What Motherhood Taught Me About My Friendships

One of my biggest fears about being a new mother had nothing to do with actual parenting. I was prepared for the sleepless nights and blowout diapers. I knew my life would “change forever”  and I was at peace with that. Well almost. One of my biggest fears about becoming a new mom was how it would affect my friendships.

To understand this fear I have to unpack how I came to form my friendships. The story starts in elementary school. I attended my neighborhood school, and it was some of the best years of my life. I was nurtured and taught at a high level. As a GT student, I was afforded the opportunity to attend a magnet school. The school I selected was clear across town. In one summer I entered a new school and quickly learned that I had no friends there.

To cope with this loss I made new friends, but I also changed how I viewed friends moving forward. They became temporary, disposable, and school-based. This trend continued throughout much of high school. I was friendly with a lot of people, close to some, but I didn’t put in the work necessary to continuously develop my friendships. Thus when signs of trouble came, it was easy to detach and move on.

Then I went off to college and my whole life changed. I was placed in an environment where people who looked like me were only 4.5% of the over 50,000 student population. This isolation caused me to realize how important familiarity matters. Likeness matters, culture matters, and relationships matter. But, that is another post for another day.

Staying on track here – I can remember the exact moment when I knew friends deeply mattered. Stay with me as I continue down the cliche train. I had just experienced what was, at the time, a devastating break up around Valentine’s Day no less. I was in shock and utter confusion trying to figure out how I let myself be so foolish in the first place. And in my tears, away from my family, during my freshmen year of college, my friends were there. They showed up and reminded me that I was a whole person, and my wholeness was not defined by the existence of a romantic relationship. They validated me when I needed it the most.

From that moment on I actively worked to be a better friend to those around me. I became a better listener and a better advice giver. I tried to fill in the gaps that I knew my friends needed at the time. My reward was by the time I graduated college I cultivated meaningful female friendships. I had escaped my pattern of letting go and embraced being vulnerable with other women – other African American women.

Now, back on track here. I was very nervous that I would not be able to provide the level of friendship I thought was appropriate, and that my friendships would suffer because of it. I knew I wouldn’t be able to go out as much, to randomly become available if needed, or simply be present – in the moment.

And so, as I reflect on the past year as a new mom one fascinating aspect of the journey has been that the bond I have with my friends has become stronger. Not because we spend more time together (which we don’t), or because I elevated my friendship game (I have been tired many days), but because they have expressed a new level of love in my life. It is one thing to love your friend. It is another to love her new husband. Yet, it is a completely different and beautiful experience to have your friends love your daughter.

I don’t have many close friends – but I cherish those who choose to walk through life with me. I value our relationships and I continuously remind myself of their importance. They have made me a better wife -constantly affirming my worth. I am a better mother to my daughter because I appreciate and respect the value of human interaction so much more than when I was younger. The intersection of both motherhood and authentic friendship has revealed a unique vulnerability that I fully embrace.

And so I find it fitting that on a day when one of best friends was born I share a piece of myself in honor of her, and all my friends who love me despite myself. I want to thank you for always showing up for me, Charles, and now Vivian. I love you all, and I am eternally grateful God has placed you all in our lives.

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How the Stress of Pumping Helped Me Find Peace

My breast milk journey has been interesting, to say the least. It started with a flurry, with our daughter not latching on. But the milk was there, and I determined to provide it. So I pumped and have pumped for almost eleven months now. What started as a flurry turned into a sprint. At the height of this race, I was pumping  six or seven times a day. The result was a milk supply that even I was shocked at.

My initial goal of providing breast milk exclusively for six months was reached. After six months our daughter started a diet of fruits and vegetables with her breast milk. Each day she eats more food, takes more water, and less and less breastmilk.

Now the sprint is in the home stretch of a marathon. My goal of providing breastmilk for one year is only four weeks away, and I can see the finish line. My six or seven pump sessions a day have been reduced to four and with each passing day, I prepare for the next stage of my motherhood journey.

And yet, a small part of me will miss pumping. Those 15 – 20-minute sessions have become my solitude during an otherwise hectic, and busy life. It is when I pump that I have time for a lot of the things I love to do: scan celebrity gossip (not sorry), review the news headlines of the day, read thought provoking articles, and finally it has become a time to write.

