Musings Of A First Time Mommy-To-Be

by Ashanti Berkeley

As of this week I am officially 26 weeks pregnant and I feel great.

IMG_20140713_115612-1I am beyond excited to meet my baby girl and be the best mother I can possible be. In the beginning I wasn’t sure if I can take care of another human being mentally and financially, but I later realized at this point I had no choice—she was already on her way. The support from my family is overwhelming,especially from my mother.

At first she showed great concern about how I would take care of a baby (which is every mothers concern) but now everything is about her grandbaby. She always takes time to check on me and give me advice—she is even planning my baby shower!

Physically I am getting used to the body changes. My breasts are always sore and my belly is getting bigger every week, but I was lucky enough to avoid morning sickness so I eat well and try to walk as much as I can. I am guilty of eating junk food from time to time but I try to drink lots of water and fruit.

I will admit I am having great anxiety about labor but I have prayed for a safe delivery and hope that I give birth to a healthy baby girl.

The best advice I can give is to be patient and financially prepare yourself for your baby. I decided to work up until the day my water breaks so that I can save as much as I can. I’m very blessed and grateful to say the father of my child is around and very much involved in my pregnancy. Along with his prayers, love and advice, he takes good care of me. He is excited to be a father and that makes things much easier on me.

The best part of my pregnancy is seeing and hearing her heart beat during my doctor visits. I also find joy in feeling her kick. It makes me feel good to know she is active and well.

Motherhood is going to be great and with 14 weeks left, I’m ready to finally be a first time mom.

My Husband Took Me To A Super Walmart For Our First Date. Here’s Why I Married Him Anyway.

I was a giddy college freshman the first time I laid eyes on my future husband. There was something about this guy that had me intrigued and I knew in that instant that he introduced himself that he would be a big part of my future.

I spent the next eight months (yes, eight months) conveniently showing up to events he was hosting, participating in campus groups he ran and basically just making myself seen. (Some call it stalking, I call it “being in the game.”) In the meantime, I went on a couple dates with guys here and there, but I knew this dude was going to be in my life.

One day in April, we start talking and he invites me to a gospel concert on campus. I agree, asking my roommate to come along for support. We spent a few hours swaying to the music and catching the Holy Ghost. Afterwards, we walked back to our dorm and said good night. Except, I wasn’t ready to call it a night yet.

So I decided to be bold and go knock on his door. He lived three floors above me so it was a quick trip.

He let me in and we proceeded to spend the next six hours watching movies, talking about any and everything. I could feel that this was the start of something big. He asked me to come with him to his alma mater the next day, a Saturday. I hadn’t been to that school in a while and even though I didn’t know what to expect, I agreed. It sounded fun.

We drove around the campus and he pointed out all the highlights from his college years. Being back in his element brought out a new side to him, a more relaxed, more confident man that I was slowly falling for.

There wasn’t much else to do in the town. So we went to Walmart.

Yes, Walmart on a first date.

Was it romantic? Surprisingly, yes. Walking all around the store basically gives you the chance to get to know each other on a deeper level. We hit the music department and shared which CDs we loved and who our favorite artists were. We did the same in the movies section. We went to housewares and talked about how we couldn’t wait to move out of the dorms and get real, adult furniture.

It was fun, get-to-know-you time and it revealed a lot about him. I am so glad I took that time to judge the man, and not the activity. Because I was having a great time and just being with him was enough for me. Now, I admit, moving forward, we gotta stretch and do different things. Every date night that ends at Walmart ain’t gonna work!

But I had a good sense of his spirit. He was a kind man, a hard-worker and respectful to me during our time together. He loved his family and his friends, and bringing me to his alma mater, where every other employee stopped him and asked how he was doing post-graduation, showed me that he made the most of his time at college.

I was sprung. Officially.

Four years and one month later, we got married. And to think, it all started at Walmart.

 

The Problem With “You Should Have Thought Of That Before You Got Pregnant”

I stumbled upon this beautiful video from the young women at Global Girl Media, taking an up close and personal look at teen pregnancy.

