revelations

I have officially been pregnant 7 months now and this experience has taught me a lot. I learned that while pregnancy is not an illness, it is certainly a condition. It has required monthly and now bi-weekly doctor’s visits. I have been on antibiotics three times and am now on them daily. I have gained 30 lbs over the course of this 7 months. My employer does not offer maternity leave, so I will have to use sick leave and even then I will only be able to do so up to 6 weeks for a natural birth or 8 weeks for a C-section. Any more time I’d like to spend with my new homie after that will be what you all know as vacation time. Fathom that I will not have sick leave left to take him/her to the required infant doctor appointments for many months after birth. And through all of this I have learned that women in the U.S. have little to no control over their reproductive rights and birthing.

This is not about the politics of the day, which has our president offering private companies the option to deny women the option to time their family planning. And this isn’t even about the politicians who ask their mistresses to have abortions, while pretending that pro-life is even a real thing (…because, it is not a real thing! To say you are pro-life, but not pro-social services to help that life throughout its life is bullsh*t. So, yea, it’s not a real thing). This is about the daily micro-aggressions of being a person who is exhausted, heavy, with limited mobility who has tried to navigate self-care and the healthcare system in our nation’s capital.

As everyone who will listen knows by now, since I arrived in DC in June I have seen three different medical practices. They all (somewhat) sucked. I say this because the idea that a patient should see 7-15 doctors in a practice, just so that the random who is on call the day you deliver has the benefit of having seen your face before, is also bullsh*t. This system is geared to the benefit of the doctors, not to you as a parent or a patient. There’s also no continuity of care in that process. How many times have I had to say, “the last time I was here…”? And, frankly, it’s insulting to think that one of the most important moments in a person’s life will be a crap shoot of audience members, treatments, and services.

Oh and the audience is large. No one is comprehensive in their care, by the way. You are expected to have a doula, have taken childbirth classes, done some form of birth breathing or massage class, and attended prenatal yoga or pilates – at the least. God, forbid your doctor/midwife actually discuss labor with you. The discussion isn’t their job, I guess, just the labor itself (which really isn’t about you at all). And there is the expectation that you will be ok with medical students, nurses, and doctors you’ve just met that day seeing you at your most vulnerable. This feels like a sporting event where you are unsure if you will be the referee, an audience member or a contender. It’s simply not up to you. And not even about you.

I have given up on riding the metro at this point, because no one gives up their seats for pregnant ladies. My fingers are too swollen to wear my wedding ring and even one of my doctors gave me the condescending look when asking (despite this having been on my chart) if I was having anyone with me throughout this process. It’s not polite for a pregnant lady to say, “Yes, yabish, the man who fathered this child and married me!” But, I’ve come to accept these looks and judgments of an expectant Black mother. The city is gentrified and I have only come to see brown people at Latinx & Black events. Finding ways to navigate self-care, without a co-pay and ignorant assumptions has been quite a feat in this town. I was the only Black woman in my pilates class, except the instructor, and the Indian girl who was my soul sistah (I don’t think she knew it though) dropped after the 3rd class (obviously she didn’t know if she left me behind). No one else spoke to me throughout the course and perhaps it was for the best.

Maybe because I’m physically less able or maybe because I’m just too tired to play coy, I’ve learned to observe and not react to the assumptions made about me, the family I am creating, and my choices as a woman. I can truly attest to the fact that there is a business to birthing and it hasn’t even pretended to care about my agency as a person. Whether it’s waiting a week to get medical results for an obvious infection, because the web portal wasn’t working (My insurance pays you $400 per visit, you mean to tell me you can’t pick up the phone to call me? #reallysandy?) Politeness does not at all indicate advocacy. And everybody is worried about an impending lawsuit that has absolutely nothing to do with you. And this isn’t just the docs, this includes the otherwise very nice childbirth instructor who said none of her doulas were allowed to do a home birth because of the insurance liability she wasn’t prepared to shoulder as a business owner. Well, thanks, that wasn’t what I was asking, but I guess your business liability is my concern now too… good to know.

