My Baby Is Fine!

With my first daughter, I only breastfed for four months. That’s still better than nothing, but I didn’t meet my minimum goal of six months of exclusive breastfeeding. At four months, my daughter weighed as much as she did at her 2-month well child visit. Everyone panicked.  Her pediatrician recommended that I supplement with a bottle of my pumped breastmilk, and if that didn’t work to use formula. I wasn’t knowledgeable about lactation consultants 7 years ago, so I resulted to formula out of fear of my baby starving. Til this day, I don’t know what exactly caused my baby’s weight loss. I’ve chalked it up to my Mirena IUD. I got it placed in October 2011, which is when Taniya turned two months. I’ve since learned that Mirena, and other birth control methods that release the progesterone hormone into your system can make your milk supply decrease. The IUD mixed with stress could have played a part in my milk production. Either way, it traumatized me.

That entire time, my baby wasn’t getting enough milk and I felt HORRIBLE. When I look back at pictures and see how thin she was, I shame myself and wonder how could I not see that my child was losing weight? Again, my insecurity dealing with weight had been highlighted. I began to obsess over whether Taniya was gaining the proper amount of weight. I eventually had to tell myself, my baby is fine!

Just as I prepared myself for a better pregnancy, labor and delivery experience with my youngest daughter, I also made sure that my breastfeeding experience would be different this time around also. I took several classes, read several articles, followed Instagram pages on breastfeeding, and have joined breastfeeding support groups on Facebook. I also received lactation help from the hospital lactation consultant and the beautiful @Khadijaknowsbreast (IG handle) when she was with Mamatoto Village.

Even with all that help, I still stressed over weight gain for Jayla. The nurses said she lost more than 10% of her birth weight while in the hospital so the focus began to shift toward her gaining weight. Then to top it off, she developed Jaundice when we left the hospital, so I had to nurse and nurse in order to flush the bilirubin out of her system. The more she drank, it would be released through her bowel movements. Each appointment, we were watching closely to monitor her weight gain, as well as her bilirubin levels. Our process ended successfully, but my PTSD with baby weight gain didn’t go anywhere.

I panicked every other month consistently, wondering if our daughter was gaining or losing weight. My husband was often upset by my panic, but I couldn’t help it. It wasn’t until one afternoon at the park with Taniya and Jayla, and a mother of a newborn asked me how old Jayla was that things began to shift. She was 8 months old at the time, and the girl said “Oh she must have been a preemie.” I said “No, she was full term and is very healthy.” In that moment, I was highly irritated, but realized how confident I became in my baby and our breastfeeding journey.

That confidence soon became shaken when the women in the support groups I am a part of started to talk about their negative experiences with breastfeeding. More so their experiences with pediatricians, non-supportive family members and strangers when they are breastfeeding in public. I found myself preparing to curse someone out for asking about my baby’s weight, telling me about how I need to feed her or cover my breast. Mentally, this journey has been a rollercoaster, but physically and emotionally… it’s been a blessing.

This is for everyone! Mother’s who breastfeed and have chunky babies. Mother’s who formula feed and have chunky babies. Mother’s whose babies sleep through the night. People who don’t understand breastfeeding. People who think I (we as a community) should cover up. Women who are planning to or are new to breastfeeding.

MY BABY IS FINE! No; I will not cover my baby while she eats.  No; I will not go in the bathroom. Turn your head, mind your business or get popped in the face! No, I’m not being extra— I’M FEEDING MY CHILD! No, I don’t have to give her bottle. Yes; she is growing fine! Yes; she is meeting her milestones. No, I will not give her cereal. Yes; we still wake up through the night! No; I will not give her formula. No, I will not give her cow’s milk.  No; I don’t breastfeed because I’m poor, but I do enjoy the fact that it’s free. No, she wasn’t born prematurely. If you’re uncomfortable, turn your head! If you have questions, ask politely. Yes; BLACK WOMEN DO BREASTFEED!!!!

Breastfeeding women do not mind educating you about breastfeeding. Just ask! Please do not attack us because we are like lionesses and bears with their cubs. We will demolish you!! We are trying to care for our babies and feed them the best way we know how. Naturally. If you formula feed your baby, that is just fine! Please don’t make breastfeeding out to be negative. We are all on our own mothering journey, and doing the best we can. There is no need to attack each other’s choices. As long as our choices are what’s best for our babies.

