#SantaTatianna: Mother Divine & Baby Magick

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Name: Tatianna

Birth place: Fortuna, California

Current Residency: New Orleans, Louisiana

Occupation: Owner of MyUrbanIllumination.com, Tarot Reader & Healer/Spiritual Therapist

What was your upbringing? What is your cultural background?

I was raised in Brooklyn, NY my whole life - my parents were in the military when they had me and immediately flew back home once I arrived but divorced shortly after. As a result, my father gained full custody and i never established a relationship with my mother’s family until recently. My father’s end is predominantly Puerto Rican, with heavy Afro-Taino heritage & some Spaniard + Chilean influences, whereas my mother is Black, Native American, Polynesian w/ Indonesian roots. I grew up in the hood, living in the projects of Bedstuy and absolutely loving every minute of it. It was a melting pot of blacks and latinos so I had the best of both worlds & culture in my home. My father is an artist and was very adamant on exposing me to other forms of life, art, music, and cultures one could not access in the hood at a very young age, so we always spent our weekends visiting museums, traveling or doing fun activities that kept my brain sharp.

Are any of the women or men in your family (ancestors included) involved in spiritual work/divination?

My father is technically an open Medium but a non-practicing one. It’s a skillset that suddenly came to him once my grandfather passed and he’s still navigating its realms but it’s definitely one that intimidates him and one that he has no control of. He’s the only one I’m aware of from that lineage that has been consciously open to the spirit world and spirit work, but hasn’t truly dived into it. On my mother’s end, my aunts and uncles have revealed to me that Magick runs heavily in our blood line. My Great-Grandmother & Grandmother practiced the dark arts consciously in their younger years and since seeing the reprocussions of such actions have claimed a more religious life. I have also been told that my Mother has practiced dabbling in magic but I’m not aware of the extent as my family can be hush-hush about these things. I am aware that I had a great-aunt that passed in her younger years and was well versed in Tarot, so it certainly runs on both ends.

So when did you know you were called to this? Do you mind sharing your journey?

Magick has always been a prevalent force in my life. Raised by a Pisces dad, I was exposed to the possibilities of other worlds existing through quantum physics, various ways of connecting to ourselves spiritually and knowing that we’re more than just a physical body. Our home was filled with books on Edgar Cayce, Nostradamus, Buddhism, Taoism, Creative Visualization, How to read Auras and balance Chakras, etc, so I was exposed to spirituality, healing and the power of our minds at a very early age. I was supported to discover my own path in all aspects of life and was allowed freedom to explore whatever spiritual practices and traditions that I most resonated with as long as they came with good & pure intentions. Essentially, I was taught that we are all interconnected and in many ways, most practices if not all, have commonalities that make them the same, just varying in personal mythologies, pathways and perspectives.

Knowing this, I dived into particular practices that I feel best exemplified my connection to the divine. Ancestral wise, my Puerto-Rican grandma always made “remedios,” herbal remedies that were home-made conjure healing tinctures that served to cure or aid people with their intentions because she was raised in “el campo,” which is essentially the nature ghettos of P.R, parts that were deemed “uncivilized” and some what primitive compared to the industrial parts of the land. I gained the love for learning about herbs and mixing my own tinctures and oils from her and our Afro-Latino customs. She is Christian (Catholic) with an open mind, often curious about magic yet held some resistance towards it, especially Santeria since her exposure was generally negative and taboo. Her compassion and acceptance for all walks of life and skepticism towards Santeria, made me more of a curious person to want to dive in and explore African Spirituality and ancestral magic as a tool for self-transformation and healing.

With Tarot in particular, I ended up discover a deck of cards as a child in her home and playing with them as if I could read cards (playing cards mind you). No one ever taught me or introduced me into divination. It was an organic process and an innate attraction that I’ve always had in me. I also would read palms at that age, with no explanation of what i was doing. I thought it was a game at the time and i never questioned why i was playing it, lol. I curiosity of this world kept growing and i would read books on paganism and meditation, worked in spiritual shops from my teens and onward and read there as a Tarot practitioner while learning how to perform spells & ritual work for clients. Spirituality & Magic has always been a part of my life.

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What was the event or moment that confirmed this was your calling?

There was never a definitive time where I realized this is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I focused a majority of my life dancing professionally and teaching dance, while doing Tarot on the side but it wasn’t until my father mentioned that I could really create it into a great online business, after listening to an NPR interview w/ a woman who had quit her corporate job to start an online tarot business. The impact that my readings have on the lives of others, sustains me and lets me know that I’m serving one of my many purposes. But I believe that I have many callings in life, not just this one.

How did you come up with Urban Illumination?

I got the idea from working in several Metaphysical, Botanica & Spiritual shops throughout the years and feeling like they were missing something. Either the market was wicked gentrified and Spirituality was being sold as a lifestyle gimmick or the environment was unwelcoming or there wasn’t enough education that empowered customers to learn or know more of this world. I envisioned My Urban Illumination as a platform that would appeal those from all walks of life and educate them on various spiritual traditions and practices that can help empower their path, strengthen their connection to Spirit and demystify the truth of these practices. I was inspired by my neighborhood in Bedstuy, and how it would be amazing to have some spiritual outlet in an urban environment that focused on mindfulness, conscious growth and spiritual knowledge of self, hence, My Urban Illumination.

What makes you different from other energy workers?

A couple of things: I’ve been doing this for over 2 decades, so I didn’t just venture into the practice when it became popularized within the past couple of years. Magic has always been a part of my story and life, perhaps that’s why so many people connect with my messages, because i’ve accumulated enough references and experience to write about over time and make it relatable to others on a universal level. I also consider myself a well-rounded person, who has interests and talents other than spiritual/energy work. Sometime energy workers can tie themselves into an identity where they only associate with spiritual matters. I’m a down-to-earth person with many interests and passions that i communicate about and can integrate into my spiritual practice. It’s good for people to know that you’re realistic and approachable, rather than all this love & light fluff. I’m still a Brooklyn girl at heart that’s testing out what she preaches and sometimes gets it wrong too.

What are your rituals to keep yourself balanced and in tuned?

It’s more of the simple things that work for me. I engage in intentional prayer when I wake, over the food and drinks I take and before I sleep, is a must. I take my time in the morning to relax with my fiance and we both check in energetically on how we’re feeling, what we’re setting out to do for the day while eating breakfast, cuddling and pulling each other’s cards. We also pray together regarding what we are grateful for and what we are looking to create in our lives; i see this more of claiming what you want and projecting gratitude and appreciation as well. This keeps us grounded and aware of our ancestors, spirits and higher selves - and is a link that keeps us connected. I take frequent spiritual baths to cleanse myself from all the work and energy I’ve been doing with clients and from picking up around town and I enjoy using spiritual sprays w/ blessed water & herbs as a refreshment. Also, frequently checking in with my Babalawo, which is a close friend of ours, also helps to keep me balanced and on the right path.

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What are the various spiritual paths that you pull from to create your own center of beliefs?

I find that all spiritual paths share a common thread, which is their connection to Source energy & that consciousness is embedded in us all. So the study of consciousness & quantum physics, has always been a part of my path from a spiritual/scientific standpoint. It helps me understand the mechanics behind my power as a spirit being in a physical body. I pull predominantly from African-Spiritual practices & belief systems, including Ifa, some Haitian Vodou ideologies and now that i’m in New Orleans, I’m increasingly incorporating Hoodoo practices into my everyday life.

When did you discover you were with child/pregnant? Do you mind sharing your experience? Was it a conscious or unconscious conception?

February 1st, the day that Beyonce made her official announcement with the twins funny enough, I had purchased a pregnancy test that I took while on a quick 15 min break from an online Astrology course I was taking. I had suspicions that I could be pregnant but since Jay & I took precautionary measure, I thought perhaps I could just have have a late cycle - but the test came out positive. It was an overwhelming experience because we didn’t plan it but I can’t say that the baby didn’t go unnoticed. I had received guidance from 4 intuitives/psychics prior to me moving to New Orleans that all picked up on a child. Also the time I had conceived #babymagic was the very same time a year prior that I had experienced a loss, in which I was advised through one my spirit guides that a child would arrive once I could learn from the experience and be more savvy with the spirit realm. I was told that my future child would guide me, so although initially I felt apprehensive about the pregnancy, I quickly grew to accept and love this blessing. This is why I gave her the label #babymagic, because in many ways, she was prophesied to me.

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Now that you are soon-to-be mom how has it affected your work?

I’m honoring myself more than ever, whereas I used to throw myself into my work and disregard boundaries, my personal energy and need for breaks. I’ve gotten fearless in communicating my expectations and demands, more creative in my approach, more confident in my own judgement and intuition and certainly more respectful of my time, space and energy - especially now that my daughter is sharing that. I have had a boost of drive and passion, to the point that I can see myself dedicating time to a trillion other side projects but most importantly being pregnant has shown me how to slow down and honor this gradual pace. I’m not working at the same speed as I have before but as result, I’ve been happier and mentally healthier.

Do you mind sharing your expectations and/or fears in becoming a mother?

I expect to conquer it all with my child and to introduce to her that it’s possible with will power, discipline and love. I don’t anticipate slowing down in my path just because I’m a mother, having a child empowers me to do it all and I’m excited to show this world to her, as I didn’t have my own mother to show me. I want her to know the power of magic that lies within her and to guide her in using it to transform the world around her. I have no fears; everything is in divine order and I was made for this.

What have you learned about yourself thus far during your pregnancy?

Ha! This is something Jay and I both learned individually of each other, and that is, we’re too nice. Boundaries were important before but now that I’m in mama lioness mode, they’re more important more than ever. I used to be tactful and direct in delivering my messages but now I don’t care. I’m unapologetic with expressing what I like/ don’t like, who I like and don’t like and taking extra measure to protect myself and my family. I now recognize the power of my voice and everyday the power of my being as a whole. The fact that I have the ability to conceive a child is still surreal to me. It makes me feel unstoppable in many ways, so I’m learning that there’s just so much I can be achieving and I’ve barely scratched the surface.

Has your little one intuitively spoken to you and if so, do you mind sharing one experience you feel comfortable sharing?

She’s speaks all the time, telepathically! I joke to people and say that i’m birthing a dragon, a powerhouse of sorts but I truly believe it. Our connection has been immediate from the start and she contains immense fire energy, an undeniable commanding presence mixed with grace and playful curiosity.

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What would you define as a healthy spirit worker?

Someone who can discern what is the truth for themselves and doesn’t force others to follow their views but empowers them to discover their own connection to spirit. They enforce proper boundaries to respect themselves & others.

Define Motherhood

The ability to access an innate energy of possibility and creativity within and to hone that through love, accountability and action. It is acknowledgement and respect towards the responsibilities one has with their manifestations, physical and non-physical and the awareness that they can do it all as a woman. It is the sacrifice one takes to cultivate a better, more conscious version of themselves in their child. It is seeing the beauty in every experience and how that gives birth to something greater in retrospect.

Define Femininity

The ability to flow with what is, trusting in the magic of the universe and to be receptive to one’s power as a channel of spirit. It is the power of being and containing all possibilities in one.

