Why Your Vitality is Vital
On the 25th October last year, At 6 and a half months pregnant, I was asked to be the Keynote speaker at *Black Ballad’s Cocktails & Conversation’s event. The theme for the wonderful evening was 'Vitality'.
I decided to share it in writing have done so below in its entirety. Even I have benefitted from revisiting the message behind it.
Spoiler alert, My pregnancy resulted in a lovely little girl, True, who was born a little early, but completely healthy at 7lbs 4oz on December 13th, 2017.
It was a 20-minute speech, so a bit of a long read. Do grab yourself a cuppa & Enjoy!
Good Evening ladies & gentlemen. First of all, I would like to thank Tobi & Team Black Ballad for the humbling invitation, I am truly honoured to have been given the opportunity to play the role of tonight’s keynote speaker.
Whilst I am very vocal in many ways, Public speaking is not something I would put on my list of top 5 skills, so please do bear with me. The reason I’m here today is because I’ve long been an admirer of, and believer in BlackBallad’s platform, ethos and ambitions. I’m a very proud member, and couldn’t say no when Tobi asked me to be a part of tonight's event.
Now, this may come as a bit of a surprise to some of you, I’m actually expecting a baby…I know, it’s not easy to tell. I’m 29 weeks & 5 days today. Now, I’ve had two previous pregnancies, resulting in my lovely daughters, Teja who is now 16, and Tiani who turned 12 on Saturday.
This pregnancy has provided me with epiphany after epiphany, and I felt so many of them applied to tonight's theme, Vitality. The definition that stuck out to me was “the power giving continuance of life, present in all things” And I'm going to need you to hold on to that definition… “the power giving continuance of life, present in all things”
I'm now going to present you with another fact which may shock you, even more, I am not the only pregnant person in this room. I’m not here to chat anyone’s business, but every last one of you is pregnant. (Even the guys). Bare with me. You are all pregnant with ideas, with hopes, dreams and goals. And in the same way, I’m nurturing and protecting this growing baby inside of me, these universal measures are the same when bringing our desires to fruition.
As I mentioned earlier, I have two daughters and have enjoyed two problem-free pregnancies. This time around has proven difficult to say the least. From 8 weeks along I have endured numerous complications that have resulted in me being repeatedly hospitalised. I’m now on first name terms with most of the midwives, who I must say have been brilliant. At just 23 weeks, I was admitted once again, but this time I was brought straight to the delivery suite as I was having regular contractions, my waters had broken, my cervix began to dilate and we were told by the neonatal specialist to accept that I was in labour and we should all prepare for the worst.
I am not a particularly religious person, but I do believe in God, and I told him that I even though I knew I was strong enough to deal with this type of heartache, I really didn't want to. I didn’t sleep, instead, I prayed all night and willed this baby to keep cooking.
24 hours later, things had slowed down. We don't know why and still, have no explanation.
The next morning, a consultant came to visit my husband and I in the delivery suite and told us that we were entering a crucial time. The baby could make it’s entrance any day now, but there were things we could do, to keep it happy and to help it stay put for as long as possible.
I’ve been put on bed rest. Told to stay calm. Remain positive and happy. Eat properly and get as much sleep as my body needed. He told us every day counted and that I needed to pay attention to what my body was saying to me and react accordingly.
I remained in the hospital for another week, and while I was there, I had plenty of time to think.
I knew that a lot of this was out of my hands, but as a strong believer in the power of faith and positive thinking. I decided I should shift my focus to the things I could do.
Believe it or not, the day I left the hospital, one of the first things I did, was get my daughter to take a photo of me so I could post it on the gram.
Yes, really, let me explain.
Before this point, fear had stopped me from, taking pictures, buying baby clothes or equipment and telling people.
I wasn’t really acting like a mother-to-be, excited about her new child. My fear compelled me to concentrate on doubt. So, yes, my first action was to tell people. I posted the picture because, unbeknown to my followers, I really needed the positivity and well wishes. My husband and I also started buying baby stuff. Our family began to prepare for a good outcome. We started to prepare for a baby.
I also ensured I distanced myself from the everyday stresses and struggles I encountered, particularly those I had no business being engaged in. I believe that my peace is essential to the survival of my baby, I have to get and be serious about that.
I’ve inevitably had some slip-ups, I’m a black woman, and have found it very hard to place the reigns into my husband's hands. Putting myself first is an alien concept to me. But when you start having contractions because you’re team-too-much, you begin to learn pretty quickly what’s best for you and baby.
So now; I get adequate sleep, eat righteous food, I don’t participate in arguments, I’ve distanced myself from problematic people, I try not to get upset about articles or foolishness in the press, I avoid stress, I don’t engage in anything that threatens my peace, as it always results in me having contractions, and ending up back in the hospital.
Now you may or may not be aware of where I am going with this.
During this time I’ve realised that pregnancy is quite symbolic in many ways, and in this instance, the lessons & epiphanies I've received were applicable to so many areas in our everyday lives.
When you pay attention, the advice given to me by the consultant that day wasn’t anything groundbreaking or particularly unique to pregnancy. Sleep well, eat well, avoid stress, remain positive, seek happiness, these are things that would benefit us all, in all walks of life.
The notion that taking care of yourself being beneficial to the thing you are trying to develop, is a completely universal one.
Which brings me on to the subject of your babies.
What is it that you want to give birth to?
What success would you like to see come to life?
