Post 197.

‘And you want to be a feminist?’, the well-known pediatrician and fellow columnist asked me, I hoped rhetorically.

As Stone, Ziya and I entered in his office, he eyed Zi’s bottle of diluted cranberry juice the way US customs officials profile suspected narcotics traffickers as they step off the plane.

‘No more processed juice’, he declared, like entrance rules of a worm-hole to some healthier space-time. ‘It’s processed?’ I countered, because I like to think we buy healthy. ‘Did it come in a box, tin, container or carton?’ he spelt out, because obviously it did. ‘It’s processed unless your squeeze juice from fruit yourself’, he concluded, because clearly we hadn’t.

Then, he seemed to stop himself from starting a radical, anarcho-feminist, anti-big pharma, anti-global-food corp critique, one he had no doubt been championing since the 1970s. Instead, he simply outlined that big companies fool us into thinking that what we buy is beneficial instead of defined by chemical colours, acidifying preservatives, emulsifiers, and harmful processes, especially for children. Just read labels. I mentioned that Zi has Kellogg’s bran on a morning with banana and, I swear, it was like watching Harry Potter bristle at a Death Eater.

I appreciated his hard core line on what we should feed our children. Like Zi’s teachers, who chastise parents for sending chocolate, fruit snacks and cookies instead of real fruit in lunch kits.

Except at birthday parties, Zi doesn’t access soft drinks, or eat those biscuits, Kiss cakes or other packages of salt, sugar, sorbic acid and various four-syllable poisons. I’ve stood in the Pennywise hair products’ aisle wondering, if I died tomorrow, who would take the time to buy her shampoo without sulfate. I pointlessly rant, as I am never home to do the cooking, about the harms of canola, corn and soy oils, and pointlessly insist, as I am never home to do the grocery shopping, on us buying more costly grapeseed and cold-pressed coconut oil.

Zi’s vegetarian because twenty years ago I read so much on the horrors of meat production that I was done. If meat was raised in somebody’s backyard on grass, that would be different. But, what we buy has often been raised with antibiotics, growth-hormones and genetically modified corn, usually in stressful conditions, and we don’t yet know what long term harm that does to children. Finally, she has never had milk because so many children are lactose-intolerant, and milk is the cause of far too many rashes, infections, upsets, sinus irritations and allergies.

We sought the doctor because Zi was suffering from mosquito bites that she scratched into sores, which wouldn’t heal for weeks. ‘Cut out juices and other products with sugar, including overly processed brans and granolas as well as cheese,’ were our final pediatric instructions as I imagined the Mission Impossible soundtrack ricocheting around the room.

It’s here I felt justifiably overwhelmed. Fresh juicing, baking with unrefined flour and buying more organic everything seemed like plenty more effort for one woman logging long hours at work. It seemed like even more effort to my pork-loving, three-kinds-of-carbohydrates-on-the-plate-eating, lettuce-as-a-vegetable-counting, skeptical-of-Gab’s-probably-unneccessary-consumption-commandments, but nonetheless supportive husband. Stone and I exchanged one of those married people glances.

‘And you want to be a feminist?’ He contested my politics when I contested his expectations. I knew better than to duel with a doctor whose crew is midwives, and fearless breastfeeding and reproductive rights activists.

Indeed, feminism includes building a healthier world, for us, animals and the earth. It includes giving consumer power to organic farmers and green markets rather than to the handful of corporations that make us stuffed, but starving, with shortening life-spans, and combinations of children’s diabetes, obesity and attention deficits.

If I wanted to be feminist, I’d have to defend the rights of my child, first in my own home, and value the responsibility and power of such reproductive time and labour. My soundtrack would have to be more Thug Life than Nestle, Pepsico, Coca Cola, Kraft Foods, General Mills and Wrigley.

As we left I thought of a joke, but don’t tell anybody. How many feminists does it take to make fresh cucumber juice? Just one! His name is Stone and we love him dearly!

Post 185.


It’s the stories that I love.

