On whiteness and the diasporic self through pregnancy, labour, and early parenthood
How is it that our lives are always snarled, complicated, with how whiteness permeates the slightest of creases? Can we find a racialized midwife, how do we name this child, the constant pull to western constructs-
is he a good sleeper is he still nursing is he a good eater is he still in your bed cry it out don’t spoil him cut him off a baby is a bomb in a marriage don’t you know?
Papoose! an older european man on the sidewalk exclaims. I am wearing the baby on my back, and always collecting interactions like these.
Early on in the pregnancy, one of my five white midwives prodded about hiring a doula. Cost is a barrier, I said, but we will think about it. She followed asking if I had a big wedding (we did not and I do not tell her that)-
if you will spare no expense on that important day, surely you won’t for your baby’s arrival?
She tried another angle, comparing childbirth to going on a hike with dangerous snakes without a guide. Once more i said we’ll think about it, and by chance we see every other midwife for appointments again but her.
(my mother, born in the year of the snake, the fiercest lady I’ve ever known birthed four babies readily without a guide)
We located a doula ultimately. A cold call, sliding scale. She is coincidentally a friend of a friend and a woman from our neighbourhood with roots in Taiwan. Now, i watch a video mom took during my labour and it moves me — how Maria caressed my skin, my arms wrapped around her neck as we slow danced through a bout of pain
tenderness from another woman I’ve never known before
a woman who looks a lot like me
Even in the delivery room, whiteness abounded. I was aware even with eyes sealed through undulations, through letting gravity work, through the warmth of the bath
darkness the colour of sight
The team that swooped in when I said I couldn’t continue after hours upon hours, the linens I allowed myself to sink into as I helplessly let a contraction pass —
my well depleted
— the vacuum, a plastic cap attached to the baby’s head to guide the way out, the tiny wrinkly porcelain fingers extended from my labia (memorialized in a photo by Maria), the creamy vernix covering that silky little animal-
coming into a world where whiteness had been the push and the destination, a patchwork of desires and gains for so long. Before liberation, before relief.
There he was on a suddenly deflated belly, a beige being wailing at my breast. I stroked his matted damp hair
he grew quiet, finding an arm to suckle on
The colour of sight is a yellow balm of a boy, permeating the slightest of creases, the marrow of our diaspora.
a root or stem of a plant;
foundation; basis; origin