A place where Black Mothers can celebrate excellence and motherhood.

9:00 AM

Oxygen Mask by Brittany Brady

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It took me a long time to sit down and write this, to really reflect on a moment that was one of the most terrifying and love affirming of my life – the birth of my son.

My husband was out of town on business and was sad about not being there for my doctor’s appointment. He had only missed one other appointment and at 34 weeks, it was a quick check-in with a blood pressure check, urinalysis, and so on… nothing major to miss. His flight home was canceled and so he drove to a nearby city (2+ hours) to catch another one because he wanted to be home so badly. That’s the kind of man he is, willing to do whatever he needs to be the person he desires. He holds himself to a consistent standard of excellence and it is one of my favorite things about him.

As I went to the appointment he reminded me to mention the swelling I had and the random bruises on my leg because in almost every appointment, he would remind me of something to mention. At prior appointments, the nurse would check my vitals and comment “nice” or “great” when going through each step. On that day though, she stopped as soon as she checked my blood pressure. I asked “what’s my blood pressure” and she replied “I will let the doctor talk to you.” It seems that I developed pre-eclampsia (yes, the same thing Beyonce had although she calls it toxemia )  in a week’s time.

I started going to therapy when I found out I was pregnant in an attempt to develop a rapport with a therapist prior to motherhood to ensure that I am able to take the best care of myself, to take the best care of my son. I wanted to address anxiety surrounding the season I was in and entering motherhood. In the event that I had postpartum depression I wanted to be sure the diagnosis could be accurate so I would not fight it because I know myself and know that I would’ve taken convincing because I plan like that. My husband and I had gone to a few birthing classes and he watched almost an entire series on the Pampers channel of YouTube. We had already had one baby shower and had been very blessed with virtually everything we needed for the baby and already had his bassinet set up and a few essentials because again, I plan. But what I did not plan for was a condition that could have cost me my life and being immediately admitted to the hospital after the doctor told me that the condition was severe and that I would not be going home. 
 Photographer: Denzel Golatt

As I sat in triage, I was alone. I’m rarely alone. I’m married and have a million friends but for that moment, I was alone and thanks to therapy I know that was purposeful. A barometer, if you will, of my growth to that point and a reminder that “whatever I am given I can handle” like my therapist reminds me. I told my husband and family I was being admitted and was feeling pretty strong until I was lying in that bed, alone. I called my father and wept and he cried too, I think. They planned to come on the first flight they could. My sister, a physician, was doing the same. I told my good friend Geva that yes, I did need someone to come. She’s an amazing woman who would leave company to be by my side. Yet another reminder of how God can orchestrate things to be exactly what you need in that moment because Geva happens to be a nurse. I had no idea how sick I was but she did and stayed with me until another friend, Tia, could come meet me. I was not alone anymore. 
It was close to when my husband arrived that the doctor told me that the baby would either come that day or in the next two weeks but I was definitely not making it until my due date of September 11th and this was on August 3rd. They took me to a perinatal specialist, who I ironically already knew because my son had a choroid plexus cyst as he was developing. When my primary doctor, a Black woman, saw it she told me that she did not want me to freak out and google but she knew I was going to freak out and google. She said that it is like a mole, something that should be monitored but generally nothing to worry about. She was right but it took me to this specialist anyway who my husband and I call “Mr. Rogers” because his demeanor is that soothing. Seeing him, on that day, made me feel better and reminded me that I could not have planned any minute of this occurrence this well. He looked at the baby and calmed me and said the baby looked great, in spite of being on the small side. I wrapped my mind around delivering premature and what that may mean for myself and the baby. 

Photographer Denzel Golatt

My blood pressure continued to rise and it became apparent that I would need to deliver the baby because I was at risk of stroke or seizure. My kidneys and liver were also in danger because of how high my blood pressure was. It should be mentioned here that the doctor I had was not my primary doctor. I purposely picked my physician because she was a Black woman and you hear so many stories in the news about Black women not getting adequate maternal care. I was of the mind that a Black woman would not doubt a Black woman’s pain and could give me a high standard of care. However, she is part of a physician’s group and I was at the part of the pregnancy where I rotated through different doctors. This was actually my second time rotating to this doctor because he happened to be the one with availability and I remembered liking him. He has not disclosed to me but I believe he is a white male with some of the best bedside manner I think exists. He tried everything to get me to deliver vaginally and after 24 hours he told me that I would probably need a c-section. I want to emphasize how incredible his standard of care was and how much he tried to get me to do what I originally planned, so much so that some of the nurses kept mentioning how careful he was being. It was actually me who had brushed off every symptom I had. The blurry vision was because I needed to wear my glasses. The swelling was typical of pregnancy, I thought. The mild headache was ignored because I suffer from migraines. Thankfully, I was under the care of doctors who informed me that none of these things were coincidence and took my life very seriously. I am grateful that this was my experience and that he was not attempting to rush me or brush me off. I felt the sincerity of my entire care team, every doctor and every nurse. 
Within 5 minutes I was in the operating room with my husband holding my hand as they began the incision. My son was born at 10:49 a.m. at a whopping 4 pounds and 9 ounces. He was able to breathe on his own and was ready to be discharged from the NICU before I was even dismissed from the hospital. My parents stayed with me and my husband stayed by my side. My sister was present for the birth of her nephew/godson and there to answer any medical questions I had. None of this was planned. My family was not originally going to be there as I birthed my parents’ first grandson. My mother stayed with me as I recovered from the c-section and high blood pressure, giving me the 40 days postpartum to be cared for and rest like I desired. My son is healthy and happy and not born in September like my husband and I, giving him August to celebrate on his own. I could not have planned it better and I would not have planned it differently.
As I laid in the hospital bed, the morning that I would give birth, all I could think about was how badly I wanted a cheesesteak and how much I wanted my son to get here safely. They put oxygen on me because they stated that the baby was starting to lose it and with the oxygen mask on my face all I could think of is when they tell you to put yours on first on the airplane. My commitment to addressing my anxiety and getting better during pregnancy is the only reason I made it through the entire ordeal without a panic attack or a breakdown. I felt peace. I had my coping mechanisms. I was in a good enough state (be clear, I was terrified) that I did not let fear rule me but I was open to what life was presenting me in the moment. I was helpless, literally helpless, but not weak or defeated. I knew there was strength and purpose in my forced vulnerability and I gleaned every lesson possible from every moment of the experience. I put my oxygen mask on first and we all made it through just fine. 
Photographer: Marrica Evans 