Define Power

The ability to influence others through your own actions, emotions and thoughts. A force that wills us to manifest our dreams and desires.

Define Spirituality

One’s personal connection to the divine and how they perceive themselves as part of the divine.

Define Love

Peaceful acceptance and appreciation of what is. A resonance with your truth and what is right for you.

Define Wisdom

Timeless resources or advice you can use to help you evolve from your current state of being.

What are some words of wisdom you would share for someone pursuing this path?

This path is an ever evolving one. Who you were 2 weeks ago isn’t who you are now, accept that change is inevitable and don’t resist it. Take sacred time to learn yourself more than ever before, to ask yourself deep introspective questions and to remain a healthy skeptic. Accept all forms of who you show up to be in this body, as you gracefully learn how to create which one is most appropriate for you. And in all transitions, be fearless in your quest for truth, never compromise your own gut and feelings. You know what’s best for you.

IF you don't know yet... Do you think it's a Boy or Girl?

#BabyMagic is a firey Girl!!!

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#BirthPains: Anthony Crawford Adamick

Name: Anthony Crawford Adamick

Age: 34

Birth place: Boston, MA

Occupation: Photographer and Motivational Speaker

"My goal is to capture and tell an amazing story in images. Story telling is what drives me.  Whether it’s creating a photo project to shed light on a issue, a brand, shooting portraits, street and travel photography or just hanging out with friends and family. everyone has a story and I want to capture it. 

In a world of “snapshots” and uninteresting photos, please allow me to capture your story and leave you with images that make you feel their emotions and live on forever."

What do you say to man that has been practically been through so much but didn't break? An overcomer. And Anthony Crawford Adamick is just that, an overcomer. He has been through abandonment of his father before his birth, abuse from his step father, infidelity from his ex-wife, depression and more. But one thing that stayed consistent was being a father to his children, his father was never was for him. You truly don't know a person until you become adults. In that time I saw Anthony started doing photography. I saw his development and was extremely impressed on how he grew in his craft. Eventually I would ask him if he wanted to be featured on my blog and he more then agreed to be interviewed. But I didn't know what he was about to share. 

Let me first say, after our interview I was honored that he felt comfortable enough to share his story on this platform. So I will like to publicly say thank you and hope I do your story justice.

I was extremely depressed. I didn't have the motivation to do anything. On top of that I had found out that my wife had cheated on me and that the baby she was carrying wasn't mine. I left everything behind in Connecticut and moved back to Boston. Sleeping on my sisters couch and struggling with anxiety attacks. So I just randomly picked up an old camera and went on a journey on taking pictures. I needed to do something and started shooting pictures and my mind wasn't bothered by all that I was dealing with. Then someone told me that I wasn't good enough and suggested I give it up. But I didn't listen and eventually it is what you see today. It helps me to get out of my head. I love the power to be able to tell a story and discovered I can make income from my passion. This year I will be backpacking in July to Haiti to capture positive imagery of the people and it's land. No I'm not Haitian but I've always had a strong gravitation to the culture for some reason; and some of my friends are Haitian. I dislike the imagery and propaganda that they circulate about Haiti and I want to be part of changing that.

My childhood wasn't easy. My father abandoned me before I was born and my step father was abusive. So I never had a relationship with my father. Down the years I was later told I was molested by a teacher who ended up being locked up for his crime. I would have a difficult time in school because of it, I was told. I don't remember it maybe bc I was young or I just shut that memory out. Something I became a master at doing. Eventually as time went on I realized crying was a good outlet in dealing with a lot of things I was going through. So many men are shamed for crying but it's therapeutic. I let it out and then I am able to move on bc I have released that feeling.

Through my experience I define family as as supportive unit that come into your life to be positive influence. Someone who is willing to be supportive. It does not need to be defined by blood. It's people who have been there for you. It is a spiritual connection you have with the people who come in your life.

But in attempting to define fatherhood and even family is very difficult for becasue I trully never had that. So I am in a journey of self-awareness. It is very hard to just hug my son at times. I have to tell myself to hug my son becasue I never had that. So being a father is an ongoing process for me.

My life statrted changing once I had the understanding I wasn't less than. As a father there is pressure, especially when not having one in your own life; to not be like the ones who weren't in my life. And I had to realize I had to create peace within myself to be a good father. Being self-aware, knowing my flaws; realizing who I was and stop making excuses and realizing all that doesn't matter. Everything you go through doesn't dictate where you are or will be. You can be whoever you want to be. Once you start jumping into life but you must embrace fear. LEAP EVERYDAY. HAVE FAITH  AND THINGS WILL START OPENING FOR YOU. Your blessings will meet you at your level of courage. Your faith in yourself and God will open doors.

My goal is to be a motivational speaker and photography is the pipeline towards that. I want to help people change their perspective of themselves . Something I've done my whole life. I love inspiring others and that's what I'm doing now, everyday.

Anthony is a full time photographer focused on changing the narrative of the downtroddenthrough photo stories. Hi is currently teaching photography at Putnam middle school in Cambridge ma. He helps small businesses with their marketing and social media. Anthony's photography expertise is in corporate and commercial photography. He is scheduled to talk at a "today at Apple event". He has shot for brands like Microsoft and Pillpack. he is headed to Haiti next month to work on a personal photography project. Anthony's fine art pieces have been displayed and sold through different galleries in the city and is currently in a accelerated business program. You can see more of his work her in his website http://www.ovstills.com/ or his instagram at @ovstills.

#FutureFemmeSage: Stephanie "Be" Joseph

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"There is a secret in our culture and it’s not that birth is painful, but that women are strong” Laura Stavoe

I knew I was called to Midwifery before I even knew what Midwifery was.  

Let's take a blast to the past when I told my sisters how important it was for me to have their placentas after giving birth. If they didn't want it, that is. They were both confused and per usual thought i was crazy. As the middle child of 5, being crazy was nothing new to me. Something shifted in me that day. Honestly I don't know how I even knew about placentas. Maybe i heard it somewhere, or maybe it was the sweet whisper from my beloved spirit. The research began shortly after. From watching animals give birth on the animal planet. To watching women give birth on TLC. My mother who is a nurse. Even took me with her to work on bring your daughter to work day. Which of course this was the perfect opportunity to ask as many questions as i could think of.

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Growing up I have always been aware of my divine feminine energy and the ability i had to strongly express myself. Which as a young Haitian women came with its obstacles. I was also quick to notice when other young women were not able to channel their inner voices. I stood up for those women, and we grew into our bodies together. I strongly believe that we all should stand together, empower, up lift, guide, encourage and support one another. It is through this that we will be guided back to our roots and the divinity within one another.

The fascination of reproductive health continued as i journeyed through a Vo Tech High School focused on Healthcare. Convinced that I was going to be a OB-GYN. Shortly after doing research I became aware of how much conventional schooling i would have to endure. Which I was not excited about at all. I was not aware of the different paths that could be taken to become a midwife, or even having the option to be a Doula. Without even knowing i Doula-ed for a friend in high school. I didn’t get to keep her placenta, but it was a life changing experience.

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After graduating from high school I returned to teach a “Girls 101” class. Where I facilitated a sacred therapeutic space for young teens to express themselves and showcase their creativity through dance. I feel in love with the sacred sisterhood, the trust, the transformation with all of the inside work that was being done. I wanted to do more.The question was how? Our classes came to an end. These amazing young women all left to graduate. I left with my hair chopped off and a whole new perspective of life.

Avoiding the conventional schooling I found myself journeying through beauty school where i believed that this was a part of the transformation for women. I thought this could suffice my calling to become a Midwife. After becoming licensed as a cosmetologist and working in a few hair salons. I knew this just wasn’t enough. My spirit was not satisfied.

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My soul work ignited the day my niece transitioned to the physical world.  I supported my sister in every way that i could, but it just didn't feel like enough.  I felt very strong that the treatment she received at the hospital could’ve been better. In so many ways.  Was it because she was a young black women? Did they think she was uneducated?? Why were so many nurses involved? Why were there so many people in the room?  So many questions fluttered my mind.

With the belief that the environment you are born into sets the tone for the rest of your life. I took a vow this day to honor that belief. To find the answers to those questions and support other women, their families and mine too. So we are armed with knowledge to make informed decisions. That aren’t made from fear.

“ If you don’t know your options, you don’t have any” . After searching for a Doula training that would align with my philosophy, I later trained with Ancient Songs Doula Services with Chanel- Porchia and Patricia Thomas based in Brooklyn NY. Then I volunteered at a local hospital as a Doula for young moms.The universe threw me in shortly after that I trained with Mercy In Action with the Penwells based in Idaho. I become a Certified Childbirth Educator through GentleBIrth Institute. I’ve trained with Boston Doula ProjectPAIL with Nnkea Hall and ROSE. Along this journey I have been blessed to have met so many amazing humans. Built some amazing sisterhoods.  

So much has been learned. I am fortunate to have been able to quiet my mind and open my heart to such a magical calling.

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Currently I am Doula-ing all over Massachusetts and apprenticing with some local phenomenal midwives . I’m assisting mamas everywhere. Hosting sacred meetups for mamas

“ Just Be- Mamas United ” where women can come together and build with each other. My goal is to continue supporting mamas in my community. Create networks to connect women and families. It truly takes a village!

Being haitian to me is somewhere in between being bold and being humble. Sorry Kendrick sometimes I don’t feel like sitting down. Haiti was the first colony to gain it’s independence in 1804. I have the blood of warriors flowing through my veins. Goosebumps take over whenever I think of this. Being haitian to me means being connected to the sounds of the drums that my ancestors danced their way into freedom to. Being haitian means we all eat when mom cooks,  no one is left out. Being haitian means dancing once you hear kompa. Being haitian is enjoying the sweet taste of sugar cane. Being haitian is listening to your mom when she has a dream. Being haitian is serenity in the ability to allow creole to flow freely through my mouth. The language created by my people.  Being haitian reminds me to Just Be - Just Be still and allow the energy of my people to guide me and walk with me as my heart beats purposely.

My hopes for Haiti’s reproductive health system is to continue training midwives and educating haitian people. I hope to take part in one of these trainings.  Unfortunately Haiti has one of the highest maternal death rate. Which leave many children orphaned in their first weeks of life. This is scary. The reality is we need more help, we need more hands on deck. This needs to change and I hope to be apart of this!

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If you can give one piece of advice in terms of becoming and/or being a midwife what would it be?

Whether Midwifery is a calling or a hobby stay open to whatever your path needs from you to unfold.

If you were a superhero what would your power be?

My superpower would be my intuition. I'd be Intuitive Girl.

Birth is... a right of passage

Womanhood is... my identity.

Motherhood is... a Journey

What is your favorite part of your body and why?

My feet because they bravely takes the lead and guides me to places where I'm sometimes not ready to be .

If you could live anywhere on earth, where would you live?

Somewhere warm, where I can walk barefoot, swing in a hammock and enjoy ocean/mountain views.

What’s your favorite song and why?

I get out- Lauryn Hill. Always a refreshing reminder to release myself from conforming to the boxes society tends to place us in.

What is the best thing about your life right now?

