Every woman pictures how her first pregnancy will be at some point, even if just for a moment.
Maybe it's the brief walk-through of the baby section of a department store or a friend's baby shower. Or it's the gentle reminder from an older family member that you're "not getting any younger." Either way---the thought of making your body home to a developing human implants itself.
You imagine your reflection with a swollen belly in a supremely adorable flowing maxi dress and flower crown while your very handsome and supportive partner cuddles you in a loving embrace. You see the tiny beautiful being in your arms while you rock in a meticulously decorated nursery and hum Beyoncé songs quietly. Everyone is proud of how you embrace motherhood and have three snaps in-waiting for your preemptive "snapback."
You are the crown jewel of new parents. It is a lovely vision.
But what if it doesn't happen the way you've imagined? What if you're 25, freelancing to make ends meet, waiting for your "big break" in the industry, and one month away from not being able to keep a roof over your head? Will you still be the picture-perfect vision of a woman's "true purpose?"
That is what I had to ask myself.
On the day that I scheduled my abortion, I made three lists. One was all of the things I wanted to do before I became a mother, the other was all the reasons why I wouldn't be able to enjoy my pregnancy, and the final was all of the people who would be disappointed in me. That final list was the one that seemed to crush me the hardest.
Yes, I'd been irresponsible. Yes, I knew better. Yes, I was a Christian. Yes, I had all these goals and dreams but who said I had to throw them away because I was a mother? But seeing my own name at the top of the disappointment list followed by that of my mother and mentors was unshakeable.
So I made the call. But, that was just the beginning of the process.
First, you have an appointment. I remember sitting on the clinic bed, undressed from the bottom down, with one of those cheap, itchy gowns on. The nurse, who had clearly been in this position more times than not, was very clinical. She told me she had to do an ultrasound to find out how far along I was. I thought I knew...I gave a number of weeks...she checked...I was wrong...by 2 weeks.
Because of that, my only option was to have a surgical procedure.
Not knowing what I was getting myself into, I opted to do it with no medicine. After all, it was my irresponsibility that brought me here, why should I not have to feel any pain?
My appointment was for the next week...
In the meantime, I was still pregnant.
I told a few close friends. They all expressed that they'd love me no matter what I decided. I ate a few whole pizzas. Considered that maybe being a mom wasn't the worst thing for me right now. Watched some birthing videos. Threw up. Tried to enjoy my swollen breasts. Slept...a lot. Lifted some heavy things. I'm not proud of the thoughts behind that decision. I waited for the week to be over...for all of it to be over.
On the day of my abortion, I pulled up to the clinic and there were protestors outside.
Signs with broken baby limbs and discarded fetuses created a sea of sadness for me to part on my way in. I was uninsured at the time so my ex paid the cashier a bit over $300. We sat in a pretty crowded waiting room in front of a girl who was crying onto the shoulder of a boy who could not have been older than 18 and behind a man who was talking loudly on his cell phone about how he "knew she was pregnant" and was "glad that she wasn't just getting fat."
A nurse came out and called my name. I went to the back and was told to put my things in a locker and, of course, to undress. Another itchy, cheap gown. A waiting room with other women making a decision that they'll carry forever who were all "watching" a National Geographic special on penguins came after.
Then another ultrasound.
A moment of panic when the nurse tried to hand me a photo of the baby I wasn't keeping.
An outburst of tears.
A really intimate moment with a woman I'd never met where she held my hand and told me "you'll get to have this moment again and it'll be a happy one."
Then, more waiting.
"Milner" is the way I was called into the procedure room. Then introduced to a man who told me I could hold his hand at any moment if I needed to. I held the hands of a lot of strangers that day. The doctor was nice enough. Scrolled down the details of what he'd be doing. I heard none of what he said. "Can you please turn the screen, I don't want to see the baby" was my only response. I remember pain. That's all really. And the hand holding. The man I held hands with said "you can sit up when you're ready"---that's how I knew it was over.
The pain was still there.
I was crying.
When I finally did sit up, blood rushed down my legs.
I apologized to him.
He told me it was fine and handed me the biggest maxi pad I've ever seen in my life. There was a recovery room where I held hands with another woman I'd never met. She also gave me saltine crackers and pain medicine.
I went home.
You can't do much after an abortion.
I know that pro-lifers would have you believe that us heartless c*nts kill babies and then kick, ball, change into a Starbucks to meet our girlfriends and rehash the dirty deed. But that's not what happens. You spend a significant amount of time still feeling pretty pregnant.
