Pregnancy was the first time I didn't feel in control of my body.
When any first time mommy-to-be asks me what to expect because she is expecting, this is my go-to line. The lack of control, however is both beautiful and terrifying. There's the moment you realize that flutter of fetal movement referred to as "quickening" is probably your baby's feet and not gas from that Taco Bell chicken chalupa. Suddenly, it hits you there's a person growing inside of you and you have no control over when they decide to get into a more comfortable position, even if it means their elbow is in your spleen.
There was also the beginning of my third trimester where I found myself trying to organize the children's library at my job (I didn't know that my actions were a result of my maternal instinct to "nest") until I realized I couldn't bend over like a normal non-pregnant person, and had to squat to pick Dr. Seuss's collection up off the floor. Did I mention my husband couldn't hug me normally for about four months? There was also that point mid-pregnancy when I learned that a slight case of placenta previa made me a great candidate for a scheduled c-section.
This was actually a relief to me since while some women dream of natural childbirth, they were actual nightmares for me.
I've never felt a labor pain, nor do I want to.
The placenta previa, a condition where the placenta attaches itself too close to the cervix or actually covers it preventing the fetus to pass through, was the first time I truly felt like pregnancy had hijacked the driver's seat to my body and I was a helpless passenger whose only request was watermelon and grape tomatoes. When my OB/GYN first suspected that it might be an issue in the middle of my second trimester, she maintained that it wasn't too big of deal since my placenta was merely "too close for comfort" to my cervix but not actually covering it.
She decided the best option was to keep an eye on it for a few months with the hope that it would move. This meant plenty of ultrasounds for me, and great pics of my daughter playing with her thumbs in the womb, but also a few weeks playing the natural birth or scheduled c-section tango.
Even with the support of my spouse, family, and friends, awesome health insurance, and a chill, but skilled doctor, I was a bundle of anxiety. Although my doctor explained placenta previa "just happens" sometimes, I wasn't used to not being in control. Three years later, and I realize the lack of control was a subtle introduction to what parenthood can be most days. Today, I have a normal, healthy three-year-old whose favorite word is "no" and has literally watched the same Muppet Babies episode on the tablet at least 23 times in two days. But even with a pesky placenta and my iPad now being held hostage, I've realized that although pregnancy and parenthood can make you feel not entirely in control all of the time, that doesn't mean you have to feel powerless.
The CDC published a report earlier this year that shed light on the dangerous health threats that women of color are more likely to face during pregnancy. About 50,000 women suffer complications during pregnancy and black women are three to four times more likely to die than white women during pregnancy. What's even more alarming is that these statistics have as much to do with persistent poverty and inadequate healthcare as they have to do with health risks such as high blood pressure and diabetes.
I work on a sexual and reproductive health hotline during the day as Health Resource Specialist, meaning that many days, I'm one of the first people women talk to when they're facing a positive pregnancy test and the panic of not having health insurance. For some women, especially those who are parenting for the first time, hormones, and fear may have them wondering if they are going to be raising their child in a cardboard box by the time they're finished paying for healthcare, hospital stays, and childbirth costs or if they'll end up having their baby at home in the bathtub with the guidance of YouTube tutorial.
I try to help them balance their excitement with their anxiety by giving them the resources and education they need to feel empowered.
Regardless of their financial situation or the amount of support they may (or may not have), there are some steps every woman can take to ensure they are doing whatever is in their power to keep herself and her unborn child healthy:
Research prenatal care as early as possible, regardless of whether you have insurance or not.
I speak to far too many women who have put off prenatal care until their last trimester out of fear of outrageous clinic costs because they weren't insured. Fortunately in Philadelphia, there is an abundance of low-cost clinics or even hospital-based clinics that will assist in helping women apply for insurance through the state. Don't assume you're not eligible for certain programs based on your income or living situation. Explore your options regarding state assistance or even payment plans and programs offered through individual healthcare facilities. At the very least, research your local ER or hospitals that offer labor and delivery services so that in the event you do go into labor, you can have a safe delivery and work out payment later.
