When I found out I was expecting a girl, I immediately felt anxious. Not that I wasn’t happy, but it’s almost as if a part of me was more comfortable with the idea of raising a boy. I realized I unconsciously nurtured the belief that bringing a boy into this world would be much less of a challenging task. Why? How did I come to that conclusion? There are so many reasons. Firstly, I have two young brothers I took care of from a young age, so it’s something that comes naturally to me. Secondly, I’m a woman in her late twenties who witnesses and documents the different challenges women of my generation face across the world – challenges that were even bigger for my mother and grandmother’s generations. Thirdly, the fact that we are in 2017 yet still have to fight/march for women’s rights and advancement in society, even in the so-called developed countries, really makes me wonder about the future. And finally, because gender inequalities do exist, no matter how hard we try to avoid them. They always did and will probably do for quite some time. I’m not talking about the recurring debate among some of my peers, about whether or not women and men are different in nature, because to me, being equal does not mean being identical. I’m talking about basic human rights that all individuals should equally have access to, no matter what their gender, race, religion, sexual orientation or social status is. But the deepest reason of my anxiety and slight moment of panic, the one that made me the most uncomfortable, is the fact that I was scared. Scared that my child would face more challenges because she was born a girl. Scared I wouldn’t be able to protect her. Not all the time, not from everything. Understanding the root cause of my anxiousness made me realize that a part of me somehow internalized men’s privilege in society and the oppression against women and girls as something “normal”. Something boys wouldn’t have to deal with. So hearing my doctor says “Congrats, it’s a girl!” resonated like an electroshock and left me with tons of questions.
What am I going to tell my daughter?
That she was born in a world where inequality is a norm and can be justified simply by gender? Where being a woman, especially a black or “minority” woman, immediately puts you at the bottom of the ladder, which means you have to work twice as hard as others to succeed? Am I going to tell her there will be times when she will have to justify most of her choices: her career, opinions, what she does with her body, and sometimes her mere existence? How do I prepare her for the micro-agressions she will face on a daily basis, and the external pressures that come with it? How do I explain to her the unashamed misogyny, sexism, violence and discrimination against women and girls in the world we live in? How could I possibly tell her that in many parts of the world rape remains unpunished and the victim’s fault? Should I mention that when she enters the professional world, there are high chances she is paid less than her male counterparts for the same job and level of experience? I know most of these injustices existed even before I was born, and that we are better off today than we were yesterday when women barely had the right to work, vote, inherit, make choices on their own bodies, own land (even though in many countries they still don’t). But on the other hand, I have no intention to raise my daughter with the illusion that the world is one big fairy tale where she is a princess.
Like my mother, grandmother and great grandmother, I want my daughter to dream high, go places I’ve never been to, reach for the stars, be happy and fulfilled in all areas of her life. But I also want her to keep her head on her shoulders and be prepared when the storm comes.
I will teach her she can do and be anything in this world, as long as she believes in herself, works hard for her dreams, and doesn’t take no for an answer. I will tell how beautiful, intelligent, worthy, capable, and strong she is. And make sure she knows that it’s okay to be vulnerable at times. It’s ok to be human, to make mistakes, to fall and rise again. I will teach her that in order to be loved, she must love herself first. I want her to find the best possible father figure in her daddy, and set high standards in her relationships because of the love she witnessed between her parents. I will encourage her to be herself unapologetically and follow her calling fearlessly. Despite the darkness of the world, I pray she always focus on the bright side, the goodness, and humanity in all beings. My biggest realization since the beginning of this motherhood journey is that I cannot teach her anything valuable if I do not embody these qualities myself. I have to preach by example, it’s the best way to positively influence children, and people in general. Maybe her arrival is a signal for me to heal all the parts of myself that are still broken, in order to be whole and give her the best. Maybe it’s a reminder to be more driven and use my voice for causes I truly care about. Maybe the anxiety I felt is a way to redirect me to my purpose: teach young girls how to be themselves and thrive in all aspects of their lives. What’s a better way to start than with my own daughter? Actually, what would be a better proof of that since she will be like a mirror, reflecting back everything she inherited from me, the good and the bad, and her own unique radiance. Maybe the fear is just an indicator that this is precisely where the work needs to be done, the task I need to complete to become the best version of myself.
I’m still on this journey, learning lessons everyday while trusting the process. But all I know for sure is that the single act of carrying and growing a child inside of me for the past 8 months has been transformative on so many levels. It’s like discovering parts of yourself you had no idea existed before. It’s witnessing the multidimensional and magical character of women. It’s learning how to deeply fall in love with yourself and embracing change. It’s connecting with a child you haven’t met yet but already love so much. My creativity is on the rise, my intuition is amplified, my connection to the Divine is continuous and I’ve never felt more a “woman” than I do today. She is already changing my life in ways I didn’t expected. And even though I may still feel anxious at times as my delivery day approaches, I know deep inside of me that I was carefully crafted, prepared and designed to be a vessel of life, love and light.
“In your light I learn how to love. In your beauty, how to make poems. You dance inside my chest where no-one sees you, but sometimes I do, and that sight becomes this art.”
― Jalaluddin Rumi
Photography: “Journey to Motherhood: A Self-Portrait Series” (with a little help from the hubby).