Dripping River Water


Thoughts on Being a Mother July 9, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Maceo Cabrera Estevez @ 10:27 pm
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The other day I thought of Coco Fusco.  I don’t know why.  I always liked her art although I couldn’t understand her book, English is Broken Here.  I was still grateful that someone was doing performance artistry and academia in such a beautiful way.  I could never be as smart as Coco Fusco but I do hope one day I could have her motivation and determination.  That is one thing I have realized while spending so many hours at home caring for my child: I let fear keep me from succeeding in ways that were possible for me.  Now I am a stay-at-home mother and I feel like I have to start all over again.  I can do that, inshaAllah.  You make a mistake and you start over.  It’s like riding a bike but I learned how to ride one when I was 30 years old.  Call me a late bloomer.  I don’t think I have blossomed yet.    I have planted my own seed this time, I am starting all over again and this time I will work harder than before, inshaAllah.

I take parenting seriously.  I am always thinking of ways I can cultivate my child to be the best person he can be.  I read an article about Coco Fusco’s parenting in this new website on motherhood called Mater Mea.  She stated this and I felt we were on the same page:

What kind of man do you hope your son becomes?

I want him to be a thoughtful person and a caring person, a moral and an ethical person who understands right and wrong and wants to do good in the world and treat people well. I also want him to be a person who’s happy with himself, who accepts himself as he is and accepts others as well. I think that’s really important. I don’t want him to be narrow minded; I want him to be an open-minded person. You know, we talk a lot about these kinds of things and I try to find ways to talk that he will understand.  -Coco Fusco

My friends came over and gave me a break yesterday.  Hana took Omar to visit her in-laws and Kathy took my stepdaughter, Ella, to the movies and back to her place to make almond milk.  They both brought me food.  I was and continue to be so grateful.  I have friends that really love me and support me.  I didn’t nap but watched a movie with my husband.  He took a break from tiling the bathroom and schoolwork to spend time with me.  I hope I could be as good to others as they are to me.  I hope that my children will demonstrate the same kindness and thoughtfulness that my friends and family display.

I have two more weeks to my due date.  I am glad it takes this long to have a baby.  I am finally at peace and looking forward to meeting my daughter.  I know that “my life will be on hold” for more years to give the best care for Azalea and Omar.  I sometimes struggle with that.  I feel not that intelligent, not that motivated. I feel very simple and not myself.  I feel bad about complaining because it may seem I am not grateful.  I want to give to my children but I also want them to see my strengths and I hope that will influence them to be good citizens in this world.  I know I can’t have it all at the same time.  Some things have to be sacrificed during certain points of my life because it is not just about me.  I am not aiming to just please myself nor sacrificing myself fully for others.  I want to think of what benefits everyone: myself, my family, my friends, my community, society-at-large.

There are moments that I feel alone but then I read articles and see my friends and laugh really loud and cry while I pray and I know I am not alone.


the end.


Why I still nurse my 21 month old son May 15, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Maceo Cabrera Estevez @ 4:37 pm
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This is not Omar but it sure resembles him.  Adam would not like me posting a picture of me breastfeeding.  Thanks www.mommajorje.com for this pic.



I really wanted to stop when he was 18 months old.  That was the plan.  I started to wean Omar when he was 15 months and it was really difficult.  I was still in my first trimester, pregnant with my second child-a bit crazy.  I am not the sanest of pregnant women.  I realized after experiencing it twice that I have perinatal depression.  It sucks.  I am much better but it still sucks.

I couldn’t take him crying and screaming and begging for my milk.  I was alone in the house with him and I thought knocking my head through the wall would be a better option.  I never did that.  I just stopped trying to wean him.  Without the physical support from my husband or anyone else I couldn’t do it alone.

I cut down on the milk by having him fall asleep in the car instead of in his bed while I nursed him.  I took him out to the parks more often and he would forget about my milk supply.  All he wanted to do was play.

I had somewhat of a break.

My mother came to stay with us for a month and a half and I thought surely that would be the best time to wean him and potty train him.

I was wrong.

