Way to go Blackish
Blackish is a TV show here in the US and tonight, along with so many past episodes, was awesome. They brought awareness to postpartum. They brought awareness to different coping ways whether it is medication or therapy.
This episode was very emotional for me to watch. The mother experiencing the postpartum was nursing when her mother in law decided to give the baby formula and go against the mother’s choice. The mother stood up for herself in such an empowering way and was supported by her husband. She told her mother in law that she was tired of being put down, made fun of and not being good enough. This brought up so much emotion for me because in my life the mother in law was actually my own mother. I don’t think I have laughed and cried so much in one 30 minutes in a long time. The show touched on the reality of family’s good and bad and the importance of standing strong for each other when one is feeling weak.
I remember when I found out I was pregnant. I was not married yet. I was conflicted. I wasn’t married. Did I say that yet!!! But I was told I may never get pregnant and here I was with a baby growing inside of me. I was with the love of my life, who I am still will after 21 years and will be with for an eternity. I was so excited that I was pregnant. Soon after I found out, I told my Nana. She was so happy for me. I told my father. He was happy for me too. My Nana passed away shortly after when I was only 4 months pregnant. I had not told the rest of the family. Every person on all sides of the family came to Nana’s funeral. I was already showing. My mother was insistent that I told no one I was pregnant. She was ashamed that I was not married. I remember during my Nana’s funeral touching my pregnant belly for comfort. Keeping secrets is what our family did. Me being molested was still a secret. Me attempting suicide was still a secret. My mother having another child and putting him up for adoption…still a secret. And hey, have your own secrets, but don’t try to control who I tell about what is going on with my own body! But back then I was still easily manipulated into the secrets. I don’t think it was until my daughter was born that I even knew I had a voice.
The contrast was quite severe between my mother and my mother in law when it came to my pregnancy. We told my mother in law I was pregnant. She lived in another state far away at the time. I had never met her. On the day I met her she didn’t even introduce herself. She ran up to me, got on her knees and put her hands on my belly and rested her face against my belly and she spoke to her grandbaby. I remember this as if it were yesterday. I looked down on her head and I felt her love for my baby. It was so powerful. A moment I will never forget. She immediately started searching for a house to buy so that we could all live together. At the time, my one day husband and I were living in an apartment. She bought a beautiful home for us to live in and when I was 7 months pregnant we moved into a home together. She walked my dog every day. She cooked all of my meals. She gave me daily massages (she was a massage therapist, breast feeding advocate, and infant massage therapist, AND a neonatal nurse). I went into preterm labor soon after and was on bed rest for a month. My mother in law brought me my meals and kept the house clean while working full time. My one day husband also gave me unconditional 24/7 support and love.
My mother was upset we were moving to the town we moved to because it was an hour and a half away from her and she said she would have a hard time visiting. And she certainly did. After my daughter was born, she had jaundice and I had to go back into the hospital with her at a week old, for a week of the bililights. My mother in law brought us meals, took care of my daughter in the neonatal unit so that I could sleep. Unfortunately, my daughter was sick from that point on for a different reason than jaundice. Every weekend we were in the emergency room. Finally at 4 months old after fighting doctors and finally finding one that would listen to my instinct, we discovered my daughter needed emergency surgery to remove her kidney. She was born with a birth defect that no one knew about. I could give you the details but they are all medical and people don’t always like those details.
My 4 month old was in the hospital for 4 days after this surgery. She had an incision that wrapped around one side of her little body. I remember the sound of her cry when she came out of surgery. I remember all of the tubes and wires. I remember mostly the nurses saying I could not hold my daughter and my mother in law swooping in, picking up my baby girl and putting her in my arms. My mother in law told me to nurse her and I did. My daughter had an immediate turn around in her recovery all because of my mother in law.
When my daughter was 6 months old, after constant pressure and planning for us to get married by my mother, my soon to be husband and I woke up and went in to speak to my mother in law. We said, “ Can you watch her today? We are getting married!” And she did. And my husband and I went to our favorite spot in the middle of the woods where we used to hike, and got married. He picked me wild flowers on the side of the road for my bouquet. Every year when those flowers bloom I remember that day. I went home after our wedding, nursed my 6 month old daughter, and then my husband and I went out to dinner, my mother in law at home taking care of our baby.
On the days up to that point when I was sleep deprived my mother in law would sleep with my daughter and bring her to me in the middle of the night to nurse her. My daughter mattered to her and so did I.
We lived with her for a year and a half until my husband and I decided it was time to buy our own place. My mother in law still loves my daughter as if she were her own child. My daughter is everything to her. 21 years later a day does not go by that they don’t text or talk. My mother in law and I differ on a thousand different things! But she loves my daughter. My daughter feels loved. That is ALL that matters! That love.
My mother in law was never ashamed of me, my pregnancy, my not being married. She was always proud of how I mothered and that has never changed. She knows that I love my daughter more than anything in this world.
I will forever remember her putting her face on my belly, putting my daughter in my arms after her surgery, and taking care of us, when the rest of the family cared more about the shame of my unmarried status. I cherish that time.
The house she bought put me right down the road from my friend now of 21 years!
Watching Blackish tonight reminded me of how it felt to be loved unconditionally when I was at a low point after my daughter’s birth. It reminded me of how I am not good enough for my mother and how when I stood up to my family and stopped compromising and letting them put me down, they just left. They didn’t fight. When the mother in Blackish told her mother in law that she would not be treated unjustly anymore…..the mother in law apologized. My mother never apologized. My mother just chose her own pride just like she did when I was an unmarried mother.
When your family does not choose you, what do you do? You hold on to those who do!!!! I have many people in my life who choose me and choose my daughter and who love me. My husband is my rock. His love has taken me through more I can even put down on paper. So if your family doesn’t choose you, then make your own family. That family may be a friend you met 21 years ago while living with your mother in law. That family may be one person who has chosen to love you through everything. But just because that original family (mom, dad, brother, stepfather, etc) didn’t choose you, is no reflection on you. It is just a reflection of them. A bad reflection. They won’t look in the mirror and see this reflection. So don’t wait too long before you find someone who when looking at their own reflection can also see their own love for you.
My mother in law is now traveling the country and living life to the fullest but she has never forgotten or broken the bond she has with that little baby whose face she rested on when I was barely pregnant. 21 years later. I remember the good. Thankfully I had someone in my life then to balance out what I was not getting from my own mother, and never got. I have since learned to find that balance within myself. Some days are harder than others. I had to come to terms with the fact that I did not matter to my mother. I’m remembering bits and pieces of that this week and I have been thrown into what feels like rapids in a river. Tossed against a rock, pushed to the bottom of the river gasping for air. Remembering and realizing and allowing myself to feel the emotions of not having a mother of her own choosing is like a dagger in my heart throughout the day.
They don’t always choose you. Find those who do. And remember those who helped you along the way. Those little moments in time that saved your life, like when your mother in law (or whoever it was for you) made you quesadillas, held your daughter on her chest, and loved her just like you do. Little angels placed at the perfect time. They may come and go. They may not even be in your life anymore. But the love remains. True love remains. And that is all that matters.