenges I experienced and I knew that his wellness wasn’t in my control. So I went to the source. On November 14, 2008, he gave me what I asked Him for.
Even now, I catch myself staring at my child, In awe. I breathe the words, thank you, in reverence to God because he heard me. King is truly an answered prayer. He embodies the best parts of me and his dad. And even the not-so-great parts, are still a scene that I am grateful to be a part of. I am truly amazed at how God can create glorified greatness in the midst of our enigmatic circumstance. In all my imperfections, I am his Mama and that matters more to me, than anything else.
Of all that I have accomplished in my life, being his mother, is by far that grandest of all things. I didn’t know or feel that at 18 years old as I carried him. I didn’t understand how blessed I was. I often felt ashamed. I often felt alone. I often felt emotional. I often felt that I had failed, my parents and my community. As I wailed in labor, none of that mattered anymore. And as I watched him take his first breaths, I only felt an unexplainable joy and sense of pride and commitment to him. As I prayed for and talked to him, I promised to do and be better for him. I promised to provide for him. I promised to achieve for him. I promised to grow up, for him. And since the day he entered this world, that is what I have strived to do.
I think as mothers it’s difficult to know what is going right in our parenting. I look at those around me and much of their upbringing, for better of for worse, has impacted their adulthood. My mother always said, “parenting does not come with a manual”. Now that I am a mother, I understand the simplicity and complexity of that statement. Parenting does not come with a manual! That is to say, there’s no “how to” guide, or personal parenting advisor that comes when baby is born. Much of what we have is the example of our own parents, the examples of those around us, literature and most important of all, our intuition. Before I knew the importance of my intuition and/or motherly instinct, I relied heavily on my own mother.
As I laid waiting to hold my baby, my mother came from the end of the hospital bed, to where my head was. I vividly remember her whispering, “I am so proud of you, and I love you so much, daughter!” This caught me a little by surprise, not because I didn’t think I was loved, but because I knew how upset she was that I had followed in her foot-steps and become a teen-mother. Hearing those words from her, in that moment, meant the entire world to me. In the same breath she straightened her smile and sternly said, “You are his voice now. Don’t ever be afraid to speak, especially for or about him. He can’t speak for himself yet. That is your job.” At her words, I cried. My mother knew I was rather timid. She knew I was rather passive. She knew me, her daughter. So she also knew, if I was ever going to SPEAK UP, It would be now, and it would be for King. And so I did, and I have.
It hasn’t always been easy. I am not writing this post to glorify teenage-parenting or how far I’ve come. I am proud, but I am not boastful. I wouldn’t choose this route for my child or anyone else’s. I strongly advocate for the young women I know and love (and those I don’t know to be honest) to love and be loved, to experience life and relationships, but to always keep themselves first and to protect themselves against making permanent decisions with temporary frameworks. Many of my mentees have had this conversation with me and I tell them, “With all due respect, I know I make this Mama shit look real easy. . . but it’s not. And you’re not me. You can’t be. So please, be better and do better.” And because they know me, they understand I mean it humbly and seriously. Some of them know my story and others do not, but the messaging is the same, the only easy part about being a mother, is loving your baby–and there are some Mamas who can’t do that.
What I did write this post for, was to honor the blessing that God has blessed me with. For ten years he has allowed me to wake up to his handsome brown face, to kiss those soft, chubby cheeks, to rub my hands through his naturally curly hair, to lotion his healthy body, brush his growing teeth, clothe his perfectly brown skin and look into those gorgeous brown eyes. . . those eyes that see the world in a special way, those eyes that look to me for answers, those eyes that burn when he’s upset and gloss when he’s sad. I am completely filled with love, pride and gratitude for King. To raise him, to love him, to cherish him, to make him proud, and to watch him smile. I am the Mama that traces his small hands at bedtime, reads and cuddles. Even on the days that I am completely exhausted, hopeless, stressed and moody, his smile, each time it appears, is always like the first time for me. . . his father’s face, my dimples, the longest of lashes and the thickest of brows. I am made whole again. For 10 years, he has granted me the desires of my heart. Each night that this little boy has been a part of my life. Even when his asthma kept us both from resting, when he refused to sleep in his own bed, when he is “moody, moody attitude-y” My wishes are granted . And again, when we cuddle, My day is made when he texts me out of the blue and my life was made, when he entered this world. I am writing this post to pay homage to all that is my sun and my son.
