I read that my baby can hear my voice now. I haven’t said a word today. When we first learned that I was pregnant we talked about speaking Spanish all day. Our child could learn English outside the home, pero en la casa se habla español. The problem is that my husband initiates us speaking Spanish, not me. Not the one who only spoke Spanish for five years until kindergarten. Spanish is his third language. Once he was fluent in Portuguese now we go to his grandparents and he slips into Spanish. I laugh. I say nothing. When words do come out with his grandparents they tend to be either in Italian or French. I tell them with each visit that one day I will speak Portuguese. One day.
I keep on losing my Spanish. My tongue twists with each word. I do not speak like a Cuban, more like a Puerto Rican. I really don’t mind since I did grow up in NY. But there are moments that I see white girls from San Francisco who pick up a Cuban accent after picking up a Cuban lover after one of their numerous trips to the island where they learn how to dance and sweat like a Cuban. It is those moments that I get upset that my tongue twists. They speak better than me.
There were times that I found my Spanish. I remember when Armandito, my cousin in Cuba, was able to use Yahoo! Messenger at his job. We spent a year chatting while we both were at work. I learned where to put the accents and my writing became more frequent. Even though my lips weren’t moving, my fingers were. My heart was beating Cuban words. Then the company he worked for stopped letting him use Yahoo! Messenger so we began writing emails. That also stopped. First it was because they didn’t pay the internet bill on time then they just didn’t let their employees send emails to the outside. I can still write to him. I can write him one-sided emails but I don’t anymore. I have given up.
When I last went to Cuba he sensed my distance. I told him that for the first time I realized that I am not that Cuban but more American. I told him that our lack of communication was too painful for me. I couldn’t afford the phone calls, I was frustrated with these one-sided emails, I just couldn’t keep up a relationship like I used to because it ate me up inside. Maybe I shouldn’t have told him all those things. Maybe I should have kept my selfishness and egotism to myself. But in that moment I felt like that little girl who stood in a red-lit room yelling all my frustrations to God. I stood on top of a bed in my pajamas in Cuba. I hoped that somehow God would be able to hear me. I hated that my family was split apart. I hated that I wasn’t growing up with my abuelas, one of my brothers, my tías and tíos, the horses and the ducks. I hated that my cousin Maitelín always won the mambo competitions they made us do when we went to visit. She won because she was day on and day out Cuban. I was the little yanquí who sometimes called my mami Mom.
I have high hopes for this son of mine. I have become that mother that prays for her children every night. He moves and kicks and pushes all of my insides. I tap on his behind and try to get his attention by pressing on his popped out feet. I want him to feel confident wherever he walks in this world. There are nights that I can’t sleep because I am afraid that someone will want to hurt him. When I walk on busy streets I shield my belly with my arms. I think of ways that I will protect him and I also think of letting him make mistakes, of him falling and getting up on his own, I think of the happiness that I want him to experience in his childhood. I think of the manners that I want to instill in him, I think of him not yelling just speaking from the heart.
The other morning I had a dream he spoke on his second day and said bye-bye to the people who passed by. I marveled at what a genius son I had, who learned words while he was in my womb and immediately said them when he came out. I told this dream to my husband and a flash hit me, maybe he was saying bye-bye because he was not going to stay with us and I spent the morning crying. I had to keep on telling myself if this was true then I would just have to deal and there was a reason why I would carry a child that wouldn’t be on this earth very long. I tell myself that it was only a dream but dreams seem so true, like stories of the future. My words in prayers are added to include him having a long, healthy life so he could do beautiful things on this earth and help bring peace to people’s hearts.
I count the weeks till I meet him, a little less than eight. But maybe he will come early or maybe he will come late. We told my mother-in-law that we just want her to speak Portuguese, I told the little girl I used to take care of to speak to the baby in Chinese, he already hears Arabic when we pray, I think of ways that I will speak Spanish again. My mami is coming, she will be here for three months. She will tell me all the things she did for me as a baby. We will speak Spanish, it will somehow flow out of me like my milk. InshaAllah. I just have to try.