#MelaninMomMCM 9/24/2018

#MelaninMomMCM 9/24/2018

“I’m Brittanie Duruaku, creator of Brittanie Oluchi AfroBeats Fitness. I’m a wife, mother of two toddler boys (1 and 2) and I have a 12-year old daughter.”

What was the dynamic surrounding your pregnancy? 

“My last pregnancy was pretty fast paced although at times I did feel physical stress due to the fact that I had just given birth 2 months before this pregnancy.”

How would you describe your post-pregnancy/motherhood experience? 

“Post pregnancy has been a more pleasant experience this time. My Husband and I were able to get the babies on a schedule and that has helped us manage both babies tremendously! At times I get frustrated with the constant repetitious disciplining and poo poo diapers back to back lol. But having two babies around the same age does make things easier since the two babies pretty much do everything together.”

Did you ever experience post-partum symptoms or battle with your mental health in any way? If so, how did you get through it?

“With my first pregnancy, I did experience postpartum depression. I was filled with severe anxiety like thoughts of death, and thoughts of bad things happening to my daughter. Over time I had become distant towards my closest friends. My breakthrough came through journaling, Physical activities like working out and I found a great group of friends who provided a solid support system for me as well as church”

Describe your routine and activities that you do to maintain your mental health on a daily basis.

“Waking up a few minutes before my kids for quiet time or to recite my daily affirmations is very helpful for setting my mind at ease to face the day. I listen to a lot of motivational videos on YouTube like Ted talks and silent motivation. Also, I try to hit the gym or knockout a 20-30-minute dance fitness workout at home at least 3-4 times a week. A huge part of the reason I created my AfroBeats Dance Fitness Class is to release stress while having fun and getting fit.”

What advice would you give mothers/soon to be/potential mothers, based on your personal experience?

“1. Start your day early and organize your daily tasks so you are able to get a lot done and still make time for yourself.

2. Find little things you enjoy and do things that remind you of who you are outside of being mommy.

3. Have fun!!! Blast your music and have a party with your little ones. Children are a lot of work but they are also a gift. And you are special because out of thousands of parents praying for this gift, you were chosen.”

I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-T

I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-T

With Bash being in and out of the hospital over the first year or so of his life, he quickly became accustomed to having things done for him. I know a 1-year old is still going to be dependent; however, it slowed him down tremendously from developing at the same rate of a typical 1-year old. Granted he was not a normal 1-year old with tubes coming out of his nose and having breathing treatments every 2 hours consistently; but over time, and as the tubes came out, and the constant therapy and doctor appointments slowed down, Bash’s development was seriously delayed, and I was extremely worried.

With his increased dependence on me and my increased levels of anxiety for him, I found myself doing things for him that he should have been doing himself, like feeding himself with a spoon. I was too afraid that he was going to make a mess or not get anything in his mouth that I just did it for him. That is just one example of many. The problem with this is that it caused Bash to think that he did not have to do anything for himself and stifled his ability to learn on his own to increase his level of independence.

Now that Bash is older, I have allowed him to explore a little more on his own. Although, I can absolutely admit that I am a hover mom…to an extent. My life is so hustle and bustle that I don’t have time to wait for Bash to “figure things out,” like putting his shirt on correctly, or brushing ALL of his teeth and not just the front ones and then swallowing the toothpaste. (Le Sigh) So, I just do it for him. Horrible way to parent, however, that is the reality of my life right now.

I used to work with children with Autism and the school of thought that was used was Applied Behavior Therapy, or ABA. This therapeutic approach helped the children that we worked with learn new tasks and teach them to master those tasks within a short amount of time. In most cases each task built on the previous task in order to better teach them how to do each step independently. There were a few techniques that I took from ABA and used with Bash since I saw how effective it was with the kids that I was working with.

  1. Model the task for them. Show them how to do the task by watching you do it. Children will have a better chance of doing the task correctly if they see it being done correctly.
  2. Hand over hand. When you give your child a new task that you know they do not know how to do, physically guide them to show them exactly how to do it. This allows for you to show them the correct way to complete the task and also gives them the opportunity to do it themselves which will create muscle memory and will increase the likelihood of them being able to complete the task on their own the next time they are presented with it.
  3. Allow them to do simple things and praise them for it. When children are reinforced for behaviors, positive or negative, it encourages them to want to do again. Giving your child small tasks that they know they will easily accomplish and rewarding them for it will encourage them to continue positive behaviors. It will allow you to build towards more difficult tasks while instilling confidence within your child.
  4. Ignore them! They depend on you because they know you will come running. When you ignore them, it forces them to figure it out for themselves. Though this may seem harsh, but this seems to be when I have the best results with Bash.