All in all, I lament this moment publicly, because I have found myself feeling isolated in this space. I’ve become accustomed to seeing women and partners in waiting rooms, abuzz with other waiting couples, so excited or scared about giving life that they really do not see how they are being treated more like chattel than people. It seems that people have become resigned to this level of care and have accepted that this is what they deserve. I venture some of this is because in this area, women are having children later in life. Believing their pregnancies some miracle of modern medicine, rather than their own bodies, they assume that they should rely on, defer to, and accept any medical treatment that gets their kids birthed in tact –  regardless of what this means for their own maternal health. But I guess the same could be said for any woman made to feel as disempowered as this entire process intends. We are made to believe that the doc is our biggest asset – not our own bodies and certainly not our mental & emotional well being. Until very recently, I felt alone in the realization that this doesn’t work for me. But, I can’t possibly be the only one.

People seem so excited to have children that the “how” of the matter doesn’t seem to matter much at all. If your employer screws you, it’s ok. If your doctor can’t pronounce your name, that’s normal. If the nurses haven’t read your charts, it’s understandable. And, this is, after all, my observation coming from the privileged position of having a job and excellent health insurance. I can only imagine what it would be like to be even more financially and physically vulnerable. Multiple DC area hospitals closed their maternity wards in the last year and one can only wonder if that was a good thing, considering reported conditions.

I call this piece revelations, because these are experiences I could never have understood before this moment. Being made to feel like an anomaly, demanding crunchy granola, for asking to be seen – truly been seen – as a human giving life has been stressful and draining. I can’t say that I’ve allowed it to be degrading or that I’ve permitted it to be dehumanizing. If that ever happens, trust me, it will be against my will and I will be telling a very different kind of story here. Yet, I have fought with all my might to not have the sour business of birth diminish my own relationship to pregnancy and my body. It has been a journey. I’m sure that I am not alone in this trial and after 7 months, I know this is bigger than me. I am not asking too much.  I am not being rebellious. I am simply stepping into parenthood in the present, rather than in the “after the baby is born” future.

If anyone else out there feels similarly, I simply want you to know that you are not alone, I see you, and you are not asking too much.

#musicamondays #MusicMondays (77)

Welcome to the 77th installation of #musicamondays #MusicMondays, which features music from around the globe. Each song is selected to start your week off on the good foot! One still in the bed and the other in another country…

This morning we’ll start slowly with the jazzy musings of Ohio, USA native Nancy Wilson. The Grammy winner had her own variety series in the ’60s and has been known for classy little ditties that are grounded in the less romantic parts of real life…  but her silky voice makes it all go down so swell. Alas, I love this song because it just feels like a 1960s version of “Man Down” & badass women, calling the shots and taking no shit get me fired up for a week of greatness ahead…

Shots fired!

On Trust and Anxiety

I’m not sure what it is exactly, but between my fb newsfeed, CNN coverage of Trump’s tweets, and the general mayhem of the day (I’ll trade you pee soaked reporters in Charlottesville and raise you N. Korean missiles possibly reaching Guam) – being in America is giving me a never ending anxiety attack. I caution not to say PTSD, because I don’t want to be clinically inaccurate or to exaggerate the low-grade, persistence of the bullsh*t onslaught I’m experiencing at the moment. But, seriously, what the absolute fck is going on and why is mass hysteria the norm?

I am an expat who came home because I wanted to see things for myself. I also came home because I was getting too deeply invested in the problems of a place that I wasn’t really attached to. I wanted to be in solidarity, in mind and body, with the struggles closest to my heart and closest to my identity. Empathy and philanthropy can only take you so far, eventually you have to identify. And I knew that what hurt my heart most were police brutality against the Black community, the infringement on the civil rights of people who look and live like me, and the repeated silencing of their efforts at redress.