Stories told by women who spent decades pressing for social change, and stories of solidarity by men sometimes almost twice my age. Stories that challenge myths that women of two generations ago were less radical than now and myths that feminist men didn’t exist throughout our history.

I love the stories of activists who came before because they bring our history to life, to their own lives, with laughter and commiseration, with passion and pain, with irony and unexpected twists, making us learn more about successful strategies or forgotten beginnings or our responsibilities to our future.

I love their stories because these efforts, connections and memories are our legacy, as much as the lasting reforms they created, or gains which we must still protect, are our legacy. They are a legacy because too often we think that it takes people who others consider political leaders, or people with university degrees, or those who seem to have more privilege or power to challenge everyday injustices.

Yet, stories by indomitable citizens of all classes and creeds remind us that is not true. These are stories by people who get up and do, working together to provide help or change unequal rules. Such collective love and labour by citizens is also ‘politics’ because it aims to defend their dreams for an emancipated nation and region, and their commitment to equality, independence and rights for women. These stories remind that the struggle for government by the people and for the people is not new.

Fearless Politics: The Life and Times of Hazel Brown is just the conference for those of you who also love everyday stories of those around us who got up and did, just like we do or wish to. The public is invited to attend and participate in this gathering to honour a woman who has spent four decades tirelessly fighting for social change, along with hundreds of others whose names should not be forgotten. But, helping us to remember is precisely what stories do.

Hazel’s own stories include sitting in Port of Spain City Council meetings when she was a child as she waited for the Mayor to sign her report book, because in those days the Council sponsored children’s education. It is here she began to understand government, reminding us maybe we should take our children to watch these meetings as part of their civic empowerment and critical education. Her story of running for election in the 1970s along with women of the Housewives Association of Trinidad and Tobago is a lesson in strategy for those thinking about politics today.There’s hope in working with women to buy, iron, exchange and affordably sell used schoolbooks. Then, heartbreak in her plan for a solar powered radio station that was undermined and never came to be. And there will be more than her stories.

Speaking on Saturday are long time activists in areas from women’s health to community and consumer rights, from sustainable food provision, including solar cooking and grow box agriculture, to women’s political participation and leadership, and from Baby Doll mas to the National Gender Policy.

This conference is for anyone who wishes to know more about struggles for social justice, artists and cultural workers interested in social transformation, activists of all eras and issues, and citizens whose dream for our world remains greater equality, justice, sustainability, cooperation and peace.

Come for stories about roads walked and paths still to be cut, in the spirit of our fearless legacy. This column was published prior to the conference, Fearless Politics: The Life and Times of Hazel Brown. Videos, photos and other conference information are available on the IGDS website and Youtube page.


Post 168.

I was unapologetically proud when Kamla Persad-Bissessar became the country’s first woman Prime Minister. I loved her clean election campaign in comparison to the PNM’s labeling their opponents ‘skeletons’ and throwing insults for cheap political gain. I was completely excited that this astute politician could defeat lesser men and lead a complex coalition, unlike any other Caribbean leader before, and miles ahead of PNM’s go-it-alone politics. I’d watch Persad-Bissessar on TV and teach my daughter the name of the first Indian woman to crack that glass ceiling.

At one meeting, along with feminist grandmothers like Hazel Brown and Brenda Gopeesingh, I breastfed Ziya while the PM talked with us and I took notes. I wondered who before had breastfed while with a PM in a Cabinet meeting room, and of course Persad-Bissessar didn’t even blink, knowing that this is what women can do in boardrooms when grandmothers and mothers hold office.

I liked little decisions the People’s Partnership made, for example to ban hunting despite a myopic ‘no hunting, no vote’ campaign, to actually answer the parliamentary questions put to the government, and the initial choice to put the gender machinery in the ministry of planning. I took heat from all kinds of people because I was seen as too silent and too uncritical in Persad-Bissessar’s first years. It was because, perhaps naively, I had such hope.

Since then, I’ve found myself ending up and again on the side of citizens, led by other women, mothers and grandmothers, protesting through media and on the street. My hope has tumbled, knocked down by bad appointments, murky state spending, the homophobia of the Children’s Act, patron-clientelism, mishandled electoral changes, and reliance on PR and attacks.

