Becoming a mother in 2020 took on a whole new meaning to so many women of the world. With global chaos ensuing, incompetency leading the way, and drastic changes taking place in hospitals, giving birth during this time meant...well, we aren't sure. Many women took the challenge head-on, accepting that their new normal, no matter how different from the stories they've always heard, were just that: their new normal.
From baby showers that were masked and mobile, to having a q-tip shoved up your nose multiple times a month, adjusting took its damn time. And a year later, we're all still adjusting.
These babies are now turning one-year-old, one year of surviving it all. We found four women who shared their journey about how exactly the adjustment is going.
Here are the beautiful stories that we heard:
I actually gave birth to my daughter back in August (2020), and this entire time I've just been kind of basking in the whole moment of motherhood and pregnancy. I'm sure you can imagine this was a huge eye-opening shift in my life, and in my family's life, because this was not what we expected whatsoever.
During my first trimester, it would suck to have to go to my doctor check-ups without any support. Like, they couldn't even wait in the waiting room. And because Dallas was considered a 'hotspot' for COVID, our rules were strict. From the constant questioning to temp checks, it was all a mess. Many first-time mommy classes had gone virtual. I wanted to have a water birth, but I couldn't. I even had to wear a mask during labor. The changes were nonstop.
I ended up having a C-section because after being in labor for 24 hours, with no medication, I couldn't take the pain anymore. It was go time.
Afterwards, I allowed my body to heal. I didn't rush it. My main goal was to safely recover. And even through all the pain and worry, my baby made it home with me, happily and healthy.
Being pregnant during a global pandemic and a racial injustice war has brought on many emotional highs and lows. If you had told me a few years back that this is what I'd experience during my first pregnancy, I probably would've laughed in your face.
But one thing I will say, despite the chaos, I've been able to truly pause, self-reflect, acknowledge my fears, doubts, and worries as well as tap into a different level of strength I didn't know existed, so I'm grateful for that opportunity.
I never imagined that I'd give birth during a global pandemic or that my husband wouldn't be by my side as our child entered the world. But thanks to the COVID-19, nothing I had planned for my birth experience happened. From having to cancel our baby shower, not being able to shop for and set up our nursery, to my husband being kicked out of the delivery room at the last minute COVID-19, really stole many of our joys.
My moods would go from super happy, to just heartbreaking as the virus took over the world. Quarantine forced us to social distance from our friends and family and had us on government mandated curfews and lockdowns. But after a lonely, hard experience...there were tears of joy!
I'm so blessed to have the shoulders of so many amazing women to stand on as I navigate motherhood; so much strength, so much resilience, so much love I've witnessed and received and I'm now equipped to give my little one.
I'm learning early on that support from everyone around you is crucial, from friends to family, and even those who end up becoming family. Every time I think about what I'm going to tell her of this time, her birth and the uncertainty that consumed the world, I'll show her the picture I have of her meeting her grandfather for the first time.
I'll tell her, "This is you at two days old meeting your grandfather for the first time...through a closed window. A deadly virus had already killed thousands of people around the world and several right here at home. We were warned to take extreme measures to keep you and everyone else safe.
"Those first few weeks were hard too; physically because you had a sleep schedule all your own, emotionally because we had to do it all without family and mentally because no one knew when it all would end. Still, you were loved unconditionally, through video chats, phone calls and...windows."
And now, with seeing us triumph, and how blessed my family is, I wouldn't have it any other way.
After a completely healthy pregnancy, my husband and I lost our baby girl, Junie at 41 weeks on May 19, 2020. And the pregnancy and birth took place during the COVID pandemic. As I am navigating this loss, I have found some comfort in others sharing their stories to help me in my journey, which is the purpose of me speaking out. I felt alone and I want to share for anyone who may feel how I once did.
Everything leading up to it, was completely normal. We had never heard the word "perfect" so many times in our lives. At that point, I was having appointments weekly, ultrasounds, stress tests. I woke up one day, my routine was completely normal. I was doing my daily talks with her, my affirmations.