Choose a provider you feel comfortable with, both physically and emotionally.
I didn't know exactly what to look for in a provider but one of the factors I considered early in the game were distance (you'll have to travel regularly for appointments so you may want a place you can get to easily). In addition, look into appointment availability, if early Thursday afternoons work better for you don't be afraid to communicate that. A good provider will find a way to make sure prenatal care is convenient for you.
I also knew I preferred a female doctor. My OB/GYN was close in my age which means she was up-to-date on many guidelines and procedures, but she was also a young mother of two which meant she could relate to where I was in my life professionally and personally, and wasn't so far removed from the birthing experience herself. She did an awesome job at taking my concerns seriously while also helping to not create more anxiety for any hiccups that came along the way.
Your relationship with your OB/GYN is important. You'll develop a close relationship with this person and will see them often. Your OB/GYN should treat you with courtesy, respect, and if the connection just isn't working for you, you're well within your right to find another provider.
Take your symptoms seriously and when in doubt, seek your provider's assistance.
When it comes to health concerns, at its best, Google can be a great resource for information and at its worst, it can be an anxiety wormhole. Every pregnancy is different and what might be a normal symptom for one woman might be a cause for concern regarding your own pregnancy. In addition, every pregnancy is different. That morning sickness that was a foreign concept in your first pregnancy may have you changing your address to the bathroom floor in your second. When in doubt, consult your provider. Don't diagnose yourself via Wi-Fi.
Keep stress to a minimum.
My hormones were a mess during pregnancy and even with a solid support system, I found myself crying over everything from mismatched paint for the nursery to the release of TLC's 20 album. Choose your battles. A misspelled name on a baby shower cake is not worth the flood of hormones you're sending to your fetus while you spend hours crying in the backseat of your cousin's car. Trust me, you'll have the rest of your life to panic on a regularly scheduled basis once your child is actually here. So eat the cake and take some pictures so one day Lil' Dwyane can laugh too.
Don't disregard your postpartum care.
Pregnancy and childbirth, especially for mothers with limited or no support can bring added anxiety and stress into anyone's life, regardless of it's their first child or their fourth. This is why it's important to monitor your own well-being and take advantage of help when it's offered. If you have a few days of hospital stay, allow nurses to care for your baby or even take him or her to the nursery when you need rest. You'll have plenty of time once you're home to bond.
Also, whatever the case may be, make time for your "six-week check-up", even it doesn't happen until nine weeks after. An NPR piece from last year highlighted a study that found two-thirds of low-income black women never made it to their doctor visit but did find time to make sure their child made it to their first doctor's visit.
The lengths we go to to nurture our children always amazes me but self-care is just as important.
Touch bases with your provider to talk birth control, baby blues, or any other issues you're dealing with in those first few weeks of motherhood. Lastly, while help from family friends can help lighten the burden, trust your intuition when it comes to what kind of support you need and when. Don't feel like you must be everything to everyone.
Always remember, motherhood is personal and looks different on every woman.
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Exclusive: Gabrielle Union On Radical Transparency, Being Diagnosed With Perimenopause And Embracing What’s Next
Whenever Gabrielle Union graces the movie screen, she immediately commands attention. From her unforgettable scenes in films like Bring It On and Two Can Play That Game to her most recent film, in which she stars and produces Netflix’s The Perfect Find, there’s no denying that she is that girl.
Off-screen, she uses that power for good by sharing her trials and tribulations with other women in hopes of helping those who may be going through the same things or preventing them from experiencing them altogether. Recently, the Flawless by Gabrielle Union founder partnered with Clearblue to speak at the launch of their Menopause Stage Indicator, where she also shared her experience with being perimenopausal.
In a xoNecoleexclusive, the iconic actress opens up about embracing this season of her life, new projects, and overall being a “bad motherfucker.” Gabrielle reveals that she was 37 years old when she was diagnosed with perimenopause and is still going through it at 51 years old. Mayo Clinic says perimenopause “refers to the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause, marking the end of the reproductive years.”
