It’s about time we made motherhood more diverse…
When Candice fell pregnant and stepped into the motherhood playing field, she found her experience bore little resemblance to the glossy magazine photos of women in horizontal stripe tops and the pinned discussions on mumsnet about what pushchair to buy. Leafing through the piles of prenatal paraphernalia, she found herself wondering: “Where are all the black mothers?”.
Candice started blogging about motherhood in 2016 after making the simple but powerful observation that the way motherhood is portrayed in the British media is wholly unrepresentative of our society at large.
The result is this thought-provoking, urgent and inspirational guide to life as a black mother. It explores the various stages in between pregnancy and waving your child off at the gates of primary school, while facing hurdles such as white privilege, racial micro-aggression and unconscious bias at every point. Candice does so with her trademark sense of humour and refreshing straight-talking, and the result is a call-to-arms that will allow mums like her to take control, scrapping the parenting rulebook to mother their own way.
Becoming a mother is utterly terrifying. It is like entering a new universe, one which you know nothing about, where everything is strange and difficult and the highs are so high and the lows are so low. Nothing can really prepare you for it. When I became a mum, I remember feeling completely lost and bewildered. But as I tentatively navigated this brave new world, I took comfort from the support systems: my lovely NCT group, endless hours scrolling on Mumsnet (I never asked anything, I just searched frantically for someone else with the same problem), various online parenting magazines and Facebook groups. Looking back, I took these things for granted. I saw myself and my struggles reflected back at me in the warm, friendly faces and the helpful advice from people who were in a similar position to me. After reading Candice’s book, I have to say, it really hit home just how lucky – and yes, I am going to say it – privileged I was.
I can’t imagine what it must be like to try and negotiate the tricky, sometimes downright traumatic, terrain of pregnancy, birth and motherhood when no one is holding a space for your experiences, when you don’t see yourself reflected back, when issues which are faced by so many mothers are swept under the carpet because they don’t affect white mothers in the same way. I’ve seen the statistic that black women in the UK are five times more likely to die in childbirth several times now, and it never gets any less shocking.
What Candice Brathwaite does so brilliantly in this book is to carve out the space for Black British mothers, to demand it, to show why it is not just necessary but vital. Her personality comes through wonderfully: she is funny, brave and honest, and the trust she places in the reader is an honour not to be underestimated. Her experience at the birth of her first child makes for upsetting reading, as do other incidents where she faces microaggressions and more direct racism in almost every sphere of her life as a working mother.
But this is a hopeful book. It is a powerful, fresh, insightful look at the ways in which spaces CAN be reclaimed, progress CAN be made. Candice states that her primary aim for this book is to help Black British mothers “feel validated and encouraged to take up space.” I can’t speak for that, but to her hope that for all others reading, she can “accurately describe the many hurdles black British mothers are up against,” I can definitely say that this book opened my eyes. I highly recommend this book, and I am very excited to read her next book, out next year.
I Am Not Your Baby Mother by Candice Brathwaite is out now published by Quercus Books.
4 thoughts on “Review: I Am Not Your Baby Mother by Candice Brathwaite (2020)”
I hadn’t thought about it before (most probably because I’m white and not a mother) but Brathwaite is absolutely right! When I think of the motherhood portrayals I see in the media, advertising and elsewhere, I rarely (almost never) see reflected the diversity of the society in which I live. This sounds like a very eye-opening and thought provoking read. Thank you for the review, really enjoyed it!
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This book sounds so important. I remember going to my sister’s wedding dress fitting and looking through the photo albums they had and just thinking about how none of the dresses would look like that on me or her because NONE of the models looked like us. I can only imagine how bad it must be for mothers looking for their space in the maternity world.