In all honesty, I still have a hard time stopping myself from running every time Bash yells “mommy,” which happens at least 475042830270 a day. These tips just help with him learning to do every day, age appropriate tasks for himself.

How do you get your child/children to be more independent or do you? Let me know your thoughts!

#MelaninMomMCM 9/17/2018

#MelaninMomMCM 9/17/2018

“I’m Lindsey Morales and I have been married for 10 years in December! My husband Nick and I have three beautiful children, Jaylon (almost 10), Layla (6), and Dominick (5). Our babies are our absolute blessings! We couldn’t imagine our lives without them!! It is a fun, crazy, and non-stop life with these monsters and wouldn’t trade them for the world!”

What was the dynamic surrounding your pregnancy? 

“So, this question is sooo loaded! If only I could just talk about one! Let me just get down to it:

Jaylon, when I was 6 months pregnant not only did Hurricane Ike hit but I found out that my boyfriend (Nick) enlisted in the Army and was on his way to Georgia to start his basic training. It was a very quiet day in September and all you heard were generators playing in the background when I had to say goodbye to the love of my life. I went into the hospital the first week of November and had our sweet boy at 34 weeks. I had a placental abruption with him and had an emergency C-section. Jaylon weighed in at 3lbs 4oz. Nick didn’t know about his birthday till 3 days after because in Basic Training their phone time is scheduled and limited.

Layla, so fast forward 3 1/2 years later after a 13-month deployment, and a miscarriage we find out we are pregnant with Ms. Layla. She was different from the start. I had complications, horrible morning sickness, and we were stationed in Kentucky 12-16 hours away from ALL of our family. With Layla I was in and out of the emergency room. Not only was I already high risk because of Jaylon, I was also diagnosed with Hypothyroidism after giving birth to Jaylon. So, long story short with her…I had her at 28 weeks. Layla weighed 2lbs 4oz and we didn’t expect her to live through the night. I had her early because of another placental abruption, high blood pressure, and my kidneys were failing. My sweet girl, the one I have been praying for…needless to say she is now 6, playing every sport she wants, and is tougher then her brothers!

Dominick, our sweet baby Dom! Well, we were VERY happy and blessed to have the two that we already had. Nick was soon getting out of the Army and starting our life back in Houston. The kids and I moved back before Nick to start to get things ready for him, when we found out WE WERE PREGNANT!!! (ahhhhh!!! 3! Yay!?) We can’t have another one. If Layla came at 28 weeks, there is NO way this one was gonna survive! Right? WRONG!! This boy was an absolute dream pregnancy! No morning sickness, perfect appointments every time! I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect pregnancy! I had a scheduled C-section a week early and I believe he probably would have went well passed his due date!”

How would you describe your post-pregnancy/motherhood experience? 

“With Jaylon, Nick got deployed when he was about a year and a half. I moved back in with my mother but was basically a single parent. It was tough. It was my responsibility to keep this small human alive, make sure he remembers who his father is while he is away, continue to keep my sanity knowing my husband was fighting a war, and always having the thought in my head “Ok, Lindsey…there is a real possibility that you will have to explain to your almost 2 year old that his father may not return home”, Talk about trying to be strong! With Layla, another hard time…Having a 3 1/2 year old, a newborn in the NICU an hour and half away from where we were living and making sure that I am there for him and knowing I still love him and also being in that NICU room with Layla to watch her, feed her, hold her, or just be in the room to watch her sleep. All the while Nick had to be on base at work and Jaylon was not allowed to be in the NICU room with her. Looking back now, how did I juggle all that? With Dominick, it became a little easier. I had Nick back home, but we then had three kids under the age of 5. Nick was at work full time, I was a stay at home mom, and I was gearing up for my first born to start pre-k. It was fun stuff at our house while they were in their toddler years! BY THE WAY: Layla and Dominick are only 11 months and 9 days apart!!”

Did you ever experience post-partum symptoms or battle with your mental health in any way? If so, how did you get through it?

“I don’t want to say that I had post-partum per say. I did have a VERY hard time after the first two were born. All the NICU stays, the deployments, and all the moving we did, I had a lot of mommy guilt. I was hoping I was making all the right choices, hoping I was giving enough love to not only my children but my husband as well. I would cry and break down every time I had to leave either one of my children in the hospital alone. I blamed myself for them being here. How did I cope? I cried, slept, and became stronger every day for my children. They were the important ones, not me! Those little lives needed me!”