The best thing about my life right now is certainly my journey of healing thyself. 

What do you do for self care?

Self care for me is a daily practice. I wake up really early every morning and meditate. It’s vital for me to open myself up to the day and set the tone. Throughout the day, I remember to check in with myself to assure I am getting what I need emotionally, physically, spiritually and mentally.

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Motherhood. Haiti. Fashion. #ManmanKreyol

Name: Joelle Fontaine

Birth place: Port-Au-Prince, Haiti

Current Residency: Boston, MA

Occupation: Fashion Designer/ Entrepreneur

I became a mother when I was 20 years old. My son was breech and I had low amniotic fluid, so I had to have a c-section. I went in one morning see my doctor and set an appointment for the c-section five days later, and then that same evening- I went into labor. The experience was interesting. I gave birth at a teaching hospital, so I was surrounded by students on the operating table. I couldn’t see the operation (of course). I probably would have gone into shock to see a baby being removed from my body. But, I could feel everything. I was awake. My ex-husband was taping the whole experience and was fascinated, telling me when the doctors were taking out my uterus and what it looked like. I felt pulling and tugging- no pain (I had been given the epidural) but lots of pressure. The room was bright (too bright) and it felt somewhat impersonal to have all of these students at the front row of such a personal, private moment in my life. But, once I heard my son cry, nothing really mattered. Everything was Perfect!... Isaiah Gabriel Jean-Fontaine was born at 12:01 a.m. on April 27th, 2001, and my whole world was transformed.

Through motherhood, I have learned that I am enough. I think we often think we have to be perfect- especially in our culture. There are so many stigmas as to who you “should” be-- how you “should” raise your children. As a young mom, I was really afraid that I would fail. I thought of myself as such an irresponsible human being and now I was gifted with this child. What if I messed his whole world up? What if I couldn’t handle it? I knew nothing about taking care of a baby. Hell, I was a baby… I remember the 1st time he got sick with a cold and I placed Vick’s vapor rub on his chest. He immediately turned bright red and started screaming on top of his lungs. We were alone and I had no idea what to do. I started to rub it off his chest but he continued to wail and then I began to cry right along with him. He was maybe 3 months old. When it was said and done, he was left with a rash all over his chest that then turned into a scar. I was devastated.

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Today, at 16, there is no scar on his chest. So many things that I thought were major mistakes on my part, he has no idea ever happened- no recollection. But, what he does remember is me loving him, listening to him, speaking to him like a human being- treating him like a friend, and teaching him about God. It’s all the simple things that have shaped him and made all the difference in our world. He never needed me to be supermom (those are societal views we unconsciously adopt). Me simply being there and loving him was more than enough.

My hope for my son is that he lives a life where he is blissfully happy. That sounds like a simple thing, but think to yourself how many people you know that are truly living out their purpose in life, making a good living doing so and being used by God to the fullest. We are all here for a reason- all a part of the bigger picture. My hope is that he finds his purpose quickly and spends his life fulfilling it. That is happiness.

My son taught me to let things go and to love unconditionally- not only others, but most importantly- he taught me how to love myself.

I honestly don’t think I can describe this in words what it means to be Haitian. It’s not exactly something you read and/or write. It’s something you feel. It’s coconut juice running down your chin, or picking sugar cane fibers from your teeth, or the smell of salty water mixed with fried fish and bannan. It’s that feeling you get on the inside when a Kompa song is playing and that funny sounding instrument comes on and your fingers motion like you’re playing the guitar. It’s that moment when you’re tired as hell at 3am but you stay up til 6am to finish your paper because “good” is never good enough. “Best” is the only option. It’s when everything seems to be going wrong and all of the elders (and now you and your friends) gather up for jeune and bring it all to God. It’s a father working 20-30 years as a taxi driver to put his kids through school and to provide a good home for his wife (because education, ownership, legacy is everything). It’s resilience at the face of adversity- community above all.

I am a Haitian woman living in America, because I am highly influenced by Haitian culture to the core. It’s a really interesting dynamic actually because both cultures have shaped me, but I had somewhat of an identity crisis on my hands trying to define and figure out where I belong in the spectrum. I have never felt at home in America, but when I go to Haiti, even though I was born there-  I am a foreigner- diaspora. They call me “Ti fi blanc”, which means “white girl”. So, for a while, I never felt like I belonged anywhere-- that is until I realized that “home” is within. So I am influenced by both Haiti and America. I am Haitian born, have lived in America for almost 30 years, but til’ this day I am still a permanent resident- not a citizen- also known as an “alien”. So, that is what I identify myself as- an alien.

I think Haitian women/ mothers are regal. I am reminded of the older Haitian women back home I’d see on their way to the market early in the morning with their baskets on their heads- no hands- back straight- beautifully patterned garments. The clothes may be torn, but they are always clean. That’s what I think of Haitian women-- hard-working beings that do what they got to do, and even when everything is not peachy, they still hold their heads up high like the queens they are.

My mom has taught me many things, but without ever saying a word- she has taught me to be a virtuous woman and a great mom. With her sacrifices and resilience, she has been such an awesome example of strength and character. Most importantly- my mom has allowed me to be myself. That is the greatest gift that any parent can give to their children-- acceptance and room for them to truly be who they are and to flourish into who they are destined to be.

My hope for Haiti is that more of the diaspora returns home to build-- to work with the youth to change the mindset that has permeated our culture since the beginning of time. Colonialism has taught us to resent ourselves (maybe not out right, but there’s an underlying complex) Haitians are not taught to acquire education and return home to contribute to development, economic growth, urban planning in the ways that other foreign groups (such as Asians or Indians) do with their countries. In Haiti, we go to the US, Paris, Canada, get our education and stay there to build someone else’s territory. We have a beautiful country, with many resources and the potential for success. Everyone else sees that but us. Foreigners are building businesses in Haiti and taking over, while we are sleeping. There have been talks of Haiti becoming an American territory. How devastating that would be!! To be the first liberated black republic only to give up that legacy to American rule? My hope for Haiti is reconstruction of not only the land itself but of the values of the people.

My style is honest. I dress how I feel. Sometimes it’s simple and quiet and other times it’s bold and damn right obnoxious. It just depends on how I feel that day. But, I believe that my style is always rooted with vintage inspiration from my upbringing- the women I saw growing up, going to church with large hats and lace gloves, bold colors and patterns, heels with full a-line skirts. I have partnered that with my love of Asian cultural elements and masculine androgynous touches to create a style that fits ME. I love lace dresses and combat boots (Yes. Together) and men’s jackets with heels, wide brim bowler hats with fitted dresses. I believe that I am an oxymoron by nature and my style is a reflection of my being.

Though I have always loved and admired fashion, I did not out seek to have a career in this industry. For most of my youth, I was in love with architecture. I thought I was going to be a major architect building stucco homes in Cap Haitien, Italy and South of France :) Fashion chose me. I started to sew simply as means to express my creativity and just stay sane when I was home with my son in his early years. It turned out to be my gift. Fashion is great as a means of expression, but what attracts me the most to the industry is the possibility for forward advancement and economic growth through garment production and artistry. I always saw my work as a way for me to one day be able to go back to Haiti and contribute to the economic development of women. 

I Am Kreyol is a high fashion label that utilizes fashion as a means for social impact. Our goal is to utilize beautiful design and garment production as a catalyst for change for disenfranchised women in the US, Haiti and abroad. We aim to teach production skills to impoverished women so that are equipped with the means for sustainable living through art. We are a small company, but growing quickly. Most recently we were featured as one of the top Haitian designers to know by Teen Vogue (http://www.teenvogue.com/gallery/haitian-designers-to-know-about) and named “Best of Boston” in fashion by the Improper Bostoninan (http://www.improper.com/bostons-best/2016/fashion/clothing-designer/joelle-jean-fontaine/).

When All Odds Bring About Balance... #MAAT

@tinyandbrave

@tinyandbrave

I have now existed and lived for 36 years on this earth. I am blessed . I am humbled. I am grateful. And I will try to celebrate everyday possible.

It's been a year since I decided I would share my journey as a single mother pursuing her dreams of becoming a midwife. I wanted to share with you the four lessons I have learned in this year. The four lessons that stood out for me. The number 4 is the number of stability, order and completion of justice. So here is mines:

1. "Become comfortable with the uncomfortable." Dr. Eric Mason. On June 29th I landed in Dallas with my daughter to live in the home of a friend. It was a very difficult decision but I had to humble myself if I truly believe this was the path I was to pursue. Being a single woman in her 30's with a toddler; you want to avoid making a decision that will affect the well being of your child. My living situation was a private bedroom but shared common areas, with barely no privacy or the freedom to be me. I would beat myself many of times of the decision I made. I should be married, in love, own my own home, and pregnant with my 2nd child by my standard of success. I couldn't find a stable job in Dallas that would allow me to apprentice and provide for my daughter and I. People who thought who were friends began to distant themselves. And I was alone and homesick majority of the time. Many times I wanted to pack my stuff and move back to Philadelphia regretting my decision. In the mean time, I would study in the middle of the night while my daughter would sleep while having to wake up the next day to work for a bi-weekly stipend that didn't cover our needs.

After six months I relocated to Austin, Texas to work at a Birthing Center while my daughter stayed with my mother in Connecticut for a few months. The hardest part was when I would call and facetime her at night and she would refuse to speak to me. I felt as though she was forgetting who her mother was or thinking I wasn't her mother anymore. Was I fucking up my daughter's life and/or development? Was she angry at me? Did she feel abandoned by me? What was I missing seeing her do for the first time or how was she progressing or the lack of. But in the meantime I kept hustling and kept looking for work. Two weeks in Austin I released from my duties from the Birthing Center because they felt I was too green for the position as a birth assistant in a fast pace environment. Once again at that very moment I questioned all my decisions to move to Texas. But as quickly it came it quickly left and I wouldn't allow myself to feel sorry for myself and I did what I knew best-hustle. As I was walking out the building of that birth center I was sending emails to every possible midwife in Austin I knew and could find. By Thursday that week I found a new apprenticeship with two midwives for the price of one!!! It wasn't paying but it was better then the original plan. Most apprentice struggle just to find one preceptor let alone two.  I am TENACIOUS.

@tinyandbrave

@tinyandbrave

2. Pay attention to your bad habits. I have never been able to stay at a job longer than two years. I admire folks who have been able to stay at their jobs for years. It is the skill of mastery. But for me I get bored very easily. Eventually I feel stagnate and a need for a new challenge. I needed to know that in whenever in serving my community there is no glass ceiling but that is the case in social service. I would always feel I would hit a wall which limit the extent of how I can help the people I serve. Reason why I still haven't gotten my license as a counselor after receiving my masters because then I would be force to adhere to the regulations of the state like placing a time limit on how long I can counsel someone. With midwifery I would constantly be challenged and learn something new.

I also think my inability to stay somewhere speaks of enterprising spirit who's a late bloomer, lol! I had to look back in  my past life and currently and saw I found joy in creating, motivating, and giving. I love inspiring others to be the best they can be. By nature I am passionate-for people and life. I see every challenge as an opportunity and I am constantly optimistic. I have come to accept adaptability. I am willing to take risk and execute, even when the fear of failure is singing in my ear. I rather fail trying then fail by not trying at all. But if truth be told if I try it's just another opportunity to solve an opportunity. 

