I have had much conflict when telling people I want to raise a “feminist daughter”. Now, when I had my child at seventeen. I had no convictions about girly things, wearing makeup or trying to fit in. But before my branches of feminism started to grow, I admit I knew something was wrong. When I found out I was pregnant at sixteen, I expected some shock and horror. I did not expect pitchforks or a fashion major funeral. I chose to keep my baby, after much turmoil and stress between both families. My knight got off his horse and ran, so to speak. And when I mean ran I mean he joined the witness knight protection program (I kid, but seriously he ran). I did not know it yet but I was in the brink of discovering my own brand of feminism. And then it happened. November 26, 2007 my enlightenment was born.
My daughter was everything I could ever imagine. Beautiful and perfect to my eyes. Little kitten cries and sleep all nights. She was a great baby. Although I did not have everything I wanted, she was my silver lining. The one thing that went right in my life. The rest, well not so much. My parents are divorced since I was a small child and both parties did not take my pregnancy well. Each weighing in their own self opinion and addictive behaviors, my needs were put out the door. And so was i, literally. There was no initial packing or plan for me to leave. I was just told either abort or abandon ship. So I took the plunge into what felt like a deep ocean of sharks and black dreary darkness. Only the sharks were my principals, the jellyfish were my friends and the terrifying deep death pit was my life. I left home, school, and everything I once knew. Meanwhile my knight hid, panicking and plotting to salvage his own future.
I was saved by a life raft, a loving and devoted spirit of sorts. My aunt and uncle from my fathers side took me in, as a package deal. I was given my own room and she bought me clothes. Since my whole life was neatly stacked in my old house, I had nothing. Literally I had the clothing on my back, a phone charger, my teddy bear (yes that’s right), and some pajamas. I had no clothing that fit my engorging belly anyways and no belongings to identify or support myself for the future. By the way, for anyone reading, when you get kicked out of your parents house you should always have a plan and a stash of belongings. If I could go back I would have stashed the necessities. Oh say, my effing I.d., social security and birth certificate! Some clothing, pictures from my past and money. But of course planning means knowing the inevitable worst is going to happen. Its something I should of expected with my set of parents, pregnant or not.
Being taken in by my aunt was the greatest thing that could have ever happened. She had known me since I was a toddler when she dated my uncle. She had seen all my stages and milestones, been there to talk to me about my struggles with my mother and shared her motherly advice with me after having four kids with my uncle. I was lucky to bring my baby into a family of children, pets and a grandmother living under the roof. Though I still felt as if I was drowning, they were my safety jacket all the way through.
It was not easy raising a baby while finishing high school (shocker). With scarce to no visits from my EX knight, I was fending mostly for myself. Nursing a one month old while prepping for test was the best. That was sarcasm. Actually smelling like a cow and pumping in the girls bathroom during study hall was not all rainbows and butterflies. I had no friends besides the flock of students that would want to touch my belly without request and the few that felt bad for me during lunch when I’d stand alone in a corner nibbling with nauseated taste buds. I couldn’t fit too well in the tables and benches installed in the lunchroom for its thousands of students. I came from a small town where everyone knew each other and everyone knew I was knocked up. Being in a new place with virtually no reminders of my past was kind of peaceful. It was like I almost didn’t exist. Accept for my watermelon hanging low and out for all to see. After I gave birth during thanksgiving break, I did start to feel like myself again. I got over nursing and a crying baby while acing my tests and receiving honors. I graduated that June with my six month old in the crowd. My mother made a ghostly guest appearance after nothing at all for months. She disappeared faster than I could even make out her tiny frame. Maybe I just imagined her. It didnt matter. Standing in my white hat and graduation cap, I couldn’t help but bask in the sunlight. I had been washed ashore. I could feel the sun on my face and the water clearing my lungs. I survived.
College was even more exciting. Once I got my big girl pants on I sued my parents and my ex. I became independent of them. I closed that book and started a new one. I didn’t ever realize it but I was a wildflower myself. I had always grown in my own direction, finding my own crack of sunlight between the clouds. With the smallest rays of light I was able to flourish. I was not a part of the rest of the bed of flowers, all fooled by their inability to be anything but what they are. I was not my mothers daughter. Or my fathers daughter. I was me. My own kind. That is what made it easy to let go. To grow my own way and pollinate elsewhere ( OK gross analogy but I did technically give birth in a new place so it works).