If you know a breastfeeding mother, ask her how her nipples are doing. They’re probably dry, scabbing, have scratches and more. Ask her if she’s been able to get any rest. Her baby could be cluster feeding, teething, sick, or going through a growth spurt. She didn’t get an ounce of sleep, but still went to work, cleaned the house, cooked and cared for her other children and husband. Ask her is there’s anything that she needs support with. She’s most likely had to wash the same load 3 times in a row because she keeps forgetting them in the washer or forgets to turn the dryer on.

Just be there for a breastfeeding mother. Breastfeeding is the most natural thing a woman can do, but it’s not the easiest thing. Support goes a long way. Love goes a long way. Support has gotten me to 11 months and counting on my current breastfeeding journey.

Happy Black Breastfeeding Week 🙂

Standards vs. Expectations

After days of scrolling through social media, I HAD to blog about my experience and thoughts on a few posts. They all had a similar tone. If your girl or man don’t (fill in the blank), you can’t marry them. Here’s the most recent post that sent me running to my blog. “If yo mama cooking and she don’t go in there to help you can’t marry her.” Of course there were thousands of responses, but you know I had to go to my husband to see what his thoughts were. His response (not verbatim), “The fact that he associates a woman in the kitchen being wife material is a problem to me.” He totally stans for women and I adore him for it!

As we dove deeper into conversation, I began to think about the difference between having standards versus expectations. We both agreed that there is a difference between the two, and find it to be one of the leading causes to men and women missing out on a good woman or man.

In my opinion, standard is the measure of the quality or value of someone. It’s the determining factor in whether you decide to pursue someone or allow them to pursue you. Expectation is what you believe someone should be or will do. If one does not meet your expectation, you may be disappointed, but not completely turned off.

Here’s a snippet of what my standards looked like:

  1. He can’t smoke cigarettes.
  2. He has to believe in the same God as me.
  3. He has to have good hygiene.
  4. He has to be taller than me.
  5. He has to be able to hold an intelligent conversation.

AND MORE!

Here’s a list of what my expectations looked like:

  1. He must be able to cook like my father.
  2. He must be great with his hands (plumbing, mechanic, building, DIY).
  3. He must have a nice haircut. (Preferably like Morris Chestnut in The Best Man)
  4. He must be a football player.
  5. He has to be bigger than me. (Gotta be ready for this jelly)

AND MORE!

I wouldn’t budge with my standards, but my expectations were things I could soften up on. Maybe he’s not the best cook, but he’s responsible with his money. Okay, so he’s not that great at fixing things around the house, but he’s willing to learn. I love haircuts, but men with curls and locs are just as handsome. He may not be a football player, but he’s healthy and athletic. There’s a rebuttal for them all.

In the post earlier, I immediately thought “what if his girl didn’t know how to cook, but planned on helping her set the table and clean up?” Is she still not capable of being a wife? Maybe she’s not confident in her cooking skills, but is willing to take lessons? What if her mother never allowed her in the kitchen growing up, so she doesn’t even think about helping out in the kitchen? There are so many factors. I believe it is when we set high expectations in individuals that we become severely disappointed. Humans disappoint all the time! We’re not perfect. That’s why we have to simply view our expectations as a hope, but not a determining factor.

For example, a woman who is pregnant is not told that she will have her baby on a specific date. She is given an estimated due date. A date that she can expect to have her child(ren) on, before or after. When a business has a job listing posted, they list skills that are required and skills that are preferred but not required. That means that if one does not possess the preferred skills, the business will not turn them away. They simply hope that the candidate will have them. In my experience, the employer will say something like, “skills are preferred or candidate must be willing to obtain training.” What if we applied that in our relationships? I prefer my girlfriend to be able to cook, but if she’s not able to in the beginning, she must be willing to learn. That is actually a mix of expectation and standard. It allows each individual involved to be honest and determine which direction they will go in.

Now, as usual these are my thoughts and opinions. Some of my standards may sound like expectations to others and vice versa. All in all, I think we as people need to know the difference between standards and expectations, and make sure that we are putting emphasis on the more important one. I believe that expectations can be discussed with one another, while standards cannot. We also tend to set high expectations but take offense when we do not meet another’s expectations. “My man has to make sure that my hair, nails and toenails are always done,” but you can’t even take the car to a drive-thru car wash. Honestly, sometimes our standards are a bit extreme too. “My man has to make more than me, and I make $70,000 per year.” Okay, so this woman marries a man who makes $115,000 per year, but he loses his job because the company goes bankrupt. What next? Do you divorce him?

This post is not to persuade anyone to lower their standards. However, I am definitely one who says, lighten up on your expectations of humans and shift them toward the Lord (or whoever you believe in).

