Raising kids is tough. Give birth to a child who is biracial or mixed race in Vermont, and things get a little more interesting.
I’ve always been filled with questions. I question the weather, my relationships, myself as a mom, as a wife, as a friend, my insecurities, my religion, my political stance, my education, partner, sense of self, and so on. Life tends to be one big question for me, and as I have yet to meet anyone who has lived twice, it seems like we are all trying to survive and thrive at this thing called motherhood. Becoming parents for the first time is a scary, exciting, and wonderful new journey. Strangers notice your growing belly and ask when you are due, if you know the gender, and how you are feeling. Generally the questions are pretty basic and easy to answer. Give birth to a biracial child, and the questions tend to get a little more diverse.
Despite living in the 21st century, a time when there is growing diversity, a multitude of ethnic backgrounds and differences congregating in every coffee shop, mall, and workplace, ignorant yet naive questions continue to be asked.
As if being a first time mom isn’t difficult enough, I was not anticipating having to field never-ending questions about my biracial child’s race and ethnicity.
As a new mom, I was just trying to find my way in this new life. I was utterly exhausted, with milk-filled breasts, aches and pains from giving birth, not knowing what day it is, or when I last had a decent meal, or when I last showered. I remember yearning for sleep, yet wanting to be out in the public feeling normal. Wanting to go for a walk, but not knowing how far I could make it. Trying to do everything I did prior to giving birth, but my body telling me to slow down and take it easy. All of this and so much more is what all new moms deal with. What not all new moms deal with are questions that come if you are a Caucasian women with a biracial (in my case, white mom and black dad) baby. From day one, I was dealing with random questions and comments from strangers such as, “Wow, that hair, what are you going to do with it?” and, “She is so tan, do you use sunscreen?” Or, “ She is so cute, where did you get her from?”
I remember wishing I could think fast enough to have a really great, witty comeback, such as, “Well, she came from my uterus.” Unfortunately, I was sleep deprived, lacking coffee, and too perplexed to say anything other than, “Oh, she is mine.” You see, living in Vermont- which is a beautiful, yet small melting pot of backgrounds, races, cultures and diversity, I hadn’t given much thought about how outsiders would view me being married to a black man from Africa, and had given even less thought to what it would be like to raise biracial children.
I will never forget the one day that I sat at a restaurant eating my lunch with my baby on my lap, with two close friends. We were sitting, eating, talking, and I was fully enjoying my maternity leave. There was a large table of older women also enjoying their meals, and conversing amongst themselves. To my surprise, one woman approached our table, commented how adorable my daughter was, and began a 10-minute spiel explaining how her son was adopting a child from Africa. She told us about the long process and mishaps he and his wife had experienced during their adoption process, but how excited she was that they were all going to be making it back to the United States soon.
She then asked, “Where did you get your daughter from? What adoption agency did you use?”
The three mouths at the table dropped, and the woman mumbled a fairly immediate apology for suggesting my daughter was adopted, and how in this day and age people are having all sorts of “colors” of kids, and she should just learn to not say anything. We exchanged quick smiles, and she walked away, embarrassed.
My two biracial daughters know exactly where they are from, and how they were brought into this world.
They know that I was born in California, moved to Vermont when I was so young I call myself a native Vermonter. They know their dad is from Zimbabwe, Africa, and although he is a citizen of the United States, calls himself a Zimbabwean. They are proud to call themselves American-Zimbabwean. Should anyone ask why they don’t have white skin, or why their hair is so curly, they have the confidence to answer those questions with knowledge and pride for their heritage.
So, to those who have asked personal and sometimes invasive questions, please know that I am going to try my best to tame that curly hair and make it as beautiful as I can, and yes, I do use sunscreen. Even though my girls are lucky enough to have beautiful golden brown complexions, I certainly want to do my job to prevent skin cancer. To those who have asked where my babies came from, I would like to say if you don’t know where babies come from, may I suggest sex. ed. class? And perhaps a gentle reminder that what transpires within my marriage is none of your business.