In the PM’s showdown with Wayne Kublalsingh, popular sentiment that he is mere nuisance is on her side. Regardless, his death will leave no escape from unexpected kinds of regret. By first marching against the highway and then switching position once in power, the PM created the path that led to such reckoning. Her own supporters, or advisors with their own agendas who want her to fail, may spin around and say why not have chosen mediation, and why not just agree to properly done hydrology and cost-benefit analyses? What about compassion? As we grow more committed to accountability, which we will with each decade, the principles at stake here will grow less personalized to one man and become more publicly and historically clear.

I wish I could thank the PM for setting the standard for how development should best be done, through consensus rather than division. I wish I could ask her what her grandmother would advise. I wish I could congratulate her for ending this impasse as an informed, transformational leader would. After all, a patriot is one who wrestles for the Soul of her country. I wish that, as woman, she would roar at puppet master financiers. I wish her decisions meant no future struggle over the same issues, taking up time for committed, concerned citizens like you and me.

Being a woman is public and personal, for government sets the context for the intimate, for love spans ecology, neighbor and nation, justice and future, just as it does family. Knowing more than wishing is necessary, I wake up wondering which words and deeds can make the world right. These days I awake almost holding my breath, wondering how stories I’m telling are going to end. Knowing that every decision made for the country I love feels like a turning point, I wish the PM would inspire again the hope I felt in 2010.


Post 118.

It’s hard to say it more plainly. Mothers have a right to breastfeed wherever they want.

There is no reason under the sun why babies cannot be breastfed in parliament, at workplaces, on Fredrick Street, at cricket matches, at church or temple, in malls, on Harris Promenade, at Maracas, on the Avenue and in NAPA.

There is no reason under the sun why these places should be defined on male terms, suited solely or mainly to male bodies and responsibilities.

Equality means making all spaces also defined on female terms, suited to female bodies, and to women’s multiple responsibilities as workers, mothers, citizens, community members and participants in culture.

Equity means not making women choose between work and family or watching a performance and quietly breastfeeding her baby. It means enabling her to speak in parliament while she is breastfeeding, if that is what she chooses, because when she’s at home no one stops her from speaking while breastfeeding. Women’s brains and their bodies can perform different roles at the same time, in public and in private. Mothers rock out like that without a fuss every day.

And, there is no difference between the home and the House of Parliament. If the family really is the basis for the nation, then the House, the state and the nation need to be more family friendly or stop and check their own hypocrisy.  

Breasts were not put on the planet for men’s pleasure, though they are just as sexual as ears, necks and knees. Women evolved breasts to feed babies, babies who go on to be productive workers in our current capitalist system, who grow into the citizens that define our nation, whose right to good health is a public responsibility.

Once you get over the tiefhead that the meaning of women’s bodies should be defined by men’s desire for them, and that it is men who therefore set the rules for women, then it’s obvious that breasts are as carnal, offensive or vulgar as elbows. They are a natural part of how women reproduce and nurture life. We have to trust and empower women to use their best judgment about where and what is right for them and their babies.

Feminist advocacy has long campaigned for spaces like breastfeeding/breast-milk pumping rooms in malls and workplaces so that women have somewhere quiet and discreet to go if they choose. The key point here is that they must choose.

Banishing women to seclusion despite their own choice isn’t progressive policy. It’s a denial of choice and an act of domination. It feels like an experience of violence. I’ve competently breastfed while giving workshops, while shopping in a store in the mall and at public functions. If anyone had ever stood up over me and forced me into isolation supposedly for my own comfort, I would have felt like they were putting a shame on me that I did not feel, and punishing me for being a mother and for inconveniently having a woman’s body.  

The mothers, grandmothers, women, fathers and men, who are clear that babies have a right to feed wherever they are, know that the shame is now on NAPA for being ignorant  and demeaning.  

Ineffectual murmuring in the hallways of the ministries of health and gender has not stopped NAPA from defending the indefensible, which is particularly insulting given that there is absolutely no written policy justifying administrators’ responses thus far.   

