An Epiphany about my Natural Hair

The other day I made a YouTube video talking about my natural hair, and in the video I said, “I didn’t know what my natural hair looked like until I became an adult.” In that moment, it was just something I said, but after I recorded the video it really made me think.

The first time my hair was pressed (straightened) according to my mother, I was about two years old, two!

By the time I was four I was rocking a Jheri curl.

Natural hair wasn’t really a fad. We had just left the era of the Afro and moved into the era of the press and curl.

Growing up you pressed “bad” hair, or you pressed hair that refused to grow as a way to pull it from the scalp, encourage it to grow. As a child you have no opinion and no say, and as a parent, you do what you feel is in the best interest of the child…and sometimes your self.

Nappy, something always used in a derogatory manner when I was growing up. Nappy meant bad, not manageable. “Girl, get that kitchen (a.k.a back of the neck). You don’t want no kunka bugs showing.” I can remember the countless Saturday’s spent in my grandmother’s kitchen while she pressed my hair using an old school pressing comb that went straight from the stove onto my hair. The holding of ears. The beads of sweat forming on my top lip from fear of being burned. Burns treated with butter (Lawd, butter is NOT for treating burns y’all. It traps the heat and makes the burn worse), and the repeating of “be still”.

Let’s look at the history of hair straightening in the black community. According to the BBC, in early African civilizations, hairstyles could indicate an individual’s family background, tribe and even social status. It is said that, the close proximity of ones hair to the sky suggested that it was the conduit for spiritual interaction with God.

So when did it all change?

It was said that after the abolishment of slavery, many blacks felt the pressure to fit in with white mainstream society and adjusted their hair accordingly. That’s deep y’all!

My first child was a girl. She was beautiful with a head full of hair! Thick, beautiful hair.

I followed in the footsteps of my mother and I pressed her hair when she was very young, about age four.

Damnit, thinking about this infuriates me. I can remember telling myself that I needed her hair to be easier to manage for me. My daughter hated getting her hair combed. She would hide all of the combs and brushes in the house. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying there is anything wrong with straightening hair, I’m just saying that in the process I forgot to remind her to love her natural hair. To remind her how beautiful her natural, God given hair was. Fortunately for me, I embarked on this natural hair journey while she was still young. It allowed me to teach her about her natural hair, and to remind her how beautiful it is. She’s been natural since middle school.

This really got me thinking about the irreparable damage (in some cases), and introduction of self hate (in some cases) in our communities so I dug a little deeper. Growing up my definition of good hair was soft, long and easy to manage curls. I’d always wished that my hair was more like that or like the hair of my mixed or white friends. I often questioned why God gave them the straight hair and us this “nappy” stuff. Y’all see where I’m going with this? I never looked at my desire for something other than what God gave me as subconscious hate. In my mind, I just wanted to fit in.

Forty years old, while recording a YouTube video I discovered something about myself that I never paid attention to. “I didn’t know what my natural hair looked like until I became an adult.”

Dear Little Black Girl,

Your natural hair is beautiful.

Jaz

Until next time…🦋

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Breastfeeding In The Black Community 

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This blog is dedicated to Black Breastfeeding Week! This Week is intended to recognize, celebrate, encourage and support the community of black women breastfeeding babies. 

What if I told you that Black Women have the lowest success rate when it comes to breastfeeding their babies?

What if I told you that only 20 percent breastfed exclusively for 6 months, and 27.8 percent met the recommended breastfeeding duration of 12 months?

Both of these alarming statistics are true. As a black mom who breastfed all four of her babies, I wanted to understand the why. Let me begin with my own experience. Before I gave birth to my first child I knew that I wanted to exclusively breastfeed so I began my research. I had no clue how to do it or where to begin. I read article after article and solicited the advice of those who had breastfed their children. 

Latching, milk supply, diet, challenges…

I wanted to know it all. I needed to know what I was getting into and what to look for in the event I encountered any issues. October 28, 1999 at 8:35 pm I gave birth to my first child, a bouncing babygirl. 