On the way to my appointment, things changed. I hadn't felt her move in a while. My ultrasound tech started the process of checking the baby at my appointment, and she had a blank look on her face. She wasn't blinking. My intuition was off the charts.
And then, my doctor looked at me and said, "I am so sorry to tell you this, but your baby doesn't have a heartbeat."
And I said... "OK."
You know, it's funny how the brain works. My mind was racing, but I couldn't articulate anything. I was having an out-of-body experience. And that's all I could say. "OK."
I was numb to everything happening around me. I was broken.
I went to the next hospital to deliver my baby girl, and had to take a Coronavirus test, which came back positive. I was moved to another side of the hospital, swept away from my family, quarantined by myself. And on top of it all, I had to somehow process how my baby was no longer with me. It took a while for me to process it all. I still am, actually. But ultimately, I learned I am not alone.
Educating myself, and learning the statistics of stillborn births aided me in coping. Additionally, I had to learn that it wasn't my fault. My midwives and nurses would assure me all the time that we did everything right, everything we possibly could have done.
But listen ladies: my story is traumatic. And unfortunately, so many women experience the same as I have. But my pregnancy was also a beautiful experience. I would not rewrite or delete this chapter of my life at all. The grieving has been exceptionally hard.
And without my support and the amount I had, I don't know how I would navigate this, honestly. Family, my husband, friends. I have two amazing therapists that have helped me. In the end, working with them, and telling my story, has given me peace. I hope it does for any mama out there reading this, and that has experienced the same as I have, as well.
Giving birth during COVID-19 is just a little different, so my heart goes out to those of you who were not able to have anyone in the delivery room with you. I was blessed enough to have my husband right there by my side in the delivery room, but my baby boy did come a little earlier than expected. I actually had a scheduled C-section. But my little boy decided that he wanted to come a few days before the scheduled C-section.
Something that was very important to me was that my doctor looked like me, due to the statistics that we hear nowadays definitely can make being a woman of color [who is] expecting pretty nervous.
With me moving to a new area, and with the pandemic, I wanted to make sure I felt 100 percent comfortable with whoever was delivering my baby. I trusted her 100 percent.
Around this time, my husband and I had a very deep conversation about what the world is going through. There are a lot of people that were really sick and thousands that lost their lives. People are out of work, resources in some communities are limited. Children that once looked to college or school as an escape from toxic homes don't have that anymore.
Domestic abuse and child abuse is at an all-time high...and to top it all off, I gave birth and lost one of the most important people in my life. He lost his battle with COVID. The only dad and father that I've ever known. Literally my everything. My support system, my superhero, my advocate, anything that I ever needed, he was there for me.
But now, walking into 2021, I've achieved a newfound wisdom and grace over our family. Perspective is everything right now and even if you don't have much to give, just compassion and prayer is sufficient.
Featured image by Ianthia Ferguson/Instagram
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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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Feature image by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images
Something that I honestly don’t mind doing, for the most part, is aging. Even though I absolutely know that genetics play a huge part in what I’m about to say, as time keeps on moving, I really do get that the more intentional I am about my health, the more I can be a poster child for what looking damn near magnificent at my age can truly be. If anything, the only thing that kind of gets on my nerves (just a lil’ bit) is that I have to proactively stay on top of things that I never had to consider before my 40s decided to show up. One of those things is how sensitive my vagina and vulva seem to be getting.
“Sensitive” in the sense that I can’t just eat whatever and not feel the repercussions down there on some level (check out “Here’s What Your Vagina Wishes You Would Eat LESS Of”). Also, it’s weird, but certain types of underwear seem to make “her” roll her eyes at me, too; I think it’s because, as estrogen levels shift as we get older, vaginal walls and vulvar skin tends to become thinner and more fragile.