Featured in the video is 17-year-old Ameerah, mom to one-year-old son Jamir. Her mother has been incarcerated for much of her life and after discovering she was pregnant at 16, her guardian kicked her out of the house. She is now homeless, crashing on different couches from week to week and trying to provide for her son as best she can. Calls to local resources for teen parents netted absolutely zero assistance, leaving Ameerah wondering how she is going to see her dream of becoming a nurse.

“I can’t think of myself anymore, even if it is taking an emotional toll on me,” Ameerah says in the video, her voice breaking. “I have to think about what’s best for [my son]. I can’t let him see my cry. I can’t let him see me down. Because babies can feel your energy.”

So here is my question to all those who believe that kicking a pregnant teen out of your house is acceptable: What then? You’ve effectively gotten the “problem” out of your house, but of course that is not where it ends.

It ends with the teen mom dropping out of school, because she has no stable housing so how is she supposed to focus on school? It ends with the mom moving in with the boyfriend (who is most likely older) and becoming locked into a relationship with an unequal balance of power. It ends with the mom grabbing whatever support she can find, even if that support comes at the expense of her own physical and mental well-being.

Can’t we do better?

 

Ask YML: How Do I Get My Child’s Father To Be More Active In Our Child’s Life?

Dear YML,
Often times I find myself making excuses for the faults and absence of my child’s father…what would be the appropriate way to address him to let him know I would like him to be more present and active in his child’s life?

I think you can make the request (“[Your child] would love to see you more often”) but ultimately it is on your child’s father to act and make the effort. You can do your part (sending him emails about your child’s school events, inviting him to the playground, etc.) but don’t feel like YOU have failed because he doesn’t get involved in the way you want him to.

The fundamental truth of all relationships, whether romantic or not, is that you can’t force anyone to do anything they don’t want to do. And I don’t know what his current excuses are, but once you make the request, you have to let it go and let him do what he’s going to do.

If your relationship has been rocky in the past, try to offer him a fresh start. I like how you called him your “child’s father,” rather than your ex. If that’s how you truly see him, then great! The relationship is about your child now and requires both of you to be on the same page with that. There can’t be animosity still bubbling between you two, or else every conversation you have between now and…forever will have tension that’s unhealthy for your kid. No matter what he’s doing, you have to let it go and refocus your energy on your child.  Ask yourself what they need from you?

I know this is easier said than done, especially when you are carrying most of the responsibilities for the day-to-day care of your child. But all you can do is focus on yourself. Continue to be a loving, caring, supportive mother and be available to talk to your child when/if they have questions.

#SheInspires | Regina Coley, Founder of YoungBlackMamas.com

As the creator of YoungBlackMamas.com, Regina has made it her mission to share resources and information to make day-to-day life for young moms everywhere just a little easier. Is it any wonder she ended up as my inspirational mom of the week? Read on to learn a little more about Regina and stop by her website – tell her The Young Mommy sent you!
Name: Regina E. Coley
Age: 27
Kids: 3 children: ages 7, 4, and 5 months
AWARENESS DAY

Whenever I have a moment of free time I look forward to…

READING in the tub. Magazines, books, blogs…just reading!

My mommy superpower is….

Multitasking. It’s getting harder with three children but I do the best I can.

On really tough days I…

Pray and plan. I do what I can do in my own strength and the rest I let go and let God.

The thing that scares me the most about motherhood is….

I always wonder if I’m making the best use of my time. Am I giving myself enough time to be strong enough for my babies, and am I giving each child enough time to where they all feel special and important.

The thing that excites me the most about motherhood is….

Seeing the kids grow and change and develop over time. It’s amazing to see.

I know for sure I’m passionate about….

Mentoring the next generation. Mentoring is my little way to investing into the lives of others.

If my daughter can only remember one thing I teach her, I hope it’s…..

To do what you love. That’s where I’ve been most happiest in my life. That’s been having all these babies! That’s been founding a non-profit. That’s been writing. That’s been creating. I may not have made a dime, but I loved it so I did it. I hope they find their happy place and do what they love.

I feel like a great mom when….

I’m doing activities with the kids and they turn and say “I love you.” It’s their quick way of saying, “OMG, you’re the best mommy ever and whatever it is we are doing is so much fun!”

My personal motto is…..

Do what you love and love what you do!

One thing that would make motherhood easier is if….