While I pump, I think about my life, reflect on my purpose, and wonder what type of parent I want to be. I quietly, and sometimes loudly, reflect on the racial tensions of our time – wondering what authentic impact I can make. I think about the legacy I will leave my daughter – and if she would be proud of my contributions to society.

As the milk flows I review my professional goals and sharpen how I will accomplish them. I push myself to think outside my comfort zones – challenging what I think I am capable of. I check my professional hesitations caused by fear – and dare to do more of what makes me happen inside and outside the workplace.

What has emerged from my near eleven-month journey is a more confident and unapologetic Black millennial working mother. I made the choice to pursue my extra-curricular passions, strive to continuously improve professionally, and truly cherish my role as a parent.

This growth and appreciation were made possible by the “quiet” time pumping gave me to reflect. To pray for guidance. To seek the advice of others. To read about the successes of women who look like me – who are the same age as me – who have daughters like I do. Pumping gave me what I needed most – clarity.

And yet with clarity must come a healthy level of dissatisfaction. One of my favorite quotes – not by Maya Angelou- is, “To be Black and conscious in America is to be in a constant state of rage.” – James Baldwin. I want to expand on his quote. To be a woman and conscious in America is to be a constant state of rage. Women consistently make less than men for the same jobs. We are often overqualified for positions – and yet still don’t get them. The glass ceiling is not glass at all – it is titanium.

To be a working woman and conscious in America is to be in a constant state of rage.” I work in a field dominated by women, and yet the policies, practices, and procedures of most organizations in my industry don’t match this fact. Pumping rooms should be an expectation – not a luxury. Being able to work a flexible schedule or having on-site childcare are exceptions instead of the norm. Paid maternity and paternity leave are so taboo that even I find myself conceding it may never happen.

To be a working Black millennial woman and conscious in America is to be a constant stage of rage. How will I wear my hair to work? Will my coworkers acknowledge the tensions of the times, or remain silent to avoid challenging conversations. Will I see positive representations of what I can become in the media? Do our lives matter?

So naturally the advocate in me chooses to channel this “rage” into action. I want Black mothers’ experiences to be valued – and shared. I want working mothers to be supported – beyond the pumping room. The change has to start with us.

Over the coming weeks, our daughter will transition from breastmilk and my time pumping will come to a close. I will also transition to my new blog and online platform, which will continue funneling my thoughts and words in meaningful dialogue. I hope everyone will join me as I embark on this journey. I am looking forward to it!

 

 

My Daughter’s Privilege of Authentic Fatherhood

This was the first Father’s Day I experienced as a parent. Previously, I was always the daughter, daughter-in-law, niece, friend, etc. I was never the other parent. Watching my husband interact with our daughter this past weekend was both a beautiful and deeply reflective experience. As we spent almost the entire weekend together as an immediate, and then an extended family, I reflected on the powerful privilege of fatherhood.

Having your father in your life is a privilege. Having a positive male figure in your life is a privilege. Having a diverse, and well-rounded view of manhood is a privilege. There is much talk about absent fathers, especially in the Black community. And while the CDC has done amazing work to dispel this very flawed theory that Black fathers are MORE absent, the myth still exist. I know I can’t change that perception overnight, nor will I try. Instead, I want to pivot the conversation a bit. The real privilege of fatherhood lies not in the mere presence of your father, or father figure, but in the relationship that their presence brings.

I didn’t fully understand this concept until I had a daughter and saw how, even as an infant, she clings to her dad. Their bond is evident. Not only does she look JUST like him, but she yearns for his presence. She smiles when he enters the room, mocks his movements, and follows him all around the house. It is magical to watch.

But, developmental, my husband is also providing vital room for our daughter’s growth. For example, he allows our daughter to explore. She crawls, takes the beginner steps to walking, and generally expands on her natural curiosity. There are many moments when I cringe in fear as she debates crawling and “walking.” In those moments my husband almost always says, “She is fine. She can’t learn if we don’t allow her to fail.” Yes, this is in reference to her using the end table as a prop, or feeding herself green beans, but the implication is huge! I do fear her failing. I fear she will fall down in front of the end table and cry as we console her. I also fear she won’t make friends in school. Or will experience a crushing breakup before prom. I worry she won’t like sports and will force me to become a Cheer mom. These are real thoughts I have. And while I take comfort in my husband saying, “She will be fine,” our daughter needs to hear those words even more. He is setting the standard by which she should feel safe. If he is concerned, then it’s probably not worth it. 