 

 

 

 

Breaking Generational Curses Through Affirmations

For years I suffered from low self-esteem. It began when I started middle school and heightened in high school. During my first pregnancy it grew stronger, and after I gave birth, my low self-esteem issues had reached its peak. I remember crying every time my husband and I would discuss workout plans and weight-loss goals. I would start the conversation, but every time he agreed and continued the conversation with me, I thought that he viewed me the way that I viewed myself. I didn’t love myself and grew to a place where I hated mirrors, taking pictures and shopping. I knew my lack of self-esteem had gotten the best of me when I told my husband I no longer wanted to join our friends at a fight party because I didn’t want them to see me.

I remember watching MTV’s True Life a long time ago and it followed a girl who had body dysmorphic disorder. She looked completely normal, but when she looked in the mirror she saw someone totally different. That’s who I’d become. I would have one pimple on my chin, but saw a face full of pimples, dark spots and imperfections when I looked in the mirror. I would go through a series of outfits before finding one that didn’t make me look overweight. Once I finally met up with my friends, that one outfit I grew to like would turn into to a strong dislike because I didn’t feel it looked as good as my friends.

I’ll save the story of where my lack of self-esteem came from another day.

The way I saw myself began to take a toll on my marriage. Every complement my husband gave me, I rebutted with “you’re just saying that because you feel like you have to.” I would wear shirts to hide my postpartum belly during sex and cringed when I had to change in front of him. He noticed. He would try reassuring me that I was beautiful and that he loved me, but it didn’t make a difference. There wasn’t anything he could do. This was a “me thing” that I had to handle with God.

My breakthrough came after my first corporate fast with my ministry Queen Esther. It was a mixture of what I had been learning in my classes and the peace I gained from God during that fast that helped me. I cried from the relief, and prayed that no woman felt the way I once felt about myself. That meant I needed to start with my little girl. She witnessed my mess first hand, and I refused for it to be passed down to her and generations to come.

I started out validating her on a daily basis. Whenever she would become defeated in her abilities or seek compliments from others, I would reaffirm her. [Read my blog post Mommy I Can’t See, It’s Black to get some background on why it was important that I started her young with affirmations.] Once I noticed that she was great at memorization (between 2 and 3), I introduced affirmations. One of my downfalls was speaking negativity and failure over myself. I knew that the power of life and death was in our tongues so I began teaching my baby to speak over herself. To speak love and power over life. I knew she didn’t understand it just yet, but it was a start. Once she mastered writing legible English, that’s when I introduced writing the affirmations out. She was older so, once she wrote them out, we would talk about each one together.

Now at the age of 7, I simply tell my daughter to either write out 5 affirmations, or say them aloud. She knows that she must explain why she chose each affirmation. I stress to her the importance of not just saying the affirmations because mommy tells her to, but to believe in them. She is required to speak loud and clearly when telling me about herself. I do this because I want her to be confident when speaking the things she know to be true about herself. The feature picture for this post was our affirmation session from yesterday. I was proud for a number of reasons. First, she spelled each word correctly. Second, her handwriting wasn’t bad at all. Third, her reasons behind the affirmations.

  1. I am beautiful-“Because it’s my middle name and no one can make me feel ugly.”
  2. I am magic-“Because when I pray for people they feel better.”
  3. I am one of a kind-“Because just like snowflakes, I was made different from everyone else and I’m my own design.”
  4. I am cute-  “Because I’m adorable.”
  5. I am Taniya- “Because everyone else is taken, so it’s best being myself.”

My heart was so full. I’m still on a high. My baby get’s it. She’s understanding! I’m already changing the trajectory of the path my family was headed down. I’ve cried to my husband many times fearing that I would lead our daughters to destruction.  What I’m teaching my oldest daughter will surely rub off on my youngest. I am healing through raising my daughters, and proving myself to be an example. Yesterday, Taniya made me agree to give her a list of my own affirmations as well “so that I am reminded of how awesome I am.” You see that?… God is using my daughter to challenge me to continue to grow.

Lack of self-esteem was my own demon. I defeated it by not allowing it to trickle down to my children and generations to come. My job isn’t done yet though. There are other generational curses that stem from years of brokenness and lack of help in my family that I intend on breaking as well.

Jada Pinkett-Smith mentioned on her show Red Table Talk, that our children will need therapy regardless. I’m hoping that my children’s therapy sessions are simply ways for them to vent and sort through their thoughts. Not because I failed to show them that they are enough. Not because I failed to show them that they are important, and that their words and feelings mean something.

I hope that this helps someone 🙂