After she spent some time in the NICU, I was finally able to hold and see her. I can remember telling the nurse that I planned to breastfeed. I also remember that there wasn’t very much information given to me about breastfeeding. Now, I found it odd since I could overhear information being given to other moms that didn’t look like me. I think the assumption, since I was young, black and a first time mom, breastfeeding was probably highly unlikely. 

The nurse actually seemed quite surprised when I told her that I would not be trying a bottle and that I would be exclusively breastfeeding. (They already had enfamil on deck! They went hard for that formula!) Remember all that research I mentioned? I knew what I was signing up for. It was time! They handed her to me for our first try at feeding. She latched on immediately, and her latch game was A1! I was so relieved and excited. Then came the worry of would I produce enough milk to continue exclusively breastfeeding. 

Well guess what, I would learn that I was a over producer. Y’all I was like a cow! I was producing sooooo much milk that milk went to waste, sadly. At six weeks my daughter became very ill and they attempted to bottle feed her. It didn’t work! She would not suck any nipple except mine. My daughter went from breast to cup. 

Then came the question of, how long would I breastfeed? My plan was to breastfeed until she was ready to stop. Six months became one year. One year became two years. 

I also breastfed my three sons. My longest stint being three years. 

I encountered so much negativity from black women during my time breastfeeding. The current black mamas breastfeeding movement wasn’t as popular as it is today. Some of the things I heard..

Girl you are not going to last! I tried it and it was too hard! 

How long are you going to breastfeed that child? If they can ask for it, they don’t need it!

Ooh girl he/she has teeth? Oh you’ll quit once they bite you. 

He’s 3? That is so nasty! 

Didn’t even phase me. Got on my nerves? Absolutely, but it didn’t stop me! 

My philosophy was always, “My Babies, My breasts, My business.” 

I was a very proud breastfeeder. I didn’t cover up and that was my choice. My children were hot little humans. They never fed well with their heads covered. I encouraged every black mother I came in contact with to breastfeed, atleast give it a try. I didn’t share horror stories. I tried my best to educate and inform. 

Why is there so much negativity surrounding breastfeeding in the black community? Could it be generational? Could it be historical? Shame? Embarrassment? Negative personal experiences? Lack of access and knowledge? Surprise, it’s all of that!

Some of our history; Black Wet Nurses: “A wet nurse is a woman who breast feeds and cares for another’s child.”

Imagine, giving birth to your first child six days ago, then being made to abandon the needs of your own child and forced to breastfeed a white child that didn’t belong to you. Imagine having to be available to this child every time they cried and wanted milk. This folks, is not a joke, this really happened. For centuries it happened!

Uniformed; some women don’t breastfeed due to lack of information given before and at the time of birth. Remember how no one gave me any information? Imagine all of those who don’t know. Fortunately for me, I did my own research. 

Headlines: Public Breastfeeding made public in 50 states! 

When did this happen you ask? July 2018. What the what? Breast were intended for that very reason, to feed and nourish! Folks without breast out here creating rules for bodies that don’t belong to them. Whew, let me move on before I get mad mad. Side note, I’ve been publicly breastfeeding since 99. I ain’t new to this…call me a pioneer! 

Let’s talk about the benefits to Baby & Mom!

For Baby

  • Breastfeeding may reduce the risk for certain diseases, like obesity and type 2 diabetes; both are major causes of morbidity and mortality in adults in the United States, particularly for African Americans.
  • Reduces the risk of viruses, urinary tract infections, inflammatory bowel disease, gastroenteritis, ear infections, and respiratory infections.
  • Causes less stomach upset, diarrhea, and constipation than formula.

For Mom

  • Helps you lose pregnancy weight
  • Triggers your uterus to shrink back to prepregnancy size.
  • Lowers your risk of breast and ovarian cancer. 

Yes, I am a believer that breast is best, but I also know that a fed baby is what truly matters. I don’t shame those who choose not to breast feed, because truly, breastfeeding is a commitment. To those of you out there thinking about breastfeeding and are on the fence, find a lactation consultant where you live. Peruse the inter webs for books and articles. Don’t let negativity and naysayers dissuade you from trying. 

Until next time…Your Babies, Your Breasts, Your Business 🦋