There is no reason under the sun for NAPA and the Ministry of Culture’s failure to publicly apologize and to immediately affirm a commitment to a non-sexist, taxpayer-funded facility. 

Post 102.

Having not grown up in a two parent household, it’s a whole new experience for me to reflect on Ziya’s experience of living with both her mother and father. Understandings of how children connect to their fathers, which should be obvious to me, are only now part of my own learning as I observe the ways she relates to her parents and constructs her idea of family.

Her connection to me as her mother is intense and intimate, even overwhelming for us both. That has resulted not only from the kind of quality time I’ve consciously devoted, but also to from more than two years of continuous breast-feeding and, therefore, physical attachment. Yet, when we are reading books, and I point out the mummy lion or hippo, or when I tell her about my plans to take her on an outing, she’ll insist on looking for the daddy lion or asking whether daddy will be going on the outing too.

In her world, both mummy and daddy are present and necessary, and they are together. While she loves spending time with each of us, she loves spending time with both of us more. This isn’t the kind of daddy-struck adoration that seems to characterize girlhood. She’s invested in our nuclear family beyond the influence of socialization and even my own expectations of her capacity at two years old.

Dads are a vital and irreplaceable part of children’s lives, but some part of me thought that mummies could also be enough if they gave their all. Politically, I also don’t want to reproduce anti-woman views that argue that all families should have a mother and father living together, and that each must be playing some rightful role, for children to grow up fulfilled and functional. Heading their own household by choice or necessity, and with dads participating to various degrees, women have raised happy, productive and contributing members of our Caribbean. Dads can do the same too, on their own if they have to. Moms and dads don’t have to live in the same house to wisely cooperate for their children’s best interest. Even daddy-struck girls can figure out how to get on with life in the midst of separations, and how to renegotiate love across new family formations. Don’t doubt that they, we, survive and thrive.

Nonetheless, I see how Ziya would be confused, unsettled and heart-broken at the loss of having both parents with her. It makes me think back to myself at two and the complex, formative emotions that I forgot existed in me then. It makes me realise, not that break-ups are bad, because they can definitely be for the best, but how much adult partnerships define children’s sense of self, safety, stability and social space. When Ziya wants to know where the daddy hippo is or decides that two of any animal represents a mummy and a daddy, it’s a visceral statement that your relationship profoundly matters and is accountable to someone else besides the two of you.

Seeing us through her eyes has made me more greatly appreciate the role Stone has to play, whether we stay together forever or go separate ways. That role and its significance is his responsibility, not mine, to treasure, nurture and ensure. Still, I mature as a mother from recognizing that Ziya will have different feelings about and experiences of motherhood than I did. I improve as a partner from openness to learning anew about fatherhood and its value. Ziya is not the only one growing. She’s making us, as individuals and as a family, grow too.

Post 75.

Given the fact that everyone involved is completely unconscious during the period under question, it’s amazing how much consideration is given to where the baby sleeps.

Okay, I’m a sucker for hug up whole night…with the baby and, yes I admit it, Stone is left to sleep on the far, Arctic side of the bed. But does it really matter? Is my marriage really at stake? Is this really going to affect my child’s ability to be independent? Will any of us ever be able to recover? Am I being a bad mother? Is it worse to be a bad wife?

I’m guessing that every single parent and rationale person on the planet will tell me to get Ziya used to sleeping in the crib again, and I have a sneaking suspicion that they are right. It’s not that I’m spoiling her, I’m spoiling me. It’s obvious that we each think that night is really the only time we get to be together, hearing each other breathe, smelling each other’s skin. Where does that leave Stone? This is indeed a good question as the Arctic is a vast, cold and isolated place. Will I feel this way only temporarily and, eventually, will both Zi and I be ready to give up all this loving up for sleeping alone (her) and hugging up only my husband again (me)? It’s hard to say and it’s hard to care.

