A year ago, I could not hold you. Despite carrying your body for nine months, despite enduring hour after agonizing hour of labour, despite sacrificing my body and hopes on an operating table, despite the endless nights and postpartum tears, despite laying down every piece of me—physically, emotionally, and spiritually—to provide you breath, I was not allowed. I was not allowed to hold you or to speak to you. I was not allowed to feel and hear of God’s words pertaining to your life. I was not allowed to pronounce your name.
These are the duties of the male. The priesthood.
I was told my prayers were mighty. I was told my faith was strong. I was told I was of equal value.
And yet, I could not hold you, could not speak to you, could not pronounce your name. On a day meant to be a day of blessing, it promised only to be a day of exclusion and pain. I could not bless you. I could not even touch you at the moment your name would have been pronounced to our community.
All because I am woman and I am your mother.
And so, a year later, I held you tight as I used that body, my female body, the one that had been banned from holding and blessing, to offer up the prayer of my heart.
I carried you with me as I proclaimed my desire and readiness to hold you a year before. I carried you for the right to hold my own child. I carried you for the power to bless. I carried you because I wanted you to know that you are the authority in your life and not auxiliary to it. I carried you because I want you to know that you can be a leader, not simply one who is led. I carried you because I hope for a better, stronger, more loving faith for you.
I carried you because I do this for you. I do this for me. I do this for the grandmothers, mothers, daughters, and granddaughters. I do this for yesterday, today, and tomorrow.
And as I carried you, I held your blessing in my heart. I blessed you with courage and fortitude, with love and passion, with determination and steadfastness. I blessed you with love of God and humankind, with understanding and foresight. I blessed you that you would find your voice early rather than spend your life fighting it off because of fear. I blessed you that you would always know you have a place at my table so long as you live. I blessed you that you will know you have choice in life. I blessed you that you might know you are not presided over by another but are the presiding authority on your life. I blessed you that you would covenant to God rather than to your husband. I blessed you that you, my sweet Emilia, would know that to be woman is not to be secondary, beneath, pedestaled, or excused. To be woman is to be wholly human.
You are my daughter, flesh of my flesh.
May this be the beginning of better days.