Whether it was told to us or shown to us via family, neighbors and the communities we were cultivated in, we're all familiar with the phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child.” The statement goes far beyond your pops telling you how his third grade teacher had permission to spank him instead of mom being called up to the school when he acted out, or your younger sister being allowed to sleepover at Keisha’s house because your moms both had standing appointments at the same salon every week. Your village is your road map, your Encyclopedia Brown, your secret counsel; your village is that group of people and resources that help keep you afloat in times of adversity.
A village comes in many forms for many reasons. It is a pack of resources used to help you level up or simply get by without freaking out and feeling alone, which can be especially beneficial when it comes to the discussion of motherhood. Because not every maternal journey is the same — some differing vastly based on the cultural group a mom may identify with or belong to — there can be sub villages to these villages. For women of color embarking on the road to motherhood, there are infinite concerns we have, like how to care for our skin during and after pregnancy; what questions we should be asking our health care providers as it pertains to our birthing options and our own physical well-being; ways to cope with the ever looming demon of postpartum depression; whether we should consider using cloth diapers versus a major brand for our little brown babies — the list goes on and on. There is something peculiar and unique about the maternal journey for Black that needs to be addressed with care.
For that reason — and because I am a first-time, expecting mom, who has found these quips and tips to be a godsend and wish not to be stingy with the goods — here's a list of helpful resources for my fellow expecting Black moms.
1. Ask Questions
Ask all the questions of your physician and the supporting staff. Seriously, when it comes to the well-being of you and your baby, there's no such thing as a dumb question. Want to know what you can or can't eat, or if snacking on Flamin' Hot Doritos will burn your baby’s skin? Ask the doctor! Also, if you want further insight, I recommend BlackDoctor.org.
2. Find a Mommy Support Group
Join a mommy support group online or in your local community. With social media being such a massive hub for resources we can use digitally or in the natural, there is no way any mom should find herself without a support group, to talk to about those random moments we experience during and after pregnancy. Facebook is group central; a quick search could lead you to the perfect online community or referral group for a local hub for you to connect with fellow moms.
3. Visit a Counselor
If this is your first child, don’t be afraid to seek counseling! Therapy for Black Girls is a great resource for this!
4. Invest in Cocoa Butter
During pregnancy, the body stretches in remarkable ways. To help keep your skin fresh and maintain its elasticity, cocoa butter is the perfect solution. Applying it generously to avoid the development of stretch marks around your baby bump, paying close attention to abdominal area, glutes and breasts. My preferred brand is Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula.
5. Purchase Quality Nipple Cream
It takes great strength to carry an entire human for nearly nine months, then turn around and be that same being’s main source of food for months to years. A good nipple cream will help you relieve the irritation from breastfeeding. You have to be sure to take care of the baby buffet — aka your breasts. I recommend investing in a nipple cream, such as the one from Earth Mama, to keep your areolas ready for feeding at any given moment.
6. Stock Up on Postpartum Cleansing Materials
It may take some time to get back to a seemingly normal cleaning regimen post-delivery, especially when it’s been months since you’ve been able to even see your vagina. After delivery for many women, there is a brief period where our birth passage needs to heal from stitches or just stretching and soreness. Invest in these items that will help you cleanse most efficiently.
- A mom washer, aka peri bottle. (Please, no fragrant douches!)
- Epsom salt for when you are able to soak in a nice, warm bath.
- Witch hazel and medicated hemorrhoid pads. (I recommend Tucks.)
- A benzocaine-based local anesthetic, like Dermoplast. They may give you this, upon being discharged from the hospital, but if not, it's always OK to ask!
7. Invest in Supportive Undergarments
The snap-back desire is so real for many moms. For those of us who wants that extra hand at pulling it all together after birth, investing in good, supportive undergarments is key. Items like the Bellefit Postpartum Girdle or the cheaper option Belly Bandit from Target is good for moms, whether they deliver vaginally or with a C-section.
8. Work Regular Meditation and Prayer Into Your Routine
Prayer and meditation are good for you and the baby. Being a mom to a newborn can seem like you’re taking on the weight of the world. However, being spiritually rooted will help you to maintain your head even in high stress and anxiety circumstances. Get your Bible or journal, light some candles or sage and cast all that evil away from you. Music also helps create calm space and good energy. Create a playlist for you and baby to relax to during and after birth.
9. Talk to Your Baby
Unfortunately, our little ones are being born into a world where there is a ton of chaos. Make sure that they always know that mom is a safe haven. If you haven’t already, begin talking to, reading to, and singing to your baby from the womb to delivery and beyond. This will help the baby become more familiar with your voice, but it will also be the first thing they’ll know to cleave to when they face tough times later in their own lives. Think of your womb as an incubator and filter: You control what your baby ingests, so always make sure it’s only the best things that affirm their greatness before it is even manifested.
10. Get You and Your Baby Into a Steady Routine ASAP
Develop a routine for you and baby as early as possible. The early stages of their development are shaped by you. If you want your child to sleep more during the night, while pregnant, be sure to stay active during the day. Rise early, pray, meditate, listen to refreshing music from all sorts of genres and get active. Once it's bedtime, your baby will be ready and so will you. This can help get baby on a subconscious schedule postpartum, because they were used to routine in utero.
Whatever you do, mama, do it with love and consideration for the generation you are birthing. From one mom to another, I wish you all a blessed and fulfilling delivery, child-rearing, and prosperous life as a mom to be!
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