If God gives me the privilege of giving birth to a daughter

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Key Ballah


You are a woman
every part of you reaches toward that identity,
but you hesitate, cutting your tongue on the way that it sounds.
your mother is a woman and the word rests against her so gently.
Her hips are full,
her mouth is wide,
the word “woman” just seems to embrace her.
But you feel it hanging off of you, like a T-shirt three sizes too big.
You say, “I am not a woman, I can’t feel it throbbing yet,
I have not bled long enough yet, or bent back far enough.”

We think that women should know how heartbreak and sorrow callouses abandoned frames,
like we should know exactly how we came from a fragile rib.
Never mind what they tell you.
Take your mother’s hand and ask her gently on what day she became a woman.
She will say there was no day,
there was no place,
it was gradual,
it was over time,
it was inconsistent.
She might even say that she hasn’t arrived there yet,
thinking of her own mother and all of the ways that she filled out a dress.

So when I think about my future daughter,
and how I will ease her into womanhood, the answers are never clear.
I am still trying to get used to the way that the word ‘woman’ feels on my skin.

But if God gives me the privilege of giving birth to a daughter,
I hope to give her a name that sets the whole mouth on fire,
the kind of name that the body won’t let you forget.
Something deep and wide that you trip and fall into,
something that you remember when you look at your sons,
because women like these with names like that never disappear into ash.
They can never be written out of a story.

If God gives me the privilege of giving birth to a daughter,
I pray that she is never infected by the insecurities of her mother.
That she never knows how it feels to hold her breath and pinch her skin.
But if she does –
if the claws of this dunya grab hold of her and teach her to leave behind a river of tears –
I pray that God gives me the good sense to open up the Quran and read
all of the places where he tells us that he has created us from the best of moulds.

I will tell her that her body wasn’t made to be loved on occasion,
that it was made to be loved with warm hands every day in dedication –
just like the sun’s dedication to this earth.

And I know that in this dunya words from a mother’s mouth carry less weight than the words of that boy in her science class or that scantily clad supermodel on TV.
And I know that as women we are taught to be in constant competition with each other
in ways that leave us clutching our stomachs and grinding our teeth.

But if I ever see the colour of envy shadow my daughter’s face,
I will remind her that even if she gathered all of the oceans into her throat and all of the light into her hair
there would still be women who have mastered the art of stealing stars out of the sky and hiding them behind their eyes.
I hope to show her by example that her fear and awe of God are what make her beautiful.
I will tell her that she is the kind of beauty that leaves craters on the moon;
she shouldn’t worry when she sees other women putting rings around Saturn or water on Mars.
Instead, she should admire their beauty by praising their Creator
and being a witness of such great work.
This world was made to bite us in half and grind us to bone, but we were made to be kind.

If God gives me the privilege of giving birth to a daughter,
I hope to teach her about resilience through Hagar and how she ran seven times between those mounts.
Telling her stories about Aasiyah’s faith and A’isha’s love and Maryam’s strength.
I want to tell her about Mother Khadija who lives inside us as an example of our own desire for success in this life and the next.

I want her to know the stories of her own grandmother and great-grandmother-
women who worked until their hands were raw and bleeding, women who never got a chance to see the sun, women who shook the earth when they spoke,
women who loved and lost and split and spilled.
I want her to look at herself and see all of the women who have come together to make her.
All of the overtime shifts and midnight prayers to a God who is the best of planners.
I want her to know about all of the tears and brittle bones, all of the blood and hours spent in prostration.
I want her to look in the mirror and see how the funny word ‘woman’ hangs off of her.
I want her to see, most of all, how thoroughly she is loved.

Read more from Key on our site, here!

Key Ballah is a Toronto-based writer and Hip Hop enthusiast. She is the author of the poetry collection, ‘Preparing My Daughter For Rain‘, she melts faith, love and her experiences of being a woman of colour navigating the western world in her writing. She believes in empowering the brown girl to reclaim her selves and her body, by connecting and healing collectively, over borders, oceans and time zones, through story telling and poetry. She is currently working on a new project due out next fall.

contact her via email: keyballah@gmail.com
follow her on twitter & Instagram : @keyballah
read more of her works: www.keywrites.com