I found out while my mami was here that my unborn child has a single ventricle heart defect.  I went to get the ultrasound by myself and knew when the technician wasn’t so cheery telling me all the details as she moved through examining my daughter’s body parts that something was just not right.

I began nursing my son more.  How could I not indulge him?  I weaned him from night nursing.  It only took one night of him crying and yelling at me for an hour while I sat patiently next to him.  He still wakes up a couple of times a night.  I lay next to him and pat him on his back.  I mainly sleep in his bed.

Sometimes I go to this playgroup in my neighborhood.  The mothers are Chinese, Vietnamese, Mexican, Guatemalan, Moroccan and Eritrean.  It is a diverse bunch that sometimes splits off by language.  I go between the Latinas and Muslims.

The Asian women were surprised with my big belly.  Omar was 9 lbs and 1 oz when he was born.  I am only 4’11 1/2.  This belly is smaller than when I carried him.  They tried to give me more food because I am eating for two.  I told them, three-I still feed Omar.  They gasped and then got on my case about still nursing him while pregnant.  I nodded and smiled.  The polite thing I’ve learned to do when people give me unwanted parenting advice.

I haven’t gone back.

Now I am in my last trimester and stay home when I am not at the three doctor’s appointments I go to weekly.  We go from room to room, to the backyard and sometimes go on walks in the neighborhood.  Being so physically close to me is a great reminder for Omar that I can still give him milk.  He asks more often and I nurse him.  Not because he wants it but because I want the opportunity to lay down, read a book and maybe take a nap.  Sometimes he wakes up around 5 in the morning.  I am so exhausted in the morning that I make him go back to sleep around 9 A.M.  I can only do this if I nurse him.  We sleep for another two hours and I thank God for this precious gift of milk.

Knowing that I may be in and out of the hospital because Azalea, my unborn child, may need heart surgery right after birth I figured I would still nurse Omar through this process.  I won’t be home as much and I want to be able to bond with him when I am home.  I want to hold him like a baby and tell him that I love him while he nurses and looks into my eyes.

By Islamic standards it is a great benefit for the child to be nursed until he is 2 years old.  2 years 4 months the max.  I always told myself two years and then have wanted less than that because I am pregnant.

Sometimes it hurts.  My supply is low but it is still there.  I figure this is the best I could give him.  I can only pray that I will be able to give Azalea the same.  I don’t know if I will be able to breastfeed her.  I don’t know what she will drink.  If she will latch.  It seems odd to me that a baby who will need so much nutrition may not be able to breastfeed.  InshaAllah that won’t happen.

the end.



Everything on the line April 29, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Maceo Cabrera Estevez @ 8:34 pm
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My husband put up a clothes line for me.  Our backyard is in shambles.  He is demolishing the back unit that we thought we would rent out to pay for most of the mortgage.  Unfortunately, we found so much mold and termites that we could never have someone live there.  Now there are boards and pieces of walls knocked down.  There are nails all over the ground; I have to watch where I step carefully.

I don’t like to be in the backyard right now unless I am drying clothes.  It reminds me of being a child.  In our small apartment in Brooklyn we only had a washer between the sink and the stove in the kitchen.  In the spring and summer I would help my mother dry the clothes by putting them out on the line from the windows of our bedrooms.  In the concrete backyard  there was a big pole that had spokes to connect a clothes line or two from each apartment.

As a child I color coordinated our clothes line.  I pretended to be out in the country somewhere; the sun shining on my face, wearing an apron with a pocket big enough to hold all my clothes pins.  I pretended to be somewhere else and now as I put each article of clothing on the clothes line I am reminded of all those memories.

There is something peaceful when you let yourself be present in your chores.  I stop complaining and start smiling.  I take the moments to hear the birds chirp and the planes go by.  I watch my son play on the small trampoline and enjoy his laughter.  I then want to do more like water the plants and take out the weeds.  Then I imagine a backyard like I always wanted with flowers and vegetables; bunnies and goats; a swing and some toys; the barbecue going and some company.