I recently read a report that daughters who have active fathers in their lives have better self-esteem. Additionally, they are more emotionally equip to deal with challenging situations. When our daughter feels the unconditional love her father has for her, she is taking notes, and storing those feelings in her heart. I see it forming already at only nine months old. 

Research also suggest involved fathers have girls with greater critical thinking skills, and the buzz word of the year: grit. I can’t help but think that grit is built through failure – of which my husband is much more comfortable allowing. Her critical thinking is built not so much from fancy baby puzzles, but from having to maneuver from the end table to couch to floor without crashing to the floor. Again, these are moments I hesitate to facilitate. 

There are moments, really sappy ones like now, where I sit and reflect on how blessed our daughter is. These moments almost always involve my husband – her dad. He is exactly who she needs him to be at all times. That is what authentic fatherhood is. It’s more than showing up. It’s more than being the financial provider for the house. It is choosing to be involved in ALL aspects of her life – from the delivery room to diaper duty to infant swim lessons. She is a complete reflection of him, and I am totally fine with that.

I salute you Charles, and I thank you for being who Vivian and I need you to be. I also salute my father and father-in-law for your unconditional love and support. The privileges I gained from our relationships have made me a better wife and mother. Lastly, I salute all dads who are present, and fostering positive, meaningful relationships with the children in their lives. Your reach and impact is substantial. It matters! 

 

No One Tells You Having a Middle-Class Child Cost a Lot of Money

I am a middle – class mother. My husband and I have four degrees amongst us, and we have steady jobs in our preferred professions. We own a home, and have savings, retirement plans, etc. Some would call this living the American Dream. I prefer to call it cautiously adulting.

I am not blind to our privilege. I fully understand our daughter will have knowledge, resources, and experiences that many poor families are not able to have. In fact, she will experience life in a way I would have never imagined at her age.

The understanding that our daughter is privileged doesn’t mean anything when the bills start coming. One thing that no one talks about is how expensive having a middle-class child is. Our daughter is only 8 months, and she has already “cost” the family’s bottom line thousands of dollars. I’m not talking about costs that all parents must deal with. Baby essentials such as diapers, crib, clothes, etc., are income blind. Instead, my middle class-ness directly effected my insurance coverage, which is where the money drain begins and ends.

Insurance Matters

The main way middle-class children end up costing so much money is due to insurance. I have employer-provided insurance. Prior to my pregnancy, I met with the benefits department at my job to ensure I was signed up for the most mom-friendly options. I also spoke with HR, mom coworkers, and Googled every possible question I could. I wanted to be prepared for the road ahead: emotionally, physically, and financially. With the “best’ insurance plan in place, my understanding of projected costs and experiences understood I embarked on the journey. What a financial journey it was.

Insurance Type: In Network, deductible

Deductible Amounts: $2,500 (in-network only), $5,500 (in network plus co-insurance)

Pregnancy

I was pregnant for a total of 40 weeks and 1 day. I had a smooth pregnancy for many of those 40 weeks. I use the term smooth loosely. Things turn a costly (pun intended) turn when our daughter’s heartbeat was detected as abnormal. Cue the specialists, fancy fetal heart specialists, and the sound of the costs adding up. My last trimester, I had to spend many days and dollars monitoring our daughter’s heart to ensure no new red flags came up. In the end, she was delivered happy, healthy, and with a fully functional heart. Here is the breakdown of costs.

Lab Work: $887.95

OBGYN: $380.88

Heart Specialist: $2372.09

Total: $3,640.92

Labor and Delivery

I delivered in the brand new Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women. By hospital standards, it was spectacular. I felt welcomed and valued as a soon to be new mom the entire time. I would recommend the hospital to any expecting mothers in the future. However, just know that comfort has a cost. The best doctors and nurses and medical teams have a cost. And that cost was HIGH.

