There is often an assumption that mothering is natural; something someone is simply blessed with at birth. The reality is, like anything else in life, mothering takes work, failure, and constantly learning new things. Of course, this process varies from person-to-person, but we have to interrogate this assumption to truly understand the practice of mothering. Zinette, originally from Toronto, Ontario, but now living in Atlanta, Georgia, was gracious enough to open up to me about her journey to motherhood, and how she is navigating motherhood, as a mother of two.
COLLEEN REID: You have given birth to two beautiful little girls, were there any differences between the two pregnancies?
ZINETTE: My two pregnancies were truly night and day. Emotionally and mentally my first pregnancy was TERRIBLE. I suffered from prenatal depression virtually alone. I didn’t want to be pregnant and went through the five stages of grief, amongst other things. Physically, my first pregnancy was nearly perfect. Every appointment was filled with good news, all milestones and developmental markers were met as well. Four days before my due date I was sent to the hospital to be induced because they discovered that our daughter’s placenta wasn’t working. She wasn’t floating in anything and they feared that she was no longer receiving nutrients and oxygen. Thankfully, she was born healthy and happy.
Three years later, I became pregnant again, this time with a different outlook. And this time, on purpose. Because I’d felt so alone as a reluctant mother during my first pregnancy, my husband and a few friends discussed how to ensure that the second time around would be enjoyable.
COLLEEN: After having your children, did you experience any form of postpartum depression? If so, what was that like for you? Did you have any form of emotional support available?
ZINETTE: I had some difficulty adjusting to the idea of motherhood the first time around. Because I suffered from prenatal depression during my first pregnancy, my husband and my mom were really worried about how I’d navigate motherhood. Luckily I did not have to also suffer through postpartum depression the first time around. I was sure I’d be able to navigate the stormy waters of motherhood and be able to cope with two children.
Unfortunately, that is not exactly what is happening. It’s been two months since I was formally diagnosed with postpartum depression. Giving birth during a pandemic without the standard resources and physical community have been EXTREMELY DIFFICULT. I almost don’t have the words to convey how broken, tired, painful, stressful and irritating it’s been at times. With no outpatient services to aid with breastfeeding and no in-home services permitted due to COVID-19, these have added to the normal stresses of my postpartum experience. My husband has been much more supportive the second time around. My doctors and my therapist have also stepped in to provide personalized support.
COLLEEN: How has becoming a mother changed the way you view other Black mothers, especially your own, and motherhood in general?
ZINETTE: As I reflect, Black motherhood hasn’t been on my mind a lot. Before becoming pregnant, I never considered mothers really. Mainly because being one was never on my radar. On a more personal note, I realized something significant about my mom. In every single recollection I have of my mother’s interactions with me, she is happy, exuberant, boundless in love and affectionate; and always smiling and happy to see us. Last summer, I realized that that was exactly how I felt every time I saw my firstborn.
I gave birth during a pandemic, protests and a surge in awareness of racial injustice. Specifically, as a Black mother, I am painfully aware that to raise strong, resilient girls into adulthood, I cannot allow the world to stay the same. I must prepare them for adulthood, demand social change and cultivate a nurturing environment. One where they will be confident in their abilities, talents and especially their Blackness.
COLLEEN: What comes to mind when you think of how you could best support another Black mother, especially in today’s climate?
ZINETTE: The best way I can support a fellow Black mother is by showing up. With COVID-19 this complicates my approach. I want beautiful Black mothers to know that there are millions of us out there showing up for our children every day. But even as we strive to be supermoms we must first take care of ourselves. We’ve all heard the saying “You can’t pour from an empty cup.” This is true. We must find ways to enjoy life and do what makes us happy, do what allows us to center ourselves and be ready to conquer our day. Maybe it’s a soak in the tub or a quick jog in the park. Maybe it’s reading a chapter from our favorite book or maybe even baking a loaf of banana bread. As Black women, we tend to take care of everyone else’s needs and then forget about ourselves. It’s not selfish to show self-love and do some self-care, even if it is only for 15 minutes a day. Take care of yourself, Ma!
COLLEEN: You are raising two beautiful Black children, what are some things they have taught you and in return, what are some things you want them to know about being proud and unapologetically Black?
ZINETTE: They’ve taught me a lot! Whenever I wash or comb their hair, I intentionally tell them how beautiful their hair is (not to be confused with the ‘nice hair’ that some Black people associate with straighter, finer hair). I compliment my older daughter’s hair not only when it is styled or braided but also when it’s in tangles or in a poofy afro.
One little thing I did when teaching my three-year-old her colours was introduce brown as “beautiful brown”. Before I could even give her an example, she pointed to her arm and exclaimed “Beautiful brown, like me MOMMY!” A year and a half later, that’s what we still call it. I want her to always associate herself, her skin and her hair as creations of beauty. They will learn most about how to be unapologetically Black by emulating how they see me embrace my Blackness. My pride, my confidence and my strength will not only be learned by what I say and teach but especially by how I carry myself.
If you want to keep up with Zinette, give her a follow on Instagram and Youtube.