I recall sitting in Jo’burg with a Zimbabwean acquaintance a few months back as he taught me about how much Black people all over the world see African-Americans as an ideal example for civic engagement. He proceeded to tell me with admiration in his eyes that eventually us African-Americans would kick ass in America against those racists. (We) African-Americans were making noise with Black Lives Matter. (We) had done it with the civil rights movement and inspired liberation movements throughout Africa. (We) African-Americans were disrupting the ideal American dream narrative everyday. Those cracks & fissures would lead to social rupture, legal breakdown, and political break throughs. He was as hopeful as a negro spiritual sung over an organ in a Baptist church on MLK, Jr. day.

I dashed those hopes. I proceeded to tell him he was wrong. We had reached a dead end. We had run out of convincing ideas. And better yet, whatever ideas we presented were batted down in word and deed. Everything we tried was proving ineffective. We could march. We could televise our revolution. We could name & shame (police killings of unarmed Black people). We could find a White ally to speak for us. I mean, we could do everything that once worked and this time it could very well not work. And I said, that’s what we’re experiencing here, because this shit ain’t working.

I could ask why. But I won’t. I’ll just hypothesize that it’s simply that we are only being heard by people who already care. The others, the Bull Connors of the world, have made a choice to ignore our presence and to undermine our existence.  Oh and they are crawling out from their thinly veiled hovels to let us know which side of the political spectrum, racial divide, and socio-economic gap they stand on.

So, this low grade anxiety I’m suffering from is simply the persistent reality that I am  experiencing a “trust no-one” frost on everything I touch. I can’t trust the police to keep me safe. Or trust that my husband will come home from a run in the neighborhood. Can’t trust that a young woman going to pray in a local mosque will come home safely. I can’t trust that compelling images of now unhooded racists will de-stabilize the American public. And, what’s worse is that I frankly don’t trust that anything will change.

The only thing I can trust, at this moment, is that I am not crazy.

This crude state of affairs is very real.

American culture shock.

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Photo: PINS Daddy

It has officially been 1 week since I’ve been back in the U.S., so it’s only right that I get back to writing my confusions, my exploits and my experiences. Thanks for loving me through the hiatus. It’s only right that – 8 days fresh off the wings of a United flight – I come back  to writing with a few questions for you’se guys who call this place home. Help me understand how this place works. There are so many things I just don’t get anymore.

 

1 – Why do I have to fill out the Customs forms if I have global entry? I feel like DHS & CBP just have a lot of paper lying around and they want to get rid of it by dumping it on those of us who don’t need it, but don’t yet know we don’t need it. Keep yo’ paper, bruh! I have enough luggage to worry about.

1a. Why doesn’t every American with a passport have global entry tho’?

1b. Who has life minutes to waste in long lines in airports tho’?

2 – Why is everything in the super market in a box or a plastic bag? Forgive my amnesia on this subject, but I’m going to repeat Chimamanda Adichie, who only recently joined our sacred Barnard sistahood (we’ll keep her tho’) and is also eloquent with a writer’s pen, “EAT REAL FOOD.” I was so sad walking through Trader Joe’s this week and Whole Foods last week when I felt like I walked out with more packaging than actual food. 5adayCSA here I come!

 

3 – Why are White people moving into every neighborhood in the country at this very moment in time? I mean, literally, I could trace the eastern seaboard with a litany of Brown people tears over gentrification. I’ve been in 3 states in the last 8 days and in each town I visited I’ve heard lamentations of the erasure of people of color, the displacement of low and middle-income families, and reverse White flight. I just can’t figure out why now? I could get into the race issues here, but I’ll just settle on simply asking “why are all the White folks moving?”