You can follow Brittany on Instagram Here

3:42 PM

Losing Grandma by Teddi Rene'

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 As I sat and watched the snow begin to fall harder and stick more consistently,  a calm covered me. It wasn’t because I thought she would wake up or that she would be okay. It was because I knew it would soon be over; that we could all soon move out of limbo, waiting and watching this woman that meant so much to us, in pain and suffering. We all felt it because we all begin to simultaneously shift and move about the room. Gathering our things, we moved in silence, never taking our eyes off of her. As I looked at my mother’s face, desperately trying to burn her image in my mind, I began to think about all of the things that she would miss. All the milestones she wouldn’t witness. All the pictures she would never see or be in.

The previous day, we had an impromptu birthday party in her room complete with a cake and balloons, for my daughters 1st birthday which was 6 days away. It was important to her that she got to sing “Happy Birthday” to Billie. We knew my mother was not going to make it. I refused to cancel the party scheduled for 5 days from then at my mothers' house in the space that she spent many of her final days. “Life goes on,” I thought even though I wasn’t yet sure what that life would look like. It saddened me to know that my mother would miss out on doing the one thing that she cherished the most, being grandma. The way she loved Xavier was evident from birth and I was deeply concerned for my son. He would surely miss her and how she would sneak sweets to him after I vehemently told her not to. He would miss the inside jokes they shared, their love for inappropriate iPad games like “Plumber’s Crack” and just how she loved on him every chance she could. Damn, how is Xavier going to cope without hearing her say “ Hey Grandson! How was school?” As he entered the house daily? How would he deal with losing his best friend?

 It was unfair how she spent all of those years dedicated to young girls and showing them the sport she grew to love but would never get to see her own granddaughter on a mat. The one Christmas Billie ever experienced up til that point, she would never remember. How I would preserve the memory of my mother in the heart and mind of my daughter was a great concern. Will she remember her? Will she know who we come from? Will she know how much she was loved by her?

My heart cried for my children and the fact that they would never have that bond with their grandmother. Being raised mainly by my grandmother, the bond between grandparent and grandchildren is one that is so special to me and it was to my mother as well. In my own personal reflection on the relationship I had with my mother, I often found myself wrapped in an emotional cocoon torn between the thought that she was taken and that she gave up and left willingly. For years after she passed, I would go from being sad that she didn’t get to see Xavier make his first run to home base then quickly transition to being hurt that we weren’t worth her fighting harder for. Anger would soon consume me as I thought about how Billie would never hear her grandma scream her name from the audience as she did a final curtsy as the curtain closes on her first dance recital. Fear often visited me when another bill came because I just did not know how much it would be or if this was the one that would send up to the poor house. Life was a mess and I wasn’t sure if I was happy or sad, hurt or angry, resentful or relieved that my mother, my children’s grandmother, was gone.

How did I feel when I lost my mother? Initially, I didn’t. If I’m being honest, I am just now, 3.5 years later, beginning to grieve the loss of my mother. Until now, I have only dealt with grieving the loss of my children’s grandmother and here is what I’ve learned:

A grandparent is not a person, but a role that one takes on. I am grateful that my family stepped up in her absence and has been very active in helping with the kids. Not just watching them but truly encouraging them. They show up for their football and baseball games and scream louder from the audience than my mom probably ever could. (Actually, that's a lie. My momma had a mouth on her and would still put the other 20 of us to shame.)
Children express grief and pain in some of the most conflicting ways. It is best to just support them and get them professional help so that they can grieve and process their lost properly. Poor behavior is not always a symptom of poor listening skills or a “bad kid”. Sometimes, quite often actually, its a symptom of drastic change, pain, and avoid they do not yet know how to express.
No matter how brief the interaction or at what age, the memory of loved ones remain with children without a doubt. My daughter often speaks other grandmother and reminds me that she died but she loved us so much. Money Bags would be so proud of her Chocolate Mama.
Although we want to protect our children and shield them from hurt, we have to allow them to experience things that we can not control and we have to allow these to experience it without fear. Our fear as adults, not theirs as a kid.
No matter how long you put off grief, it will be there waiting for you. Period.

If I remember vividly, one night I heard her in pain and went to check on her only to hear her cry out the words “ I want to go with my daddy and grandma”. This cry of defeat is the last image of my mother and is etched In my mind.

