I Used To Be Me (part 2)

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Sonya Childress and I share a birthday: March 8. And, as of December 24 of this past year, we have another thing in common—we’re both mothers.

I met Sonya five years ago through a mutual friend. She had moved out to NYC from the Left Coast. Sonya always had a kind word and pleasant smile for me when our paths overlapped.

Last year, after putting in five years here, Sonya and her partner Jamaki Knight pulled up stakes and went back west to Oakland. “I was slowing down and not taking advantage of all that New York had to offer,” she says about the cross-country move. Then, on the morning of Christmas Eve 2009, the couple welcomed Eve Mojisola (“Moji”) Knight into their West Coast world. The slowdown was over.

With Sonya having just three months tucked under her mommyhood belt, a phoner was in order. I wanted to hear her take on the still-super-fresh metamorphosis from “me to mom.”

Life before baby …
It was pretty footloose and fancy free. I was traveling a lot, and I was pretty worked-focused. My identity was really tied into my job. I do outreach for social issue documentary films, and have done it for almost a decade. It’s been my focus … until three months ago.

I always envisioned children …
But I didn’t always envision a husband, but that’s probably because I was raised by a single mom. I didn’t think about the logistics of motherhood, but sort of assumed it would come into my lap. It was something I always wanted. The most I ever did to prepare for motherhood was, about a year ago, we got a rabbit. They are high maintenance animals. I definitely treated her like the long-eared child I never had. That’s when I got the sense that I should have a human baby and not dress my rabbit up in clothes.

The timing of my pregnancy was awkward. I started my job in California and got pregnant the same week. It was very Puerto Rican of me! But it worked out really well. [My employer] has been really supportive,  and the timing, in the end, couldn’t have been better.

Then came Moji …
The two weeks leading up to the birth were rough. I stopped work early, thinking she would come on time. It was a waiting game. And as the days ticked by, it was becoming more and more stressful.

She was two weeks late, so she was induced. I was having contractions every three minutes for 22 hours!

Then I came home to a packed house. I was exhausted from the long labor and I smelled like a billy-goat, for some reason—I guess all the hormones racing through my body. I felt like Jabba the Hutt’s niece. I was just nasty! I didn’t want to be around anybody except her.

Childbirth was so surreal …
It’s like a Salvador Dali painting. It took weeks for that to settle into my brain, that I have a little human. I was in such a surreal state that it didn’t really matter that I wasn’t getting much sleep. I was just generally loopy for that whole first month.

The challenge for me was, I had never really been around an infant …
I babysat a child once when I was in college, and I accidentally made the girl brush her teeth with diaper ointment. So having this fragile-looking being in my care now, I was a little mortified.  The first time I ever put a diaper on a child was when she came home from the hospital. I was a novice.

I knew I didn’t know anything, but during those first weeks, I recognized that no one was going to help me. No one was going to come in and take her away at the end of the day and bring her back when she’s in college. I mean, she was mine, and the learning curve was really high. I’m so thankful that my mother was there to help, and that my partner had two older children and was not afraid of all of this.

Fear loosened its grip on me close to the end of the first month …
I felt like, I can do this. Maybe I was over-thinking things. First, she’s not as fragile as she seems. And second, I’m a thoughtful, mature person and I could figure things out. Plus, I had a lot of support.

I kept thinking, how do teenagers do this? I have the presence of mind to not lose my head when she’s crying. That’s years of maturity that I’ve amassed to be able to bring my best self to motherhood. The image of the teen mom was my way to reassure myself that I had so many resources on hand—not just financial resources, but also age, wisdom and maturity.

What kept me sane through this process …
It’s that my partner isn’t as scared as I am. I never thought that being with someone who already had children [Knight has two older ones from a previous relationship] would come in handy in this way. When Moji breaks out into a rash or has a look of terror on this face and I’m on the precipice of freaking out, I look over at this man and he’s as calm as day. He instinctively swoops her up, diagnoses the problem, takes care of it, and she’s fine seconds later. That has done wonders for my sense of  sanity. He’s so capable and he tells me, “You’re going to be fine.” It has meant the world to me.

I’m definitely settling into motherhood, and it’s all been really good.

  • 1
    BZA says:

    Diaper ointment. On the toothbrush. Really, Sonya, really. LOL.

    So happy for both you and Nicole. Your babies are going to grow up to be smartest, funny-storytelling-est kids on either East or West Coast.

    Keep bloggin, Mama Blades!

    • 1.1
      Ms. Mack says:

      BZA! Thanks and thanks some more for the comment, good wishes and overall homey love. (You know that you are said “mutual friend,” right?) So glad you intro’d me to her. She’s lovely… despite the diaper ointment on the toothbrush deal.


  • 2
    Saada says:

    Wonderful read. I laughed at the opting not to dress up her rabbit point.

    • 2.1
      Ms. Mack says:

      Thanks, Saada. Yes, Sonya is one funny mother. Her imaginative descriptions had me laughing as well. Jabba the Hutt’s niece? Come on. Cut and print.