I did not know I would end up being a Women’s Studies major or a university student. I had dropped all hopes of pursuing fashion and sketching in exchange for a diaper bag and a community college application. I went wherever the wind blew me without much of a desire to go back to where I came from. I believed I was on the right path so it was good enough for me. I learned after eighteen years that letting go of old dreams sometimes meant growing up. Growing forward. I did everything I could in community college. I got into clubs, I took fun classes and I delve deep into books. I achieved good grades, I made great friends and I dated. I became a woman there. Not by age or choice but by divine intervention. I walked into so many blessings without even knowing it. One of those wonderful days was when I walked into my Women’s studies seminar class. I honestly took it to fill an hour extra a week of credits and my best friend decided to take it with me. But something happened in that class. I found my garden.
Women’s studies is classified as a bullshit major. Its tucked in between English and theater, the other nonsensical passionate life tracks often mistaken for “I don’t know what else to do but live in my creative world” or “I am not smart enough for science and math so I’ll settle for the arts”. Yes. People say these things. When I get asked what my major is I always get the same awkward response : “what will you do with that?”. Well here is the answer. I am going to change the world. I am serious. They shake their heads. They chuckle. They say good luck. And in response(one I never say out loud), I say “You will thank me some day”.
My inspirations through out college were my textbooks. Crammed with real life women like me who wrote with passion and determination to be a wildflower. To take themselves elsewhere. To escape the ridicule and torment of being a woman in a patriarchal world. I lived it and breathed it. I ate it for breakfast. I ingested feminism. And it was infectious. When I got accepted to a university and leaped right into my upper division courses, I found my home. Right between Maya Angelou and Alice Walker. I understood why I was able to get out of my past. It was because like the many women I got to know through their words, I did not let my past be my cage. I knew I would go beyond it. And so I did.
It was not as easy of course as walking out of a cage and doing a victory dance. I had much heartbreak and stress. I knew some day I would give credit to the pain as well as my accomplishments. I could not outrun everything in my past. For instance my ex who insisted on reappearing in my child’s life when he was least needed or expected. I was not all nails and armour against those who wanted to hurt me. I did not always stand up. Sometimes I invested trust and love where it was not welcome. And in exchange I was reaffirmed of why it was so important to leave my past behind me. There would be no need for knights. What feminism gave me was a reality check. I did not have to be a damsel and neither did my daughter. She had options in the world. I would be determined to teach her that always.
My wildflower baby started out as a seed but quickly grew into her mothers daughter. She was independent and strong from the start. My little girl did not have to be plagued by what hurt me in the past. She did not have to know it all. Of course some day the time would come to sit down and explain some things. But many things I feared she would hate not having instead became her rock. She became OK with what we did not have. As a parent I have always felt I need to give her the world. A house. A backyard. A dog. Some siblings and a perfect loving father. But who the hell invented all those things to be necessities in our life? I realized through feminism that we girls were wearing goggles most of our lives. Looking for the perfect outfits instead of hitting the books. Looking for a knight instead of being a heroine. Trying to fight each other when we could of all been sisters. What were we doing? Its as if we were blindfolded and sent out against each other. When did prom queen and pedicures become more important than college and a career? Why was becoming a mother so sacred that if you became one alone, you didn’t meet the criteria. You became an oops. An unplanned and unsuccessful slut. I was expected to drop my plans. My future and my education were bleak. Welfare was my yellow brick road and only a man at the end of the road would make my oops an “OK now you are a family”. No. Just no.
So here it is. I am a student. In a real university. I am a mother. A single and feministy mother. A mother with a wildflower. One who will learn not what is anti girly or anti man. One who won’t feel ashamed of not having a father in the picture. Or a house. We settle for a dorm apartment. A pet fish. A split bedroom. And clearance clothing. Pasta dinners and public bus rides. Because its invigorating to be your own hero. Try it. I promise it is. I wouldn’t change it for the world. In my fifth year of college and heading towards Master’s after graduation, I have no Intension of making roots too deep. I choose where I go. And my daughter, she gets to create her own world. Some day she will take all she has learned about the world and make her own choices. She will understand she has more options than winning prom Queen. She will love the color pink and know how to apply lipstick. She will venture past kindergarten, through high school and straight into college. Find some miracles of her own. But she will know she can make a difference. She can change the world by valuing all the things she does have rather than being hindered by anything she doesn’t.