Mama Wasn’t Built In a Day: A 2017 Reflection Letter to MySelf
December 29, 2017
I wrote a letter to myself. (I wrote!) For me, the theme of 2017 was releasing all expectations I had about motherhood. I didn’t realize how firm, inflexible, and impatient I’ve been with myself until this past year. I didn’t know how to release until the end (like, t-t-today!) and I’m still learning. This letter is partially about a second unplanned pregnancy, an unplanned trauma from a toxic work environment, an unplanned dark journey through perinatal depression and anxiety, an unplanned hospital birth, an underplanned return to grad school, and a necessarily planned break from it all because... motherhood. I’m unlearning the need to have expectations. I’m trying to process and integrate things as they come with pause, restructure priorities, and find more meaning at the beginning of my 30’s as a Chicana mother of two biracial children who tries to practice nonviolent communication with anyone and everyone but mostly can’t remember to brush her teeth. Here’s my letter.
Dear Leslie, or Prisci, whoever you feel you want to be today,
Your question out loud lately has been whether you have failed, whether you are failing, or whether you will fail.
I come bearing gifts in the form of an answer for all three parts of the same question: No, no and—surprise!—no.
It’s fine to ask this, though, don’t feel bad. Most people have asked themselves this too, I’m sure. Oprah, Nadine, Shefali, Beyoncé, Iyanla, America, Sandra C., Ruth B. All of them likely asked themselves this. So know that it’s fine to ask and that these women asked these questions... but persisted. Please don’t dwell on these questions, though, as you tend to do. I promise there are much much better ones to ask.
As a more obvious reassurance comes to you, you will begin to see that you’ve been just like sister caterpillar - but unlike the caterpillar you worry and fret too much over when you might emerge. Just look at what you have come from: life cycles of survival, sadness, stuckness, suckiness and time and time again, surrender. All rich manure necessary for you to get here, slowly and patiently cracking through the cocoon, to the present.
Learn, now, that you are like the mariposas you used to catch in your Tita’s garden. You are a mami-posa. You had to let go of it all this year, all of those precious illusions of what would stay, like you had to let the butterflies go. But only now are you able to bask in the sheer simplicity of growing small human beings. In that simplicity you’ve felt overwhelming joy in the pools of sunshine in their eyes. In that simplicity is where there are endless opportunities for growing, you too. Today, you noticed that when you heard the phrase “They’re not always going to need you,” you burst into tears.
You also know (oh yes you do) that the confusion of not knowing how to be, who to be, or sometimes whether to be, stems from the comparisons to everyone else. You forget that there is no other to compare to, and that you can only compare yourself to the layers of yourself you have shed and that have revealed you. Stripped down, you are mother.
Mother. A mother who is trying and for whom, for EVERYone else, trying is enough, so... why not the mother in the mirror?
You are mother. A daughter that has become mother, steadily building a bridge between the inner needy little girl and the inner big mother. Both live in you, one is a trickster that giggles facetiously as she tricks you into believing you’re not enough. The other has long white trenzas and many deep arrugas, tiny skin tags scattered across her chest and wears a calm smile, always. She doesn’t apologize for the pressures that squeezed her into a diamond, she doesn’t apologize for meeting her needs. Her hands are wide, worn, and soft. There is no doubt whether she is, you are enough.
She’s a chingona comadre, too. A damn good friend.
And well, that knowing is now unlocked so you can access it every damn day, did you know?
The inner wise woman waits to be remembered.
Don’t let it pass you by, mijita. Don’t let the present, with all of its heavy sighs and belly carcajadas, pass you by. That is where your ancestral mother wisdom lives and where you will expand to be able to hold it all for your niñas. That is where you will remember what parts of you need care, and what parts need more shedding. The weeds must be dug out or they will strangle the roots and deprive them of nourishment.
Mami-hood. You’re doing it right now, and you’ll keep doing it different. You will probably mess up again, don’t expect yourself not to. You will most likely take windy roads that leave you lost.
But then, your viejitas and your comadres will come find you and lead you back to yourself. But your children will know that it was you who took that journey. And that it was pretty damn brave.
Leslie Priscilla is a Chicana mother to two biracial girls, born in February 2012 and October 2017. She is the founding organizer of OC Natural Mothering Community, a Certified Family Life Educator, and a Parent Educator. She has Bachelor’s Degrees in Child Development & Family Studies and in Family Life Education from CSULB. She is also a student working on obtaining her MSW from California State University, Fullerton. She is a trained facilitator for several parent education curricula including the Trauma-Informed Nonviolent Parent Education through Echo Parenting in Los Angeles, Positive Discipline, and Supporting Fatherhood Involvement (SFI). She believes that strengths-based, community-based, parent education and mothering networks rooted in nonviolent communication for Latino/a communities is a living social justice movement towards Latino/a opportunity and equality. You can follow her writing at https://www.lesliepriscilla.com/.