Birthing Children as the World Is Coming Apart
By Nadirah Adeye, Shift Network Senior Course Manager
The world is burning. These fools have set the damn ocean on fire. A pandemic is still raging around us. Not even a year ago, we spent weeks living under an orange/red sky.
And in the midst of all of that, I am pregnant. Purposefully, consciously, deliberately, and sacredly pregnant. Our family will welcome this new little being any day now.
Why? In a society where Black people have been roaring, “Stop killing us. We matter.” and there are people who still balk at the statement, why would anyone choose to deliberately bring another child into the world? A Black male child at that? I know of many people who are consciously choosing not to have children (or at least, not to raise them in the United States) because of this state of affairs.
But birthing Black babies in America has never been safe. There was a time when Black babies were used as gator bait, snatched from their mothers and sold to strangers, used for medical experiments (without anesthesia because it was believed that darker skin was “thicker” and less likely to feel pain). Studies still show that Black babies tend to fare better and have higher survival rates when they are treated by Black doctors (as opposed to white babies who tend to be treated well and survive no matter the ethnicity of their doctors). Sit and ponder that for a bit while growing a new baby and see if it doesn’t mess with your head.
Why? I think of a short episode from the Love, Death & Robots series which details the story of people who have been granted the option to live forever, but, in exchange, they are forbidden from ever “breeding.” In this society, there is no room for children, for additional new beings to enter a population where the numbers are rigidly controlled. When children are discovered (hidden away in rundown and crumbling homes), they are killed. And their parents, seeking some new meaning to life after 200+ years of freedom, pleasure, and endless beauty, often die alongside them, fighting to save them.
At this moment in time, we are receiving tragic stories every few days of the discoveries of bodies of Native children on the grounds of residential schools. We are hearing the stories that have been shared within communities for decades about the experiences of survivors of these schools — as well as the stories they’ve carried about those who have not survived. Native children have not been safe since the arrival of colonizers on North American shores. Black children have not been safe for as long as Africans have been being shipped here by colonizers. And the results of those centuries of intergenerational trauma continue to reveal themselves in our families, our communities, and our particular methods of self-sabotage and self-harm.
Why? Because I was born to a mother who decided to break the cycles in her own motherline and who did her best to raise me free. Because my husband’s father decided he was determined to life a live that freed him from the patterns his own family lived out, and in doing so he took a step that has allowed my husband to work on healing his own fatherline. And because I’m a member of several conscious parenting groups and communities for Black mothers, and I get to hear about ways these women (and their families) are breaking their own intergenerational curses, transforming their family stories, and laying down burdens of soul loss and spirit breaking that were never ours to begin with.
In the midst of the madness and the very real possibility of the eventual conclusion of our species (if we don’t treat these social and environmental disasters with the urgency they deserve), I feel good about our choice when I think about my mother-in-law’s words about her grandchildren from over a decade ago: “We are raising new-paradigm babies!” I look at my younger cousins (and at kids I don’t even know) and I feel hopeful about how much farther they will go on this healing journey back to right relationship with the world and our fellow beings within it. They are unapologetic in their demands to fix this mess, to get it right, to realign and change. And they do not care about the rules that have boxed in so many previous generations.
Why? Because even though I do not believe it is everyone’s path to have children and, in fact, deeply believe that access to the choice not to have children should be much easier to acquire (and protect), I do firmly believe that those of us who are choosing to take this path with consciousness, deliberation, and at the behest of Spirit and our Ancestors, are living out a vital journey of the healing of humanity.
I want to end with a familiar favorite (and one which my mother said had a significant impact on her own approach to mothering when we were young):