The greatest experience for any parent is being gifted with a child and walking them through the journey of life. I discovered that just as you overcome one hurdle with becoming a mother, you come face to face with the road of motherhood and quickly realize that although there is beauty in having the privilege in raising a child, in the same breath it can also be intricate, scary and challenging.
Instilling in our children values, virtues and seeing the fruits of them living it on a daily basis is worth every moment. Sharing the best part of me with both of my children and having the opportunity to help them be comfortable in their skin, stand in their truth and learn that there is a greater purpose in life are my proudest accomplishments.
But my path to motherhood didn’t happen overnight.
For us, it seemed nearly impossible and distant in the horizon. In 2004, we were informed that it would be extremely difficult to conceive due to fertility challenges. We felt like our entire world was turned upside down.
At that time, we did not have any family or friends who understood what we were going through. It felt very lonely. Nowadays, people are more likely to open up about fertility challenges, but back then it was considered taboo.
If someone experienced infertility, it wasn’t something you openly discussed with anyone. We were embarking on a new path with very little knowledge, and we honestly didn’t quite understand the extent of the barriers that we would encounter. It was a journey that we quickly realized we would have to travel alone.
I remember completing test after test, saying prayer after prayer, and hoping that one day I would be a mother. Several of my friends at the time were pregnant and I was utterly happy for them—but at the same time there was a void that was indescribable and something that left a hole in the pit of my stomach that became substantial with time.
My heart ached with the passing of time. When you are waiting for something to happen that seems almost impossible, time feels infinite and in its span you begin to ponder on many things. I wondered Was I enough? and Was I being punished by God? and Would the love of my life begin to look at me differently?
One month turned into three months, then six months, then a year.
Before long, two years had passed and we were still waiting.
We often hoped that miraculously one of those negative tests would be a false negative. We eventually took a step back and literally stopped trying. We realized we were truly not the ones in control.
We prayed and said, “If it’s in Your will, let it be done; and if it’s not in Your will, we will accept that bringing a child into this world naturally would not be our path.”
We toiled with thoughts of adopting a child and soon came to grips that this may be the path that was designed for us. We accepted in our hearts that having a family did not have to begin and end there.
It quickly became that simple for us. However, after two and a half years in mid-2006, our precious Sonnier was born.
Sonnier was God sent. His name was so fitting because it means “light and to make a loud sound,” and he definitely brought light to our lives.
Having our second child proved to be even more difficult, and our doctors shared it would be an absolute miracle if we were to conceive again.
Three years and nine months later our sweet baby girl, Sanaa, was born in 2010.
Sanaa was our miracle child number two. Her name means “a work of beauty and art” and she is definitely the art in God’s work.
When both of our kids were born, we were not only ecstatic, but also nervous.
We were afraid of failing our children. We didn’t want to make a mistake and overlook teaching and preparing them for something significant about life. Furthermore, we didn’t want them to miss out on the innocence of their childhood because of the harshness of the world that they would soon face. And more importantly, we didn’t want their hearts to be hardened.
Our eyes were wide open, but there was nothing that could have prepared us for what we would encounter along our parenthood journey.
Initially, I had this mindset that we could shield them from all harm because as their parents we provide love, protection, security and are their emotional soundboard. I was completely mistaken.
As young parents, we quickly learned no matter how much we want to protect our children, as they make their way through life, we will not be a part of every single experience while they are kids. By the age of 5, our children equally shared challenging and heartbreaking experiences in their short time and it was the tip of the iceberg of how hate can be projected onto children.
We didn’t imagine how many bridges they would soon cross that could embody situations beyond their years.
We want our children to always feel emotionally and psychologically safe. We often thought about how we would raise our bundle of loves in this thing we call life—something that could be so full of love, kindness, hope and joy, but also unforgiving and full of racial divide.