There were 48 hours in the day :-) (just kidding)

 

“I Had To Lose Myself So I Could Love You Better”

My husband and I have been a couple for the past 10 years. This summer marked our seventh wedding anniversary. Now, I’ve heard of the “Seven Year Itch,” but what we’ve been in the past month or so is the “Seven Year Stretch!”

Popular data from the last 100 years tells us that most couples who divorce do so around the seven year mark. At that point, they’re past the honeymoon phase, they don’t sit around and talk like they used to, they’re busier, they’re less interested in doing those things they did when they were dating…and it becomes harder and harder to make it work.

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The amount of energy I’m expending to be a good wife is insane some days! I’m having to look myself in the mirror, day after day, and confront the ugly aspects of my personality in order to bring order to my home.

I can be downright mean. And whiny. And bossy. And all for good reason (in my mind). I think I’m the shit. I cook, I grocery shop, I volunteer at the kid’s school regularly, I take them to school every day and I’m waiting at dismissal to pick them up. I plan their extracurriculars, I help them with homework and I’m not too shabby in the bedroom. I think I’m the best wife who has ever walked the Earth so my husband should recognize that he’s got a keeper and act accordingly.

Right? Eh, not exactly.

Because marriage is not built for our enjoyment. It’s meant to be a challenge. It’s supposed to force us to rise up and become that better version of ourselves that can only happen when we have a daily force in our lives that inspires us to get there. My husband is not afraid to call me on my nonsense and I live in that role for him as well.

My kids serve this purpose too. When I catch my daughter rolling her eyes or cutting her brother down with her words, I cringe and note that she got that from watching me. When my son is insisting that his way is the only way and he’s not trying to compromise with his sister, I vow to set a better example of kindness.

But with a spouse? Damn, homie. This is difficult. Because I picked this dude. I stood at the altar in front of my family and friends and God and said, “Yeah, I’m going to rock with this man until I leave this earth.” It’s a tall order. I don’t think I realized what I really pledged until this year.

I’ve been reading. I’ve been praying. I’ve been working on me. That’s the only way to have a healthy marriage. For most of our marriage, I couldn’t comprehend that you can’t force your partner to do a damn thing. Not a thing! Isn’t that crazy? All you can do is work on yourself, whether that’s learning how to cope with your partner’s quirks or developing the communication skills to express your concerns in a healthy and effective way.

My mantra these days is “Grace.” It is simply not worth it to let the little things become the big things. (And this is from a woman who had a shouting match with her husband over ground turkey. Yes. Ground turkey. Let that marinate.) So what if your husband leaves his beard hairs all over the sink? So what if it takes him forever to do something you ask him to do? So.What?

Marriage, more than anything, is about friendship. Can you do special things for your spouse even if you’re currently mad at them? Can you speak kindly even if you’re simmering with anger? Can you treat them with respect no matter how you feel? These are all the things I’m learning that will, in time, make me a better wife.

Y’all pray for me while I get there.

[Parenting Toolbag] Three Effective Discipline Tactics That Don’t Involve A Switch, A Belt Or A Fist

I’ve already stated where I stand on spanking/whooping your kids as a form of discipline. Short answer: I don’t spank my kids.

But this post is less about the “why I don’t spank my kids” and more about what I do use to make sure my children grow into healthy, emotionally capable adults with respect for themselves and the world around them. True, they are “only” 7 and 6, so time will tell on the effectiveness of my parenting methods. We’ll see.

1) Instead of getting louder, go softer.

I used to yell at my kids all the damn time. And truthfully, it just made me feel tense and anxious and I never felt like it accomplished much but giving me a sore throat. My kids would be tiptoeing around me, not wanting to talk to me for fear I’d erupt and they’d be caught in the cross-hairs.

I got tired of it before they did. So I decided to switch up my tactics and instead of yelling at them to do things or erupting because they’d done something wrong, I tried going softer and getting closer. When my kids would act out in the store (very rare, but it happens), I get down on their level and pull them close to me. I re-state how they are supposed to behave and give them space to comply. 90% of the time it works. If it doesn’t, we leave the store. When I’m frustrated about a mess they’ve made or an argument they’re having with each other, I take a deep breath and draw them closer. It helps them see that I do care about their feelings (and yes, this is important to children) but that their behavior is what needs correcting.