Alhamdullilah.  I live in a house with my family, I have bad days and good days.  I take showers with hot water and have a fridge full of food.  I have friends who care and parents who I talk to almost every day.  It’s beautiful, really, to be given a life and try to understand what everything means.  My learning lessons are sometimes hard, sometimes I am the one that makes them the most difficult.  I cry a lot, when I think of all the mistakes I’ve made.  Then I try to forgive myself.  Then I try to present.  Drying clothes on the line helps.  Thank you.

The end.




What Luke said October 27, 2010

Filed under: life,religion,writing — Maceo Cabrera Estevez @ 5:58 pm
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There is a table in the lobby.  It is long and wooden positioned right below a big mirror.  There people leave things they no longer want: old fax machines, magazines, sneakers, books.  I am the resident manager and this leaving of things annoys me only when no one takes it.  I am left to throw away these items.  Things that could have easily been given as a donation, somewhere else, not in the lobby of my building.  There was a pocket sized New Testament once.  I picked it up.  This is a book I couldn’t throw out, I couldn’t leave it on the sidewalk, I couldn’t give it to a random person.  I had to keep it and for a year it lived between my Moroccan Arabic Phrasebook and El diccionario de sinonimos y antonimos bought in Venezuela when I was there in 1996.

My son is now 5 weeks old.  He has lived his days between arms of those who love him.  I have only been away from him minutes at a time, missing him and calling my mami to see how he is doing.  Yesterday I went for a walk with my friend.  I left my mami with 5 ozs of my milk.  I gave her instructions and hoped that it wouldn’t be too hard for either of them.  The sun was out.  Its rays hit my toes.  There was a chill in shady areas.  I was afraid to catch a cold.  I thought of myself confined in my bedroom pumping milk, sweating and sick, not able to see my son.

We went to Arizmendi.  I was treated to pizza and a root beer sitting outside.  I watched the beautiful people of Oakland pass by.  I saw the mamas pushing the strollers or carrying their babies on their backs.  I saw the dogs.  The endless amount of dogs take over the sidewalk.  I wondered if my skin would darken sitting outside of Arizmendi.  I have been home for weeks looking out the living room windows at the trees and the birds.  The root beer was good.  It became my new favorite.  There on the table was the cap.  It had writing.  In the inside it read, Luke 1:37.  I thought the root beer bottling was more hipster than religious.  Or maybe it was both.

For the past five weeks I have only written in my head.  I write books and plays while I nurse my son in his sleep.  I wish that the words would leave my mind and walk unto the page.  Any page.  Somewhere else.  But the words don’t.  They are locked away and I wonder if I will be able to write.  Then I read stories of writers who have shared similar nights.  Perhaps not nursing their sons but still in bed writing words on the walls with their pupils.

For the past five weeks I have begun learning what it is to be a mother.  I have learned what it is to remain still, to be totally dependent.  There is a scar above my bikini line.  It is black and sometimes it is sore.  All throughout my pregnancy I was pleased not to have any stretch marks.  Instead I got a scar where they pulled my baby out.  That scar reminds me of my imperfections and my failures.

I wonder sometimes why I couldn’t give birth at home.  Sometimes I have a hard time completing things.  The end is always so hard.  I go through my over fifty hours of labor at home and four days in the hospital.  I try to figure out what exactly went wrong.  I know everything is God’s will but somehow I feel at a loss.   I wonder if somewhere in back of my mind I was too scared to finish the job.  I couldn’t give birth naturally in a birthing tub, in my kitchen because it meant I actually had to complete something.  I needed help.  Like heavy drugs to soothe me, to make me relax, to actually fall asleep.  I went to the hospital, a place I still don’t want to give birth in again.  They helped me.  I had sweet nurses who gave me more pillows and filled my water bottle.  I knew that with a touch of button someone would be at my side.  So the whole time I had to not be upset.  I had to take everything in stride because I had my baby in my arms.  And if I got frustrated at the nurses constantly coming in and asking me the same questions, at them grabbing my breasts without asking me anything to see if my milk was coming out, at my son being picked up all hours of the night to be weighed, I would have made it worse for myself and I would have been ungrateful.  I still have to write about that.  All of that.  But I am afraid that it will make me cry.