Things no one tells you about labor and delivery: They charge you for EVERYTHING. Unless it is written as FREE, you are paying for it. The doctors who come by to “check” on you, the sheets on your bed, the hospital socks you are given for traction – all cost you! It adds up. There are things that cost more than others – my epidural for example. But, after a quick cost-benefit analysis, I think that was worth the money (that’s my story and I am sticking to it). After all the bills mailed to us, a home birth doesn’t sound so far-fetched.

Hospital stay: $307.74

Delivery (OBGYN): $262.09

Daughter’s bill (Addressed at BabyGirl Graham): $2,916.02

Tests at hospital: $218.54

Pediatrician at hospital: $530

Total: $4,234.39

Maternity Leave

Before I go on my rant about maternity leave I want to fully disclose that our family decided I would take 12 weeks off from work to be home with our daughter. Again – our privilege and socio-economic status gave us the ability to even make that choice. Many families do not have the option – mothers and fathers must return to work soon after a child is born.

However, we wanted to spend more time with our newborn child, so the decision was made. And that decision – which I wholeheartedly think was the best decision for our family – came at a steep financial price. There are two levels to how costly my maternity leave was – money lost in actual wages and personal time taken.

My employer policy on maternity leave uses FMLA only. There is no paid maternity leave at all. The only way you continue earning wages while on leave is to have personal (vacation/local/state) leave accrued to “cover” your leave. So if you want to take 12 weeks off, you can get paid the whole time if you have enough hours on record for that. Well, this is problematic because, in order to accrue that amount of time, I would have either work for many years before becoming pregnant or not take any leave time at all leading up to the leave. I was not fortunate to work either option. I was with my employer for only a year before my leave, so at best I could have only had a year’s worth of accrued time.

And yet, ALL the time I had was taken during FMLA. So for about 7 weeks I continued to earn wages regularly. After my hours ran out – I still had 8 weeks left on OUR family’s leave plan. So for two months I didn’t earn wages. In our situation, that was the price paid to spend 12 weeks with our daughter. Eventually, I returned to work, and all was restored. Or what is? Now I am back at work, with a newborn, and have NO leave time. Let me repeat that. I have a newborn, who gets sick, has sleepless nights, is teething, etc., and I have no leave time.

Total Cost of Maternity Leave: 6K

How We Managed

So to review our family in both paid and lost wages has spent over $13,000 dollars to have and care for our ONE child. Again, this doesn’t include diapers, clothes, shots, etc. So how did we manage to pull this off, and still live a “normal” life of trips, dining out, etc?

  • We had a financial plan long before our daughter came. I have a profound fear of being poor. I have been saving for EVERYTHING my entire life. When I turned 18 I didn’t want a car – I wanted a credit card in my name to start building my credit. When I was in college I worked to pay my car off in three years instead of six, so I didn’t have to pay interest. In order for our child to not cause a great financial liability, we had to put things in place well before her arrival.
  • We have NO car debt. Both our cars are paid for, and we have no plans in the near future to get new cars.
  • We bought a house 2 years ago and now our mortgage is actually lower than our previous rent.
  • I have a very profitable side hustle (real estate agent), and I used money earned from that job to “fund” our maternity leave. If you are in the market for a house let me know! Think of it as an investment in my family planning!
  • We prioritize our limited disposable income to what is important to us: travel. While on maternity leave I researched how to travel cheaper. I discovered several websites that post flight deals, hotel deals, and details how and when to travel on the cheap. It has CHANGED our traveling lives. Since the birth of our daughter – and learning how to game the system – we have traveled to Boston, Miami, New Orleans, and Italy. We have pending trips to Colombia and London this year alone. All for about the costs we would have paid for one or two trips using traditional travel methods.
  • We accept ALL help. I love hand me downs. I accept both boy and girls clothes, a onesie is a onesie. We accept used toys, bouncers, swings, etc. And when asked if we need anything we respond with what is really needed: diapers and wipes! Books and toys are great developmental tools – but diapers are not cheap.

