Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Motherhood: A Rite of Passage

The act of giving birth is more than the pains and throes of a woman in parturition. It is a rite of passage from one existence into the next that every human being who enters into the earth must experience.  I was first taught this years ago by my beloved godmother. I remember sitting at her feet beside the fireplace as she schooled  me on the deeper things in life. She would rock back and forth in her rocking chair in meditative contemplation. “Awodola,” she would call me, “ As the Iyanla, or woman of the house, it is important that you maintain your shrines daily and take care of your ancestors,  for one day they will come back through you and your children.” I never forgot her words…that moment in time galvanized my way of thinking forever. I was the single mother of a male child who I brought into this world with a vengeance. I traded in my sailor hat for a mommy hat while serving overseas in the United States Navy.  It seemed as though the entire world was against me; loved ones expressing their disappointment and sharing with me all of my “options”…completely oblivious to my joy and amazement over the gift in my belly.  I was with child and at total peace with it. By no stretch of the imagination was my pregnancy an act of immaculate conception, but at moments I understood what Mary must have felt when she had to convince her husband Joseph and the rest of their community that her pregnancy was a divine occasion. The looks…the stares…the commentary…the disbelief…and no one but God himself can truly understand what you feel inside.
 The women in my life became rocks upon which I was able to lean when the fierce winds of change blew me completely out of the water. Two in particular, my mother and godmother, were angels sent to me from the heavens like gifts sent to Perseus from Zeus to help him survive the wiles of Calibos. My birth mother taught me how to thrive in the physical realm. By her example I learned the ways of the Lioness; I learned to hunt, gather, keep my head above the current, work hard, and sacrifice. My godmother taught me how to thrive in keeping with the spiritual realm. By her example I learned how to pray, meditate, be content, acknowledge God always, respect my elders and know that there is no such thing as coincidence.  In time, following my incubation period under the tutelage of the “great mothers,” God sent me a husband. My nest was expanding. I had brought forth one ancestor already in the form of numberoneson Christopher, and before long came another in the form of my beautiful daughter Vashti.  
Now clad with a husband and two children, I found myself in another fireside chat with my godmother. To my amazement she informed me that I needed to add my maternal grandfather to my ancestral alter, for he would come back through my next child. “Well that’s jacked up to all hell!” I thought to myself.  I hadn’t added him to my alter because frankly I didn’t care for him while he was alive. He was a mean man at times and angry at the world…Ebeneezer Scrooge times 10.  Interestingly, my maternal grandmother is my spirit guide and the dominant energy on my prayer alter. Because I wasn’t planning on having any more children I dismissed these things my godmother said to me about my grandfather. In keeping with the culture, however, I did add him to my alter right beside my Nana and thought nothing else about it. Well, as the universe would have it, two months later on my daughter’s 8-month birthday my husband expressed to me his desire for a third child…and one month later I was pregnant.
 My godmother told me some time ago that my karma in this life was such that all of my children would hail from my own bloodline, not their fathers. I thought about this often throughout my nine month pilgrimage. This pregnancy was the most “chill” of all, choc full of epiphanies and visions about my family and my ancestors. I was obsessed with old photographs of relatives and who they were and how they lived. I knew that my first two children were my ancestors come back but I did not know which ancestors. So I searched for and interviewed family members to decipher whose personalities matched my children’s the most. But THIS baby…this baby baking in my belly fascinated me so because for the first time I actually knew who he was. Not only did I know, but this soul had actually been my grandfather in his past life and I didn’t always dislike him; before I became pregnant with numberoneson we were very close.  It was his disdain over my unwed pregnancy that drove us apart. How ironic that he should come back through me. For the first time I understood what was meant by the euphemism, “The universe has a sense of humor.”
Upon Baby Ayden’s birth, the first thing I noticed was his color. One year into his life he was still several shades lighter than both my husband and I; a beautiful caramel pecan, the exact shade of my grandfather.  “But Africans come in all shades so surely,” I thought to myself, “this is no real indication of reincarnation.” At age 3, I sat an old washed out military photograph of my grandfather in front of Ayden one evening during dinner time.  I told the rest of the family not to say a word. Within minutes after observing the man in the picture Ayden blurted out, “That’s ME mommy!” as he pointed knowingly to my grandfather.  By age 4 Ayden was in speech therapy twice a week for a severe stutter.  After 3 years we grew to love this adorable characteristic of his and after little improvement, he grew tired of therapy so we removed him…and besides, my grandfather stuttered his entire life so Ayden’s stutter was probably more of a tattoo on the soul than a speech impediment…
By age 6 the icing on the cake for my mother and I was when we realized that Ayden didn’t really enjoy sweets like other children and that he had to have raisin bran every morn for breakfast.  He would take 3 licks from a lollipop and give it back, 2 bites out of a piece of gum before spitting it out and throw a tantrum  refusing to eat breakfast if we ran out of raisin bran. Well not only was my grandfather averse to sweets and junk food, but as far back as my young mind can stretch, I watched my grandfather eat raisin bran cereal for breakfast every morning.

Knowledge is power, and in my research I found that my grandfather had a very difficult life.  People who are hurt, hurt other people and this experience gave me a sense of peace and closure regarding my damaged relationship with my grandfather. In turn, I realized that in his new life as Ayden Reed my grandfather would receive all the love and attention to make up for the karma from his past life as George Cole.  A clean slate, so to speak. And deep in my soul I know beyond a shadow of doubt that my grandfather’s spirit communicated with me to let me know he was at peace in his new “situation.” As the universe would have it, one cold winter evening as my family sat quietly enjoying some delicious homemade chilli , Ayden’s favorite, I had a de ja vu experience that shook me to the core and sealed the nail in the coffin (no pun intended). If ever I doubted my godmother’s words, there was not a trace of doubt left in my mind at this point. My grandfather loved good food, and whenever my Nana would cook his favorite meal he would close his eyes, rub his head and hum softly as he ate.  As I sat at my dinner table words cannot express the calm that came over me as I listened to my son hum a familiar tune that sent me spiraling back to my Nana’s dinner table. I looked over at Ayden as he leaned over his bowl, gently caressing the crown of his head with one hand and eating with his other, just like my grandfather used to do. I smiled. We all smiled as Ayden continued to hum ever so sweetly a tune that would nevefr again allow me to forget the fact that the act of giving birth is more than the pains and throes of a woman in parturition. It is a rite of passage from one existence into the next that every human being who enters into the earth must experience. And in the unspoken presence of energies past, present and future, my understanding of the role of a mother changed forever.