Describe your routine and activities that you do to maintain your mental health on a daily basis.

“I knew I had to keep pushing. I had to wake up and tackle life and not allow life to tackle me. I had an AMAZING support system in my mom and my sister in law, Angie. I had to be strong for not only my kids but my husband as well when he was deployed, so he could have a piece of mind knowing that I have his back here in the states.”

What advice would you give mothers/soon to be/potential mothers, based on your personal experience?

“Every child, pregnancy, and woman is different. You can’t base milestones, weeks, or events based on another family. YOU ARE NEVER ALONE!! I feel this blog is an amazing foundation for women you could feel alone. This blog is a blessing in disguise. YOU ARE NEVER ALONE!!! Lots of love, prayers, and hugs to any mommies, soon to be mommies, and families out there!!”

#MelaninMomMCM 9/10/2018

#MelaninMomMCM 9/10/2018

“My name is Cassandra.  I am age 31.  I come from a two-parent home and I am the youngest of four.  I have a Master of Arts in Counseling.
I am honored to be the mother of a toddler.”

What was the dynamic surrounding your pregnancy? 

“I discovered I was unexpectedly pregnant while on a trip out of the country. Learning of my pregnancy initially induced feelings of anxiety and trepidation as I wasn’t completely sure of what to do or what I’d do in the future as a result of my respective decision. I actually impulsively scheduled to have an abortion to alleviate the manifestation of my indiscretion. In short, I was disappointed. I was disappointed that I allowed myself to be thrust in a predicament that was less than ideal. I wasn’t married, nor was I where I desired to be in my professional career. I loathed the thought of what my family would think of me once I revealed that I had gotten pregnant outside of wedlock. My family is religious and very traditional to the extent that the vast majority of my extended family followed the traditional model of being married before having children. I resented the fact that I would eventually have to reveal to people that I had deviated from the mold. Moreover, I honestly detested the idea of being perceived as less than perfect. Up until my pregnancy I had for the most part did everything as expected and acceptable. I hadn’t so much as received a speeding ticket. I proceeded through college and attained two degrees before obtaining a job in my field. So, in the eye the beholder I was on par with the accepted norms of society. Frankly, I was so preoccupied with the notion of my image being tarnished that the initial months of pregnancy were a period during which I often teetered on depression. It wasn’t until the fifth month of pregnancy that I honestly accepted my circumstance and embraced it. Throughout, there were occasions that I experienced anguish while most times the idea of motherhood engulfed me with pure bliss. Medically my pregnancy was without incident and a physically atypical experience as it involved no “normal” symptoms associated with pregnancy…other than an ever-growing frontal protrusion. I anticipated morning sickness and the dreaded experience of energy depletion and constant nausea that I’d often heard of other pregnant women enduring. I don’t have the answers as to why I wasn’t burdened with backache, or why I didn’t have heartburn, fatigue, cramps or swollen extremities. Perhaps I was an anomaly. At any rate, I am still grateful to this day.”

How would you describe your post-pregnancy/motherhood experience? 

“My post pregnancy experience can be summated in two words: Loving & Learning. The birth of my child exposed me to oxytocin to a degree that I didn’t know was possible. In addition, as a first-time mother everyday was a new crash course in motherhood which continues two years after the first day of “class”. The newness of motherhood was and has been nothing short of a continual adjustment period. Nearly everything that I do on a daily basis has to be done with consideration of my child. Since I breastfed, I had to be cognizant of the things that I ate, drank, and exposed myself to. I could no longer be a free-willed individual who lived according to her own volition. I had to be healthy physically and mentally for myself and for my son. My post-pregnancy experience humbled me and taught me how to open myself to things which I may not have been previously inclined to open up to. In the interest of my child I allowed for support to assist in areas where I wasn’t strongest or most knowledgeable. I also had to adjust to the physical changes in my body. While I only gained a modicum of weight, obviously my stomach bore the brunt of the changes brought about from pregnancy. It was indeed an adjustment for me as a woman to see my midsection drastically transformed from a relatively flat stomach to a pudge dressed in wrinkles and stretchmarks. In addition, ten months of breastfeeding took my once perky breasts to much different mom boobs being beckoned by gravity. Though these changes are still reflected in my body to date, I acknowledge them as a reminder of the sacrifice that was made with love. Nevertheless, I can’t say that I love these physical changes; namely those of my stomach.”

Did you ever experience post-partum symptoms or battle with your mental health in any way? If so, how did you get through it?

“Overall, no.”

Describe your routine and activities that you do to maintain your mental health on a daily basis.