With my coat and purse in hand, I say my final goodbye. Standing there in front of her, holding her hand and telling her that I loved her, try as I might, I could not carve this current moment into my mind to replace the moment she admitted defeat. While it took me some time to accept this, the moments that I create with my children daily are what I choose to focus on to manage the guilt I feel for holding on to what I perceive to be the “wrong” memory. Now, that my sister has birthed our mother’s 3rd grandchild, I often find myself thinking about how my sister must have felt not having my mother around for her pregnancy, labor and the first year. My niece will never have the opportunity to make memories with my mother.  Knowing this selfishly allows me to be joyful in what my children and I did have during her time Earth-side. Not because I don't want my niece to know my mother, but because I am grateful for what my children at least have some interaction.
Now that I’ve conquered Losing Grandma, its time to work on me.

How do I cope with Losing Mama?
3:57 PM

Confessions of a Birth mother

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First, let me start off by saying thank you to Barb for creating such an amazing safe space for young mothers of color.

With that being said thank you also for making room for mother’s like me....birth mothers.

For a long time, I was afraid to celebrate Mother’s Day because I believed it excluded people like me. I thought I wasn’t worthy to be celebrated. Largely because of the stigma surrounding birth mothers because “we gave our kid up”. In 2018 I made myself a promise to celebrate myself and all of my accomplishments while acknowledging my shortcomings with the hopes of improving and loving myself deeper. In order to do that, I had to address the almost 16-year-old elephant in the room. The child that I said goodbye to the summer of 2002.

I was a high school freshman when I found out I was 22 weeks pregnant with my son. I was confused and afraid. I was trying to figure out how in the hell I didn’t know I was pregnant for so long and then the realization that at 14 I had no other alternative but to actually have a baby set in. I come from an upper-middle-class family, I was on the honor roll and was concurrently enrolled in magnet programs called “university high school” and “visual and performing arts”. So, in theory, I "shouldn’t have had time to get pregnant" and I should have been “smarter” than that. But I wasn’t, I was 14 and pregnant by 'the love of my life' (lmao), a graduating senior on his way to the army( after graduating) and also in a committed relationship.

I had communicated my concerns with my high school guidance counselor and she arranged for me to speak with the child’s father in a safe place. That didn’t go well as he began 20 questions... the first one being: " How do I know it’s mine?" That hurt because well you know WE were both each other’s first and he was still my only. He then shut me completely off, went on his senior trip, prom, graduation, and off to basic training. It should be noted during this time I was staying with my grandparents as my mother was deployed at the time. So I was alone and pregnant with tons of questions and no answers except for random people who I had met in AOL chat rooms where I was lying about my age and finally someone who we will refer to as helpfulhuman94 suggested I call an adoption agency.

I was about 7 months pregnant and I took what felt like the longest metro ride ever to a planned parenthood with my best friend. We cut school and barely talked on the way. I knew I had no idea what to do with a baby and I definitely knew I had no support for this baby. The crazy part is my entire life I felt unwanted. I’m a product of an affair, and my mother hated the fact I looked like the man that rejected her and loved to remind me of that. It should also be noted that I don’t look like my mother’s family and that was difficult because my family was toxic and loved reminding me that I was a “mistake”. It should also be noted that although my mother wasn’t a product of an affair her mother resented her for looking like her father because they ended up getting divorced. But this post isn’t about that so let’s move forward. I knew that at 14 I didn’t want to pass that nonsense on to my unborn child. So after much counseling, a court-appointed guardian, and a secret pregnancy, I decided to begin the process of giving my baby up for adoption.

The day I went into labor was crazy. My mother was home from her deployment as she and three other people knew my secret. She took me to the hospital and left. To this day I haven’t asked her why but she left me there so I did what any other 15-year-old would do, call her BFF. She came there and held my hand even cutting the cord. We cried together. It was the weirdest experience ever. I couldn’t believe that I had carried a 19inch 7lb 2oz little boy. He was perfect. I never felt a joy or love like that in all my life. They placed him on my chest and eventually he looked at me. And then my heart broke, I knew that this would be the only moment that I would have to share with him. Unlike lifetime movies when you place your child up for adoption it’s not immediate. I had to sit with this decision for 24 hours. I snuck trips to the nursery and even held him and then I knew I had to let go. I signed a million pieces of paper and shed so many tears. I was 15 making a very adult decision with my 15-year-old BFF and a court-appointed guardian.

16 years later I’m proud. I brought myself a Mother’s Day card this year. Because although I’m not raising my son I’m still his birth mother. God gave me the awesome task of carrying a life inside of me. I was worthy enough to bring an amazing human being in the world. I kept my body healthy for almost 10 months and birthed a healthy baby boy who would go forth and be the answer to another woman’s prayers. His mom loves him and has given him the best life. A life that I couldn’t. I used to beat myself up because I have friends that are teen moms and I envied them. I thought "maybe I should have kept my son." That would have been selfish, however. One of the biggest things that a mother can do is sacrifice for the betterment of their child. And what was best for my child was someone else. So I’m grateful that I was the vessel to bring him here on earth.
I also understand that just because I didn’t get the privilege to raise him, birthing him was no small task, and making probably one of the most important decisions for him wasn’t small either. So to all the birth mothers out there, I hope that you celebrate yourself and your decision you made. Happy belated Mother’s Day to you.