4 – What are cops for anymore? People (of color, predominantly) are more afraid than ever to cross paths with police officers, so I’m kinda wondering how exactly can they be useful. In theory, yea, public safety, blah, blah I get it (ish), but really I can’t be the only one wondering… 4a. when is it safe to call them exactly? 4b. Could I live with myself if something bad happened either way? or 4c. Would I be alive after they left?

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Pinterest – saved by Rebecca Mendez

5- Last, but not least, how many housewife shows are actually on the air right now? There are Real Housewives of like 12 towns & 49 states; 1st and 2nd wives clubs in satellite cities; Celebrity, Jail and Sister wives. I mean, we get it, shows about nuclear, dysfunctional families will keep women with disposable income glued to the TV looking at commercials and buying stuff we don’t need to mimic people we don’t like. But, c’mon, let’s do better. I’d trade you 20 of these wife shows full of fiancees & divorcees for just 10 HGTV channels, preferably in metropolitan cities where one can purchase a 3 bedroom house for less than $400,000 USD. A real wife can dream…

Riddle me that.

Resistance is Restless

I am one of the many women who went to work on March 8th. I could say that I was in turmoil over it, but that would be a lie. That’s what I do… work. Every day. No days off (Wale voice).

I knew what I signed up for in this career and I knew this day would come. There’d be a moment when I’d be toiling over minutiae while everyone else was out fighting a good fight that I felt should be mine. This happened last year for any number of Black Lives Matter protests. It happened years before many times over. But, alas, life is not made of newspaper headlines or twitter rants. It is not the meta-narratives of history books that one lives while history books are being written. Instead, it is the particular histories of daily life that all seem mundane individually, but are collectively more than the sum of their individual parts.

In light of this, I’m sharing my mundane Women’s History Month resistance routine. The month started off with making a donation to WNYC studios so that podcasts like 2 Dope Queens and Sooo Many White Guys could continue to give me spurts of joyous laughter between monotonous policy drafts and email responses (#trypod). Luckily for me, there was an option to get Phoebe Robinson‘s (1 dope queen) new book “You can’t touch my hair..” I thoroughly enjoyed it and, as a result, snorted a few times. With that in my memory bank, I’ll be symbolically burning a bra all month long. Here’s how:

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The lady on left is looking how I’m feeling! (Today Show)

1 – Making my husband visit his mom!  – This trip is the gift that keeps on giving. My mother-in-law is the salt of the earth. She’s also very sane. Her physical presence in the life of her eldest son is very sobering for all who witness it. He, of all people, could use her grounding right now. I, on the other hand, could use some alone time, followed by girl time, followed by work like a dog time, followed by more girl time. Snowball effect accomplished.

2 – Reading Sonia Sotomayor’s biography – I’m going to read more about Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor’s life, because I hear she’s got a great journey to share. I also feel it will balance out Phoebe’s book in both heft and severity. I can’t just laugh and cuss all month long. I need to be inspired to do something positive with the platforms I have. I’m hoping the judge will remind me of  a time when public servants and leaders were actually admirable and inspiring; I wanted to be in that number. It wasn’t that long ago. It’s good to know that some of them are still around – kicking and screaming beneath very powerful robes (keep the cape). And, like me, she’s not an immigrant, so at least we have that in common.

3- Self care – Ask me why I have a physical, dental exam (w/ x-rays) and spa day booked before the end of the month ? My response is a direct quote from Audre Lorde: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” — A Burst of Light: Essays – I won’t be undone, disarmed, minimized or placated, so long as I am well fed, well rested, well loved and able bodied. My job is to stay that way!

4- Starting a business – My amateur meanderings have led me to two very stimulating entrepreneurial endeavors. And rather than pussyfoot around any longer, I’m finalizing the LLC for one of them this month and reserving the business name for the other. Not regularizing my business investments leaves me personally vulnerable and that’s not sustainable or growth minded. See, ya’ll, I’m speaking that business-lady talk. Bossy pants all month long! #queenboss

5 – Writing an article on women of the Diaspora – In the works, as I type, is a piece I’m co-authoring with my PhD advisor on 2013 research data I collected in India. It has taken a combination of guts, cajoling, and stagnation to get me to the point where I can finally write this long overdue academic article. Hallelujah! The day (or month) has finally come. My March 24th deadline for a draft is well timed, because I’m sure that my academic sisters, mothers, and friends will help me finally execute. “We can do it!”

