Originally published in The Philadelphia Tribune, Sunday, March 25, 2007
The generation of child bearing women who are now in their twenties and thirties are faced with a myriad of choices as they contemplate pregnancy. Many young women are faced with uncertainty as they juggle the demand of their personal and professional lives. Like other women in her generation, bestselling author Rebecca Walker’s was at a crossroads when making her life altering decision to experience pregnancy, childbirth and parenthood and she share her concerns in her latest memoir, “Baby Love: Choosing Motherhood After a Lifetime of Ambivalence” (Riverhead Books, $24.95).
For fifteen years Walker recognized a persistent yearning to have a baby but feared actually choosing to do it. As a result, she almost missed what she now knows to be the single most meaningful experience of her life. “When I was writing the book I was thinking a lot about how important it is for young women to strategize and prioritize having a child if its something they want to do and not to let the very finite period of their fertility get past them because of their ambivalence, or because of fear or because of different relationships in their lives that haven’t been resolved. It is such a powerful experience that if you miss it, you miss. It’s a message I really diidn’t get when I was younger, and I wish I had, so I feel like it’s my responsibility having to come into that awareness to just put it out there.”
In Baby Love, Rebecca Walker tells the story of her pregnancy: not just the physical evolution, but also the emotional and intellectual transformation from ambivalence to certainty to unconditional love. It’s the story of the birth of her son, Tenzin, the development of her relationship with her partner, Glen, and the demise of her relationship with her mother and fellow author, Alice Walker.
This older Walker opposes her daughter’s decision to have a baby and challenges Rebecca’s account of their relationship in the memoir “Black, White and Jewish.” Alice ends their relationship and removes Rebecca from her will, and Rebecca endures a tumultuous pregnancy, estranged from her mother as she prepares to become one herself. Tenzin, now 2, has yet to meet his grandmother.
“I think it’s the best thing for everyone’s mental and emotional health,” Walker says. “I support the decisions that I have made to make a better life for my child. I’ve always been open to reconciliation and I always will be, but it has to be in such a way that healing will take place and not harm.”
Like her mother, Walker has received numerous awards and accolades for her writing and activism. The elder Walker is one of the most prolific and important writers of our times, known for her literary fiction, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Color Purple (now a major Broadway play).
Walker acknowledges the sacrifice that her mother made to become one of America’s most recognized African American authors. “In many ways, it’s much easier for me than it was my mother,” explained Walker. “There are some differences in terms of the pressures and the arduousness of the task of being an African American woman writer at that time. She had to break ground that I don’t have to. The pressures and the resistance were tremendous in a lot of ways and so the impact on our home life was more intense. I clearly have obstacles that I have to negotiate, but it’s a different time so I think the extreme of the experience won’t be the same for Tenzin.”
As we speak, the sound of birds chirping emanate in the background of the Hawaiian home she’s made with her son and partner. Walker says she has found a secure place, within her self, to enjoy her life and her decisions. Today, Walker draws strength and serenity from the realization that her unconditional love for her son is vastly different from her mother’s love for her.
“I think (motherhood) makes me more appreciative of this journey to have realized that I could have missed it allows to embrace it even more every day,” reflects Walker. “I could just stare at my son for hours. I have to stop myself because I’m just so in awe of the experience. I definitely think that coming close to missing it has made it a more precious experience for me.”