We’re profiling one mother from every country on the planet. (Current tally: 7 down, 185 countries to go!)
Meet Gillian Bruce, a single mom who came our way through our “calling out” post from some months ago. She was nominated as a Global Mama by one of her dear friends who reads this blog. Bruce, 44, lives in in Pointe-A-Pierre, Trinidad, where she’s raising her 5-year-old daughter Thandiwe. A lover of languages (she holds an MA in French Language and Literature and speaks German and Spanish), Bruce is a French teacher at a secondary school in Trinidad.
Here’s her story …
Life before baby …
Before having my daughter, I had my life and it was all mine. I am a free spirit, a very outgoing person. I love hanging out with my friends, having a good time, traveling, and doing things on the spur of the moment. I would go to clubs, parties and dance all night without a care in the world, now I go to birthday parties and play dates and parks and play centers and get home early to put my daughter to bed.
My ideas about motherhood …
Pregnancy and motherhood have always fascinated me. Being a part of bringing life into the world is just such an amazing and wondrous thing to me. I’ve wanted children since I can remember. I would look at pregnant women and women with babies and I couldn’t wait for my turn to be pregnant, proudly carrying this child, and finally bringing this life to birth. It is such an ethereal, spiritual experience.
My plan was to have my first baby at 21, and then to have at least 3 more, but of course, life does not always follow our script and sometimes God has other plans.
I started working straight out of secondary school. At 28, I left my job and Trinidad to attend Howard University in Washington DC to pursue a BA in French. After graduating Summa Cum Laude, I went on to do an MA in French Literature and Language and lecture at the university Then taught for a year at a high school in DC.
Having accomplished that goal I returned to Trinidad intending to settle down and start a family. That was easier said than done! Again life went contrary to my script. I left for England where I spent just over 2 years working and exploring. By the time I returned home to Trinidad, I was 38, and I determined that it was either a baby or a PhD. I chose the baby.
Then came Thandiwe …
She has changed everything. From the time they placed her in my arms, I just melted. Love took on a new meaning. I understood it fully now.
The biggest change, though, was adjusting to the fact that it isn’t just me anymore. I’m not as free to come and go as I please. I think the fact that I lived and totally enjoyed life made this transition that much easier for me, because now I don’t feel as though I am missing out on anything.
I did not gain much weight during my pregnancy; my doctor even joked with me and said I was lucky. But then I actually began losing weight. And after extensive testing, I was diagnosed with colon cancer at 28 weeks. It was a total shock.
I was seeing three doctors could not agree on what course of action to take. The gastroenterologist kept saying that the tumor needed to come out immediately. My OB/GYN was saying that there was no way that I was going to have surgery because I was 28 weeks pregnant. Then there was the surgeon who was just trying to marry the two, get the tumor out as soon as possible without hurting me or my baby.
Eventually the decision was made to induce labor early, let me have my baby, give me a few days to rest and then do the surgery to remove the tumor. Thankfully both the delivery and surgery were successful and here we are today—me and my daughter, both well and strong!
The most awesome part is, had I not been pregnant at that time, the tumor would not have been discovered in its early stages. It probably would have just remained there quietly until it was too late to do anything. Thandi is my precious, miracle baby. When I say that she is my life, I know all too well what I mean!
The most challenging part of motherhood …
We live in a world filled with contradictions and hatred, intolerance and insensitivity. This presents the greatest challenge for me as a mother. How do I raise a respectful, honourable, kind, compassionate child with a strong sense of self? How do I help her to become a productive member of society making a positive contribution in the world?
The best part about raising a child in Trinidad …
Most of my family is here and the others always come home. Even with all its ills and issues, Trinidad still holds basic family values very dear. We know that families are important because they nurture, and they pass on values that are so very important to our very survival. Children still have aunties and uncles that are not blood relatives but parents’ good friends or people from the community or local church.
That and the beautiful weather here!
The parts I wished were different …
- There are no resources or services with parents and children in mind, no support groups, such as for new parents or single parents.
- Play groups are not a popular concept. I would have welcomed such opportunities to share experiences and advice with other parents.
- There aren’t any services that necessarily make motherhood any easier in Trinidad. I’m fortunate that I have my mother, sisters, aunts, and friends around, always willing to offer support and advice—both solicited and unsolicited.
- Breast feeding is encouraged, and mothers are free to nurse their babies whenever and wherever the need arises, but a lot of women opt to bottle-feed because of having to return to work, or selfishly to retain their figure, or because it is the fashionable thing to do right now.
Best piece of advice I ever heard …
I read this somewhere: “No one knows your child better than you do. Always go with your gut feeling and trust your instincts.”
If we could jump into a DeLorean and race back in time …
I would say “Gillian, Thandi is healthy, happy and beautiful. Everything is going well, so stop worrying and take it one day at a time. Also, get as much rest as you can and prepare yourself, this is going to be a long journey. An enjoyable one, but a long one where you’ll need to be alert and energized.”
If you want to nominate a first-time mother living outside of the United States to be featured here, please send an e-mail to: get[dot]msmack [at] gmail [dot] com.