Some wondered why pondering on such topics so early with our children was even necessary. The truth is, Black mothers and fathers often carry the weight of this burden because our children are more likely to experience inequities and unjust treatment under the age of 10 before their peers. Many families have the “talk” with their children in preparation of what to do, what to say, what not to say and how to respond in situations that center around mistreatment, exclusion, stereotypes, perceptions, over-generalizations, racism, discrimination…etc.
We found ourselves having difficult heart-to-heart conversations with our children about the common perceptions that often transform into realities, such as approaching the age of 10 and no longer possessing a childhood innocence as you are looked upon as being older in society’s eyes, or how to approach police if you are ever stopped being profiled in a store or your own neighborhood. And there’s not a second and third chance to right your wrongs.
My husband and I began having these life-changing conversations with our children at early ages. When your child comes home from Kindergarten and says, “Mommy, my classmate said, ‘My dad told me I can’t play with black boys,'” and “Mommy, girls say my hair is ugly and not straight enough,” or “Mommy someone called me the ‘n-word,'” is absolutely heartbreaking.
Something inside you shifts quickly into protection mode. For us, it was a vivid reminder that although we have come a long way, we still have a mighty long way to go.
Early on, our children were not able to put into words how they were feeling, but looking back, they remember it hurt deep.
This is something a child never forgets. As a parent, you realize there is a piece of emotional innocence that is chipped away from your child. We had to ensure our babies knew. without question. that they were more than enough. As much as we wanted to create a hedge or barrier around them, we realized our entire mindset needed to transition from protecting them from experiences to proactively doing everything possible to ensure they felt loved, worthy, empowered, supported, emotionally safe and possessed the knowledge to psychologically protect themselves through their experiences.
We decided with every ounce of us, we would pour positivity into our children and instill everything we could on how to live life with purpose and prepare them for the world beyond our bubble.
We intentionally, and deliberately, did not shield our children from adversity—nor did we want them to develop a monolithic view, a sense of entitlement or unrealistic belief that unfair things can’t happen.
We wanted them to learn not only how to respond when they experience mistreatment or something unjust, but also how to navigate and address these issues effectively. We have poured into them the beauty of accepting others regardless of their differences, standing up for what is right for the greater good and having a growth mindset versus a fixed mindset.
We decided to take every adverse situation and turn it into a positive life lesson, regardless of the barriers.
We have also continued to teach them to drive out darkness with light. In that process, we learned our children are resilient, they are wise beyond their years and are equally teaching us along the way.
Sometimes, we as adults have a harder time dealing with certain situations. We have tried our best to model how to handle certain issues, even when at times it has been difficult to do so. We all find ourselves at a crossroad because our patience and character are often tested when something negatively impacts our children.
Although these tests are ongoing, I would not trade my experience of bringing my children into the world and guiding them along their journey. There’s always something challenging that can rock you to your core, but it only makes you stronger. Even in the current climate we live in, we still count our blessings.
We are taking the charge as their parents to plant seeds and give them life nuggets every day. Our hope and dream is that our teachings will somehow stick, and when a situation comes knocking on their door, we pray that they will be ready.
We take comfort in knowing that we’ve done everything possible to layer them in God’s armor.
Life has a way of bringing about humility and a sense of treasure. I will always hold near my heart the process my husband and I went through to experience our double gifts of life, and I will never forget how our immeasurable love held us together. As we continue to experience parenthood, the depth of it is beautiful, ugly, full of joy, laughter, humbling, enlightening and transforming in every way.
I can’t deny it is very disheartening for any parent to witness their children experience the world as we know it, and for any child to witness the present divide close-up through their lens.
Despite how difficult the road of parenting may become and the distresses we may encounter along the way, you can teach your children how to love others when it’s not projected to them and that they are:
Enough without things;
Brilliant without needing the world to affirm it;
Dreamers even when it appears so out of reach;
Achievers when they encounter barriers in life;
Strong in the midst of adversity;
And the positive light in the midst of darkness.
This is the epitome of motherhood and my life’s greatest treasure—giving them the best parts of me.
Photo courtesy of Olufemi Ajisafe: @bomaonephotography.