I could be the only person to feel this way – or to admit it – but I’m in love…with Zi, far more than I’ve ever been in love with Stone (whom I’m still in love with) and right now, its all heady endorphin-infused mutual attachment. Zi misses me during the whole week, I miss her and Stone is peripheral because each of us is the other’s North Star. It’s bad, really bad. It’s worse for me because I know it’s not too long before her process of individuation starts with all its little shifts from a dependent baby to a truly separate human being, the kind who simply is no longer on you. I don’t want to keep her little and hold her too tight, I just want to hold her tight now, in fact hold now tight, while she still lets me.

I’ve heard it all. The stories of women whose children are still sharing their bed when they are ten or for that matter seventeen, and whose husbands are either in the bed with them or have made their bed somewhere else in the house. I’ve heard the warnings about how Stone’s suggestions to put Ziya back in the crib should not only be heard, but taken seriously. I’ve heard all kinds of psychological theories about ‘natural’ and ‘normal’ child development. I recognise there are multiple perspectives and everyone has a view and somewhere inside I understand why this is an issue. I see why the question of where three people lie unconsciously over a few dark hours is at the heart of how you organise your multiple relationships and selves after you have a baby. I also think that surely it can’t be the source of the crises prophesised. We are, after all, unconscious during this time. How bad can it be?

I guess, more importantly, there are three people in this family and the desires of two count more than the third. I get that inequality and loss in status and say, and it makes me feel sorry, but it doesn’t stop me from wanting to go to sleep and just hug up my baby. As he shivers in the long night of virtual abandonment, I wonder how long a tolerant, understanding and patient husband will indulge me. I’m going to go thank him, give him a hug and let him know I’m living a dream I always wanted, partly because I know he loves me and lets me.

Post 71.

Motherhood is something both revered and feared. It’s revered because it’s powerful. Women create life, no one else does. We therefore rock and, by rights, should rule. There’s a reason why so many goddess figures over time have had pendulous breasts, swollen bellies and enormous labias. Power is leaking from, multiplying within and surging forth out of them, signifying a reproductive force that cannot be mimicked, ridiculed or contained.

Motherhood is also feared for similar reasons. It takes women, many of whom are already capable, resilient, responsible and smart, and adds to their cache of strengths. There is a reason why thousands of years of sheer force have been invested in making lots of us think its unnatural to give our children our own surnames or independently choose when and when not to make babies from almost nothing but our bodies. Motherhood doesn’t make women into tigers, it takes tigers and turns their instincts to ready. For what you ask? To do whatever is necessary.

When women become mothers, they put their foot down hard on what they might have once accommodated for themselves. They hold position, regardless of how much they love whomever they are up against. In the best interests of their children, they will leave marriages rather than compromise, get angry rather than accept and adjust, face up to stark realities rather than continue in blind hope. They say no, loud, when it matters, they say yes with their feet as they mark the path to a new life, they learn to replace self-doubt with trust, they throw out some of the garbage they are carrying because they need their arms free to gather up the ones they must protect and love, even  – especially – if it means protecting them against others they love too. While wrestling with near emotional insanity, motherhood will steel women in their struggle against all odds and compel a choice to be sensible rather than fuck up one day longer.

When it comes to their children, women will do what they won’t for themselves. Partners who once filled their hearts are still present, but more peripheral. Patience that was lacking can be decisively found. Mothers will stay awake at night planning by the decade and are fully-prepared to kill anyone who threatens their family within twenty seconds of waking from deep dream. When women make babies, they now operate as a package deal, and let no man and no one seek to tear them asunder. Hell hath no fury like a mother tiger. It makes sense that this kind of ability to refuse to negotiate, this willingness to cut losses and turn away, this commitment to do what’s best for their children regardless will be threatening. It completely takes women out from under the power of men, church and state. Or, it can. Not every mother can or does make these sacrifices or seize such power, but, from quiet to rich to raped to teenage to broke to overwhelmed, many, many do.  

For myself, I know what I once might have let slide, I now call out whether or not it ruins my reputation as easy-going, understanding or supportive. I brought this child into the world, she comes first. Beneath this smile are teeth. I am a mother tiger, ready, sure and unafraid.