“I haven't crossed over the next phase just yet, but I think part of it is when you hear any form of menopause, you automatically think of your mother or grandmother. It feels like an old-person thing, but for me, I was 37 and like not understanding what that really meant for me. And I don't think we focus so much on the word menopause without understanding that perimenopause is just the time before menopause,” she tells us.
Photo by Brian Thomas
"But you can experience a lot of the same things during that period that people talk about, that they experienced during menopause. So you could get a hot flash, you could get the weight gain, the hair loss, depression, anxiety, like all of it, mental health challenges, all of that can come, you know, at any stage of the menopausal journey and like for me, I've been in perimenopause like 13, 14 years. When you know, most doctors are like, ‘Oh, but it's usually about ten years, and I'm like, ‘Uhh, I’m still going (laughs).’”
Conversations about perimenopause, fibroids, and all the things that are associated with women’s bodies have often been considered taboo and thus not discussed publicly. However, times are changing, and thanks to the Gabrielle’s and the Tia Mowry’s, more women are having an authentic discourse about women’s health. These open discussions lead to the creation of more safe spaces and support for one another.
“I want to be in community with folks. I don't ever want to feel like I'm on an island about anything. So, if I can help create community where we are lacking, I want to be a part of that,” she says. “So, it's like there's no harm in talking about it. You know what I mean? Like, I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change. I'm just getting better and stronger and more intelligent, more wise, more patient, more compassionate, more empathetic. All of that is very, very welcomed, and none of it should be scary.”
The Being Mary Jane star hasn’t been shy about her stance on therapy. If you don’t know, here’s a hint: she’s all for it, and she encourages others to try it as well. She likens therapy to dating by suggesting that you keep looking for the right therapist to match your needs. Two other essential keys to her growth are radical transparency and radical acceptance (though she admits she is still working on the latter).
"I was a bad motherfucker before perimenopause. I’m a bad motherfucker now, and I'll be a bad motherfucker after menopause. Know what I’m saying? None of that has to change. How I’m a bad motherfucker, I welcome that part of the change."
Gabrielle Union and Kaavia Union-Wade
Photo by Monica Schipper/Getty Images
“I hope that a.) you recognize that you're not alone. Seek out help and know that it's okay to be honest about what the hell is happening in your life. That's the only way that you know you can get help, and that's also the only other way that people know that you are in need if there's something going on,” she says, “because we have all these big, very wild, high expectations of people, but if they don't know what they're actually dealing with, they're always going to be failing, and you will always be disappointed. So how about just tell the truth, be transparent, and let people know where you are. So they can be of service, they can be compassionate.”
Gabrielle’s transparency is what makes her so relatable, and has so many people root for her. Whether through her TV and film projects, her memoirs, or her social media, the actress has a knack for making you feel like she’s your homegirl. Scrolling through her Instagram, you see the special moments with her family, exciting new business ventures, and jaw-dropping fashion moments. Throughout her life and career, we’ve seen her evolve in a multitude of ways. From producing films to starting a haircare line to marriage and motherhood, her journey is a story of courage and triumph. And right now, in this season, she’s asking, “What’s next?”
“This is a season of discovery and change. In a billion ways,” says the NAACP Image Award winner. “The notion of like, ‘Oh, so and so changed. They got brand new.’ I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
"I want you to be brand new. I want me to be brand new. I want us to be always constantly growing, evolving. Having more clarity, moving with different purpose, like, and all of that is for me very, very welcomed."
She continues, “So I'm just trying to figure out what's next. You know what I mean? I'm jumping into what's next. I'm excited going into what's next and new. I'm just sort of embracing all of what life has to offer.”
Look out for Gabrielle in the upcoming indie film Riff Raff, which is a crime comedy starring her and Jennifer Coolidge, and she will also produce The Idea of You, which stars Anne Hathaway.
