Spelman graduate and single mother Yasmine McMorrin made her writing debut on the Beyond Baby Mamas nearly two years ago in August 2013. Her first post, “The Sometimey Guilt of Single Motherhood,” about her experiences as a young mom and law student with an estranged co-parent remains one of the site’s most-read posts. She followed up with […]
The last time I thought I had it all figured out was one year ago today, February 21, 2013. That was the day the man I loved told me he didn’t want to be in a relationship with me anymore. I was eight months pregnant with our son.
It’s not been my intention to keep the anniversary in my head, but there are noteworthy dates in close proximity that built up to it. It was thirteen days after I’d written him a letter detailing my fears and concerns and my needs and wants. Eight days after a hurtful text argument sprung from said email that culminated with me telling him we were done and he was free. Seven days after Valentine’s Day, when I asked if he wanted to see me to talk about it in person and he declined. Five days after he barely spoke to me at my pre-birthday dinner. Two days after the loneliest birthday I’ve ever had. That week between the break up and the actual in-person talk was agonizing, really. There were indeed incidents in the relationship that had taken a major toll on me and I knew he felt the same way. Still, I was certain we could get past it. After all, I was about to have a baby. I’d canceled a move to Pittsburgh to build with him. We were going to get an apartment in Brooklyn together–me, him, my seven-year-old daughter, and the upcoming babycake. He’d called me the game changer and said that he was excited about our future. We were in love and made a commitment to each other. He assured me that he wasn’t going anywhere. We’d even talked about the timing of the next baby after this one. Expecting a baby is a lot of pressure, though, particularly when it’s unexpected, so bumps in the road are par for the course, right? When I told my Mom we broke up she actually laughed. “Break up? You’re about to have a baby. Work it out.”
He had another perspective, however. On 2/21 he said that he wasn’t interested in working it out. He listed a lot of reasons but the one that hit me the hardest was that he didn’t believe God wanted us together. It knocked the wind out of me. I cried a lot. It felt abrupt and ridiculous and sickening. I’d be walking (kind of waddling at that point, actually) down the street and wondering what that sound was…that whimpering. “Oh, that’s me.” That’s when the first beads of shame started their trickling. Being miserable while pregnant? Uh uh, honey. Pregnant women are supposed to be glowy and adorable. Our backs and feet are expected to ache, sure, but we’re supposed to smile through that because worthy sacrifice. Not cry on the 3 train on the way home from work. That’s when the panic started, too. “Oh my God. I’m pregnant and…single.”
It was unfamiliar territory for me; I had a happy pregnancy with my daughter. Her father and I were very much in love and he was supportive and affectionate. We lived together and had combined our finances, so a few hurdles were already out of the way. That was my association with pregnancy–joy and security. So I was devastated that this time around was so different. I kept telling myself that this wasn’t supposed to happen to ME. I was embarrassed and afraid that if people found out they’d look at me negatively. They’d think I was so unbearable that he couldn’t even stay until the baby came. That I hadn’t done my womanly duties to “keep” him. Not special or worthy enough to be anything more than a babymama. And then I’d beat myself up incessantly for beating myself up in such a manner. I’d never been one to believe that a woman’s worth is tied to her relationship status, or that it’s up to the woman to keep the man from leaving. I would certainly never let any of my girlfriends talk that way. I knew that the concerns I had raised in that letter were legit and I wasn’t wrong for broaching them. Nevertheless, I became obsessed with chastising myself. His critiques of me echoed inside my head and became louder than my self-affirmations. Much of my pregnancy had been about him. He wasn’t as far along as I was in his career, education, mental health journey, emotional maturity or parenting, so I knew there would be some major growing pains. But his adjustments, his process, his state of readiness became more paramount than my feeling safe or being tender with myself. And it seemed that expressing my wants = getting dumped. That was the equation. So jumping to shame wasn’t much of a stretch.