Post 61.

I was having the sweetest time putting Zi to sleep last night. She’s supposed to go to sleep in her crib, but when bedtime comes she likes to cry, “Lie down! Lie down!” and when you say, “okay, let’s put you in the crib”, she adds, “Bed! Bed! Mummy bed! Daddy bed!” like she thinks that occupying every part of the bed in all directions every night is her born right. Usually, she’s put in her crib anyway, but last night she was going to bed early and we had some time to hug up so I put her in our bed. Well, that was happiness self. There we were loving up, giving kisses, chatting about the beach and pancakes and how somebody was the world champion of staying awake. I was telling her that I loved her toes and her nose, and so on. She pipes up, “I love daddy!” Now, she says “I love you” if you ask, but this was the first time I heard her declare love like this, just so. And, of course, who would she have to declare it to? Her daddy. Steups.

I was one of those daughters so I know there’s a long road ahead of me now. My daddy could do no wrong and despite my mother being a super person on all fronts, I’m sure and I know she felt sure that I loved my daddy more. There’s lots of us just like that. It doesn’t matter if your mom is the rock of the family, the comforter, the muffin baker, the embroiderer and the one to spoil you. You are still going to love your daddy more. I have no idea why. If your dad disappoints you, that effusive adoration has cooled off by the time you are a late teenager and, even if you are still rebelliously staking out your own ground, you’ve come to appreciate how your mother has survived hell while trying to protect you from its fires. If your dad remains the guy who sets the standard you compare others to, as I know Stone will be for Ziya, well he’ll be the love of your life for life. Mummy will be everything, but you’ll be daddy’s girl.

And there it was: “I love daddy!” I then asked, “what about mummy?” “I love mummy!” she answered. But, it was too late, I had already seen the flashing sign, as impossible to miss or mistake as the screen on top of KFC on Independence Square, even if you are standing on Lady Chancellor Hill and the distance makes the whole thing seem far away. Steups. This wasn’t the first sign. When I show Ziya pictures of animal mummies and babies, she’ll sometimes insist that some of them are daddies. She knows the difference between the mummy and daddy lion, but that doesn’t matter, if she decides the mummy lion hugging up her cubs makes her feel warm and fuzzy about daddy, then she’ll point and say daddy. I’ll say, “no, that’s a mummy lion” and she’ll say, “daddy”.

Stone says she’s mummy-struck and that’s definitely true, although anyone who’s seen her insist on “boobs” night and day would probably say that she’s really breast-struck, but I know she’s the first to hear the car when I drive in from work so I’ll take the bligh. She’s equally daddy-struck though and its clear she doesn’t like to let Stone out of her sight. I guess what it is, is that I finally understand how this was such a big deal to my mother. Even if I rush home from work just to feed her and put her to bed, even if I haven’t slept in 20 months because she’s lying across my chest and attached to me while I have these hallucinatory dreams from oxygen deprivation in between the moments when she wakes up to cry and collapse on me again, even if I put all holds on life to prioritize her in my free time and take her to the beach, bush, river or for ice cream, even I spend weeks reading children’s book reviews on amazon just so I could hand pick her vast book collection to include science, space, art, dinosaurs, stories from around the world, and stories with strong and non-white girl characters. Even if, even if…it doesn’t matter. I know it already. She’s going to be Stone’s own daddy’s girl. She’ll be a pebble. She’ll love me, but idolize him.

I’m not bitter about it or anything. I’m blessed she’ll have a daddy worthy of such love. I know these things are personal and shaped by the individuals involved. I also know they are systemic. We take women and what they do for granted, we are harder on them for things we excuse men for, we make women work harder for praise and love, and set the standard for them in the care economy higher, we participate in the invisibility of their work and sometimes their feelings, we expect them to be there no matter what, for more hours on more days. So, perhaps we give less or we love mothers differently even if that love is fierce.

Maybe the future will unfold differently, but I’ve been that little girl and now I’m that mom. What makes me stop and write are moments like these when I see myself in both my daughter and my mother, and it’s still a place full of such new realisations to be.