Factoring all of this in is why, not only do I get new pairs of panties every six months or so, but I also am a bit more particular about the kinds that I buy — these days, cute is still a priority; it’s just that they’ve gotta look good and have some of the specific qualities that I’m about to share with you now. And you know what? Ever since I’ve been more intentional and hypervigilant when it comes to my panty shopping list, my vagina really has been that much happier. She really has.
Now for my top 10 suggestions as far as panty shopping goes, please look for the following.
1. Natural Fibers
For the sake of time and space, I’m going to use “vagina” for both the inner tube that connects your cervix to your vaginal opening (which is actually your vagina) and the outside of your vagina (which is your vulva) quite a bit. Just thought that should go on record to avoid any potential confusion.
That said, something that your vagina needs to do is breathe. That’s why, when it comes to the types of fabric that you should go with when it comes to your vagina, cotton needs to always top the list — well, that or bamboo, which is steadily becoming a fan favorite. That’s because it’s hypoallergenic, sustainable, contains antibacterial and antifungal, and (get this) it doesn’t shrink after several washes.
Another nice option is silk. It feels really soft on your skin, is pretty moisture-wicking (more on that in a sec), and, if you want panties that look and feel a bit more “high-end,” silk can get that done for you without irritating your skin like lace might. As far as synthetic fibers like nylon, polyester, and rayon? Eh, not for everyday wear. Satin is okay, but it really is best for lounging around in or for lingerie (same goes for lace).
As far as actual panty styles go, briefs (any cut), hipsters, bikinis, boy shorts, and mid-rise are wise options. They fit well and give your vagina and butt the space that it needs.
As far as the whole moisture-wicking thing goes, when it comes to your undies and your workout wear, look for items that say that on the package and/or labels. Moisture-wicking simply means that the material is made in such a way that it draws moisture away from your body and onto the outer layer of whatever it is that you have on; as a result, it helps the moisture to dry faster. Your vagina benefits from this because it’s already naturally lubricated and warm down there — so when there is too much moisture, that can make it a breeding ground for vaginal infections if you’re not careful.
If you’re wondering which underwear brands are best as far as moisture-wicking is concerned, Women’s Health can hook you up. Check out their article, “18 Best Moisture-Wicking Underwear, Per Gynecologists And Reviews”.
3. Built-In Gussets
You know that little pocket of fabric that’s on the inside of panties? It wasn’t until I saw a TikTok that featured a woman putting some dollar bills into it (you can get some context here) that I gave it much thought. Well, it’s called a gusset, and what it does is 1) make your panties stronger and 2) help to absorb moisture, so definitely get panties that include them (many thongs don’t, by the way).
Oh, and as far as that lil’ hack that I just mentioned? I’m not sure how you can discreetly get your moola out that way. Plus, money is dirtier than a toilet (which is why some restaurants have shifted to a card-only policy ever since COVID), so…there’s that. If you wanna test the hack out anyway, please wrap the money in a tiny plastic baggie first; just to be on the safe side.
4. Proper Fit
If you’ve ever heard that 80 percent of women wear the wrong size bra,HuffPost recently ran a piece that claims that this finding is still true (get professionally fitted, y’all…it makes all the difference in the world!). And if that many of us aren’t wearing the right size up top, I’m pretty sure that plenty aren’t down below either. One way to know is if the band around your waist or thighs feels too snug. Another is if you can see your panty lines through your clothing.
And here’s the thing — when panties are too snug, they also trap in moisture, which can trigger an infection (if not immediately, eventually). Not only that, but they can irritate your vulva “thanks” (which is really, no thanks) to the friction that tight drawers can create. Sometimes, finding the right panties can be a bit of trial and error. That’s okay. It’s worth it to find the ones that fit you like a glove. I know this firsthand.