For the past 10 years I have kept a Scrapbook and a Journal. They both document my experience as much as they do His life. Each and every time I sit down to add a photo or write about an experience, most recently, his interest in young ladies (Jesus help us), I am brought to my knees, literally. Both in humility and pride. My gosh–I cannot believe God elected me to carry, impart toward and raise such a beautifully spirited human being. He is, by all accounts quite special. He resembles his Daddy.. both in appearance and stature. But his heart, it is aligned and mostly mirrored, after my own.
When everyone around me (family, coaches, teachers, friends) gave up on me. God gave in. He moved, he blessed, he progressed, he raised me–up. My growth and progression directly aligns with my mothering, so much so, that when I elevate in my parenting, watering and challenging myself and King to be better, he does the same for me. It’s not only felt, it’s seen. I used to think that in order to be the perfect Mama, I needed the perfect child. That is what King is to me, but what God has done is shown all his imperfections and perfected them in my sight. . . . sort of like I am in his. He cleansed me. He lifted me up. He didn’t make me perfect… trust me, there are some days where I am scared to call on him, because I’ve been everything but just, and still He sees and hears me. I have learned more about myself as a woman, as a professional, as a daughter, as a sister, as a wife, and as a human, through my experience raising King.
I believe that our children know what we need before we do. And vice versa. I think God prepares them, as he makes them, for the parents he is sending them to be with. He crafts them in such a way that when they arrive, they are really all we’ve ever needed. Sometimes they stay a while, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes we keep them and sometimes we don’t. Regardless of what they or we do or don’t do, the inevitable truth is that we’re changed, by their presence alone. We’re changed physically, emotionally, mentally, psychologically, but even more so, internally–especially as mothers. Because as much as we’ve experienced them, they have experienced us. They know our temperaments, our voices, our schedules, and most beautifully, what our heartbeat sounds like, from the inside. Raising King has taught me to cherish the gift that is him, and to accept and embrace what he has been sent to teach me.
A heavenly spirited friend of mine and newly minted Mama asked Instagram a few days ago, “When I was a new momma, I wish someone had told me….” in reading it I thought so many different things, but ultimately commented the following: “That making mistakes is inevitable. It’s how you manage them that matters. Oh & that authenticity and accountability in your parenting, are just as important as it is anywhere else.” That is what raising King has taught me.
Society creates unrealistic expectations of mothers and it’s typically women who work to enforce those unrealistic standards on one another. King freed me from focusing on those standards. He has taught me that I will mess up, but It is okay and I am still worthy of love. He has taught me that managing them is more important than fixing them, because sometimes, you can’t. He has taught me to be me–consistently and unapologetically. He has pushed me to be authentic in order to teach him how to be. He has held me accountable, when I’m late to a practice, failed to sign a form, or eating too much bread (which is often LOL). Our children have a way of coaching us in the areas we’ll need the most flexibility in to raise them properly. They S T R E T C H and test us. Not only when they’re in utero, but when they’re with us on this side of the world too! He has helped me blossom into the woman that I am, and now my prayer is that I am helping him to blossom into the man that he will need to be. A man that is kind, fair, emotionally available, honest, respectful and respectable. A man who loves himself and a man who loves the one that created him. A man who gives more than he takes and a man that knows how to and when to, ask for help. A man that understands he is made strong, not small, by a strong woman. A man that listens more than he talks and a man that is unafraid, unashamed, and unstoppable. I pray that he has great memories of being raised by me, like I have, of raising him. It has truly, been my honor.
Happy 10th Birthday King. I pray you continue to be a light, trailblazing your way through this world. Know that I’ll always be there with you, even when I am not. Because you are mine, and I, am forever yours. I love you, with every piece of me.