Post 59.

Growing up is about making decisions and, worse than learning to live with them, actually taking responsibility for them. It means facing the stark reflection that says, ‘you chose this’, even if you chose it just by delaying action or chose it for complex reasons or chose it although you were really in two minds about the whole thing.

After 18 months of not sleeping at night, waking up multiple times to comfort Ziya or breastfeed her and put her back to sleep, I’m finally starting to feel like I’ve had enough. I look at mothers whose babies sleep through the night with more awe than envy, and I’m beginning to feel frayed at the edges in a way not good for my marriage, my baby or my health.

But I’ve felt kind of powerless about what to do. I’ve gotten all kinds of advice: try to tire her out, don’t give her oats for dinner, just let her bawl etc. etc. Firstly, there is no chance that old people like Stone and I can tire out this child, she’s like an electron, zapping up and down in a way that’s tiring just to watch. Tonight we tried to give her something besides oats. ‘Don’t want it,’ she said, ‘Oatsies’. So, we gave her oats. And, letting her bawl in the one room we all share is just going to make me both tired and stressed, and I don’t need to look any more rumpled when I walk into work in the morning.

My friend Nic suggested the obvious. Stop breast feeding in the night, then she won’t get up for the comfort and the taste and smell of sleeping attached to you. Yeah, I responded vaguely, I could do that. Well, if you don’t do it, that’s your decision and clearly you want to get up all the time in the night, she shot back. But was I really making a decision or delaying one?

I didn’t say it then, but as much as having Zi sleeping on top or or attached to me feels onerous, it’s also something I am going to deeply miss once it’s gone. Something about her waking up for me feels like being needed, like being all somebody wants in the world. The doctor says she wakes up to spend time with me and I, in turn, let myself be woken up because I want to spend time with her. It’s like the nights are our main time together given the hours I work during the week. So, while I think I’m delaying the decision to end these ‘unnecessary’ night feeds, really I’m making decisions based on those things I prioritise. I clearly prioritize hugging up my baby more than sleep.

Yet, I’m in two minds. What if I’m creating bad patterns? What if my husband had enough ages ago? What if my priorities are wrong and I need to just make the choice that, supposedly, ends this exhaustion here? What if once I do it, I realise I should have done this months ago and not be a sucker for her tears? I don’t know what to do. Even when you are delaying, you are making decisions. What’s hard is that, although you might be deciding for one reason or another, it’s the consequences you ultimately have to take responsibility for. I’m not deciding to keep getting up all night. I’m deciding that I want to be there to snuggle up with Zi and breastfeed a little longer. In the end though, the lack of sleep is something I can either choose to continue or change regardless of what it takes.

What’s overwhelming about this is that I’m just talking about decisions regarding sleep of all things, not even world peace or economic restructuring or dismantling patriarchy. Yet, expand that lesson by a thousand in the waking hours of mundane motherhood, and this suddenly feels like proper adulthood where you are now in charge of your life and the lives of others, and you hold about six different perspectives on something, but in the end, you are annoyingly empowered to set your boundaries and rights in relation to everyone, including your baby.

I guess Nic was right. I can’t continue to earnestly wish the universe would just fix it for me. I can’t wait around endlessly for Ziya to magically sleep through the night like those other babies. I can’t just let her bawl in the crib because Stone rightly thinks this habit needs to stop. I can’t even give her brandy like they used to in the old days.

Well, I could do all of those things, but I’d just be making a decision to delay deciding or I’d be doing what was decided for me. So, the question is now, what should I do?

As always when we are responsible for our realities as well as our postponements and priorities, it’s time to recognise that whatever happens, I decide.


Post 51.

I had the most amazing meeting today. I was in a room with Ziya and seven grandmothers, just watching these amazing foremothers and forerunners lay the groundwork for generations of women who will come after them. We were meeting about the establishment of a National Commission on Women and, as usual, the discussion was all about strategy, next steps and the way forward. But what was amazing was being amidst the power in that room, experienced, capable, caring, fearless, skilled and hardworking women who were talking about their vision and how to make it happen. What an absolute privilege to be part of their history.