Having a family is a blessing – but no one talks about how expensive the process CAN be. I can only provide one example, but I bet there are MANY more mothers and families who are frustrated with a system that doesn’t value the extraordinary effort it takes to bring a child into this world. After almost a year of being pregnancy, and 20 hours of labor my thoughts about having a second child have nothing to do with the physical or emotional toll in takes. All my questions center around the money – and that is a sad reality to have.

My First Mother’s Day: Embracing The Joy and the Pain

Mother’s Day is one of those holidays that comes with so much emotion packed into it that you really do have to prepare for it. Plans must be made. Texts have to be carefully crafted. Posts and status updates must be edited many times over. When it comes to moms- every detail matters. 

This day, the first of which I participate in as honoree, is filled FIRST with love. The love we have for our mothers is often unmatched. We often can’t even explain it, or give full justice to just how much our mothers shape who we are. And not just our mothers – our grandmothers, Big Mamas, Nana, aunts, etc., are the feminine village that raises us to be women. 

So as I woke up this morning, I was filled with joy having been inducted, after 20 hour of labor and countless sleepless nights, into this club. I felt a certain badge of honor – a feeling of accomplishment that I had never felt before. It’s not like I didn’t know I was a mom before – our daughter is 8 months old. Yet seeing a day on the calendar, not my birthday, but for me was special.

For all the joy this day brings, the pain is not far away. Eventually the village of women who raises us becomes smaller. Cherished only in spirit, this day reminds us of the lost we experience in our lives. We are reminded of mothers lost, of grandmothers who are no longer with us, and just how much our matriarchs matter in our community. 

My maternal grandmother was my second mother. She crafted and influenced me as much as any human being. And today I mourn her. I wish I could see her today. I wish my daughter could have had one conversation with her – one life lesson learned or earned. 

Today represents a complex maze of not forgetting, and honoring the living mothers in our lives. So I’ll start by honoring my mom. She raised three daughters. She continues to raise me, and I am married with a kid now. She has taught me, through example, that the work of moms never stops. The desire to protect your children from pain never ceases. The only way I have managed motherhood so far is through the wisdom and advice of all the moms in my life. The village our daughter has around her is special, and I do not take it for granted.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the women doing what we do best – getting the job done. I salute you all! 

Finding Peace With My Postpartum Body

Disclaimer: I am a 5’2 petite woman. The heaviest I weighed during my pregnancy was about 160 lbs. After our daughter was born, all of my “baby weight” fell off rather quickly – in large part to my constant pumping. Breastfeeding burns calories – which helps you lose weight. So not long after my delivery – say four weeks – I was actually back to my pre-pregnancy weight.

Often in the discussion about moms’ bodies there are two camps: the battle scars vs. the snapbacks. Much like our current presidential races, they represent two extremes of a very wide spectrum. 

The Battle Scar view often encourages acceptance of the female body after birth, and blast those who expect women to look the same after carrying and delivering children into the world. Stretch marks are not flaws, but the proud marks of a woman who bought life into the world. Understandable. 

The SnapBack view is about our country’s obsession with postpartum bodies looking as if the woman never had a baby in the first place. Do this exercise, detox with this smoothie. Don’t get me wrong, when I saw Teyana Taylor’s snapback I cried a little inside because I knew that was not me, and would never be me. Again, I get it – superficial standards of beauty plagued by coverage of celebrity moms who don’t represent the everyday woman. 

Instead of those two extremes, I want to focus on us women in the middle, moderates, (sorry Bernie) who don’t really like our battle scars, but also don’t want to starve and/or don’t have time to work out everyday to achieve a ‘snapback” that may only last a year until we are pregnant again. Where is our happy place?

This search for peace was great when the only humans I saw everyday were my husband and a newborn who have no choice but to love me. I could wrestle with the complexities of the female body in the quiet of my own home, not having to defend my position to anyone. Then I ended my maternity leave, and returned to work – cue substantial contact with humans again, and I quickly learned I was living in a fantasy world.