- G.
2:19 PM

Family Matters

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 My daughters do not share a biological father. Tatiyana's father and I met/dated in high school until my freshman year of college. We grew up and apart, and spent three years struggling to find peace with one another. We clung to the word 'co-parent' as if it shielded us, masking the pain and baggage that we had accumulated over the years. We both went into a spiral, he and I both dating questionable people that none-the-less taught us a lot along the way.

At the end of 2013, there was a shift. Both of us found peace and begin to see each other in a new light. We begin to communicate with one another as a family, not 'co-parents'. I was still struggling from three more failed relationships and him from what I observed, in a good place. Still, there were bumps, but not as large and I noticed he had an eagerness to compromise more than previous years.  Being family has always been important to him but over the last few months, it had really become his thing. Then the conversation came that helped it all make sense:

Shawn: "Hey, so I just want to let you know that I'm dating someone."
Me: "Okay, cool?" *Awkward laughter from both of us*
Shawn: "I was telling you because I'm going to introduce her to Tat soon and we talked about letting each other know when brought people around her."
Outer Me: "Okay! What's her name?" Inner Me: "Welp, I'm being replaced." (As if there's a factory that you can return used moms to LOL)
Shawn: "Myesha, her and I have been dating for awhile and I think its time she met Tat."
Me: "Ok, cool! Let me know how it goes."

Myesha and Tat hit it off of course and the rest is history. In 2014, Jamal and I started dating and that meant having the conversation with Shawn about introducing Tatiyana and Jamal. Shawn, of course, was okay and Tatiyana and Jamal hit it off (what kid says no to ice cream and the playground?!) With us both having partners that we saw long-term interest in that meant when Tatiyana had events we would come together to support her.

When I first met Myesha, she was reserved and for a second I didn't think she liked me and I had all these horror stories in my head where I wondered if Shawn had told her I was crazy, deranged and just downright awful; I later learned she has to warm up to people. Our conversations were always light and friendly. Same for Jamal and Shawn, conversation light and friendly; I think sometimes it was awkward but we were all there for the most important reason -- Tatiyana.

The end of 2014 I found out I was pregnant with Jahara and beginning of 2015 Myesha found out she was pregnant with little Shawn. Our relationships continued to grow organically, me sharing tips for morning sickness, both of us venting about school and work while meeting to pick up/drop off Tatiyana. We got to a place where we would hug, rub each other bellies and laugh. There was so much unspoken and spoken excitement about how these two babies would be three months apart.

So here we are five years later - an engagement, a restored relationship, the loss of a mother figure, a nine-year-old and two almost-three-year-olds later and we couldn't be happier.

Recently, Myesha shared a photo of all of us from Tatiyana's lacrosse game and we got nothing but positive comments - some people even asking if they could share the post.  Her [Myesha] and I talked about our journey as a family together and we both are relieved and grateful that we have the bond that we have. My own mother commented on how close Myesha and I are one day saying how she wished she could've had that with my older siblings mom. " I have two girls and a son by extension. No, they're not twins, they're three months apart. We're a blended family." I get the confused look and then a relieved smile. "Oh, I get it. You both have different partners." Yes, Jan! You're correct! lol...

"Grown women shit." As people tell us both. Certainly, it can be but I don't think that it can be simplified to that one statement. I had to heal, forgive, let go and begin to decide what works for me individually and as a mother with/without other peoples approval. I had to learn to take some critiques for what they were and some as just information. In order for me to have the amazing relationship that I have with Myesha, I had to unpack a lot of shit, one of them was receiving critiques on how I raised Tatiyana pre- Jahara. Not many knew but at one point before Myesha, before Jamal and I started dating, and before Jahara and little Shawn I was working two jobs, going to school full-time, running a chapter with my Line Sister and studying for the LSAT. Spoiler Alert: I ended up in the hospital after passing out from exhaustion.

During that time, I struggled with balancing it all and being a mother; looking back I'm proud of what I did at 20/21 because most couldn't, now here I am at 26 working full-time, running a business, a blog, a youtube channel and raising two children *WHEW*.

Prior to me being unapologetic about how I raise my girls, someone (especially on her dads' side) always had something to say about her hair, clothes, etc. and it would make me feel so small. I would stay awake crying convinced that I was the worlds worst mother.  I realized my biggest fear is that she would come around and critique my motherhood as everyone else did. I felt like I failed because I couldn't do XYZ instead of surrendering to the truth: I can't do everything all the time but I will give my best effort to what I can.

After a while, I began to notice little things: Tatiyana would come home with a style that lasted for weeks versus my typical Minnie mouse ears and ballie hairstyles that I sent her in and her folder would be organized and I could just go through it quickly.

 I realized that Myesha wasn't, in fact, judging me, she was instead helping me. That helped me to open up more (it's also part of why I curated Millennial Mocha Moms). I realize that Black motherhood is what we say it is and sometimes you may need a little more help from your village than what you're saying. Even if that means a finger wag from the old-school super Black woman who cooked, nursed 6 babies on one breast simultaneously, read the bible and still found time to press her husband work pants.  I realized that sometimes it can be a struggle to not even get yourself together but other people as well and that its okay to just let your daughter rock a puff for a week or two, hell even a month, fuck who has something to say about it.