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If you haven’t scrolled upon Olivia McDowell's TikTok famous dinner parties, you may need to reconfigure your "For You Page."
What began as a passion for hosting aesthetically themed meals for her closest friends has quickly become a viral sensation. With an astonishing 12 million viewers, women describe Olivia’s picturesque dinner parties as the “dream girls' night,” complete with classy cocktails, beautiful table settings, elegant outfits, and, most importantly, food plated to perfection.
Seemingly reigniting the feminine urge to host fancy dinner parties, Olivia has perfected the finer details. Overlooking the skyline in her beautiful NYC apartment, she never fails to make her signature handmade pasta dishes while simultaneously looking effortlessly chic in the wardrobe of dreams while doing so.
Replying to @nara0630 what should the theme of my next dinner party be? #minivlog #nycliving #dinnerpartyideas #caviarinnewyork
What I love most about hosting intimate dinners for close friends are the connections and relationships that form over food. They don't require a caviar budget with a high-rise apartment, it just takes determination and a little creativity. Watching Olivia’s journey inspires viewers to be a part of a community of positive and uplifting women who share common interests and tastes in food, fashion, and decor. Simply stated, she’s raising the bar of friendship goals.
If you’re aspiring to host a holiday-themed dinner party this season, check out the four tips that will guide you along the way.
Choose Your Theme
Replying to @emz.life.tsv what was your fav part? 🤍 hope this gives you some inspiration to host a fancy friendsgiving too! #hostingtip #dinnerparty #pastamaking
Set the ambiance with a thoughtful theme, which will indeed be your guiding light for less stress during the planning process. Establishing a theme sets the tone for everything else to fall in place, such as menus, table design, and presentation. For example, a holiday-inspired dinner party is a perfect occasion for elegant all-white decor paired with draped table cloths, pillar candles lit atop luxe holders, floating floral arrangements, and, for a personal touch, handwritten place settings.
Utilizing free resources such as Canva for menu templates and creating a “Dinner Party” moodboard via Pinterest is perfect for gathering dinner inspiration for themes, decor, and recipes for the special occasion.
Simplify the Menu
How to host your own pasta making dinner party — part 1: pasta making from scratch 🤍 Hosting dinner parties has become my favorite thing to do this year. More goes into it than you expect, the prep, planning, guestlist, tablescape, etc. but it’s always worth it in the end. What do you guys want to see next? #hostingtips #dinnerparty #pastamaking
Don’t overcomplicate the menu. A simple dinner party formula to use as your guide to making sure your guests leave full of food and joy is appetizers, salads, entrees, sides, desserts, and beverages. As a starter, assemble an aesthetic spread that your guest can nibble on while awaiting the main course with starters such as bread, cheese, jam, nuts, and fruit. A simple salad will do, complete with a light dressing right before your entree. For a main dish, pasta recipes always go a long way and also allows your guests to interact with one another, which leads to McDowell's third dinner party hosting tip.
Include an Interactive Element
Replying to @itstai.tv 🖤 #girlhood
To break the ice and encourage guests to get to know one another, introduce interactive elements to the evening. Moments of interaction allow everyone to connect, like capturing content for social media or memorializing the essence of the night through fun Polaroids. Olivia also encourages her guests to participate in the pasta-making dinner process as a group, or if hosting a brunch, her friends indulge in building their own coffee bar as an opportunity for forming connections and conversation starters. Group board or card games are also great for laughs and healthy competition to help get the vibes flowing.
Don’t Forget the Dress code
Replying to @samantha_mendiz when all of your friends are the main character 🖤🥂 #dinnerparty #nycfashion
Tis’ the season for glamour and sparkles, so why not go all out with a super chic dress code? You can’t have a picture-perfect holiday dinner party without the coordinating attire to match. When planning, make sure to make the required attire specific yet broad enough for a range of personalities and preferences to comfortably partake while looking stunning doing so.
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Featured image by Justin Lambert/Getty Images