Not only did I have no idea how to handle all the attention my body was receiving, but I especially wasn’t prepared to deal with the perception that I was “back to normal.” I want to be clear: I have been small my entire life – at this point I am pretty sure it it genetic, and not because I am a rockstar gym rat and/or healthy eating guru. Yet, I was fascinated, and then very frustrated that my coworkers judged my body based only on my weight. One look at my clothed body and they saw a woman who looked similar to how she did before she got pregnant. Then one of two things occurred: they congratulated me on my “snapback, “or they proceeded to body shame me for loosing weight so quickly. Almost daily for a month I would hear statements such as “Must be nice,” or “You don’t even look like you had a baby.” Yet, I did have a BABY! I delivered a 7 lb. baby after 20 hours of labor. It was hard, it was exhausting, and you are never REALLY the same after. Remove the layers of clothing, and I was just as fragile mentally and physically as many new moms. And yet, because my weight matched my pre-pregnant self, I was not afforded the “luxury” to not be happy with how I looked.

In the era of the humblebragger, there is little room for new moms in my situation. If I complain about my battle scars I am anti-feminist. If I complain about my body I am ungrateful, given my rapid weight loss.The psychological toll of being repeatedly told to accept and love your body is exhausting. And the more I thought about it the more I realized it was crap.

I do not like my stretch marks. I wish I could pay them away.  Yes, they represent the beauty of life and how remarkable our bodies are – creating humans and such. But when I see them, I see regret for not using those body oil everyday. Likewise, I want a flat stomach. I really want a four pack, but that is not realistic given my current workout situation. I had a flat, OK maybe a flatter stomach, before being pregnant and I want it back. Does that make me a bad person? Have I succumb to the pressures of mainstream standards? I seriously doubt it. 

So I decided I am done being apologetic about my small size, my distain for my stretch marks, or my desire for a flat stomach. I am also done trying to ration to other people how I feel about my body. Shame, disagree with me, feel as you wish. My peace is not tied to others opinion of my views on body image, or how I choose to describe my current emotional state. In the form of feminism that I subscribe to (the super complex one with many layers of race, class, religion, and geography) I call the shots. 

Only when we remove the labels, remove the either or mentality that plagues both Black women and the feminist movement as a whole are our minds and bodies really free. The battle scar and snapback moms should be able to coexist in a world of acceptance. They are both equally entitled to fee how they wish about their bodies. Yet, in this world of whole acceptance I’ll still be somewhere in the middle trying to figure it all out. 

Peace. 

 

 

 

6 Months of Pumping: What I Learned about Breastmilk, Parenting, and Myself

February 27th marked six months of exclusively pumping to provide breastmilk to my daughter. This milestone was very important to me, especially given my latching issues immediately after birth. Here is what I have learned along the way. 

Breastmilk

Pumping is hard. Not hard like you have bootcamp at 5am (which I recently started), but hard in the sense that you are connecting yourself to a machine 4-6 times a day! Pumping doesn’t care about your sleep schedule, meetings at work, or the equipment needed for the process. All that matters is the milk that flows. 

That milk, which I have sacrificed many minutes and hours pumping out of my body has exclusively fed my daughter for six months. Just the economic benefits of not having to buy one can of formula makes me smile, but it’s not about the money. 

It’s all about the milk. 

Breastmilk is the best choice for our babies. It provides nutrients formula simply can’t replicate, and it puts our children on healthier paths. While breastfeeding has become a hot topic, the science behind the milk is clear. I choose to focus on just that, the milk. 

Parenting

Pumping has totally transformed my views on parenting. Here is an example. Prior to delivery I was “that” parent that said I didn’t believe in the cry it out method. If your baby is crying you need to comfort them. Well in theory that is great. In practice there are times when I have to choose between finishing a pumping session, or jumping to get our daughter whom I know isn’t hungry, wet, or sick. 

Pumping also affects my relationship with our daughter. Not having the emotional connection of actually breastfeeding leaves me wanting more. I want her to feel my skin, hear my heartbeat, and know that I am providing her food. There are many times this leads to me holding her for no reason as all. 

Last, put not least, pumping shaped how our families are involved in our daughter’s life. Because I started pumping right away, I have built up a pretty good milk supply. This supply allows our families to spend time with our daughter, and still provide her breastmilk. 

Introduce travel, going to concerts, date night! All have been made easier by pumping. It may be the only silver lining to my latch issues. 

Myself

As I mentioned before, pumping takes dedication. There are days when I want to stop. I want to go buy some formula, and have a margarita. Yet, I know breastmilk is the best option, and my body has no problem producing it. That has to mean something. 

