Jamilla and Divine attended the 2019 WAW Birth Education Retreat. Hear about their experience.
When my family first moved to the U.S. from Benin, we lived in an apartment complex that had a playground. At first I didn’t want to go play on the playground because I assumed it was for white children only and even though I had never lived in forced segregation I picked up on the energy of these United States. When he found out why I was staying indoors, my dad vehemently assured me that I could play and be anywhere I wanted to in the neighborhood. After that conversation I felt encouraged and brave enough to play and I made a friend. I don’t remember her name anymore but she was blonde and her father was a police officer.
One day we were playing outside and I had to pee, I casually asked her to be my look-out as I peed in the bushes, she was confused so I explained in as clear English as I could what I needed, I assumed the confusion was due to my English, I didn’t realize that at that young age, as an African girl I had a healthier sense of peedom than this young blonde American girl.
Peedom is the knowing that bodily functions are human and natural. Peedom is the liberated feeling of knowing it is not a crime to pee in public if you do it discreetly, the discretion is for your own comfort. This may sound funny to some but honestly it is an issue that has deep roots in oppression, exclusion and supremacy. It is one of the reasons why I say African countries are a more humane than these United States and African people know and practice more personal freedom than Americans.
Most of us think of freedom as the absence of subjection to foreign domination or dictatorial government, African countries have less of those freedoms because of colonization, but freedom is also the power and right to be human, to listen to your body; the power or right to act, or think as one wants or needs without hindrance or restraint, this kind of freedom is practiced more by Africans in Africa than any person in the United States.
There are those who will automatically go to the extreme, “we can’t have people peeing and shitting everywhere” of course that is not what I am saying or suggesting, and that kind of thinking is a direct result of western conditioning to see the human body AND Africans as unclean, so, no, this is not an issue of civilized vs uncivilized. Though I would say there are right and wrong ways to pee outside, like it’s just rude to pee on the walls of people’s houses or stores.
The times that I’ve seen Americans feel free to pee outside is either in a drunken state in the wee hours of the morning or on long road trips. Oh but wait there is another time that American’s feel free to pee outside and that is when they own or rent land vast enough for their family to feel comfortable peeing outside, it is considered a privilege and luxury.
Back to the story of my friend and I, contrary to what we were both taught in school and by society, I was more free than she was but I never did that with her again. What are your thoughts on the peedom? Could the lack of peedom be the reason why paruresis, also known as shy bladder syndrome, is one of the most common types social phobias in the U.S.? And why pee-ing is so pornified? (R Kelly is not alone.)
Check out my IG post (@disskoolin_doula) about why having languages with non-gendered pronouns creates a more humane and inclusive bathroom culture that is less divisive among sexes and body types.
Buy a Decolonize Your Activism shirt to push inclusive activism and to support the Wise African Women Birth Education Retreat.
Love is showing up with nothing but faith.
Sometimes that is all I have.
That things will work out in my favor.
Based on my belief in higher power(s).
Based on my belief in me.
Based my belief in you.
I show up. I am present.
New Moon Gem
Today was a New moon in Gemini. That fact and the fact that I am planning and facilitating Moon and Body, a mama-daughter event about the phases of our body as women, makes me think of the first time I got my period. Do you remember your first day? What did you do? How about the first time hair grew under your arms and on your privates? Were these happenings expected? Welcomed? Celebrated?
My memory is broken up into bits and pieces of feelings and pictures. With my period I remember feeling self-absorbed, discouraged (cuz there was no way I could change what was happening), a bit embarrassed, reserved, preoccupied and weary. I did not tell my mother or anyone else I have two older sisters, so I just started using the pads under the sink. I still don’t know how my mom figured it out, but she knew before I told her, mothers always know.