“I try to be intentional about focusing on things that are important in my life. Since my child is at the top of the list of said things I use him as an incentive to de-stress and constantly sharpen my mind with self-help literature and enlighten my conscience with positive information daily. While it is elusive in our times, relaxing is an integral part of good mental health for me. My family and I go on bike rides or take walks to the park. We often sit outside while my son plays. Finally, like many women, I make sure to make time for some good ol’ reality television.”

What advice would you give mothers/soon to be/potential mothers, based on your personal experience?

“I would advise would-be mothers to be proactive in their approach to knowledge and information about pregnancy and childbirth. Since pregnancy and giving birth is such a normal occurrence we can often make the mistake of assuming each experience is universal. Just as technology advances so does our knowledge as it relates to pregnancy, childbirth, and parenthood. As such, what our parents and grandparents did may not always work for us or be in the best interest of our offspring. Likewise, each individual is genetically different and so may be each one’s experience. Conduct your own research. Be open minded. Seek different perspectives. Be positive and surround yourself with positive people and those who have your best interests at heart. Find what works for you and your little one and love them unconditionally.”

The Public Ain’t the Enemy, It’s the Inner Me

The Public Ain’t the Enemy, It’s the Inner Me

How do you talk to yourself? What does hour inner voice sound like?

Are you a Sinclair James or are you a Regina George?

Is your “inner you” direct, yet compassionate and encouraging. Or, is your inner voice continuously hurling insults and reminding you of your past mistakes?

It wasn’t until recently that I realized how destructive my inner voice was. I would constantly dwell on the past, what I did wrong, or what I could have done better. It wasn’t the normal “oh no, that wasn’t it sis” kind of voice. It was more of a “you’re not good enough” voice.

When I found myself in a dark place, I realized that those voices weren’t even mine. They were the voices of some bad ass kid in my 5th grade class, or my mother scolding me; an old boss, or an ex from when things didn’t work out. I went through my entire life internalizing all of the negative comments and interactions that I believed it and they turned into baseless insecurities. So much so, that I began telling myself those same things, and some even worse.

When I had Bash prematurely was when my inner voice was on level apeshit, and not in a good way. My “inner me” spouted negativity and blame and questioned how good of a mother I was for going into preterm labor. It sounds absolutely ridiculous since I know that it was completely out of my control, but at the time, I believed it.

Fast forward to the end of last year/beginning of this year, “inner me” was at it again; and it had gotten worse. I was in my last semester of grad school for counseling and “inner me” was doubtful that I would finish my last few months in order to graduate. This time, the voice was not doubting that I could do the work. It was the thought that “nothing good happens to me” and I just knew something was going to happen that would cause me not to finish, even after I devoted the last year and a half to this program. I questioned my ability to be a counselor and beat myself up for even getting into this program, and now questioning if this field of work was really right for me. “Inner me” even convinced me that no one cared about me and to cut myself off from the outside world and go into hiding.

I complied.

The way that I saw myself was completely against everything that I knew to be. Although I am very critical of myself, my strength was always the balance between the “inner me” and reality. I could not, for the literal life of me, muster up the strength to quiet that negative inner voice but instead allowed it to take full reign over my life.

One day, something clicked, and I realized how far gone I was. I realized that something had to give, and Bash should not have to watch his mother cry and seclude herself every day. I knew he deserved better, but I was so deep into that negative space that I didn’t even know where to begin. I had to actively and forcefully pull myself out of that hole by constantly combatting that negative voice with positive affirmations. That was the easy part. The hard part was believing them.

I began listening to inspirational videos and podcasts. I researched the way that I was feeling and seeing if there was anyone else that felt the same way. I took notes on how they battled those insecurities and the negative inner voice and slowly began to mimic them until I was able to believe and establish my own personal life mantras. I found outlets for those negative thoughts in journaling and calmed them by guided meditations. I looked at my many accomplishments thus far, rather than live in the blunders that actually led me to most of those accomplishments.

For so much of my life I blamed other people for the way that they treated me without recognizing how I was mistreating myself. I had to accept the mistakes that I have made along my journey and understand that my value and my self-worth is not a direct reflection of those mistakes. I converted my inner Regina George into my inner Sinclair James and now “woo woo woo” myself through difficult situations, while only allowing Regina to make seasonal cameos. Balance, right?

Taming my inner voice is a constant task but one that I now see as habitual and a positive practice for maintaining my mental health.

If you could give your inner voice a physical representation, who would it be? Is it positive or negative? How does your inner voice impact and guide your life and your daily interactions?