All of this time I feared she was going to judge me for where I, in my eyes couldn't measure up and here she is helping not once pointing out (at least to me) where I had fallen short. For that, I love her even more, not just for what she does but for who she is. When people ask me how I feel about Myesha and Shawn I light up with joy because how happy they are with each other. One thing I always say and it's very true, I'm so glad that God made Shawn and Myesha for one another. It's amazing when we are loved by many but it is extraordinary when we are loved by those created with us in mind.

Our blended family works because we all love each other very much. We all want the best for one another especially Tatiyana, Jahara and little Shawn. We make sure that we show gratitude to one another and do things together. I talk the talk about loving and putting fellow Black women first and making sure Tatiyana understands that. What better way to show her that by having a healthy, respectful and organic relationship with Myesha, the other Black woman she looks to for Momance (Mom + Guidance). I never once questioned Tatiyana's emotional, physical or spiritual safety with Myesha, I know she cares for our daughter as though she had given birth to her as I feel the same about little Shawn. Tatiyana knows that Shawn and I will always be there for her and she knows that Myesha and Jamal will always be there for her. I couldn't have asked for a better mother figure outside of me for Tatiyana.

I love our little family -- I wouldn't trade us for the world.

2:29 PM

Please...Stop asking me to bring my children

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There's nothing like spending time with your children. Its the greatest thing in the world. There's also nothing like spending time with your friends, which is also the greatest thing in the world. Every now and then I like to combine the two; on my terms.  It happens a lot, the conversation typically goes like this:

Friend(s) - "Hey! Do you want to 'XYZ' this weekend?"

Me: - "Uhmm let me see if I can get a sitter, it's my weekend with the girls."

Friend(s) - "Just bring them along! It will be fine!"

Me: - "No thank you, I'll let you know if I find a sitter."

Friend(s) - "Just bring them along! I'll help you with them!"

Spoiler Alert: My friends sometimes don't help like they say. LOL

Just when I thought someone wanted to hang out only with me, my hope and dreams = crushed.

I get it, my friends love my children and my children love them back but sometimes just sometimes I would like to spend time with my friends without a toddler burning the brunch spot down and a teenalescent (teenager/adolescent; she's nine but has the nonchalance of a 14-year-old so here's my word for it) hanging on to our every word as we try to converse about various topics. Its nice after a long week of switching out different hats while wearing your mommy hat to take them all off and just do hood rat S**t with your hoodrat friends.

There are a time and place for everything including when I bring my children to spend time with my friends. Parents, mothers especially are responsible for more than themselves nonstop. While talking with my colleagues once, I talked about the time it takes to dress myself, Tatiyana and Jahara, pack lunches, get them to school/daycare then drive to work I've exhausted myself mentally and physically. My friends who shout "Just bring them!" are great but I'd love to see them "Just bring them!" after spending hours coercing and practically begging a toddler and teenalescent to get dressed and gathered, bonus points if they can handle the meltdowns and outfit changes (because potty training don't care about nobody urgency) before heading out.

So it would be nice if sometimes, just sometimes my friend(s) extend an invite to only me. The mental gymnastics I have trying to buckle down on logistics would decrease by 80% if I only had to figure out how I am going to get myself to an event sans children, stroller, diaper bag, contents in diaper bag (don't act like ya'll never forget to pack extra pull-ups and socks!) and the list goes on. Its all fun and games until there are Cheerios all over the floor and the waiter/waitress is passive-aggressively asking how much longer will we be (cc: the waiter who brought me SIX pairs of chopsticks once because Jahara kept chucking them around the place when I wasn't paying attention.)

At this point, it all makes sense why I eat slowly when my children aren't around, why I take so long to order food and why I like to linger a little; children are ticking time bombs and you've got very little time to detonate them. I also like my mimosas without little fingers dipping into the glass while screaming, "Mommy! This orange juice is cold!" Yes, and now contaminated with cute little germs. I like my mimosas on a table sip cup free and I need my friends to be okay with that. The mall. Oh how I love the mall, I love Sephora, Riley Rose, Steve Madden, etc. It's truly my happy place, which is why I don't bring any child of mine that is younger than age five most times I go. Let me be clear, I am not shaming mothers who bring their children into any of these sacred spaces. Sometimes I have to forego my own boundaries and bring them and we make the best of it (we love the playgrounds inside of malls!)

I realize that sometimes my childless friends forget that I want to see them and would be happy to bring my children and happier to have a break and catch up without the daunting task of chasing children, censoring adult conversation or just enjoying adult activities that may not be children friendly (minds out of the gutter nasties!)

There are so many opportunities where I can bring my children to catch up with my friends; the playground, family oriented events, PG/G rated movies (Incredibles 2 just came out!), the list is endless and just a hint; if the ratio for children to adult is 2:10 then for the love of all things earthbound and beyond,

please stop asking me to bring my children.

What about you momma? How do you feel about the pressure to bring your child(ren) everywhere? Comment below.
8:56 PM

Waving 25 goodbye

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My 25th year on this earth has come to an end. As of two weeks ago, I stepped into 26 surrounded by people who have nothing but love and well wishes for me. There isn't much of a difference in 26; at least I haven't noticed it yet. Twenty-five was truly filled with so many lessons, some that I prepared for and some that knocked me on my ass.
Year 25 showed me that when you love something and someone you show them that by caring for yourself. I learned the importance of setting boundaries, saying no and doing things that make me happy. I had some bumps in twenty-five but nothing serious. Now here I am at twenty-six and I think this will be the year of challenges. This will be the year where I have to show that I can fearfully say no and set boundaries. Maybe this is my year of saying yes (to things that help me) and things that I don't usually do.