On my bedside table there is a tube of Barq’s root beer lip balm.  I don’t like that root beer but I like the taste on my lips.  I put it on last night before getting into bed.  Then I remembered.  Luke 1:37.  I went to the living room to the shelf where the pocket size New testament lived.  I took it into bed.  My husband perplexed.  I have not read the Qur’an in weeks and here I was with the Bible.  I opened it to Luke right away.  There I read: “For with God nothing will be impossible.”

Sighs and smiles.

the end.


Something new August 9, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Maceo Cabrera Estevez @ 8:02 pm
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I cut my hair yesterday.  A mirror behind me and a mirror in front of me.  I stood in the bath tub and let my curls fall down.  It reminded me of when I shaved my head in 2000.   Or was it 2001?  It was a night that I went out with my brother and papi to see Eliades Ochoa of Buena Vista Social Club perform at BB King’s in Time Square.  Papi and I cried while we sang along to this guajiro Cuban music.  My brother had only been in the United States for a couple of years and he did not feel the same nostalgia.  I came home that night and put on the Buena Vista Social Club CD, the intro to Cuban music CD for many Americans, and in front of my hallway mirror I chopped off my hair to this song:

My cat, Mamita, stood by me watching in amazement as my hair fell down to the floor.  I then shaved it with the same razor I used for my legs.  I had never seen my scalp before.  It was white.  I felt like a two toned cone head.  I shaved my own head for the next two years.  I got clippers and buzzed it every week.  Last night I didn’t cut my hair that short.  I just cut it to my neck.

Taking risks with each curl cut.  I know I didn’t do such a great job as my regular hair stylist but at least I had good scissors and I didn’t have to spend so much money.  Adam thought I was brave.  I was brave enough to have him help me with the back.  There is something about having a shaved head for a while as a woman.  I did it because I was too attached to the beauty of my hair.  I wanted no attachments.  This was before I even understood Buddhism.

Somewhere in my twenties I stopped celebrating Christmas with my family.  We were having hardship at the time and I was also overwhelmed by the commercial part of a holiday I used to enjoy.  It was hard to spend Christmas by myself when everyone I knew was with their families.  I dedicated the three days my family got together, the 24-26th, cleaning out my closets.  I found comfort in reading old letters from my best friend in elementary school and listening to mixed tapes.  When I moved to California I kept that ritual.  Every year I went through the piles of papers I couldn’t seem to throw away on a daily basis, I danced and sang to old songs.  Then I stopped celebrating the new year because I didn’t want to be trapped making small talk with strangers instead of quality time with good friends.  For a couple of years I made the Maceo’s Mix for the upcoming year.  The songs were my theme songs for all the events that would follow that year.  One year I went to a midnight new year’s yoga class in San Francisco.  By candle light I was in warrior pose preparing for what was to come.

For the past couple of years things changed.  Meadow moved in with me so I didn’t really have space to do those solitary rituals and now I have a family.  I don’t mind spending Christmas with our families because that is what they like to do.  We’ve given gifts of donations on behalf of our families to the Heifer Foundation.  I am not sure how my nieces will feel this year about getting a card stating that a bunch of ducks were given to a family in their name but they have so much already.

This month I’ve been finally clearing out my closets.  Not because I am alone during Christmas, it is summertime, I do it to make room for the baby.  I held a garage sale on Saturday.  In boxes I piled heels that I only look at, glasses from my old altars, CDs, clothes and a basket full of condoms that one man ended up taking.  I met a woman with her two little girls.  She asked if she could touch my belly and I usually don’t let people, but I let her.  She told me she was pregnant with her youngest during Katrina.  Big bellied like me she walked through contaminated water with her oldest child.  I told her, thank you for telling me, I will keep that in mind when I start complaining.