There's so much I would love to share with you but I know I must also be patient. And many times some of those ideas and visions are just that and not meant to become more. So currently I am learning to distinguish what should be tossed to my mental trash? What should be delegated to someone else? What should be worth my time? What should be done now vs., later? Learn that NOW but don't be afraid to make mistakes and learn from them. I am a VISIONARY.

@tinyandbrave

@tinyandbrave

3. Rejection can be a beautiful gift/surprise for something better. I did not allow myself to be distracted by temporary obstacles. You see I was willing to be homeless for my dreams/purpose; crazily-sane and in love with the process/journey. Don't be fooled by what's before you bc what's before you maybe just a distraction from what's really happening on your behalf. See through the filters, that we live in a world where God created and operates in ABUNDANCE. Don't let fear be your roadblock. Approaching the alters of this earth in this perspective, attracts all that is meant for you. 

People will tell you no or what they think for you. But will you accept what they say? Will you allow them to make their truth your truth? Whatever that area maybe - career, family, love, etc., that you're trying to obtain will you take the NO's personal or as protection? I have realized that many opportunities that I've tried to make happen were not really meant for me or I just wasn't ready to receive at that time. Now in my life that's how exactly how I see no's as... either I'm being protected from something, I'm not ready and/or there's something better... or I just simply create my own door, create from my very own obstacles and/or need within my community. My obstacles are usually my biggest motivation. I am an OVERCOMER.

4. Love hard while protecting your magic. Be genuine in all that you do no matter what and who opposes that. But be wise and intuitive on how you share yourself with people. Everyone will not be happy for you and sadly, many people may not be in an healthy place emotionally and/or mentally and spiritually to be a part of your team. Don't force relationships but let them organically happen. Realize that your willingness to wrestle through issues in your "friendships" and/or "business partnerships" doesn't mean they are willing or mature enough to do the same. Sometimes people even unconsciously trying to destroy you, precisely because they recognize your power - because they see it and they don't want it to exist because it highlights their shortcomings. So create boundaries that will protect your spirit, your magic. When you fix your thinking then the problems fix themselves. Once you learn to be happy and at peace you won't tolerate being around people who operate in their lower existence-lower vibration unless they are ready to change that. And if they are quick to walk away then they never intended to stay. THEIR REJECTION IS YOUR PROTECTION. DON'T TAKE IT PERSONAL. I am WHOLE.

And some people want to stay in their pain because it's comfortable and easy but that's actually a slow death. So make yourself a priority before you raise a banner for the next person and their dreams. SO DON'T STOP UNTIL YOU'RE PROUD AND EVERYONE ON YOUR TEAM IS EQUALLY EATING. I am a GIVER.

@tinyandbrave

@tinyandbrave

At the end of the day it comes down to the weighing and the condition of ones heart when dealing with all these lessons while being grateful and waiting in humble expectation at all times. Do the heartwork necessary to receive all God/Universe has intended for you to have. We are BLESSED and DIVINE.

Love, Peace and Blessings.

#MIKADO: The Imperfect King

@likogamebred

@likogamebred

Name: Malik Bomani

Age: 27

Born: Havana, Cuba

Place of residency: Miami, Fl

Occupation: Youth Mentor/ Care Coordinator

I spent a good chunk of my upbringing around my grandmother. She’s a savvy and headstrong island woman. She was always loving, supportive and tried her best to steer me in the right direction. I got most of the game from women. All the women in my family were go-getters and hustlers. So coming up, I was always crafty. I didn't always have a strong work ethic but I always found a way to get it. Just getting what we need by using what we have.

I met the mother of my children when I was 18 through a mutual friend. It was at a house party. She had this wild, untamed hair and she was always talking shit. I was really attracted to her. She got pregnant about 3 months after we met. She was 20, I was still 18. I was happy and scared. I felt unprepared. We were young, didn't have any money at the time. I ended up working some odd jobs. I felt like I didn't know the first thing about parenting, but I knew we were ready to do whatever we needed to do to provide a life for this baby.

@likogamebred

@likogamebred

Some of the the most difficult aspects of becoming a parent is learning to forgive myself. I think as first time parents, we put so much pressure on ourselves to get everything right. Especially if you didn't come from a traditional household. We had to let go of the fear and just be consistent. We knew that as our baby was growing, we were growing with them too. I think we all have that natural intuitiveness that kicks in when we need to provide and protect the people and things we love. We just have to learn to trust that instinct. To me, parenting involves preparation but much of it is instintctus

When we were expecting our second child we were going through it. Financially, emotionally, spiritually. I'm not religious at all, but we knew that our second child had divine timing. It tested our bond. I felt like it made us stronger as a unit because we really had to kick everything into an extra gear.

Fatherhood changed me completely. I don't know where I would be without my children. I think it brought some things out of me that I didn't think were there. It's taught me to give of myself freely and completely without expecting anything in return. And that is the most liberating type of love to feel. It's always interesting watching them move. They are complete opposites. But they provide such a unique balance to our lives and we derive great pleasure from watching them develop their own identities and idiosyncrasies. I think by the time we had our second child, my son Elijah Kimathi, we were more comfortable and secure about our parenting styles. But both of them are very creative and vocal. As far as what they get from me, I think just that inquisitiveness. I try to instill the value of education in them and not just in the traditional sense. I let them know the world is their classroom and you can learn from everything and anybody. I encourage them to explore alternative narratives and see things from different perspectives. To form their own opinions and foster their own voices.

@likogamebred

@likogamebred

My hopes for my children are I just want my children to be happy and free. I want them to be aggressive in their truths, and to live fearlessly and selflessly. My biggest fear is feeling like they can't come to me with something. They are whole, little beings. A world on to themselves.  So I try to talk with them, not to them. Coming from an immigrant family, there is sometimes that cultural gap there. Coming to a new country almost forces the children to be the parents when it comes to navigating certain things. So that keeps a lot of us from fostering the type of relationship we might have wanted with our folks. So I make it a point to always keep our lines of communication open and transparent.

I want brothers to know that just because the situation is not ideal, that doesn't mean you can't make ideal things happen. You are the sole controller of your universe. You can't always dictate what happens, but you have autonomy over how you react to it. And honor and respect the mother of your children. Don't strive to be right all the time, strive to be understanding and compassionate. I was taught that love is the highest form of understanding. That's the best part.

@likogamebred

@likogamebred

Manhood means accountability. It means knowing you are responsible for the well being of not just your family, but your extended cipher. That means your community and nation as well. Protecting and setting a better example for the babies. Manhood means to boss up.

Fatherhood means always being a student. It means service. Above everything, a father is a great servant. It means knowing when to lead and guide, and when to sit back, listen, observe and respect. It means allowing yourself to be vulnerable, but also be a pillar of strength. And fatherhood means love. I always say that I don't give my babies tough love, because love is tough  enough.

@likogamebred

@likogamebred

Malik Bomani is a father, youth mentor and community organizer raised out of Miami, Fl. As a behavioral health professional, he has dedicated his time providing care coordination for youth and adults with a variety of mental and behavioral health issues. He is also a brand director for The New Caribbean™, a fashion and multimedia company showcasing entrepreneurs and independent artists from the Caribbean and the Caribbean diaspora.

#AspiringMidwife: Kamil El

Every mother has a birth story, different for every child. I am honored to have had the euphoria of pregnancy and later birth. I also have had the heartbreak of discovering that my child would have a lifelong disability. The process of grieving for the child I dreamed of and the determination to love the child I have influenced my birth stories. I write to share their beginning in the most unlikely of circumstances.

As a senior at the Philadelphia High School for Girls, I was going to be the first of my family to attend college. I was also pregnant. My best friend, H., was pregnant too. (We still do everything together.) She was farther along than me. I told her I had no intention of carrying the pregnancy to term. Without batting an eye we planned how and when I would end the pregnancy without my family finding out. Graduation was two weeks away so we moved quickly. She borrowed her mom’s car and drove me to the pre-procedure appt and back for the procedure. I was already overcome with emotion and fear. H. was steadfast that she would be there the whole time. We did a drive by to survey parking. To our complete horror there was an anti-abortion protest in full swing! At least 300 people were blocking the entrance to Planned Parenthood. I wanted to leave but she would not let me. She was nine months pregnant and dragging me down the street, through throngs of protesters. They were shouting, shoving pictures at us, it was really unnerving. Still, we got through it undeterred. When it came time to pay for the procedure the fee was $100 more than budgeted. My ultrasound had indicated that I was further along than originally estimated. I did not have the money or means of getting it. All I remember thinking was that it was a sign from God that the entire effort was wrong. The nurse counseled me and offered financial assistance from the Women’s Medical Fund (WMF). WMF provides financial assistance to women in Southeastern PA who cannot afford to terminate a pregnancy. All she asked is that I pay back the money as soon I could. I promised.

After the procedure, my dear H., drove us back to her house. I could not go home. My mother would know something was up. As I lay there, contemplating the meaning of life and what my purpose was… H. explodes in the room to announce that her water had broken. Stunned is an understatement. How could this day have gotten any worse? Six hours later I was holding her tiny, beautiful daughter. I felt guilty all over again. I made my second promise that day. When the time was right, I would do my part to ensure that children are born into the most fertile conditions possible.

Later when I reached the seasoned age of 24, my husband and I decided to stop not trying to get pregnant. A few months went by. Then we started keeping track of our efforts. After about a year we saw an OB. The visit was two words, cold and indifferent. I sought out the care of a Midwife.

She taught me how to track ovulation and check cervical mucus for fertility. She also had me take Nettle and Red Clover to enhance fertility. The tiny, out of the box, woman rocked my proverbial world. In less than two months we were expecting. She also packed up shop to head for Peru to study with a Shaman. Midwives can do that apparently. Before leaving though she referred me to another completely different but equally amazing Midwife.

I went on to have a planned Home Birth. It was shocking experience for our whole family. I invited as many people as I could. My Midwife, Kathy, spent the night on my bedroom floor while I labored through the night. In the early daybreak hours she delivered my own, not tiny, beautiful baby girl. Afterwards my family and friends had brunch and birthday cake. I slept.

Kathy was with me through the birth of my second child and his subsequent diagnosis of Autism. Through tears I asked her if my choice to be induced could have caused it. She hugged me tight. Midwives can apparently do that too. I am finished having children but I still see Kathy. She inspires me to be more than I dreamed. She helped me find confidence to grieve for the son I dreamed of, accept the son I have, and the courage to be the Mother he needs. I used that strength when I attended the births of friends and family. Ultimately, I decided to finally heed my calling to Midwifery.

I am in my third term and doing very well. I like my courses and cohort group. The school is very supportive. It is a departure from my accelerated second degree BSN program. The pace is still accelerated but seems much more manageable with just two courses per term. I will complete all my didactic work first then move on to clinical toward the end of MSN next year. I will move into the DNP portion the program in 2019.

