The Mocha Manual to a Fabulous Pregnancy
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Kimberly Allers
All right reserved.ISBN: 0060762292
Preparing Yourself for the
Congratulations! If you're reading this, that means you are either already pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant. You know, expecting. With child. In the family way. Knocked up. Or as they said back in the day, the rabbit has died. However you label it, you are set to embark on a life-changing journey that will last roughly forty weeks and will allow you entrée into the exclusive sorority of motherhood, in which delivery is the ultimate hazing ritual. But what lies between then and now, between you now and you lying on a table with your legs cocked up, sweating, aching, and pushing like a grizzly bear, is the most awesome experience known to womankind. In fact, it is an odyssey so exhilarating in its exhaustiveness, so powerfully awe-inspiring and humbling, so life-transforming, that God knew that there wasn't even a slight chance that men could do the job. They can barely manage that toilet seat situation.
So here you are, a strong, beautiful black woman about to have a baby. Unfortunately, for most of us, this baby-making business has become more difficult than back in the days when our great-great-grandmamas squatted in the field, pushed out a youngin, and went back to picking cotton in the afternoon. And it's not that the baby-making formula has changed, but the "stuff" we have to deal with during pregnancy has changed. From career obligations, financial concerns, stress in the workplace, to family drama, girlfriend drama, husband or significant other drama — we have a lot with which to contend.
There are meetings, deadlines, spiritual and civic obligations, telephone check-ins on all the people who depend on you, and perhaps a robust social life. We're always on the go. We eat on the run and network on the go. For me, "downtime" is a quick visit to the bathroom. Nowadays that's when I open the mail. You probably feel the same way.
It's a common problem with black women. We are the original den mothers — always looking out for others, husbands, children, employers, family, and friends — while somehow managing to further our career, find a meaningful relationship, and keep our spirituality intact. We give up time for ourselves, to take care of others. We push ourselves even though we're either tired or the perennial "sick and tired," hungry, or in dire need of some me time. We do the Strong Black Woman thing convinced that strength, invincibility, suffering, and self-sacrifice define us as black women. This is part of our culture and upbringing. And it hasn't gone unnoticed.
From as early as the eighteenth century, researchers have commented on the dominance of women in slave communities. That notion has even led researchers to study the "carrying" role of black women as pillars in our community, serving as community workers, church mothers, and political agents of social change, to name a few roles. Even in song and poem, our literary light bearers like Nina Simone, Maya Angelou, and Zora Neale Hurston have referred to our ability to make a way out of no way. Heck, even Tupac rapped about it. But the fact remains, our double-duty, nurturing task of tending to family and community is very stressful, even with our creativity and indomitable spirit. The stereotype of the Strong Black Woman is a myth that creates unnecessary pressure and unrealistic expectations, and behind the façade of almost every typical strong woman are often pain and sorrow. We are notoriously good at tending to others but woefully bad at looking after ourselves. This poses a unique problem in pregnancy.
Your job for the next nine months is to do your personal best to bring a healthy child into the world. Pregnancy is a special time, a crucial time for you to focus on yourself and the life growing inside you. Particularly since black women, across all socioeconomic levels, still have the highest incidences of preterm labor and low-birth-weight babies. In fact, black women are 2.2 times more likely to have a low-birth-weight infant (under five and a half pounds) than their white counterparts. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), black women have a three to four times greater risk of a pregnancy-related death than white women. This is the largest racial gap in any of the maternal and child indicators that the CDC researches, and it has persisted for more than sixty years. We also have disproportionately high rates of premature births: 17.5 percent of all births to black women were premature in 2001, compared with a national average of 11.9 percent, according to the March of Dimes. And preterm birth is the leading cause of infant deaths in the United States. These numbers can't be ignored.
Understanding that the complexities of our lives as black women can influence our responses to various situations, including pregnancy, is key to helping us reverse the statistical tide in birth outcomes. So where does that leave you? Ready to exhale and let it go, I hope. Try to submit mentally to your body — reading and, this time, actually listening to its signals. Pregnancy is the perfect time to learn the art of surrender. Get out your white flag and start waving. Now, I'm no Iyanla, with all that let go and let God stuff, and the listening to the inner voice. Nor do I have forty principles that lead to spiritual strength and understanding. But I do strongly recommend taking a few moments for introspection. I'm pretty sure Iyanla would call it soul work. Take time daily to relax, breathe deeply, and concentrate on the new life growing (or soon to grow) inside you.
Let's start by taking a little personal inventory. What about your lifestyle? For example, do you often end up skipping meals? Or have you recently had a bag of microwave popcorn or a box of Oreos and called it dinner? Does the staff at your local fast food drive-through know you by name? . . .