Going softer (hugging your child when they are misbehaving, holding their hands while you’re talking to them) seems kind of counter-intuitive. Who wants to try to wrestle a screaming kid into a hug? But positive physical touch releases feel-good chemicals in your child’s brain, allowing them to really hear what you’re saying.

2) Instead of getting physical, get intellectual.

Sometimes, children just do dumb stuff because they lack the mental capacity to know better. True story: When I was about my daughter’s age (third or fourth grade), I took $10 out of my Mom’s purse. I didn’t spend it. I didn’t lose it. I just kept it. When my dad questioned me about it, I told him I had it and showed it to him. When he asked me why I did it, I simply said because I wanted to have money in my pocket. That was one of the only spankings I remember. And it wasn’t bad (I actually remember giggling because he didn’t want to hit me, but he thought he should so they were really soft taps LOL).

But thinking about the incident now, I think I would have handled it differently with my kids. At 7 and 6, they’re old enough to understand the cause and effect of working hard and getting paid for it. So I would have made them clean the house, shovel a driveway, rake up some leaves, anything to teach them that this is how you earn money. You don’t take it. You earn it.

Here’s where positive reinforcement comes into play. So often we’re looking to “catch” our kids doing something they’re not supposed to, that we don’t look to “catch” them doing well. I hear some of you scoffing now. “What do they want? A cookie for doing what they’re supposed to do?” But really, we all crave positive reinforcement, whether it’s at home or in the office or with our friends.

So how does it work? For example, when your kids put their homework away without you having to fuss about it, point it out to them and let them know you’re happy they’re being responsible. It gives them an opportunity to feel like they’re doing something right, so they are more likely to keep that behavior going.

3) Instead of being lax, be consistent

The hardest lesson for me to learn as a parent is that kids need consistency. Whatever I tell them on Monday has got to be the same thing they hear on Tuesday and Wednesday. I used to be really lax on what behaviors were fine and when, simply because I was tired. Who has the energy to tell the kids to stop running through the house all the time? But I was doing them a disservice and creating more work for myself. Consistency in our expectations is 70% of our task.

The point is: Get creative

I think we don’t give ourselves enough credit when we reach for the belt at the first sign of disobedience. Even the “best” child will test you from time to time and you’ve got to learn to roll with it. Yup, roll with it. Perfectly obedient children don’t exist.

Ask yourself: What’s the lesson here? How can I get through to them? And sometimes, it’s less about getting through to them (you pouring in all your “wisdom” into them) and more about you allowing them to teach you how they can best be parented. We tend to treat children like they don’t matter, like they are our property to do with as we please. But if we’re patient and we really listen to our children, we will learn a more effective way to parent them.

It requires a LOT of talking. Talking in the mornings. On the way to school. In the evenings. On the way to the grocery store. On the way to their grandparents’ house. It’s more work than just popping them in the mouth when we don’t like what they say or how they are behaving. But parenting is never easy. It requires more of us than we sometimes know how to give. But that doesn’t mean that we stop trying, or we somehow settle for less.

REVIEW: AlternaVites Powdered Multivitamin & Minerals

I can’t swallow pills. Well, I can, technically, but I have to get practically a gallon of water and they have to be super small. I’ve tried everything. Putting water in first, tilting my head back, doing it super fast, trying to swallow with food. It’s just a nightmare. I was in tears during my pregnancy trying to take those horse pill-sized prenatal vitamins. Yuck.

I was delighted when I was asked to try alternaVites, a comprehensive multivitamin & mineral in crystal powder form. Hallie Rich, the founder of alternaVites, knows my struggle. For years, she just didn’t take vitamins at all because she couldn’t swallow pills either. She created the first-of-its-kind vitamin company in 2010.