A low occurred when I was at Upenn and it became glaringly apparent that there was NO way I would be able to finance my education there. I was maxed out on student loans and I would have to leave my children with a sitter twice a week for class. I looked for another option in Frontier Nursing University a distance midwifery education program for nurses. It has been smooth sailing ever since. I feel like I’m on the right path for me.

My goal is to live life fully and help others do the same in whatever capacity that means for them. Just keeping it simple, and reaching as many women as I can. Ideally I dream about having a homebirth/birthcenter practice and also having hospital privileges.

How has it been raising an autistic child and especially now you are entering the birth world? 

Raising my son while pursuing midwifery I only work on the weekends. Malcolm is amazed that I am a nurse. I used to be a teacher. He asks about the babies in a matter of fact way. Malcolm is a happy person. It is always sunny for him. His only complaint would come if I forgot to bring donuts home. It’s become a ritual when I go to work.

If you can give one piece of advice in terms of becoming and/or being a midwife what would it be?

I would say to research the current legislation in your state. Then consider the different avenues to practice. There are not the same and require varying levels of training and time. 

What makes you up in the middle of the night? 

I am always worry that I'm not doing enough for my children, for my people. I definitely struggle from 'imposter syndrome' too. I relive my shifts over and over especially when their tough. 

Birth is...an unforgettable, divine and perspective altering experience. 

Motherhood is... the hardest and most fulfilling work I have ever done. It can also be intensely painful and you have to acknowledge that when you become a mother. 

If you were given three wishes, what would you wish for?

This is so selfish but I would ask to remove autism from my son. 

I would ask for the freedom of resources to travel the world with my family. 

And Peace for all. 

What is the best thing about your life right now?

I actually really like my job. I'm working as a labor and delivery nurse. I love being with women during their labor. Women never cease to amaze.

What do you do for self care?

The best things I do for myself are eating well and keeping hydrated water. I cherish my alone time too. It is the best therapy. 

Read more of Kamil's story and her son at http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:DuakU6czUV0J:www.sa-lives.com/entry/28/a-day-in-the-life-malcolm-el+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=us

A Mother's Covenant...

On a recent visit to Berlin, a place I hadn’t been to in over 20 years, I was entranced by the Selfie culture happening at the Holocaust Memorial in the middle of this progressive, vibrant city. Filled with a majority of foreigners on holiday, mixed with a handful of young local Germans, almost everyone had an iphone and were taking quirky, upbeat photo's on what were meant to represent the tombstones of the 6 million Jews murdered in the Holocaust. The only other Holocaust Memorial I have been to is right outside of Jerusalem and is divided into several aspects of the Holocaust, the most somber being the Children’s Memorial which is a dark room, where a visual image of a candle is shown, one at a time, as one by one the names of the 1.5 million murdered children are said aloud, along with their ages and their countries of origin. I think I only made it through 50 or so names, it was enough, and felt like a lifetime, I left feeling drained and heavy, a sharp contrast to the brevity and almost fun atmosphere of the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin.

 

As I looked around the memorial in Berlin with visitors posing for selfies what was clear to me is how free the younger generation of Germans are from the history. For them it is already history. They have moved on. In contrast, were I live in Israel there is not a day that goes by that strong reminders of the Holocaust are not used by the government, by celebrities, by the media in order to remind us of the horrors and the tragedy that befell the Jewish people. When I first met my husband and asked what it was like living in Israel where there is no Christmas, or Halloween, barely a New Years, or Thanksgiving…..and only Jewish holidays and culture are acknowledged , he answered that every Jewish holiday relives that ‘ you tried to kill us, so we killed you, let’s celebrate’.

Now after having lived in Israel for almost 10 years, the only place I have ever mothered my three children, I too live out this legacy. From periods of armed conflict when the survival mentality gets activated and militarism comes to the forefront of our daily lives, to the collective motherhood over obsessing about whether our children have had enough to eat, past traumas are easily reactivated. Some of these traumas are passed down genetically from generation to generation in our DNA. The research on epigenetics has shown that like trauma from Colonialization and Occupation, or Slave Trauma Syndrome when a Peoples have been enslaved, there is specific cellular trauma from having endured genocide such as in the Holocaust. But I think the bigger impact is from the coping mechanisms and emotional patterns that get passed down generationally that are more complex about scarcity, not trusting and the world being a hostile place.  A couple of years ago I had just given birth to my third baby when the war broke out here. There was one incident when a missile was landing very close to our house and it set off the neighborhood siren alerting us to run to a bomb shelter. I couldn’t respond in time and so I huddled with my newborn and two older children in the living room until it was over. The incident left me fired up, edgy, angry, blaming my husband for bringing me to this conflict ridden land and overwhelmed. This is one dramatic incident that I experienced personally but it was enough for me to understand some of the automatic responses to stress that people have here. At a certain point I made a conscious decision that despite the very real history of genocide, refugees and turmoil along with intermittent violence and conflict that reactivates those historical traumas, I would not passively accept this for my children’s worldview. I realized that I needed to be loud and clear with my children that the world is not ‘ out to get them ‘, an idea perpetuated here based on a really messy, tangled combination of very legitimatecriticism and outrage at Israel for the Occupation of the Palestinian People along with baseless toxic Anti-Semitism.  

 

As a mother I make sure that we all discuss what WE THINK about a situation not what we are being told. We also practice how the same situation might look if we were a different ethnicity in a different country. Living in a country where identity is collective along with individual we talk about WHY we do the things we do, from a Brit Mila or joining the Army ( even though it is illegal not to do the army in Israel). I try to make the ‘ lessons of the Holocaust’, not specific about the Jewish People but about Universal principles for handling prejudice and inequity. Social Justice and political involvement is woven into our lives even though it is not cool but actually brings a lot of suspicion from both ‘sides’. Often we are considered naïve at best and a traitor at worst. But, I see that my children’s hearts are open to embrace all peoples and their minds are critical of all group think imposed on them.

genevieve.family-1489598830642.jpg

 

As a mother, I am working through my own family trauma and trying to release patterns that are destructive. At the same time I try to be conscious of releasing generational trauma and embracing the aspects of resilience that have been carried forward. Sometimes all this baggage is very very distant and other times it feels like a heave weight. For my own peace of mind I have developed practices to work though the more burdensome aspects of generational and persona trauma. Along with eating replenishing foods, making sure I have a handful of close girlfriends I can share with, getting enough rest and staying involved in activities that are fulfilling I believe the most important practice is a deep self love. Self love to me means relentless pursuit of upholding my self worth. This has been a practice that has evolved in recent years of really checking in on whether people, places, situations are a good fit for me. Asking myself if I’m vibing with what is happening around me. Being discerning about who has earned my trust and remembering that ‘ hurt people hurt people’ so that I have to surround myself with people who are capable of responding in a way that supports my most evolved self.

 

I am really not someone with all the answers but I do believe that how we feel is our truest guide to what we should pursue. I am becoming the woman I want to be, more honest with myself, ready to be clear about what I need and willing to put my wellbeing first. I do believe that healing is an ongoing, and not linear process, but that even the deepest wounds can be transcended.

 

I wish for us all the wisdom strength and resilience of our ancestors and freedom from the collective burdens that no longer serve us.

 

With love, genevieve   

I am a therapist with an M.A. in Psychology and recently earned certification in Narrative Family Therapy. I am also a certified Birth and Post Partum Doula and Childbirth Educator. I have been deeply active in peace activism and social justice work for over 20 years. Most importantly to me I am a married mother of 3.

After working with women in therapeutic settings for years, once I gave birth to my daughter I was caught off guard at how unprepared I felt to cope with early motherhood.  I felt a deep longing for family support and community and it seemed as though something very important was missing. While I was still breastfeeding and on maternity leave I began taking a course as a birth doula. Along with all the incredible knowledge I gained about pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum transition, the real wisdom was found within the healing that took place within our motherhood collective. My fellow doula students became my motherhood community as we shared family challenges, asked questions about our baby’s development and shared women’s wisdom traditions, remedies and practices.

After supporting women as a birth and post partum doula I recently completed a 3 year certification process in Narrative Family Therapy. My academic and professional training along with living within a matrilineal culture steeped in ancestral women’s wisdom, has provided me with the ability to guide women in early motherhood.

My life’s calling is supporting women navigate motherhood by strengthening their matrilineal lineage, healing generational trauma, creating a supportive community and living a life of meaning and purpose. http://www.birthofamama.com/

Genesis to Love...

One of my biggest fears use to be becoming unsuccessful but I don't believe that anymore. It's even impossible to fathom that lie anymore, knowing failure is not an option for me. 

But I am a hopeless romantic scared as FUCK to fall in love. I know. How schizophrenic does that sound. I have become so guarded that I question every motive and have self sabotage any possible potential for love in the past. And being a single mother doesn't help either which gives me more reason to be overprotective of my space, heart and mind. I tell myself "I can't love anyone right now because I can't compromise my time with my daughter." I mean I don't have the leisure of having a babysitter which I don't like leaving her with unless deemed necessary, like a birth. And I am a recent transplant her in Austin, TX so really I have no family and friends.

Yes there's some pain here and fear of being hurt again even though I know it's inevitable but are they worth the hurt? I guess I need the assurance that person will be patient with my guardedness in a generation which is quick to give up for most people pursue relationship with very selfish motives. 

You see at the age of 16 I intentionally surrounded myself around successful partnership/marriages to look up to for I never saw that growing up. At my current age, I have already witnessed several of my friends experience divorce and broken families. I guess I need to know that person has the same value system as I which is the advancement of the institution of the family and has the vision of "empireship" for our children. Most of all I must feel a willingness to submit to his imperfections as the one I have chosen to lead my daughter and I. But most importantly, I always speak and admire all the relationships that started with friendship.

Maybe I use my daughter as an excuse but if I'm not good she's not good. She is my #1 priority. So if your are not someone I would not have my daughter look up to why would I brother to enter into courtship with you?

Are you worthy of courting my daughter and I?

@tinyandbrave

@tinyandbrave

But that doesn't face the fact my propensity to be guarded. So as I am fully confident of the success of my future I must be also confident in love. So for the new moon (March 28th) I will charge my Rose Quartz yoni egg (as well as charge my carnelian and Green Aventurine crystals) and clutch my yoni until the pink moon (April 11th) approaches any beyond, lol! I will say prayers and be open to the possibilities for I love in a world with limitless miraculous abundance in all things. I will NOW believe I am deserving of love while I continue to LIVE my life.

With Venus (my ruling planet) being in the New Moon it's believed to bring hope of love and money. A New Moon represents the end of one cycle and the beginning of another new 28 day cycle. So today I decide to embrace love for myself and for my future partner if granted God-willingly-and if not I am still content but I will at least be totally honest with my Creator of ALL my desires. I will begin to pray for his well-being whoever he is; before I ever meet him or have an idea of who he is. I will look to put old habits to death and welcome any positive energy while still being intuitive/discerning. I will be honest with myself and anyone I cross paths with and not hold prisoner my feelings but also not take my feelings as law for feelings are fickle. I will remove thoughts that no longer serve me.