When I learned I was pregnant I knew my world would change; I would never be the same. Yet, nothing anybody tells you prepares you to meet the tiny little human you created, and carried for 40 weeks (and a day). It’s magical. And in that magic I learned that having a child changes you, yes, but it’s up to you to determine how. 

So I work on managing myself as a Black new mom, who pumps. I don’t allow any one data point to define how I view myself. I am complex, my views are my own, and that is the only way I will have it. 

Feminist Should be Fighting For More than Equality

I want to be a feminist, I really do. I want to work toward equality; breaking the imaginary ceiling that holds so many of us back. I want to be a part of the movement. Yet, many feminist aren’t fighting for “female” causes.

We are fighting for equality, when in all honestly, we deserve MORE than equality.

As women, we experience things that men don’t. This is a biological fact. Yet, we are often punished for being women. Here is an example of how this plays out. Most women in their childbearing years will have a menstrual cycle every month. And for most of us, it is a very unpleasant time. Instead of a system that understands this fact, you hear rhetoric such as “Oh, it’s that time of the month,” or “Why are you tripping.” And one of my faves, “See this is why women can’t be leaders – too much drama.”

So the feminists – again fighting the good fight for equality – often suppress our realities such as a menstrual cycle, and petition we not be viewed differently from men. Here’s my issue with that stance. Men DON’T have cycles every month! They don’t have monthly reminders of their fertility status. Instead of embracing what makes us female, we deny the physical and emotional toll being a woman has on us.

So, after careful consideration, I have developed my own feminist stance that actually accepts what makes me female, and fights for more than equality. Here are a few things I NOW want:

  1. Paid Maternity Leave, for EVERYONE, regardless of economic status, job title/position, etc. If you have a job and become pregnant, you should not suffer financially because you are busy reproducing the earth. Disclaimer: Paternity Leave is great too, but this is about us right now.
  2. Provide Caregivers MORE Sick Days. Why do parents, and most often women, have to sacrifice their sick days for their kids. If you are a parent or caregiver (caring for an elderly parent), you NEED more sick days/time off.
  3. EMBRRACE being female. Why is it taboo to discuss what makes us female. We have cycles, we bear children, we experience life through different lenses. After becoming a mother, I have learned that this lack of discussion leaves women on an island. This island is filled with depression, feelings of inadequacy, and shame.
    Do what makes YOU happy. If you want to breastfeed, do it! If you want to stay at home for a year, two years, do it! If you truly want to go back to work after 6 weeks, go back to work. This idea that every mom, every woman even, has to fit in a certain feminist box drives me crazy.

My reformed feminist view believes there should be structures in place to accommodate all the above requests. Want to breastfeed – here are resources and a nursing room at your job. Want to quit your job altogether – no judgement. I didn’t arrive at this point in my feminist journey overnight, so I don’t expect others to join my bandwagon all at once. However, all are welcome aboard my judgement free ride.

 

Traveling While Pumping: Our Daughter’s First Trip

 

My husband and I love to travel, and we knew we would continue to do so after our daughter was born. While pumping is not ideal for travel, we made it work. Here is what our first trip as a family of three was like.


Location:
Miami, FL

Miami was a great choice for many reasons. 1. We found very cheap tickets through American Airlines (our preferred airline for mileage purposes). 2. The plane ride is non-stop, and under three hours 3. We have been to Miami before, and were familiar with the city, getting around, where to stay etc. We didn’t want to experiment too much on our first trip as THREE.

Packing

  1. Clothes: I packed about 8 different outfit combinations for a three day trip. The weather in Miami started out very warm, but a cold front came in toward the end of our trip.
  2. Car Seat and Stroller: Our Car Seat and Stroller are both Graco products, and work together. The car seat clicks into the stroller, which makes transport quick and easy. I would recommend this to any new parents, and especially to parents who want to travel with their babies.
  3. Baby Carrier: We used the Infantino Baby Carrier when a Stroller is just too much. It came in handy when going to the beach. (Sand =/= Stroller).
  4. Bibs/Blankets/Towels
  5. Pacifiers/Toys

Things to Consider

  1. Sleeping: I made sure we booked a hotel that had cribs available. We do not co-sleep, and we wanted our daughter to keep her sleep independence during the trip.
  2. Walkability of your Trip: Our hotel was in the Art Deco District of Miami Beach. It was close to many of the things we wanted to do: eat, go to the beach, repeat. This made our trip a lot easier. Even though we Ubered a lot – the Uber rides were not expensive because of our location.