It melts quickly in your mouth (think Pixie-Stick) and kids can sprinkle them in their smoothies, in a beverage or simply on their tongue. Currently, the alternaVites Kids come in two flavors: Strawberry Bubblegum and Raspberry Cotton Candy. 10458440_691418510893708_3728768524738462647_n

What excited me most was what the vitamins did NOT contain:

  • Gluten
  • GMOs (genetically modified organisms)
  • Egg, fish, milk, soy, peanut, shellfish, tree nut, or wheat
  • Artificial sweeteners, colors, preservatives or flavors

My daughter has a ton of food allergies and sensitivities to dyes and artificial flavors, so it’s wonderful that I can give her these vitamins without worry. One

A daily dose is one full packet and the price is comparable to other vitamins on the market. My kids loved ‘em and went straight to put them on their tongues, versus putting them in a smoothie or drink. I was only able to try the kids’ version, but they have an mixed berry version for adults that I will have to check out. Adding a boost of vitamins to my morning smoothies sounds like a win to me!

To find alternaVites at a retailer near you, check their store locator or purchase from one of these online retailers. If you’d like to try alternaVites, they have a coupon good for $2 off!

 

REVIEW: Layers of Me Coconut Shea Body Butter

2014 has been a year for me to stop just “playing like a grown-up” but actually becoming one. I’m upgrading my life in all the ways that matter and carving out the space for me to determine what a adult Tara really enjoys.

One thing I’m getting back to is taking better care of my skin. In my teens, I had this elaborate skincare routine that kept me looking impossibly young and acne-free. I can count on two fingers the number of pimples I’ve had. But then I had my kids in my 20s and my skin has suffered for it. I washed my face maybe once a week. I grabbed whatever creams I was putting on my kids and dabbed a little on my feet so my cracked heels wouldn’t scratch my husband at night. I stopped using face masks and just…went about my life.

But I miss it. I miss feeling pampered and taking good care of what is my body’s largest organ. My good friend Jennifer Jones launched a line of body butters last year, through her company Layers of Me, and she asked if I’d like to try it out. Of course, I said yes!

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Jennifer is a homeschooling, PhD-pursuing, stay-at-home mommy of two under 4. She had been making the body butters for her family and friends, until it hit her one day that she could be selling it and using the money to support her family! She gave me the Coconut Shea Body Butter to use and I’m impressed!

What I love most about this product is that the ingredient list is made with fully recognizable ingredients: grape seed oil, apricot kernel oil, glycerin, coconut oil, shea butter and beeswax! No preservatives or harmful chemicals of any kind. I’ve actually used all of these ingredients (minus the beeswax and glycerin) as moisturizers on their own, so having them together in one product is a joy. Plus, I like the fact that my money is going toward a mom who is trying to make her mark on the world, just like me.

I’ve been using this product on my body from head to toe for a little over a week now, and my skin is softer and retains more moisture than it has previously. I give it a 10. She also has a Mango Shea Body Butter that I know is divine.

If you decide to order it, know that the body butter is unscented. I find this to be a plus, because most of the artificial fragrances on the market aren’t good for sensitive skin and could cause more problems than they’re solving!

Support moms making it work and try Layers of Me. Stay tuned for more products and sale on its Facebook page.

My #1 Tip For Getting Kids To Read Daily (Without Nagging From You!)

My daughter is in the third grade this year. Normally that’s a ho-hum age, academically, but this year, our state has the Third Grade Reading guarantee, where, if students don’t pass the reading portion of the third-grade standardized test, they have to repeat third grade.

Luckily, I have little doubts about my daughter’s ability to pass. She is brilliant, and I’m not just saying that because I’m her mama! I’ve got proof! I’ve got report cards! Receipts! LOL

My son is in first grade and while he is great at reading, he doesn’t want to read. Every once in a while, I’ll hand him a book and he’ll breeze through it, looking bored. So you know what I’ve been doing?

 

1. Keep books in the car.

Even if you have a reluctant reader in your family, if you have at least one child who knows how to read and is good at it, your problem is solved! My daughter loves to read and will digest chapter books in a matter of minutes if you let her. My son on the other hand doesn’t like sitting still long enough to read. But in the car, they’re stuck there anyway, so reading works. She reads to him every day on the way to school and on the way home. When we’re going to my parents’ house (a 45-minute drive), they read on the way there. It’s easy and so far, it’s fun for them.

I ask them questions about the books and it’s a good way to get them to understand plot and story structure and test their comprehension skills. Plus, if you get your books from the library, you don’t have to look for them when they’re due. They’re just in the car!