I was a little nervous about having Zi with me. Normally, she’s the bestest baby when she’s out. I could boast about this because when she misbehaves, it’s usually at home. She’s done more meetings that most 16 month-olds as well so I feel pretty confident about having her on the inside. Plus, she’s addicted to ‘boobs’ and easily zens out once she starts to breastfeed. So, once I breastfeed any and everywhere I need to, she handles being out and about like a pro. I fear the day (or night) I stop breastfeeding and don’t have the easiest solution to fussing at my fingertips.

Still, she wasn’t properly combed, I had broken my glasses and I was late for a meeting with the PM. Trying not to rush down the highway, I just hoped things would go smoothly. It’s one thing to have your baby at a meeting at Parliament, it’s another to arrive late with your baby, and it’s entirely something else if your baby decides to throw a tantrum for any reason. My mother had warned me that there might be a possible stinky pamper on the way too. Great.

Still, given the logistics of baby-sitting, and driving East to West and back again, this was the best option. So, mothering worker that I am, I put my child in some red shoes and put all my resources to work at managing to both pay attention to the discussion and to keeping Zi calm.

And it was okay. In fact, it was great. Before the Prime Minister came in, I listened to Minister Auntie Verna talk about how much she would love to spend all her time caring, feeding and spoiling her grandchildren, except there is the people’s work to do. The youth policy, the gender policy, the change to the marriage acts and more. At the last meeting, Jacquie Burgess had talked about how much her own grandson loved to spend the night. Brenda Gopeesingh, Hazel Brown, Ramona, Yvonne Bob Smith, Lisa Ghany – who first appeared a bit scandalised that against all proper protocol I had waltzed in with Zi and who later showed me little 10 month Leah who sleeps from 9pm to 7am(!) – and even the PM who reminded me so much of my mother when, beaming, she talked about the rejuvinating joy of spending time with her grandson. It’s then that I looked around the room and realised that all the women there were a generation before me. They were all that unmatchably wise kind of ancestor called grandmother. They also ran companies, ministries, women’s movements, NGOS and the nation.

While I held my breath throughout the meeting, just thankful that Zi was happy to quietly sit on my lap and scribble all over my notebook – and of course breastfeed in between – I also realised that all these women would have known exactly the challenge of juggling work and children. They would totally understand not only why I might have had to have Zi with me, but also why it should be okay to do so. We were doing work for women, work with women, and we all knew that the working world had to change to accomodate the ways that women do the work they have to, that is both the work of mothering and the work of movements, institutions, legislative agendas, policies, research, social protections and empowerment.

I felt so safe in that moment, so unselfconscious in a way I never would have – even as an unapologetic feminist – in a meeting of older men, unless they were the kind of men who wouldn’t blink an eye at the idea of taking your toddler with you to the boardroom. Those men are definitely out there, but I was nonetheless so thankful that women have broken the glass ceilings that they have, and can totally transform the expectations and assumptions of a space like Parliament without any of them needing to articulate this in words. I thought of the day when Parliamentarians could debate and breastfeed in the House or keep an eye on their grandchildren in a creche in a nearby room, in the same way that women for milennia have had their children and grandchildren with them while they do their work.

And, just as the meeting began with talk about mothering and grandmothering, so after the down-to-business stuff was done, conversation returned to extending maternity leave, the PM talking about having to study for law exams while her son cried and knowing through her own tears that she had to excel. Hazel heading to her car ever mindful of the first Shouter Baptist school about to open, and the lack of a safe and proper crossing for the children.

I never imagined I’d breastfeed through a meeting with the first woman PM while sitting next to tireless and history-making second wave African and Indian women’s activists as I participated and learned from just listening. I felt so lucky to somehow have ended up there. I looked down at Zi and wondered whether at my age she would ever have these moments of witnessing such women in action, not just on upper floors of high rise buildings, but wherever these women are. I hope she does. These meetings seem mundance but they inspire, and she’s been with me, learning from such women before she even realises that’s what is going on.