My first memory of talking to my mom about my period was before my 8th grade dance, she told me to take an extra pad because moving around sometimes makes you bleed more. I was grateful for the information but embarrassed to talk to her about it. I was uncomfortable talking about my body, pubescent changes, sex and intimate relationships with my parents and family until I became a mother. Part of the reason was my personality but part of it was definitely self-preservation from seeing how my parents handles these issues with my siblings. There were family meetings to announce with disappointment and shaming when one sibling started being sexually active. Another family meeting where another sibling’s personal safe box was exhibit A and the code for the combination lock was demanded to reveal pornographic magazines. I developed a personality that repelled that kind of parenting behavior lol… They didn’t know what to think of me and my oddness. I didn’t realize it then but building a wall to keep them out my business meant hiding parts of myself from myself and limiting my ability to form intimate, trust filled relationships. I am happy to say I feel free as a jaybird (hey, it makes more sense than “naked as a jaybird” so roll with it). I talk and write openly about my body, menses and sensuality.
So how do parents create space for children to grow comfortable with their body, sensuality and sexuality? SHOULD parents create space for children to talk to them about their body, sensuality and sexuality???
My personal experience as a child, mother and friend leads me to I think it is important for children of all ages to have someone in their life who listens, shares information and gives advice from consideration rather than judgement or control because learning stops where judgement and control start. There is no formula to learning body positive empowerment in sensuality and sexuality, it is a unique, dynamic and ongoing experience and but I think practicing these six concepts will open doors for healthy conversations.
- Real talk: Children ask questions, a lot of questions, some we don’t know how to answer but when we do answer we should do so as honestly as we can. One of the first questions children ask is where babies come from, real talk is telling them about pregnancy and birth not storks!
- Observe and “teach what you see”: Don’t approach the subject with a set agenda based on fears or thoughts on what needs to be known. Wait and observe, let them come to you with questions or you ask them questions based on what you observe. Let conversations arise organically and they will be more insightful for all.
- Freedom: Allow them the freedom to move, touch and explore their own bodies the way they want, dress themselves etc… If something is bothering you talk to them about it without shaming them. fun fact about me: I taught a friend how to masturbate when I was 10yrs old… (I did not know the word masturbate at the time)
- Control and empowerment: Freedom will give them sense of agency and empowerment, talk to them about what may be in and out of their control, again it is always good to start with what they think or want to know. An example is a conversation I had with my girl about wanting to be a mother. We talked about how getting pregnant is not completely in our control as women, we can choose whether or not to follow through with a pregnancy and we can choose to try to get pregnant, but actually becoming pregnant is not in our control, getting pregnant is not as simple as a choice… and that of course led to many other conversations about womb health, spirituality etc.
- Opinions and facts: It is always good to talk about the difference between opinions and facts, as unschoolers this is one thing we learned early because family and friends had a lot of opinions about what happens to children who don’t go to school. People have opinions about underarm hair too, but fact is hair grows under your arm, why? Because my family is from a different culture, I did not see adults in my life shaving arms, legs etc. So I didn’t know that was the “norm”… I was rudely alerted in high school by a boy who gasped disgustingly and claimed “Ew!” when I raised my hand in class… Em.Ba.Rass.Ment. If I knew what my daughter knows now about people’s opinions and cultural norms… an eye roll (and possible smart response) would have been the end of that.
- Be present and open: Work on yourself so that you are not full of nerves, fear and judgment. Know your boundaries, decide how much you want to share about your own experiences, meditate, reflect on what and how you learned from your own experiences, trust them and their individual path. If the conversation gets too heated, remember it is o.k. to end the conversation and revisit it after reflecting and getting more clarity on how to communicate your thoughts effectively. You got time.
Being Serena: Owning Your Birth
Three things that came up while watching the first episode of HBO’s Being Serena:
- Serena really wanted to have a c-section.
- Choosing to be induced is almost like choosing a c-section.
- Knowing your body is critical for birthing.
While watching FEAR, the first episode of Being Serena, it was clear to me as a doula that Serena Williams wanted a c-section. First of all, she literally said having a c-section would be easier for her and second her body language while talking to her doula made it clear she was not feeling the whole laboring process. I am not judging c-sections, but I noticed something about Serena, something that I am putting more focus on in my wellness work and that is the importance of knowing and listening to your body! If you know your body and are in the practice of listening to your body, you are more likely to prevent, recognize and correct dangerous situations.
Though the first episode did not cover it, mainstream media reported weeks ago that Serena saved her own life, after birthing her daughter, by listening to her body and trusting that she knew her body better than the nurses and doctors around her, we will likely see that story on the next episode coming on Wednesday.