Do you have an idea, a product, a service?
Or maybe it’s a specific career, relationship or health goal.
Whatever your answers are to these questions, is your baby. And you are essential to the survival of this baby, and not just any old you, but your very best self.
We need to consciously curate our lives and focus on making decisions that benefit our babies.
Our environments, whether literal or virtual, need to be conducive to the best outcome for what we desire
As black women, we are surrounded by a multitude of distractions and enemies of progress; Social media, Problematic colleagues, Trash Tv, Haters, Temptations, Gossip and Fear of Missing Out.
We cannot continue to allow these things into our lives without being conscious of their impact.
Now I am by no means suggesting we never engage in anything fun or frivolous. But I am suggesting we pick our battles, focus and ensure we spend our energy, wisely. Trust me, you do not need to watch EVERY episode of Love and Hip Hop ever made, or participate in every argument you are invited to. Not everything requires your input or reaction.
I suggest being very clear on what your aims are, what you want this baby to become. And then choose to do things that ensure that outcome. Whatever doesn't serve this aim, is none of your business.
Black women are making strides. We are the most powerful consumers, tastemakers, entrepreneurs, trendsetters, educators and so much more. Your distraction and taking your eye off the ball is beneficial to those who oppose your ascension. They want to keep us angry & engaged in foolishness so they can catch up with us and use our greatness to benefit their own creations. We’ve heard this one before.
It’s time for us to be smart and really hone in on this power we possess. Every one of us in this room is hyper-aware of the unique challenges and obstacles particular to us. Misogynoir and intersectionality affect us daily. We are oppressed in the most blatant of ways.
But I’m noticing the most glorious of trends - The rise and rise of black girl self-sufficiency!
Now is a time when we need to channel our attention to “the power giving continuance of life to our desires” our babies.
We are on the cusp of an extraordinary breakthrough, and our physical, emotional, spiritual and mental well-being is vital to it’s continuing survival.
So many of us believe that having a seat at the table will bring about much-needed change. “I just need to get in the room, rub shoulders with and be validated by these people, and then I’ll be successful”.
Well, I’ve had a seat at many tables, entered many rooms, rubbed shoulders with and been validated by the same people who turned around and shunned me when I became too me, too black, too “political”.
I became problematic, as I no longer was focussing on just entertaining them. I was challenging them, making them uncomfortable about their privilege. I’ll be honest, the money is what caused me to perform for them for so long, but it was my daughters that motivated me to use what I now see as my huge privilege.
I realise as my daughter's age, the world hasn’t become any more open to them and their obvious talents than it was to me and mine 20 years ago. I thought that their elite education and middle-class existence would make a huge difference to how the world perceived them, I believed their prospects as black women were guaranteed to be better than mine was.
That their success would be a given, but I see that the challenges faced are omnipresent. Their private school classmates are already in training to become problematic colleagues, they don't see my daughters as equal peers, their existence is perceived as anomalous and a bit of a novelty. I don't want my girls to feel like that. To have to pander to those who see them as one of a kind. I make a conscious effort to ensure my daughters know that their great blackness is not rare, that this is who we are. I surround them with fantastic women, share articles, include them in important conversations. They are as aware of your Harriet Tubman's, Mary Seacole's and Michelle Obama's, as they are of your Michaela Coel's, Danielle Haughton's and Tobi Oredein's.
The bubble I try to create for my girls is similar to the one I create for myself. I want to be aware of my sisters, their work and above all I want to be of service to you if I can.
After my own personal experiences, I’ve decided that being in the room means nothing if you’re doing it alone and worse if you are unable to be truly effective. I know for sure that Black Women no longer have to navigate in spaces where we are tolerated only as a token and required to be obedient to gain success.
As an example, I was recently vilified for publicly asking toy shops why they didn’t stock dolls of all ethnicities. This happened because I was attempting to exist in an environment that wasn't mine and on a platform that wasn't created for me or with me in mind.
In contrast, Issa Rae can say “I'm rooting for everybody black” on the big-big Emmys red-carpet without consequence because she owns her space. She created her baby.
She cannot be told to be less, to hide her truth, or to be performative in her blackness. I mean they can try, but she doesn't have to listen. Ownership provides her with the freedom to live, act and exist authentically.
We are Creating, Cultivating and Celebrating our own spaces and this is so important. We need to build and be seated at our own tables. Have & invite each other to enter our own rooms and above all, validate ourselves from the inside out.
We don't have to fight. It doesn’t have to be hard. We don't have to prove ourselves.
In closing, we may not all be getting contractions every time something threatens our peace. But we can pay attention to how we feel.
Anger, upset and fear is bad for you. You need to ensure the environments you occupy contribute to your ambition, optimism and creativity.
The survival of your baby is dependent on your ability to provide a safe space for its continued growth and prosperity. Ensure you protect your peace.
Self-care is a popular buzzword at the moment and one that is fundamental to the continued ascension of black girl magic.
This room is teeming with phenomenal black women who are doing this, have ambitions to do this and are thinking about doing this. Be encouraged. Please use this opportunity to discuss your babies. Please be open to the idea of being of service to each other. We all have something to offer. From a mutually beneficial collaboration to an understanding ear.
I wish you all the very best with your pregnancies, and I would love to hear all about your beautiful babies!
Thank you so much for having me xx
*Black Ballad is a UK based lifestyle platform that seeks to tell the human experience through eyes of black British women.