Even if you don’t take on one of my 5 pillars of the month, you too can create your own mundane resistance routine. I’m sure you’re wondering how to make a difference within the parameters of your daily routine. My advice? Choose daily wins and small victories with big impacts. Deliberately support businesses and development efforts of women. Affirm their femininity and their excellence. Hug a woman you love, or a man who loves a woman you love. Stop, smell some roses, and then… get back to work! There is soooo much to be done.

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Pinterest

 

Help Hyze’s Medical Fund

When I met Hyze, I didn’t know he had other names. We met at a NJ speakeasy bookstore that is no more and he volunteered to help me with my self-published urban culture magazine, Exist. We spent many hours, days and months talking through photos, stories, and basically… chilling. Trying to understand how to tell the story of where we’re from and what we live each day, though our stories, even, were vastly different. In any case, through the years Hyze revealed himself as Akintola Hanif. He and his work evolved. My magazine died. His photography grew. And his career became a combination of photo-activism, photo-journalism, and shooting the subaltern.

Months go by and he and I call, write, say we’re going to link up when I’m in town, sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t. But, when it happens, my friend fills my soul. He reminds me of every artsy urban dream I ever had that I laid aside for a pay check and travel options. He reminds me that every bit of creative spirit in writing and image that I’ve produced over the years is honest to my core, because since before I was the me many people know today I was living that truth and he supported me (why, I’ll never know) from our day 1.

And so, it is with a heavy heart that I heard that he recently had a stroke. Ok, let’s be honest. I felt shock and guilt, even before I felt sympathy or concern. First, this dude is young and so shock set in before anything else. I considered that something had to have gone wrong here and that a stroke really is something that could have, should have hit a decade or two after today, maybe. Guilt came because I saw the “GoFundMe” page on his facebook account, but misread it for weeks. I thought he was starting a fund to help a friend. I didn’t realize his friend set up an account to help him. And you know how many hours I spend on facebook. I could have clicked the link and known sooner. He is my friend, a real one, seriously. I had emailed him weeks and days before with my usual two liner. “I miss you. That is all.” But, didn’t reach out beyond that. So, guilt… there you have it.

For the sympathy and concern, I could say I have a lot, but that too would be wrong. He is the second photographer in my life to have a stroke. Watching my grandfather transform into his post-stroke self was painful for him and difficult to watch, so I know the days ahead will be tough and will be different for my friend.  What I really had was fear. But, what I’ve seen in these past few days is that Hyze’s friends have come together – at least in social media land – to help support. That’s more than can be said for many people. And so that give me joy and hope. I hope it does the same for him, as he recovers and shoots new lives from a different angle.

So, he’s been many things in this life, a dancer, a single-father, a friend, a photographer, a magazine editor and founder, a son, a mentor, a whole person (with grills and glasses) with a story to tell.  #sammiches

I hope you’ll take the time to support my friend’s recovery so that he can continue to do what he does best… every little bit helps.

https://www.gofundme.com/akintolas-medical-recovery-fund

#musicamondays #MusicMondays (67)

Welcome to the 67th installation of #musicamondays #MusicMondays, which features music from around the globe. Each song is selected to start your week off on the good foot! One still in the bed and the other in another country…

Chicago born, Gil Scott Heron been woke since woke was a thing… He’s probably turning over in his grave right now, but… every once in a while we need to be reminded of how far we’ve come and how far we haven’t… Thank you, sir.

And since it’s a Monday Morning, this feels appropriate… let’s call on Lady Day and make the most of the day we have in front of us!