Our Affirming Black and Brown Fatherhood Series has gotten such great response this week that we’re adding a second featured unmarried dad today. This is Stefan Malliet, a 32-year-old Brooklyn native and father to three-year-old son Kyle. We were struck by Stefan’s candor and insights, particularly as it relates to his rocky road toward harmonious co-parenting, his thoughts on animus between black unmarried mothers and fathers, and his insights about single mothers raising sons.
BBM: What’s one specific way in which fatherhood has changed you or your outlook on life?
The biggest change that comes to mind is the way that Kyle has become a huge portion of the context for EVERY decision I make. Whereas I used to be a relatively go-with-the-flow person, I now make sure that I take time to consider how any decisions in front of me would affect him; his present and his future. For instance: Who, how and when I date are extremely important now. While I have always (at least casually) considered the potential for positive influence in the women I’ve dealt with, now I specifically think about “is this the kind of person I would want around my son?” I’ve found that there are certain associates who I’ve decided not to deal with any more because of that reason.
BBM: Did you have an immediate idea of the kind of father you’d want to be?
There was one thing I knew about fatherhood as it pertained to myself: I would not run away. For better or worse, that was about as far as I had thought about it. I knew that I wanted children at some point, but hadn’t necessarily thought about what that actually means in real life terms. Once it came to pass that my turn was coming, I decided that I’d be – at the very least – someone who my son will be able to look up to. That means clearing out a lot of the cobwebs, old hurts, and bad habits that tend to build up over a lifetime of not necessarily dealing with them.
BBM: What is your relationship with your own father like?
I didn’t have a relationship with my father; I never met him. My “father” was my grandfather (mother’s father) and he is my hero. He passed on when I was just about to turn 16, which was unfortunate because I was just entering into that time where the transition from boy to man should have been starting. Fortunately, I feel as I have remembered enough of his examples and his words that I was able to integrate them into my journey. In short, that relationship was probably one of the most important thus far.
We continue our Affirming Black and Brown Fatherhood Series with brand new dad Adam Carnegie. Adam was slated to join a Google+ Hangout discussion yesterday to discuss his first impressions of parenthood, his hopes for his newborn son, and the ways in which his relationship with his own dad has evolved as a result of […]
Acclaimed poet and performing artist Roger Bonair-Agard is the first guest to be featured in Beyond Baby Mama’s Affirming Black Fatherhood Series. Every day this week, as a lead-in to Father’s Day, we’ll be featuring the experiences and insights of unmarried minority fathers. We are proud to present his story.
Having spent three great (albeit tumultuous, on a personal front) years in Chicago, I was about to return to my beloved Brooklyn. Half of my stuff was packed. My moving date was two weeks away. I was scheduled to attend a wedding the following day with an on again/off again lover, whom I had dated fairly consistently when I first moved to Chicago, but now we saw each other every other week or so after having gone through a stretch of time when we had broken up and didn’t get down at all. It seemed like it’d be a chill enough road trip to go with her to her cousin’s wedding – a six-hour jaunt to Cincinnati. But she wanted to talk to me that night, the night before we left – urgently. I couldn’t understand why because we were going to be sitting in a car for six hours the following day. So I meet with her and she drops The News. I’m stunned. She was on the pill. I ask, “What do you want to do?” She says, “Oh, I’m keeping it…”
Three months later I’m having coffee with a friend I haven’t seen in years in a coffee shop at the corner of Franklin and Fulton in what used to be one of the most gully neighborhoods in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. This woman is a brilliant, thoughtful, sensitive, poet with whom I went to college. We’ve enjoyed a parallel poetic literary evolution in the world, even publishing books with the same press. My time in Brooklyn now is temporary as I make plans to return to Chicago in time for the birth and to figure out how and where I will be a father and co-parent. I tell her the story of how the ‘news’ got dropped on me. She says, “You know… I don’t believe a woman ever traps a man, but you ain’t exactly freed a nigga either. That’s that shit I call The Abstracted Trap.” We bust out laughing over our expensive coffees, can’t stop giggling for five minutes before we return to the morning sport of hipster-watching.