Whatever comes I'm ready for it and will do my best to learn from it.

These last two weeks have been super rough and I wreck my brain daily trying to figure out what I'm doing, if I am doing the right thing, blah, blah, blah.

Here I am pushing through. Trying to sit with myself, sit in my darkness as Brené Brown says. I hope that 26 is life-changing for me, in a great way.

26 here we go. Be good to me, help me grow.

9:00 AM

New Mommy Monday! Meet Crystal and Charlee!

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Meet Crystal Drakeford, the mother of Charlee Marie. Crystal is an active member of
Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Incorporated (Hey Sorhor!) and a big advocate of
supporting our nation’s Veterans. Charlee Marie is a curious one-year-old who loves
making music with her mom’s pots and pans and enjoys bike rides with her dad. Keep
reading to hear about their wonderful transition from infant to toddler! 

     State your name and baby(ies) name

      Hello, my name is Crystal Drakeford and my daughter’s name is Charlee Marie and we are new residents of Charles County, Maryland.

     How long have you been a mommy? 

     I just reached the one year mark of being a mom. Yayyy!!! One down and a lifetime to go.

   What is your favorite thing about motherhood so far? 

   Something gets added to the list every day because Charlee is at that stage where she
is exploring and learning new things, and so am I. Charlee is teaching me to be the
best version of myself and she brings out the best in me!  It’s hard to pinpoint one
thing because motherhood is so pure and every moment is special.
From her warm hugs and excited eyes when I pick her up from daycare to the moment
she decides to share her favorite snack with me. As a mom, I cherish every second and I
look forward to our continuous journey. 

   What are you struggling with right now? 

 Charlee is a new toddler who is constantly exploring and experimenting, and it can be a
struggle with taking a proactive approach to the unknowns. We, of course, childproof
everything to reduce the opportunities for mischief and distraction, but Charlee somehow
finds a way to get into something. She laughs at me when I say “no” and sometimes it
hard for me to keep a straight face.

  What is your goal as a mother of color?

 My goal is to teach her self-love and provide her with the needed tools so she can be
anything she wants to be. I want to teach her that God directs her life and no one is
perfect; we are all beautiful creations of God and we each have a purpose. I want to
teach her our family history and keep her grounded in our culture and morals. I want her
to be reminded of her roots because even now, people ask me if she’s Asian due to the
shape of her eyes and skin tone. “No, she’s black!”

         How are you balancing your roles now that you have added motherhood?

I’m blessed to have a strong support team who is with me every step of the way. And you learn that you can’t always do everything, so prioritizing your to-do list definitely makes a difference. It gets hard sometimes because I work full time, I try to remain active in my sorority efforts, I try to stay in tune with my social life and I’m a fulltime, breastfeeding mom. I will always put my daughter’s needs first, so sometimes schedules can go completely out the window. I use to try to get everything done, and that’s not always the case when you have a little one depending on you. I learned that self-care includes saying “no” once in a while so you’re not stressed out and have more time for what’s important.

 Are there any experiences that are shaping your approach to motherhood?

   Every experience has an effect on what your next steps would be. Motherhood for me is full of the unknowns because I’ve never been a mom before, but I do my best in planning as much as I can. Also, being part of a mom tribe and reading blogs, such as this one, has helped me along the way. It has opened me up to a diverse way of approaching the different stages of motherhood.

  If you have any advice for a mother of color to be what would you tell them?

You’re not the first and you won’t be the last! Being a mother of color in today’s period requires being more than a mother. So continue to pray and remain strong. You Got This!

You can follow Crystal and Charlee on Instagram Here

5:33 PM

To Thee Only Sigma Gamma Rho.....or Delta Sigma Theta?

by , in

Black Greek life is so beautiful; founded in the face of adversity and a climate that resembles our society today, they brought so much to the lives of young and old Black Americans. While they are sororities and fraternities they are still businesses and run like such. Money is essential to our existence yes but the biggest piece of our continued existence is the tradition. Yes! Tradition is everything in the National Pan-Hellenic Council (NPHC) some of our organizations are over one-hundred years old while some will be celebrated 55 years this September.

I was blessed to join THE best sorority in the NPHC, that's right! Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Incorporated. We were founded November 12, 1922, at Butler University in Indianapolis, Indiana by seven school teachers. We are the only sorority in the NPHC not founded on the campus of Howard University. We have over 600 chapters including Germany and Japan. I became a member of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Incorporated (SGRho) in 2012 at the age of nineteen. Being apart of my organization the last six years has been everything and more, it has also been a way for Tatiyana and me to bond as we have two junior organizations that are made up of daughters, sisters, nieces, cousins, mentees, the list goes on. Recently, Tatiyana was inducted into the 'Rhosebuds'; they are ages 7-11 and when she is twelve she will transition in the 'Rhoers' our junior sorority that serves ages 12-18 where hopefully she will attend college and become a member of SGRho.