@alex_elle

@alex_elle

As the new year has entered in (March 2lst), this new moon symbolizes leadership, new ideas and taking action. I will be making plans, pushing forward and charting new courses, not only in love, as the Pink Moon (April 11th) and my Birthday (April 21st) approaches. Let all of us nourish, heal and love ourselves. Make space in our lives for self-love. Take action on our lives based from a place of love, whatever that may be. Take advantage of the new moon...

I am a Mama Bear

I am a mama bear.

I don't really think I had a choice, to be honest. I can remember defending my younger brother and cousins when we were in school, pouncing on anyone who hurt or threatened them. Once when I was in 5th grade, I slammed a 2nd grader against the lockers because he was picking on my brother. For as long as I can remember, I've always had this innate instinct to protect those I love.

So my kid never stood a chance.

When he was learning to ride a bike, he was covered head to toe in protective gear because wasn't no concrete gonna hurt my baby. When he plays sports I'm the first to jump up to the field if he gets hurt. Even when he was younger and we were at the playground and I would hear his cry of injustice, that scream that would indicate that someone has hurt or wronged my baby, I would spring into action, ready to fight whomever it was that made my baby cry. I am not above confronting toddlers, either.

My love for this boy knows no bounds and I will literally anything to make sure he is safe and protected. And that's how we ended up moving to Japan.

About 2 years ago, we were traveling through Penn Station and my son needed to go to the toilet. So, I pointed him in the right direction and left him to it. Time passes and he hadn’t come back, so I went to investigate to see what was taking so long. I find him wandering around, completely missing it. So I show him where it was before he wet himself.

When he came back I asked him why he didn’t ask the officer that was standing near the bathroom for directions. And he just looked up at me with this look like he was afraid to. And as much as I wanted to tell him that he had nothing to be afraid of, I wasn’t entirely sure that was true.

You see, I have a pretty big kid. He can easily be mistaken for a teenager at his young age of 10. And after the deaths of Mike Brown and Tamir Rice - two children who were approached as grown men and gunned down by police - I knew I needed to do all that I could to keep him safe.

So we moved to one of the safest countries on the planet. But after we got here I was soon confronted with the need to not keep him physically safe anymore but I would now need to fight to preserve his personal identity and sense of self.

So I'm raising a Third Culture Kid, I knew that being in other countries would be a challenge. Especially with him being so young when we moved and being in a place where not many look like him. But the challenge we faced wasn't with the locals, it was at his school.

The place where he spends more time during the week than he does at home, I needed that place to be a safe space of support and acceptance. But instead they were instead sending him messages that what he looks like isn't acceptable.

So, mama bear came out. And I found myself at the school weekly defending my son against a principal who made snide comments and suggesting that his hair could look more mainstream, like everyone else’s. My claws came out when his teacher began to target him and sent him to the principal’s office for reading on the carpet without permission.

I ultimately pulled him from his school and moved him to a place that was more accepting of his individuality.  

I know that raising a TCK can have a profound effect on his personal identity, especially in places where not many look like him. But it is my hope that I'm able to help him understand who he is through our travels and by connecting with others. That he can find bits of himself in those who don't speak his language or look like him.

In this journey, I want him to know that he has endless possibilities, but I will challenge anyone who tries to place restrictions on him. I want him to believe in himself and I’m ready to stand up against anyone who makes him question his abilities.

I know that the other side of being a mama bear is allowing him to go off into the world with all that I've taught him. That he will one day apply all the lessons I’ve taught him and walk in the examples I’ve tried to set for him of how to move throughout this world on his own.

One day I’ll be ready. But until that day comes, I'll be there ready with the Vaseline.

Elmeka Henderson is a psychologist, photographer, and mother who is currently living in Japan. She is the creative voice behind Adventures in Raising a Vagabond, a blog that offers a first hand account of a mother traveling with her boy. There, Elmeka offers a unique perspective on not only traveling abroad, but surviving parenthood in a foreign land. You can read more about her at www.adventuresinraisingavagabond.com or follow her on Instagram @elmazing.

 

Elmeka is also the founder of Raising Vagabonds, a family-centered travel company whose vision is to change the perception of single parent travel by dispelling beliefs and encouraging parents to travel with their children by eradicating barriers and challenging the mindset and misconceptions of family travel. Their mission is to empower parents to break out of their comfort zones and live their best lives unapologetically. Through cultural immersion and community service, Raising Vagabonds helps to strengthen the family bond through adventures and first-hand geography lessons. Visit their website at www.raisingvagabonds.com and follow them on Instagram @raisingvagabonds.

#MidwifeMonday: Yasmintheresa Garcia

Despite a long history of midwifery in the black community, black women currently represent less than 2% of the nation's reported 15,000 midwives. Relatedly, black women and infants experience the worst birth outcomes of any racial-ethnic cohort in the United States. And because of that once a month Tiny & Brave will be highlighting current and aspiring midwives of color. Today I will be highlighting the beautiful sister Yasmintheresa Garcia. 

When did you know you were called to Midwifery? 

As a young girl I had always had the aspiration to be a Doctor. My sisters always made fun and called me the bubble child because I was allergic to many things and often enjoyed visits to the doctors office. I found it so much fun to investigate everything my doctors would be doing when performing exams and suggesting prescriptions. I became an avid reader of health magazines and took full advantage of researching things about my anatomy. The female body I lived in became a masterpiece that I wanted to learn everything about since no one spoke much about its reoccurring changes in my household therefore I took initiative to learn about it myself. In junior high school two of my friends became pregnant and I immediately became their doula without knowing it was an actual occupation. I became extremely passionate about serving my sisters in learning more about their bodies. However it was not until I went away for college to California on my own, in pursuit of a fashion career that I found myself, and built up the courage to truly believe that I was capable of being that doctor I always knew I could be. It didn't matter to me anymore that no one else believed in me. I learned going to university for fashion was not my true purpose and by then I'd survived enough to know I was capable of becoming a servant for woman in need as a midwife.

Womanhood is a privilege bestowed upon a chosen being to carry out the example of God. A true demonstration of the cycle of life. Being born and creating life in many forms throughout each transitional phase is what womanhood is to me.

What do you do for self care?

I read for mental clarity, inspiration, and spiritual healing.

I am vegan therefore I treat myself to food that heal me from inside out like fresh fruits and veggies. I also exercise daily and enjoy taking care of my beauty with home made beauty products like my favorite, coffee body scrub. I also dance in my underwear in my mirror and pray to my body in gratitude of holding up each day. I never told that to anyone. 

If you can give one piece of advice in terms of becoming and/or being a midwife what would it be?

My advice to anyone becoming a midwife would be to learn the true history of midwifery from the historical granny midwives to the pioneers of modern day midwifery the Farm midwives of Summertown Tennessee. In order to respect and do this kind of work one must learn how it started and why we follow the scope of practice that differentiates us from Obstetrical care in hospitals. I would also say learn yourself as a woman, love yourself as a woman and take the best care of yourself as a woman because once you have empathy and love for yourself you are able to care for other woman in a selfless way. 

What is your favorite part of your body and why?  

My entire body was a gift from the universe so I love everything about it. It has been deemed a baby bearing body therefore I honor it all. But if I had to choose; My boobies. My boobies can feed my family and thats too dope! My vagina also provides protein but this is why I celebrate it all. 

What is the current theme song of your life? 

Rise Up by Andra Day is a reminder of the power in us we all have to live a fruitful life. 

Yasmintheresa Garcia is a Brooklyn native of Afro-Dominican descent. The developer of IbiOp App; The first App that list Doulas, Midwives, OBGYNs worldwide.

Yasmintheresa works as a Midwife in training, Prenatal & Postnatal Doula, Childbirth Educator, Vegan health coach and has founded YtheGirls “Hang out.” She has always had the desire to work with the community and help it progress in any way. Through her vision, creations and experiences she is dedicated to inspire others to produce self-sustainability in their communities.

Who is Tiny & Brave Holistic Services

Tiny & Brave Holistic Services Logo

Tiny & Brave Holistic Services Logo

Dallas, TX first Black Breastfeeding Gathering in August 2016 created by Tiny & Brave Holistic Services

Dallas, TX first Black Breastfeeding Gathering in August 2016 created by Tiny & Brave Holistic Services

Tiny & Brave is for the mother and her little one. It is providing women with the best model of care as a birth worker.  Tiny & Brave is for the well-being of the whole person; men and women-spiritually, physically, mentally and emotionally. Tiny & Brave are for those seeking to be counseled through their life experiences. It is for the less fortunate. It is for those who are considered insignificant. It's for those not often spoken of, like fathers. It is for the ones who are courageous enough to face their fears. It is for those who saw a need for others and found a solution. Tiny & Brave is to give awareness to the issues that are not being discussed. Tiny & Brave is a medium to advocate for those who don't have a voice.

I was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY. I first came aware of the birth world through a movie called "Losing Isaiah" Starring Halle Berry and Jessica Lange. I later encountered a woman who sparked my interest in becoming a midwife. In 2003, I became a doula through DONA. I was embraced by my mentor and midwife Memaniye Cinque of Dyekora Sumda Midwifery Services in Brooklyn, NY and through her was introduced to her first birth. It was there that I knew she wanted to become a midwife. In 2006, I went overseas through the African Birth Collective in Senegal, West Africa assisting midwives in labor and delivery. I have also been employed as a Live-Advisor at Pathways PA to teenage mothers.  I completed a Graduate certificate from Boston University in Maternal and Infant Care in Public Health. And on May 7th, 2016 I received my Master's in Counseling with a concentration in Marriage and Family. But my biggest accomplishment is having my daughter Glorious-Zoëlle Shaddai Verneus on June 17th, 2014. This was the pinnacle event in my life that confirmed why I should finally become a midwife, now or never.

Glorious-Zoëlle Shaddai three days old.

Glorious-Zoëlle Shaddai three days old.

Six Month Old

Six Month Old

I relocated to Austin, TX to follow her dream of being a Certified Professional Midwife and is currently enrolled in Mercy In Action's online Midwifery program while doing her apprenticeship. I resided in Philadelphia, PA with my daughter where I was a doula through Maternity Care Coalition directed by Ms. Naima Black; before relocating to Texas.  I have also worked as a Family Advocate within the Philadelphia community. I have been a social service professional since 1999.

I desires to serve families in the urban community; and overseas, such as Haiti in the near future.

I now seek to counsel and serve women who have experienced trauma. Grieved by my own trauma, as well as the abuse of women and children and the lack of value of the urban family; I seek to help to bring that importance of the family unit back for all parties are vital to the development of the urban community and family. I have always worked with women through the amazing process of witnessing another woman walk in her own power-emotionally, mentally, physically and/or spiritually. 

The reason I desire to serve this population is because at the current time, despite the long history of midwifery in black community, black women currently represent less than 2% of the nation’s reported 15,000 midwives. 

Each experience I had in serving women and children has reinforced my passion and calling. I believes the most impact in one's life can begin is at the moment of conscious conception and as a doula we have the opportunity to assist in helping a woman/mother know her virtue, resources and choices for herself and her baby.

Dallas, TX first Black Breastfeeding Gathering in August 2016 created by Tiny & Brave Holistic Services.

