This article first appeared at Black Girl With Long Hair in October 2011.
Looking back on the past year and a half, I can honestly say, transitioning from having relaxed hair to being natural taught me a number of lessons that have helped me transition through pregnancy and into being a new mother.
I’m sure there are a number of you who read that sentence and are now thinking, “What? Okay, yeah, natural hair helped this chick be a mom? Uh huh… what’s next? Afros can bring about world peace?”. Well, to that, I’d say, stay with me. And also, who knows, there is that saying about love, peace and hair grease.
I got my last touch up in April of 2010. I didn’t resolve to stop right away. It was really more of an experiment. I was curious if I could really kick my creamy crack addiction, and so had no expectation to do so. I wound up quitting cold turkey, sans any real transitioning plans. No twelve-stepping for me.
By the time June rolled around, I began to face a lot of negativity. While my husband, Keiron, was supportive and encouraging (thank God!), quite a few of my friends and coworkers were anything but. I found myself dejected and in tears a number of times. I must have played “I Am Not My Hair” about a dozen times. A day.
Although I’m in my late twenties, I realized I still had a very immature view of my worth as a woman. My self-esteem was tied… no chained, to my appearance.
As the months passed, I regained my confidence by seeking advice and tips from wonderful sites like this (no, Leila did not ask me to plug BGLH) and trying different products. Some days, my hair looked pretty good. Others? Yikes! But I had made the decision to take things day by day. No one becomes an expert without lots of experience.
The week of Thanksgiving, I learned I was pregnant. Learned… ha, well, it didn’t take much learning, just a little pee, EPT, and two minutes. I was nervously excited.
My first trimester was spent in a fog of sleep and/or drowsiness. While I didn’t throw up too much, I was exhausted most of the time, and my hair care routine fell by the wayside. However, my hair did not suffer. Why? I think it was a combination of two things. One, many pregnant women find their hair to be healthier and thicker than normal (you can read more about it here). Two, I realized, less is more. Initially, like many new naturals, I was quick to try a number of products that contained the words “natural”, “organic”… or even “hair”. After slathering on butters, leave-ins, creams and spritzes, I settled into using about two or three products and kept it moving. I found my hair to be just as soft and conditioned, and I had more time to sleep. And eat!
I wound up gaining a total of thirty pounds, which is normal. Still, on my five foot two frame, that is a lot. At some point towards the end of my second trimester, I began getting bombarded by coworkers and even complete strangers who felt the need to tell me how huge I was. I again started to feel low. My views of what made me attractive- this time, fitting into size six jeans- was challenged once more.
I also faced the challenge of not smacking people who thought it was okay to touch my bulging belly as if I was the Pillsbury Doughboy. It was reminiscent of the strangers who felt it was okay to touch my ‘fro without asking (Okay, I know I’m small with an outie belly button, but stroking my hair and rubbing my belly? What am I, a troll doll?).
On July 21st the belly rubs came to an end with the birth of my first (and perhaps after all the recovery, ONLY) child, Zoe Lyne Hope. It was a vaginal birth, and except for some tearing which required stitches (that was the hard part of the recovery), there were no complications.
The first few weeks with a new baby are extremely hard. Thankfully, I had Keiron and his mother, Everis, who flew in from Trinidad, to help. I soon realized that I would have to schedule when I would wash and do my hair, and protective styles would be best. One of the most precious memories I have of that first month is sitting while Everis cornrowed (or as she says, “canerowed”) my hair. I can’t remember what we discussed, just the feel of her deft fingers, the smell of curry in the kitchen and seeing the look of happiness on Keiron’s face as he held Zoe. All his girls under one roof.
Zoe is three months now, twelve pounds and 24 inches long (tall like Daddy) with a head full of hair (like Mommy). She is happy and healthy, thank God. She likes to watch me when I put my hair in two strand twists, and giggles when I shake them. Most days my hair is either in twists or twistouts. I make sure to use coconut oil and shea butter to keep my hair soft, and cowashes are wonderful- my hair is conditioned and I save a lot of time, which is in short supply with Zoe having mastered screaming like a banshee when she wants a bottle and the art of rolling over to explore.
Transitioning- with hair and as an expectant and new mother- is challenging. There are times when you are unsure of yourself, and the people around you will probably add to that uncertainty. In the end, though, the increase in patience and growth into the woman God has created you to be- is worth it. So I hope you know what I meant in the opening. And remember, love, peace and hair grease! Let your soul glow!