Our organizations are a way for us to instill pride, tradition, community, collegiate excellence, etc. to our children. We purchase them cute paraphernalia adorned with 'future *insert org* and take endless pictures and gush with tingly feelings as their little hands hold up our sign. Tradition is important to us, we see in the age of social media posts of new initiates posing alongside an old photo of their mom/dad that joined that same organization 25+ years before. There is great pride in watching an older soror help her daughter march to the probate area or watching as she pins her now soror. I watch that and say, "I hope I get to call my daughters 'SoRHOr' one day. Jamal talks about how he can't wait until our son goes to Bowie and joins Eta Zeta (Alpha Phi Alpha) like he did because he wants to have a son in his chapter like his two older bros have. (First off...nvm LOL)

The question always comes up though, "What if Tatiyana and Jahara join Delta or Zeta?"  I'm not going to lie I always tense up a bit, or when someone from another org asks Tatiyana to throw up their sign and she declines with, "That's not my organization." *Proceeds to hold up Sigma* (That's my girl!) I tell people, I'd rather her be the best AKA they have ever seen than to be the worst Sigma and tarnish our name." It's dramatic but its real, I want her happy. Even if that means we will not attend the legacy luncheons at Regional and boule. There have been many children who have decided on another organization and their greek parent(s) are okay with it and then there are some who cannot handle their child joining another organization.

A few weeks ago, a mother who is a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Incorporated published a lengthy backhanded compliment to her daughter for joining Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated. Many laughed at the post, many bashed her mother for even going to such great lengths and many said that she should just get over it. I could understand all sides of it, especially since two of my favorite cousins went on to join AKA and Delta, I chose SGRho. I understood this mother's hurt and I also understood how she was projecting her life unto her daughter.

When does it go from tradition to projection?

I am a firm believer in 'conscious parenting'; acknowledging your child as an individual versus an extension of you. Those who believe in conscious parenting refrain from things like "That's my mini-me." "you are a reflection of me." We take every opportunity we can to give space for our children to make choices and create their identity separate from ours. It is really a challenge; especially as a Black mother and one apart of an organization that thrives on tradition and legacy. It goes deeper than allowing for choice and creation of identity it is also a choice to be mindful of your interaction with your child(ren). How is your tone? what are your expectations? What is your self-regulation? So much of these things can truly improve the quality of the relationship with your child when you are mindful of your actions and remember they are human too. 

In fact, I hope that my decision to raise them with consciousness will draw them to SGRho or something that aligns with what I have encouraged them to adopt as their own values. Either way, life will go on and tradition will still continue...

I choose conscious parenting because I want for my daughters and me to have meaningful interactions. I want them to know that they have a reflective mother that will always prioritize the quality of our interactions versus making them following in my footsteps in everything. They may not go to college and that's okay. They may not be into Lacrosse or cheerleading and they may not join Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Incorporated and that's okay as well... I will support them but I only pay for ONE sorority lol. That's my boundary and Tatiyana knows that is the furthest I dare go...

As expected, you gain many friends being apart of a sorority in and outside of the actual organization. Many of my close friends are AKAs, Deltas, and Zetas (other NPHC Sororities) and I can count on them the same way I count on my sorors. Our letters bring us together and our character, personality, and love seal the bond. When I was pregnant, my closest Delta, Zeta and AKA sandz came all the way from New York just to help with the baby shower, finish up shopping and help set up the room for Jahara. It doesn't get any better than that. My kids refer to them as 'aunties' and I know that should anything happen to me (God forbid) my LS, sorors, and sister-greeks in my life will step up to the plate and be there for my family. I hope they're saving coins for their poodle nieces should they choose to join anything other than SGRho too, LOL.

As for those mothers who are heartbroken when their daughter choose another organization, that's okay. They have every right to feel that way it's how they express it which can make it damaging. I'm certain that the mother and daughter have a tight relationship especially with her daughter defending her which I respect. I hope that her mother finds peace in her decision and finds joy in her daughter being happy as a Delta than miserable as a Zeta. After all, our children are not our canvas to paint.

Are you a member of a Greek organization? what do you feel about your daughter choosing an organization other than yours?

9:19 AM

Black boy joy with a unique touch! Meet Tiffany and Caleb

by , in
Caleb is a happy 2 year-old boy (he will be 3 in June) who is a lover of cars, ABCs, 123s, colors, shapes, trains, music and just a few weeks ago, on March 21st, we were diagnosed with autism. I am Caleb’s mother and his diagnosis came after a long year of me being concerned and 5 months of me vehemently demanding answers and advocating for a diagnosis.

My initial concerns about Caleb started around when he was 18 months and were primarily based around issues with feeding, speech and his repetitive behaviors, which we used to call baby OCD. By the time he was 2 I had raised my concerns with two different pediatricians. Once at his 1 year check-up and again at his 2 year check-up. I was told we’d re-evaluate my concerns at his 2.5 year check-up to see if he would need speech therapy. Around this time, I was starting to mention my concerns to family and friends in an attempt to get validation of my feelings. I was usually met with statements that intended to comfort: “He’s a boy! They develop slower.” “Caleb does things in his own time; nothing’s wrong with that boy.” “He’s a normal toddler.” 

Caleb and Tiffany
Despite the intent, these words didn’t help. However, not everyone had the same response.  I was comforted by those around me who said, “You’re his mother. If he is diagnosed with something, that doesn’t change anything.” “Caleb is brilliant, who cares what the doctors say.” Those words are the words I focused on because at the end of the day I knew Caleb was different.  I never thought there was anything wrong—I just knew he was different. A mother always knows!

