Open Letter to My Unborn Daughter (or Son)

Dear Daughter (or Son),

Dear Daughter (or Son),

Some people are concerned that I am sharing too many details about you and the way you came to be in my public writings. They worry that knowing too much about your biological father, or knowing too little about him, or having an openly gay mother, or two, will cause you unnecessary pain. I have considered their input and decided to write an open letter to you about all this. I begin by acknowledging that there will be difficulties in your life; everyone has things with which they will struggle. And the world we live in is cruel and unfair and riddled with inequalities you will come to know only too well, because of, but not limited to you being Black, and the child of a lesbian immigrant, a loudmouth, a rabble-rouser, and a dissenter of sorts. Your life will not begin with wealth. And already, the way you were conceived has spurred heated discussions in which strangers and friends alike have shown how complicated it can be human and alive in the information age.

It’s been three months since I saw that faint, second-line come in on the home pregnancy test. I’m not sure what I expected, but I certainly did not bargain for this uphill battle against my body. I knew you would change my life. I just didn’t know how much, or how lonely it would be to walk this road without a partner. Don’t get me wrong. I have no regrets. I would do it all again if it means we get to chart this ever-evolving life together. I am already better for having chosen to begin the journey toward family. Hope has returned to my heart. I am able to better see miracles in the mundane, that there is celebration to be discovered with even the smallest of victories. And each day I wake up breathing, with you fluttering inside me, I am grateful, and seeking ways to pay the feeling forward.

But I am afraid I am not managing the physical aspects of being pregnant well.

Everything inside me in flux; my skin, my stomach, my breasts, my taste buds, my bladder, my emotions, my ability to eat what I desire—every aspect of me has become an unpredictable alarm, threatening to go off at every turn. The only thing that keeps me sane, and able to survive each indignity is how much I want to be your mother, and how much I believe in the four words my grandmother drilled into me everyday when I was a child.

“This too shall pass,” she would say. And it usually did. This part, the part in which you inhabit my body, will not go on for more than another five months, I know.

But I have to tell you that those pictures of pregnant women I have seen on the covers of parenting magazines, and baby-making websites are remarkably misleading. I haven’t had any moment that resembles the total calm with which they are infused. For months now I have been throwing up every other meal that I ingest. I have not slept for more than 2 hours at a time, because I have to get up 4 times a night to pee. Nothing spicy has passed my Jamaican lips in God knows how long. I can go from full to ravenous in less than three minutes—and if I do not eat right away, the retching that follows leaves me heaving and barely able to breathe on the bathroom floor. Bowel movements are a bit like the current world economy—effort-filled and largely fruitless.

I have also been having the most creative nightmares. I’ve panted awake to discover a sharpened metal stake skewering me from spine to navel, only to actually wake up weeping with gratitude that I was only dreaming. I’ve dreamt that I gave birth to a puppy, a parrot, a book of poems, and a boy with the face and politics of George W. Bush. Some nights, I am afraid to fall asleep, lest I dream of some new horror from which I am unable to wake up. All this I endure, with no one to stroke my back, my hair, to hold me and gently remind me that none of these nightmares are real.

Now every time I see a photo of some pregnant woman, hands resting gently on her swollen middle, sporting that beatific smile, I get the urge to wrestle her to the ground and demand why she is perpetuating the lie that pregnancy is this stress-free process where we have time to stand around looking like the picture of perfect bliss. And even though you did not ask to be dragged from wherever you were before you landed so squarely inside my uterus, I find myself empathizing with those long-suffering mothers who go on and on about the length of the labor they endured, or the nights they stayed up wiping the fevered brow of some insolent, ungrateful, back-talking child.

I have also begun to obsess about what I will name you. I want to give you a name that rings with compassion and concern for others. A name that tells everyone that you are from a home/mother that values radical, progressive, gender-equal politics. But I also worry about calling you something that is antithetical to your nature, or giving you some typical lesbian-feminist-in-the-woods name that gets you teased and beaten up at school. After all, there is no guarantee that I will be able to afford one of the super-expensive, diversity-focused schools where most of the affluent lesbian feminists send the sons they decided to name Hydrangea.

I also obsess about your little hands and toes and ears already formed inside me. I wonder if everything is as it should be. And then I worry if I am being a bad mother by focusing on the fingers or eyebrows or kidneys you may or may not be missing.

Needless to say, I am a mess. I am worried about everything. I want you to arrive with all your parts in the right places. I want you to know that regardless of what people say about your IVF-donor-assisted-conception, that I already love you and worry about you, and want what is best for you. I want you to know that I have made a plethora of mistakes in my life, that I have hurt lovers and cousins and friends and strangers. I am not perfect, and I want to apologize for all the mistakes I have already made with you, especially the ones of which I am not yet aware.

I want to make a pact with you; that you and I agree to be forgiving, and loyal, and honest, and filled with compassion for each other, and for other people who fall short of being the people we would wish they could be. I would love it if you joined us in giving the hatefully ignorant, right wing, conservative bastards who want to take away a woman’s reproductive rights, and/or categorize and value people based on the color of their skin, or who they choose as partners, or what part of the world they come from. As you grow you will see these powerful and scary people have mostly made a travesty of our beautiful planet. And the socio-political ideologies that control the way most of us live are mostly narrow-minded and peppered with bigotry. It would be sweet revenge to raise a child who will spend a lifetime attempting to undo all that. But I promise if you choose not, I will love you still. I will do my best to support you as you make your way in the world; I will attempt a smile as I take a bite of your half-eaten, spit-soaked sandwich; I will cheer you on whether you are in first place or not; I intend to show up for the important events in your life; and I will always try to give you room to explore who it is that you want to be.

Child of mine, these promises are only what I intend. And when I come up short on those grand intentions, I give you permission to whip out this letter and remind me of what I had put in writing long before you were born.

In love and the hope you arrive safely,
Your mother,
Staceyann Chin.