Dallas, TX first Black Breastfeeding Gathering in August 2016 created by Tiny & Brave Holistic Services.

I offer affordable doula care in my current community to those facing financial hardship but still desire her services. I also offer doula services for free to teenage mothers.

Barbara Verneus is a doula/birth companion, student midwife, family health advocate, maternal life coach, motivational speaker and mother of one based in Austin, TX. She has a masters in counseling with a concentration in marriage and family. Barbara has been featured on various platforms, such as:

Mater Mea http://www.matermea.com/blog/2015/3/24/how-having-my-daughter-saved-my-life

Mater Mea http://www.matermea.com/blog/fulfilling-my-purpose-essay

Mater Mea http://www.matermea.com/blog/2015/9/18/11-life-lessons-my-1-year-old-has-taught-me

Madame Noire http://madamenoire.com/592614/11-life-lessons-my-1-year-old-has-taught-me/

Black Women Birthing Justice http://www.blackwomenbirthingjustice.org/single-post/2016/05/11/Facing-and-Healing-from-Abuse-During-Pregnancy-by-Barbara-Verneus

Not So Private Parts http://notsoprivateparts.life/blog/2016/5/13/birth-of-a-midwife

Anjelica Malone http://www.anjelicamalone.com/tag/barbara-verneus/

I Wasn't Able to Fulfill my Purpose Until I Had My Daughter

IN ORDER FOR HER DAUGHTER SEE TO HER AS FEARLESS, THIS WOMAN HAD TO TAKE A CAREER LEAP SHE’D AVOIDED FOR YEARS.

The day-to-day hustle of life gets the best of us when we become adults. We let fear act as the barometer that tells what we should do; we get trapped in the lie of living a safe life, even if that means being miserable at a 9-5.

I knew that wasn't the life I was meant to live at a very early age. As the daughter of Haitian immigrants, I inherited a strong work ethic. But as time went on and I became older, I started to see that while I had learned about the importance of hard work and education from my parents, I didn't know anything about financial literacy. I was the first in my immediate family to graduate high school and attend college, but because I wasn’t sure of what I wanted to do, I accumulated a lot of loans. You could say I was a professional student like Lynn from Girlfriends—I went to three different colleges during my undergrad.

I had a lot of different interests during that time, but the one that I kept coming back to was midwifery. The film Losing Isaiah (Jessica Lange played an OB/GYN social worker) and a chance encounter with a midwife-in-training introduced me to the vocation. I began my doula work and witnessed my first birth in 2003, volunteered in Senegal with the African Birth Collective, and assisted midwives.

I finally graduated in 2008 with a degree in media studies after deciding I wanted to be a documentary filmmaker. But like so many graduates, I didn’t get to put my degree to use in the real world. I worked in counseling and human services for years, and enjoyed working with the detained teenagers, teen moms, and homeless women and children my work brought into my life. But even though I truly enjoyed the work, I would always hit a wall. It was frustrating to realize that I could only help people to a certain degree. And, more importantly, I had always wanted to work for myself—I detested working for someone else.

Working in human services brought me closer to my purpose, but it wasn’t until I had my daughter Glorious-Zoelle that a path started to present itself. Now, as a 35-year-old single mother, I ask myself constantly, “What do I want my child to know me as?” And I know that I want my daughter to think of me as fearless, compassionate, and well-established. I am my daughter's first teacher, and one of the things I would like to pass down to her is a life fueled by work she’s passionate about.

It was hard for me to make that leap, though. I struggled with the idea of becoming a midwife for a few reasons: I was intimidated by the science classes, the amount of time it would take, and accumulating more loans and debt. But I kept coming back to it, and I began doing the research on what route would be the best way to make this happen. I landed on being a certified professional midwife, but they’re only acceptable in certain states. So the next quest was figuring out which state I was willing to relocate to. (Imagine a city girl considering the possibility of moving to Arkansas!)

I started speaking with midwives in different states, asking them about midwifery in their state and the climate for Black midwives. The only place that looked promising was Texas; even though you can count on one hand the number of Black midwives in the state, it appears that Texas is the mecca of the birth world. Being a single mother living with roommates and barely making ends meet, I knew it was worth it to take that leap to do something I love and be so handsomely rewarded for it. I do have fears of how being Black will affect my career, but I’ll deal with that as it comes.

Right now I’m doing a lot of decluttering and spring cleaning. This move almost feels like an emotional and spiritual purge from weight I’ve been holding onto for years. I’m closing a chapter of my past. I’m still trying to figure out what this move will look like, but overall, I don’t have fears—I’m excited for the future for my daughter and I. I’m looking to move to Dallas, Texas some time this summer. I walk the stage on May 7, the day before Mother’s Day, to receive my master’s in counseling with a concentration in marriage and family. And in the midst of my move I will begin my midwifery studies at Mercy In Action’s Midwifery Academic Online Distance program, while apprenticing with midwives in Texas for the next three years to become a certified professional midwife.

Five years from now, I will be 40 years old and my daughter will be 7. (Wow, just thinking about that is blowing my mind.) But my hopes are that, by then, I’ll be able to live the freedom I have always envisioned. I want to be an available parent—physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually—to my daughter Glorious-Zoelle. I see myself homeschooling my daughter and as I am teaching her new things I am learning as well. I envision traveling to lands I have never heard of with my daughter.

I still don’t have everything together and I’m still working on my five-year plan, but I do want to say it’s never too late to pursue your dreams and accomplish your goals. Each day is a new day of opportunities that we can choose to grab or miss out on. Your biggest obstacle and competition is yourself. Anything is possible if you’ve got enough nerve to do it.

This year as I celebrate my daughter’s second birthday, we’ll also celebrate our new chapter in our journey together. I can’t wait to walk the stage with my daughter on commencement day, because she has been a source of my new level of strength and fearlessness. Glorious-Zoelle, my diploma—and everything I do after—is for you.

 

un·in·ter·rupt·ed: A Letter to Her Father

Peace D,

This email is not seeking for anything but to say one thing and one thing only. I forgive you. It has taken some time but I can say with a clear and free conscious and open heart and sober mind that I forgive you.  I forgive you from feeling abandoned from you to the absence of you during my pregnancy. I forgive you for the words that were said. I forgive you for the disrespect. I forgive you for missed prenatals and missed celebrations. I forgive you for having me to figure things out on my own when I sincerely wanted your input and/or involvement. I forgive you for allowing me to have to choose to leave Boston with our baby.  I forgive you for unable to care for my emotions. I forgive you for not being there for me/us when I needed you the most. I forgive for not answering my calls. I forgive you for not being at our daughter's birth. I forgive you for disrespecting your daughter's birthday with your embarrassing statement in front of everyone that "you are only a sperm donor." I forgive you for leaving early the next day. I forgive you for having to choose families and leaving us. I forgive you for treating me like I was your enemy or thinking I wanted any way to harm you. I forgive you for always accusing me of judging you. I forgive you for never truly listening to me. I forgive you at times and now, for not checking in with your, Glorious, no matter the drama between us, as her parents. I forgive you for many of times not keeping your word. I forgive you for unable to love me or properly show me love. I forgive you that at this current time you choose not to be a father to Glorious. I forgive you for not allowing her to know her siblings. I forgive you for unable to come together to reason and come to an agreement of how we would raise our child. I forgive you for allowing me to do this on my own. I forgive you for never able to give me that security in actions that I was waiting for, for me to say "yes" to us.

And if there is anything that I may have said and done I sincerely apologize and hope one day we can have the dialogue to bring about clarity and peace.

Thursday I received clarity on a lot of things that are for my self knowledge, wisdom and practical understanding. And I can let the anger go and let you go and the ideas I hoped about and be ok with how things are; even if it never changes. I received a beautiful gift and daughter who has changed my life tremendously in an a year and 4 months. You go through things to either experience new discoveries, lesson(s) and/or blessing(s) and I can say I have gratefully gained all three and continue to. So I sincerely say thank you as well.

Peace.

For the past couple of months I have been wrestling with anxiety and worries. I have felt I couldn't breathe with all the worries consuming every fiber of my being. Worried from the day to day responsibilities of being an adult and a mother; to will I be alive in the next few minutes, next few seconds to what will my future be like. Will I always struggle. A desire to want to give up. Being angry with myself all over again. To being angry with her father. To mourning an absent dad to his daughter, to worrying about I will eventually have to die and leave her behind. Every day I woke up just wanting to stay in the comfort of my bed and not wanting to deal with the outside world including myself. To going to bed but unable to to close my eyes for anxiety plagued me every night causing me to just lay there in the middle of the night.

But one night my anxiety was so bad I was unable to sleep and was forced to pray to the Creator, pleading with tears coming down my face while laying in my bed in the middle of the night. I prayed that He would help me rest and to take my worries away. I was begging for His peace to rest upon my soul. Eventually I fell asleep and woke up to my day feeling motivated and focused as I sat at my desk. Eventually I heard my internal voice say, "She's easier." I repeated those words out loud to myself. Then the internal reasoning began and it concluded:

"She's easier. She has tolerated him since day one they met. And even though your actions have shown you love him but you wouldn't verbally accept what she has been accepting for so many years. Why do you think he held you at arms length, always afraid to let you in because you would force/challenge him in ways he is obviously not ready to meet. You challenge him. You shake something within him that makes him feel uncomfortable. I doubt that he loves her because he does but look at their history. They met each other when they were emotional not well. She allowed a lot of things. She accepted the dysfunctional behaviors.She was the easier choice since day one. He holds you in high regards to the point that you intimidate him. You not the easier choice. He was not and is not ready for your expectations of him because the idea of failing would be too great." 

At that moment I wept at my desk at work but these were happy tears. I felt free and released from the weight of all my worries and anxieties that I was wrestling with for the past few months. 

All I desired was the father and I to be civilized to one another as we try to co-parent but you can't do that if both parents are not committed. He currently lives in Boston, MA and looking to relocate to North Carolina with his other family as I live in Philadelphia, PA. Even though he doesn't really have a strong presence in her life at the current time I show her pictures of him and initiate phone calls between the two of them. I do this, so she will always know I never did anything to prevent her from having a relationship with him. And when the time comes and she desires to speak to him I will be more then open for her to reach out to him. I do fear the implications this will have on her as she gets older and the impact it will have in her identity but I must take one day at a time and just pray and love her the best way I can.

I did not write this story for you to hate him but hope you see that his actions came from his immature child mind state that never dealt with his own issues emotionally, mentally and spiritually. He came from a broken home as well, where he met his father for the first time at the age of twenty-two. He didn’t have a normal upbringing. I’m not making excuses for him. But more so realizing we must take special inventory of the state we are in individually and why we do the things we do. Family composition may not be normal but we are still able to create a safe space for the people involved and children. To make this possible as long we are willing to take responsibility for our actions and willing to do the work towards our own healing for the betterment of the structure of the family, no matter how that may look like because what is a normal family now a days. I also learned, ladies, we cannot think we can go into relationships thinking we can save someone, but most importantly we must see circumstances and people for what they are and not what we want them to be. Two sick people cannot know how to love one another. As nurturers, women have a natural tendency to nurture the best out of a person, but what if that person is not ready for that vision you see for them? Will you continue to live off a delusion or accept the situation for what it truly is and being honest with yourself?