Your boobs are still swollen. You still have some cravings. You're still exhausted. You're sad. You're confused. You wonder if you really are a baby killer. You think that maybe God won't allow you to get pregnant again because you've done this. You pray. You try to be normal around people who don't know. You cannot lift heavy things. You cry.
You don't eat. You avoid eye contact with mothers and babies. You can't take the "what-ifs." You heal...slowly. Your body is still weird. You bleed...a lot. You write a script about the day that your boyfriend refuses to read because it's "too hard to go back there" for him. You slowly start to tell the people who should know. You try to forgive yourself.
It is a life marker.
You now sort things in BA and AA. Before the abortion. After the abortion.
You cannot look at your partner the same. You cannot look at yourself the same.
You feel the tension race up your spine when abortions become a subject of national conversation and try not to take it personally when Facebook statuses from childhood friends condemn the women who "do that." You volunteer to work at clinics walking women in past protestors. Sex makes you too nervous to enjoy it anymore. Even with protection. Because nothing is 100%, you know?
Your biological clock starts to tick louder and louder. You think it's selfish to want kids after you've been given the opportunity and choosing differently. You tell yourself you don't want to be a mother. It's easier that way. You hear that someone you considered a friend tells someone your story, she texts you a denial, "no worries, your secret is safe with me." You block her. It is not a secret. It is part of your truth. And you get to decide who knows.
Years go by. Most of your closest friends are now mothers. You make sure they know how proud of them you are. You send baby gifts. You relish being Auntie Iman. And a Godmommy! You no longer feel like God will punish you...at least you hope not. You find a man who makes that vision of parenthood seem more real. You get a year's worth of birth control while you still have health insurance because in Trump's America...
You seek out advice: what's motherhood like? You recognize that you made, what you felt, was the best decision at the time for your life. You cannot erase it by pretending it never happened. You cannot bury it down beneath your first heartbreak and next to the words you never said to an old friend. You parted ways with a part of yourself and that void will remain.
But even still...you are whole.
You are not ruined.
You are not a walking graveyard.
You are human.
And one day, when the decision is yours to make again...you'll do what you deem is best. That's all you can ever do:
Act. Learn. Heal. Repeat.
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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
I didn’t think much could get better about the blissful high that comes with oral. That was until I came across the Kivin Method.
As someone who was never a huge fan of oral sex and could largely take it or leave it, I must admit that I have started to come around in recent years. With my head thrown back, hands gripping sheets and hair, and toes curling from the intense sensations of the work my partner is putting in at my center, I now give myself over to the pleasurable act wholly and unapologetically.
When I came across a way to maximize the pleasure I receive from cunnilingus (already), I had no choice but to tap in. Who knew the key to taking oral sex to new heights was giving it a sideways twist? For those of you who might also be interested in ways to spice up the way you do oral, experience faster and stronger orgasms, or simply want to indulge in something new with your partner, the Kivin Method could definitely be the oral sex technique for you, too.
Keep reading to learn about the method that is sure to have you writhing in ecstasy in no time at all.
What Is The Kivin Method?
For the uninitiated, the Kivin Method is an oral sex technique that focuses on stimulating the clitoris from a different angle. Dubbed “sideways oral” by some, this method involves the action of giving head from a side-to-side movement as opposed to the up-and-down motion that people typically perform when giving head. (If you need a visual, this illustration is helpful.)
The difference in approach as you’re receiving head can be a game-changer in how you receive pleasure. Not only does the giving partner have access to the clitoris, but they can also access more easily the vulva and the labia, which are objectively a bigger focus in this version of cunnilingus. More access means wider coverage, and that, plus the new sensation of oral from a different angle, can heighten the way you experience oral sex that much more.
Where more pleasure flows, intense orgasms are sure to follow.
How To Do The Kivin Method
If you want to know how to do the Kivin Method, it’s actually pretty straightforward. The receiver lays on their back while the giver positions themselves perpendicular to the receiver. Their head will be facing the vulva, but instead of vertical, their face will be horizontal to the vulva.
From there, the giver can get to business, ensuring that they keep their head perpendicular to the receiver’s vulva while working on their craft. Because this technique can be more intense for some receivers, start slowly by stroking the vulva and clitoris sideways with the tongue, and allow sensations and communication from the receiver to be a guide of what you need more or less of with the Kivin Method.
Ultimately, the Kivin Method allows experimentation and unlocking what pressure, rhythm, and tricks work best for the giver and the receiver. Try implementing a finger or two, or adding a sex toy to the mix to intensify the act even further.
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Featured image by Delmaine Donson/Getty Images