Almost immediately, I started researching autism and sensory processing disorder and I recognized my child in the stories even though none of the faces looked like his. I read up on successful and even famous people with autism and quickly realized that Caleb could and would have an extraordinary life but again none of the success stories looked like him. What saddened me is that the most successful people with autism were a result of early intervention, which I learned is not common in minority communities. It would be easy for me to blame the system but the more I thought about it, and the more I experienced, the more I realized that our own communities and ignorance played a role. What if I had listened to all those comments about Caleb being fine and just waited to see how he developed over time? His pediatrician definitely wasn’t as concerned as I was. What if I was afraid of a label and let my own fears deter me from following my intuition?

The only reason we ended up with our speech referral a month before he turned 2.5 was because he was dismissed from daycare for behavioral issues and the daycare’s director was kind enough (and brave enough) to say something is not right! Caleb is frustrated and he can’t communicate and you need to speak to your pediatrician. She knew that this wasn’t just terrible twos and so did I. That day I called the doctor and got our referral. Within the first two weeks of meeting with his speech therapist, Caleb was already speaking about 75% more.
This is when I knew that this was just the beginning of the journey for us. A journey I would document in great detail on my blog A Mama Bear and her Cub.

The following weeks were a world wind of advocating. I was given referrals for occupational therapy and the ear, nose and throat doctor. We got his hearing checked and got on a 6 month long waiting list to see a developmental pediatrician and the entire time it was only his speech therapist who mentioned that Caleb’s symptoms COULD be associated with autism. I persisted on, almost to the point where I felt bad for pushing the issue. I didn’t want to wish this on us but with each appointment only part of my concerns was addressed. It didn’t feel like anyone was giving me the whole picture. I still had so many questions, so many whys?

I am persistent by nature and once I get an idea or task in my mind, I am set on completing and completing it thoroughly. So although we were seeing specialists, I continued to do my own research. My blog opened up so many resources for me. I created a social media account specifically for A Mama Bear and her cub and followed and connected with all kinds of resources. I followed occupational therapists, speech therapists, mom blogs, autism awareness groups and sites. As a result, two pivotal people reached out to me.  
The first was an occupational therapist in Kansas who gave me advice on what to look for in not only therapists working with Caleb but also the type environment in which he received treatment. The other was ex-coworker and friend who had been touched by my blog because her son was diagnosed with autism a year ago and she had not shared that with anyone except her family. She reached out to thank me for my bravery.  She was another African American mother. My story mirrored hers so far—she was the validation that my mama bear instincts were right which was both scary and a huge relief.

She informed me that each state had FREE federal programs for autism screening and services and sent me the link to my agency here in Florida. She was the ONLY person who had ever given me this information. Until that day I had been paying the copays for my insurance to get Caleb his therapy. I thought about all the African American families who may not have insurance, who may not know about this FREE FEDERAL program that is in EVERY STATE and is for EVERYONE despite their economic status or their household income.  

In my opinion, this was yet another reason why I did not see images of people who looked like Caleb when I researched success stories of people with Autism. Were they not getting access to this early intervention program? The program I am referring to is called something different in each state, in Florida it’s called Early Steps and is available for children from birth to 3 years old. Every county has their own division typically associated with the local children’s hospital. I learned about this when Caleb was 2 years and 7 months old and he was enrolled right away.  I took advantage of the opportunity and in doing so we were able to get a diagnosis sooner than if we had to remain on that 6-month waiting list.

Getting a diagnosis is a WIN…PERIOD! It’s a win for the child and a win for the parents. This is a win because having a diagnosis opens up additional resources and opportunities for early intervention. Autism is not a disease but if identified early  it can be treated with various therapies and assistance from professionals for both the children and their parents. What parent doesn’t want or need additional assistance?! Additional love and attention poured into these babies who absorb everything is always a win in my book. Children with autism are not less than— they are just different. And they need people who will think outside the box and take the time to get into their world to help them navigate through it.

Did I cry? ABSOLUTELY! The morning of the appointment I had my game face on, I gave myself a pep talk. I even asked my mom, who accompanied me that day, “Are you ready?”  I laugh now because I was the one who wasn’t ready. The minute I heard the words “I am diagnosing Caleb with moderate level 2 autism” I fell apart. I was not ready. It’s never easy to hear that your child may have it harder than the rest. The facts are he is a BLACK BOY IN AMERICA WITH AUTISM. The sentence alone is frightening without the autism aspect and that just compounds it.

I took my 5 minutes of heart break (maybe it lasted the rest of the day) and then got back to being a mama, a ferocious mama bear in fact. My research will always continue, as long as there is air in me. There is nothing that I won’t find and track down to help Caleb live his best life. I am so excited to continue to advocate for my child. It is a power beyond what I even experienced when I became a mother. It is a fire that burns in me to protect and educate by any means necessary. I don’t need to keep on looking for people that look like Caleb who have done great things because he will be great regardless. It is my hope that he will be the face for others. It is my hope, that by advocating and taking every opportunity such as this one to write our story that parents don’t let fear stand in their way. Autism is going to be a lot of work, I know that. I accept that. But it is not going to define Caleb or his life. Every day he develops a little more and it’s a great joy to watch.

Toni Morrison once said “If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, you must be the one to write it.”

I’ve already started writing and it won’t stop anytime soon.

You can connect to Tiffany and Caleb on their blog Here and on Instagram

April is Autism awareness month, for more information on autism awareness for Black children visit: Autism In Black