Most of all we must be careful who we allow to plant in our gardens and plant spiritual, mental, emotional, verbal, and/or physical seeds because having to uproot those weeds is not easy. The Bible says “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life,” (Proverbs 4:23) and this rings to be so true. All intentions of a person comes from a person’s heart and when the heart is damaged it is very hard for it to come back from.

This is just the beginning for me and I am excited about others I may help by sharing my story. Part of my healing is by helping others and sharing my experience, which lessens my fears and shame little by little. I truly believe my experiences, which I take full responsibility for, were truly blessings to empower me and force me to grow. So in all that I have gone through I express gratitude because I am able to see the mercy, grace and glory in it all from start to finish and it’s far from over.

  

"To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you." Lewis B. Smedes

  

Written on Oct. 2015

 

11 Life Lessons I’ve Learned From My 1 Year Old… So Far

This year my daughter Glorious-Zoelle Shaddai turned one on June 17, and I threw us a celebration—that’s right, us!

I had so many mixed emotions about becoming a mother, but I celebrated making it through my first year. I celebrated that I did not lose my mind. I celebrated that I was blessed with an amazing being of a daughter. I celebrated being blessed enough to be surrounded by a community of people who love and support my daughter and I. And most of all, I celebrated how the Lord was with us every step of the way.

In 2013, when I first learned I was pregnant, I became extremely depressed, lost my job, and had an ugly dispute with her father, who was not present for the entire pregnancy and who wanted nothing to do with us. I was totally miserable and saw nothing to be optimistic about in my situation; I went from being a lively, carefree spirit to a confused and suicidal shell of that person. As my due date approached, I wondered if I should keep her or give her up for adoption.

But once I saw her, my life and perspective were turned upside down. It felt surreal: I was a mother to this tiny person with such a giant spirit. I couldn’t believe it. I was still overwhelmed with emotions and feelings of inadequacy, but I was a mom. Glorious-Zoelle has balanced me in ways I never thought she would, and she’s taught me so much in the last year:

 

LESSON 1

My daughter exposed the reality of my mortality. I now know that life is nothing but a snap of the finger, and because of that I choose to live a fulfilling life by any means necessary.

 

LESSON 2

I’ve learned that every action I take affects the future of my daughter. I’m working on finishing my masters in counseling to become a licensed professional counselor. I want to provide a financial foundation for my daughter's future and so I can spend more time with her at home. I’m creating an environment where she never has to question her identity, her dreams, her visions, wants, or future.

 

LESSON 3

After becoming a mom, my shortcomings have come to the surface—and I have no other choice but to deal with them head on. Glorious is always watching me and her pure heart and innocence demands it from me.

 

LESSON 4

Glorious-Zoelle has redefined my ideas of revolution. We live in a world filled with hate, inequality, racism, misogyny, and so many other indecencies and sufferings. It’s a world that wants to corrupt her innocence and power. If I can help her realize that she is powerful, then she will not let anyone or anything limit her. And as I fight to do this for her, I will also fight for those very souls I come across through the various work I do.

 

LESSON 5

My daughter has taught me you can still have joy and happiness in your season of grief and hardship. She has encouraged me to realize the magnitude of my strength and she has taught me that I am more powerful than I think.

 

LESSON 6

She has helped me let go of what I can’t control and helped me assess what is important enough to keep in my life. I’ve learned to let go of what is not worth our time because time is one of the most valuable assets we have.

 

LESSON 7

My daughter has given me a focus that makes the possibilities for us endless. I am confident and assured in the things I am now pursuing; there is not one bone of self-doubt in my body. If I fail, I just learn from it, reassess, and readjust because success is inevitable.

 

LESSON 8

She has revised my view of my own beauty. She is my reflection and I AM BEAUTIFUL

 

LESSON 9

She has taught me how to be patient, kind, and understanding in ways I wasn’t before. I am learning to forgive more, including myself.

 

LESSON 10

I am able to cherish my time and my space. When I’m with my daughter, I’m able to stop and enjoy that very moment with her because every moment with her is precious.

 

LESSON 11

She has renewed my relationship with my first love: Christ, who is also teaching me to trust and hope in love again, guided by wisdom and discernment.


And because of all that she has taught me, I will fight to protect her, teach her, and love her as long as I am allowed to. She is my sunshine. 

 

HOW HAVING MY DAUGHTER SAVED MY LIFE

A mater mea reader shares how her daughter’s arrival has changed her in ways she couldn’t have imagined before she arrived.

We had originally met in 1999 when I was 18, and I fell in love with him. Although we had known each other and dated on and off for 14 years, I still felt as though I didn’t fully know him. . He would only let me in but so much. One night we met for a walk, and it was the last time I was willing to see if we could make our relationship work, regardless of our differing faiths and his inability to commit. That night, after a long walk and talk, we decided to part ways.

I didn’t want to accept it, but I knew I was pregnant shortly after our talk. I had never had a pregnancy scare, but that internal voice got louder and louder and I couldn’t ignore it. I told a friend what I was sensing and she encouraged me to take a pregnancy test. On October 28, 2013, I took two tests and both were positive.

I was shock and in denial. I had dreamt of a beautiful wedding and a faithful husband—nothing like what I grew up with (I had witnessed my mother’s abusive relationship with her boyfriend). But here I was having to call and tell the man I didn’t want to be with that I was pregnant with his child. Instead of support, I was met with emotional abuse. . Our relationship became a series of empty promises and absences at prenatal appointments, the gender party, and baby shower.

I didn’t want to accept it, but I knew I was pregnant shortly after...

When I was six-months pregnant, I lost my job and made the difficult decision to move to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania from Massachusetts to live with a family of four boys and a dog in a basement. As grateful as I was to this family for housing me, it was a rough three months. Many times I would cry myself to sleep or just lay in the dark, wishing I had considered abortion. In my darkest moments, I would beg my baby’s father to be a part of his child’s life, and darker still, I contemplated suicide.

Regardless of my pain, I had to get a job, and move into my own apartment before the arrival of my baby. Into my 6/7 month into my pregnancy I began job hunting while trying to hide my pregnancy as best as possible by the clothes I wore. I eventually landed a job. I didn’t feel prepared for her arrival, but I tried to control the things I could. I searched for a doula and also sought out a birthing center because, I wanted a natural birth—having the extra support was important to me.

That support was necessary as my pregnancy also unearthed a lot of past abuse and issues. From being molested as a child and feeling rejected and used by my father and the men I had dated to living with herpes, I feared that my past emotional trauma would affect my labor. However, I was fortunate to have an incredible Christian community who loved, prayed, and supported me. I surrounded myself with other mothers and mothers-to-be to stay positive. My faith in God kept me going, and I prayed to Him even when I felt too ashamed.

On June 16, while I was spending time with my friends, I began having contractions. They were coming every 10 minutes, but I thought they were just Braxton Hicks, so I said goodbye to my friends and went to bed. I woke up in the middle of the night with contractions; they weren’t painful, but they were different from the contractions I had earlier. I called my doula, who said she was on her way. While I waited for her, I began my birthing process by sitting on my yoga ball, listening to some house music, and imagining I was dancing through my contractions.

Eventually my doula arrived and coached me through my contractions. I called my midwife and told her the contractions were about five minutes apart. She told me to head to the birthing center. By the time I arrived, I was 5cm dilated. My labor was progressing well, my team was awesome, and my doula and the nurse were able to keep me focused through various labor techniques and words of encouragement. A close friend was also there to sing worship songs during my labor.

When my water broke, it was filled with meconium [a newborn’s first feces]. My midwife instructed me to push, but a sudden rush of fear came over me and couldn’t do it. I was afraid of bringing my baby into the world to an unprepared mother.

I tried pushing for half an hour, but my baby wasn’t coming. My team re-examined me and realized I wasn’t fully dilated and that my cervix had swollen. The midwife gave me medication to take the edge off; She was concerned about my progress, and presented me my options: I could either take more medication to cope with my contractions or be transferred to the hospital and receive Pitocin and an epidural.

I feared that my past emotional trauma would affect my labor.

I chose to take more of the medication, because I really wanted to have my baby at the birthing center. But it wasn’t meant to be: My cervix was still swollen and my doula and nurse couldn’t get me to focus again. I was eventually transferred to the hospital. I couldn’t bare the pain from my contractions and felt as though I totally lost control over my labor.

At the hospital, I got an epidural and then Pitocin. My baby didn't respond well to the Pitocin—her heartbeat began dropping. A nurse told me in the kindest way that I may be getting a C-section. It was a possibility I didn’t want to accept. I wasn’t hard on myself for getting transferred to the hospital and for receiving epidural and Pitocin, but I couldn’t accept getting a C-section.  I’m a doula, and I have also  worked as a midwife assistant.I have seen  how doctors would resolve to a c-section without good reason and how women  put their power into another’s hand, because they were not knowledgeable of their choices. I didn’t see any immediate signs or concerns for  a c-section, and my spirit didn’t sense the urgency to. So I asked everyone in the room to pray.

Pitocin was eventually reintroduced at a lower dosage, and the baby responded well to it. When I couldn’t feel the contractions anymore, I took a moment to look around the room, and I saw I was surrounded by love. It was a demonstration of His grace and mercy. Everyone who I considered a friend was there, and the night was filled with smiles and laughter.

When I was fully dilated and ready to push, I requested a mirror to watch my baby enter into the world. Two of my close friends helped my legs up and I began to push. All I could do was smile as I saw her crowning. I reached out to feel her temple, and was overjoyed. At one point I noticed my baby was pushing forward; when the midwife asked me to push, I kindly said no, because I saw she was coming out on her own. When my baby’s head emerged, I began to push again to assist the rest of her body out. She was placed on my chest right after.

On June 17th my daughter was born and I named her Glorious-Zoelle Shaddai Verneus. Zoelle means “life/shining light” and Shaddai means “Almighty/The God of Heaven.” I was overjoyed to be part of a miraculous act where God used me to bring her into this world. I’m amazed by how the Lord created our bodies to do extraordinary things and the honor the Lord had granted me.

But when I arrived home with my daughter, I felt very overwhelmed and undone. I cried because I couldn’t help her latch on to my breast, making breastfeeding difficult and painful. I cried because hearing my daughter’s cry reminded me of her absentee father and that I was doing this alone. How would I care for her? I can barely take care for myself. The magnitude of my baby’s presence and power was so overwhelming that it highlighted my own shortcomings.

Then one day something clicked for me. Looking at my daughter, I realized I was witnessing God’s glory before me in such a small person. This epiphany ignited a fearless spirit in me.

My daughter is changing me in so many ways, ways I couldn’t have imagined before she arrived. One second I was begging for death to welcome me, and now I fear the very thought of ever leaving my daughter. I wouldn’t change anything I went through because it made me stronger, and gave me a calling. I’m finally able to see the grace, mercy, and glory within it all.

 

Barbara Verneus is a doula, family health advocate, and mother of one based in Philadelphia. She’s in the process of completing her masters in counseling with a concentration in marriage and family.