5. Ones That Stay Out of Your Butt Crack (No, Seriously)
Thongs can be sexy. I get that. Personally, I can’t see comfortably keeping them on for more than a few minutes, which is why I think they’re a good foreplay option, and that’s about it (#Elmoshrug). Not only that, but they aren’t the most hygienic things in the world. You’ve got this thin piece of fabric that moves in and out of your butt crack, and that makes it easier for fecal matter to shift from your backside to your vagina (no joke). I mean, we’re taught to wipe from front to back, right? Thongs don’t care about that rule. And since there is reportedly one-tenth of a gram of crap in each pair of underwear already…yeah, wear things sparingly. Your vagina is begging you.
We all have “period drawers.” Still, if you’re someone who wears tampons or menstrual cups instead of pads, you really shouldn’t keep those around for more than 3-4 months tops. Although washing them (effectively) should get rid of the bacteria that come from the blood, there’s always a chance that it won’t. So, just to be on the safe side, don’t keep period panties forever simply because you only wear them once a month. Oh, and if you’ve always wondered about if period panties are safe — eh. Many do contain per- and poly-fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), which are potentially harmful. You can read more about all of that here, here, and here so that you can come to a decision that is truly best for you.
7. Super Dry
There’s nothing wrong with carrying a couple of extra panties along with you, just in case. Personally, I think the move is brilliant because if it’s a really hot day (for instance) and your panties are damp, putting on a fresh and dry pair will significantly reduce the chances of your vagina getting itchy and/or irritated. Yeah, if there’s one top rule for panties that your vagina absolutely adores, DRY ONES are what I’m sure she’s yelling from the very top of her lungs.
8. Not At Night
Any part of your body being covered up for 24 hours at a time, seven days a week, nonstop, is going to cause some problems at some point (which is why some women opt to not wear panties, pretty much…ever; check out “10 Women Told Me Why They Stopped Wearing Panties (And They Don't Regret It)”). This is the reason why it really is a good idea to sleep naked (or at least with no panties on) as often as possible. It gives your vagina some time to literally chill out before it has to go through another, what, at least 12-16 hours of being cooped up on a pair of drawers again.
While we’re here, make sure that your sheets are made out of cotton, bamboo, silk, or some other type of breathable fiber. It’s pretty counterproductive to have no panties on, and yet you’re still sweating because your sheets aren’t moisture-wicking. Feel me?
9. Annual Swap Outs
Listen, if there’s one thing that social media has taught me, it’s that some people have the strangest cleanliness (or lack thereof) habits on the entire planet. That’s why I take certain suggestions, by certain “folks”, with a grain of salt. For instance, even though some people think that panties don’t need an expiration date, I go with others who believe that they absolutely do (for instance, due to what I said about the whole thong thing).
I mean, if changing them a couple of times a day is a good move, why would I want to hold on to discharge, pubic hair and bacteria holders for longer than a year or so? Yeah, treat your vagina and yourself to no less than an annual new panty-shopping excursion. See it as self-maintenance self-love…because it is.
10. Hand-Washed Is Preferred. Because…
If you’ve been on the fence about getting your own washer and dryer, Google articles on how nasty a washing machine (especially) can be — especially one at a public laundromat; it’s literally a breeding ground for all kinds of bacteria. I’ve even read before that one dirty item will easily spread to 90 percent of everything else in the washer. Lawd. That’s why, if you do have your own washing machine, you should clean it every month (some use bleach; I prefer white vinegar). And when it comes to your panties, you may want to go with handwashing them.
Not only will that help to keep the “gunk” in your washer away from your delicates, but you can also keep harsher detergents from irritating your vagina too (if you want to take a stab at making some of your own, a cool recipe is here). By the way, if you’re like me and you’ve got a ton of undies, a salad spinner (that’s solely devoted to cleaning your panties) can save you some time. You can read more about it here.
Now that you know what kind of panties your vagina is actually into, if it’s time to get some new ones, budget for that. Underwear is certainly not a luxury. As you can see, a good quality pair is a necessity for all kinds of different reasons.
Your vagina does so much for you — take good care of her. Get some new (and vaginally responsible) drawers, chile. SOON.
Featured image by Delmaine Donson/Getty Images