Plane Ride

To make the plane ride as smooth as possible I did two things – booked early flights and stretched her feeding. I noticed that our daughter is most calm in the morning, so I booked early flights to try and capitalize on this. I also pushed her feeding time to coordinate with the plane schedule. My goal was to feed her as close to takeoff as possible – with the hope that if she had ill-effects from flying, she could take comfort in feeding. On the flight to Miami out timing was great. She fed as we were taking off, then went to sleep for most of the flight. She didn’t seem to exhibit any side-effects from the flight – so we were very grateful!

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Pumping/Food

This was obviously the most tricky part of our travel experience. TSA and American Airlines do not exactly have CLEAR guidelines on traveling with breastmilk. I called American Airlines ahead of time, and the representative literally told me it’s a judgement call at the airport as to how much milk you can travel with. Crazy right! Well this is what I did.

  • Cold Milk:
    • I took all her cold milk (about a day’s supply) in 8 bottles. She typically takes 7 bottles a day, 4 ounces in each bottle. This allowed for a little cushion between pumping, airplane ride, spilled milk, etc.
  • Frozen Milk
    • Since I would be in Miami, on a mini vacation, I knew I would want to drink more than water and tea. This is where the frozen milk came in. I brought about a day’s worth of frozen milk, using Medela Pump and Save. I was then able to enjoy a few adult beverages, pump and dump, and still have sufficient milk available for the duration of the trip.

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Things to Consider

  • Frozen milk takes about a day to defrost, then it is recommended that you use it within 24 hours.
  • My process only worked because we had a mini-frig in our room. It was listed as an amentiy at the hotel, but I called to confirm (can never be too sure).
  • I tried very hard to help my pump schedule, so that my milk supply did not decrease.

Takeaway

Overall, we had a great time in Miami. We aren’t sure if our daughter “enjoyed” Miami any more than she would have our house, but she seemed happy. The important thing is we made it work, and were all smiles on the plane ride home. One thing I have learned is that being a new parent doesn’t mean you lose yourself. It means you find ways to incorporate your new reality with your past passions.

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Flint’s Water Crisis and the High Cost of Being Poor

“You can always count on Americans to do the right thing – after they’ve tried everything else.” – Winston Churchill
I will be the first to admit that when I first heard the reports that the water in Flint was poisonous, I thought it was hyperbole. This is 2015, this is America, and it’s WATER. Then, I remembered the above quote from Winston Churchill, and suddenly I wasn’t surprised at what was happing in Flint. Yes, Churchill’s context for his choice words about America are framed during a World War, but the same is true today. Post America is to WWII what Modern America is to the poor – A last resort.

Make no mistake – the crisis in Flint is directly related to poverty in the city. Essentially, the city is broke, tried to save some money, and poisoned the ENTIRE town. Now, when faced with no other options (Insert Churchill) all levels of government are trying to clean up the mess (literally and metaphorically).

Being poor shouldn’t mean taking baths in lead-infected water, or having to use bottled water to brush your teeth or wash  your hair. They shouldn’t have to beg for clean water, or clean pipes. Now, an already reeling city will face the generational effects of lead poisoning.

Every time I think about Flint, I think of my daughter. It is my job to protect her, to provide the very best I can for her. Now imagine being a mom to a newborn in Flint. Neither breast or formula milk would have protected your baby. The baby you carried for nine months, labored many hours to have, and spent every minute the first few days gushing over might have irreversible damage!

Flint, Michigan is an American city. An American city’s residents are being given toxic water. Not in Syria, or Afghanistan. We aren’t taking about an impoverished, war-torn country far away – but a city in America. If this doesn’t raise your collective consciousness I don’t know what will.

I will donating to the Flint Water Crisis (after researching where to send my money), and I hope anyone who reads this article will as well, or at least thing about it.