My belly is huge.  Bigger than ever.  I am still not having twins and I swear i probably won’t have such a huge baby.  I am counting the days, 4 weeks and 4 days or it could be in two weeks like I would like to think of it or 6 weeks like Adam reminds me.  He teases me but he know that it is hard.  I am not driving anymore and if I walk for 10 minutes, man, that is a lot.  I am cleaning, reading and trying to write.  I am being grateful for this space I have right now.  I will never have a day like this one.  I will never have a day like yesterday or the day before.  I can not tell you how my days will be.  I will not know until it becomes the present.  There is a man across the street that watches us when he smokes cigarettes on his balcony.  Our windows are his TV.  He may be more curious of what is yet to come in my life than me.

When I was going through my boxes I found some old pictures.  I saw a picture of my Abuelo Luis with my papi.  He was so light, almost blonde.  I turned to my husband and said, look at him, he’s like your dad’s coloring.  What if we have a really white baby?  He laughed and said it was possible and then I remembered the blonde baby that was born to a Black Nigerian family.

Omar pokes his butt out in my belly and sometimes it hurts.  He moves and I still find it weird.  I want to know what he looks like.  To tell you the truth, sometimes it doesn’t seem real.  Maybe it will when my water breaks and the birthing tub is filled with warm water in the kitchen.  Maybe it will feel real when the pain is so strong I will want to burst.  Maybe it will be real when I feel the crown of his head, when he will finally slide out of me, when I have him on my chest, when we will both be breathing.  InshaAllah it will be real then.

the end.


Language and Dreams July 19, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Maceo Cabrera Estevez @ 8:27 pm
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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.

the end.


Something on love and marriage May 31, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — Maceo Cabrera Estevez @ 11:03 pm
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I have a runny nose today. My first cold in a very long time. I thought I had intense allergies due to a day spent in the Central Valley.  I am not sure how to handle a cold while pregnant.  All I can do is rest.

We were in Los Banos visiting my husband’s grandparents.  We sat in the carport, the coolest place in the house.  Everyone spoke Portuguese except me.  I have only learned to ask for his grandparents blessings, how to say thank you and inshaAllah.  I did learn how to say mint which is not like the Spanish, menta, it is long and now I have forgotten it but when I say it, it is like the Portuguese giving them hope that I will learn to speak like them.

There was a Portuguese parade that we heard coming down the street.  Not their street but the one above it.  Five of us walked to see the girls dressed like queens with long capes like my mami made for her saints.  You only have to be a 1/4 Portuguese, my mother-in-law said.  Her words reminded me that my child will not be completely Cuban.  Or Cuban with a Brooklyn/California twist.  He will be mixed with Portuguese, Romanian and Italian.  I thought of the summers we will need to spend in Florida and Cuba, just like me, but that will probably not be the case.  My son will be more worldly than that, inshaAllah.

My grandparents-in-law have been married for 70 years.  They sit side by side sometimes.  She tells him that he’s cute, he smiles every time he looks at her.  I asked my husband’s mom if they are always like that.  Yes.  Do they ever argue?  No, he always tells her she’s the boss.  And I laugh wanting Adam and I to replicate that.  I don’t have grandparents with long marriages to give him.  My papi was born out of an affair and my abuelo’s wife committed suicide before I got a chance to be born.  On my mami’s side there are stories of my abuelos never liking each other.  They were as opposite as their heights.  Abuelo used to stand to be 6’4 and the last time I saw Abuela she reached my nose.  I don’t have parents that loved each other and seemed to work everything out.  I just have stories that my aunts and uncles have given me about how they fell in love and how they stay in love.  I spent years asking them questions on our visits because I didn’t know it was possible for someone to love me the way they loved each other.

I just saw Julie & Julia and if you haven’t seen it you should.  There is really something to say about having a good partner, one that stands by you even when you don’t stand by yourself.  My husband is on the road now picking up my stepdaughter from visiting her mom.  I texted him sweet words while I watching the movie.  I wished he was watching it with me but I guess this was one I had to do by myself.

Before he left he asked me if I was going to write.  I gave excuses of not being able to write with my head pounding, of being too focused on my runny nose.  He asked about a place I can put all my ideas.  I told him I remember everything.  I used to remember everything but then I got pregnant.  So, I am writing them down.  I am not being stubborn.  Sigh.  I must of done something really good to have such a special mate like him.

the end.