Knowing your body, being in an environment where you feel confident speaking up and having a loving and supportive birth team all help you own your birthing experience. I have an e-book coming that guides pregnant women through choosing the best birth space and team for successful natural births. Most people associate natural birth with home births and though this route works for me and many others, some families will have a better chance for a successful natural birth in the hospital. To learn the different factors to consider when choosing your birth space and team join my mailing list here and I will send you an email when the book is available.
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Natural birth can happen anywhere but the one procedure to avoid if you want to birth naturally is an induction. This is another reason I think Serena and her team were planning a c-section without planning a c-section. Induction is basically “jump-starting” labor on a chosen date by taking medications to make the uterus contract, it usually leads to a c-section because the process stresses the baby and mom. On the show we saw the typical result of induction, hours of unproductive contractions, a tired mama and heart stressed fetus. This happens because medical formulas don’t quite match the body’s process for starting labor. The documentary The Business of Being Born gives great information about the physiological and financial implications of inductions.
Used to be you didn’t have a choice how to birth, these days you do have choices and the decision should ALWAYS be the mother’s. I am looking forward to next week’s episode when hopefully Alexis Olympia Ohanian will make her first live appearance!
What White Children Learn in School
If black children are being oppressed, marginalized, unfairly punished and branded as dangerous in school then white children are learning how to oppress, marginalize and fear black children AND they are learning to normalize it.
It has been my experience that white “progressives” don’t talk about the social justice aspect of unschooling. Most white progressives still think, and therefore teach their children, that it is a sign of growth to be around black children. I see white parents use children of color as props, posting photos of hand holding and hugs as flags of ally-ship and insinuating that these pictures capture some kind of racial harmony or social justice goals.
Last year, I was pleasantly surprised by a call to the NPR show Connections: The African American Home-Schooling Movement, where black guests shared their experiences and thoughts on why African Americans are the fastest growing home schoolers (yay!).
Near the end of the program a call came in from Sue, a white teacher, she and her husband sent their children to public school specifically so that they could be in a more “diverse” space and then one day her 5yr old said:
“ The brown kids are the ones who are bad, the only kids who are good are me and…(named the only other white kid in the class)”
This is what white children learn in school.
Not only does the structure of school limit freedom, agency and imagination, the focus on being “color blind” means schools are spaces where there is no depth to the present or historical experiences of people of color.
Reminds me of Zakkiyya Chase’s episode on Fare of the Free Child. Chase is the author of No Dream Deferred: Why Black and Latino Families are Choosing to Homeschool, a book that examines the history of public education in America. In the podcast Akilah Richards and Zakkiyya talk about how integration made schools into spaces where students are groomed to assimilate and erase.
They discuss the Class of 1980, a section of the book focused on the high school classes of 1980, the first class to graduate from integrated K-12 grade schools in the United States. The Class of 1980 graduated without fulfilling the promises of integration. Integration was supposed to start a new era of inclusion and tolerance for differences…. Look were we are today after 40 years of integration.
Putting children of different races together for a few hours a day does nothing towards justice and equity. While Black Americans get that reality check at some point in their lives either at home, in school or in the streets, White Americans keep “whimsical ideas of unity” through adulthood without tools of implementation. On the contrary, white children actually learn entitlement, they come out thinking they can and should save the world (insert programs like peace corps) instead of knowing that they are generations deep in debt to the people they think need saving. Remember that video of Conan O’brien being schooled by a little girl in Haiti?!It is important to acknowledge that the school system is graduating white children and adults who normalize being centered while others are oppressed and who only know how to communicate and collaborate in spaces where their culture is centered.
White supremacy is pervasive in our society so I’m not saying homeschooling and unschooling automatically solve these problems, I AM saying these are issues white families should consider when schooling, homeschooling or unschooling. In my opinion the best way for the next generation to learn is by witnessing their parents unlearn and deschool themselves and their relationships. To be clear, white parents, deschooling in this aspect would not be to save people of color it would be to align with the kind of person you want to be and raise. People of color will continue to be empowered whether or not you do the work to unlearn oppressive behaviors, that is the beauty and strength of building outside the system, it makes the system and it’s participants irrelevant.