Category Archives: Mama Musings

Introducing BB

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I was sweaty, exhausted, and overwhelmed with emotion – but I still had enough energy to whisper “Happy anniversary” and lean my cheek forward for a kiss from HomieLuva. It was our 6th wedding anniversary and our second baby was about 6 hours old, so a hospital celebration wasn’t what I had planned but there was nowhere else I wanted to be.

Plans are funny things. I’ve always had a hard time with change and retaining control in my life, but becoming a mom of two has forced me to face – often uncomfortably – the fact that life gon’ life, and sometimes all you can do is go along for the ride.

Look at my Boss Baby, my moonlight bringer – she came two weeks early. She came pretty quickly, about 3 hours after my water broke. She came without the aid of pain meds, since the epidural that was administered didn’t work. AT ALL. Almost every step of the way, I’d have a somewhat out-of-body experience where I looked at myself saying, “Is this shit really about to happen?” and there was nothing I could do but admit that yes, yes it was.

If I was having out-of-body experiences during labour and delivery, BB’s gift to me was putting me back in my body. That’s the only way I can describe it. Little Magician took me into more spiritual realms with her arrival, and BB has grounded me, earthed me, settled me into my body in a new way.

It started with the experience of giving birth without pain meds and feeling my body do a new thing, even though it was the second time. It continued with the more successful breastfeeding journey we’ve been having (I got teary-eyed when we saw that BB gained weight at her first doctor’s appointment). And it’s kept going with how much I enjoy my post-baby body (I’d like to snatch this waist back and get rid of this back pain, but the extra juiciness can stick around). I just have more moments of being present – taking time to be aware of my breathing, to take note of my posture, to stretch and feel my body pull. LM awakened me to parts of me that I didn’t previously explore. BB reintroduced me to parts of me that I previously took for granted. Balance is a tricky thing, but these two have given me a certain kind of equilibrium.

It’s been two months in, and finding equilibrium in broader terms has been challenging. I’m trying to keep up with LM’s energy and her need to be engaged. I’m trying to nurture BB and keep the breastmilk flowing so she can keep growing. I’m trying to learn how to relax, but the fear of seeing opportunities slip away and losing relevance in my work makes relaxation elusive (that last point is a topic for another post altogether). I’m trying not to be wholly overwhelmed and anxious by the state of the world. I’m trying to be OK with change and understand that right now, loss of control looks like me floating around, grasping at old and new pieces of my identity, and trying to put it all together again in a way that makes me feel good. I’m trying to be OK with the fact that this will all take some time.

But oh, when I look at BB – I’m fine with the discomfort. My beautiful brown baby with the biggest, brightest eyes; the way she looks just like her sister at one glance, then entirely different the next; the calmness that I feel emanating from her; the way her daddy feels so fulfilled with his two girls and the way LM feels so proud to be a big sister – when my heart wants to break because of frustration, overwhelm, and self-inflicted pressure, these things keep it stitched together.

I’m a mom of two, reliving the sleepless, stressful, yet blissful days of newborn life. My BB is perfect, and she’s the perfect addition to my perfectly imperfect family. We’re all taking it one day at a time, and I know we’ll all be fine.

Bee Quammie

Big hair+mouth. Word lover. Award-winning blogger. Freelance writer. Media commentator. Wife/mama/daughter/sister/friend. Dancehall Queen for life.

Motherhood The Second Time Around

BSM-bossbaby34I’ve always known I wouldn’t be Team One And Done if I had my way. With two younger siblings of my own, I’ve always loved the connection we have – so I knew that when it came time to start my own family, I definitely wanted to recreate that dynamic with my little ones.

So, here we are. Little Magician is fresh off her 3rd birthday, and her sibling #BossBaby is coming in just a few weeks. This pregnancy has been very different from my first go-round, and my life today looks completely different from what it was even just 3 short months ago. I’m slowly but surely coming to accept the realization that there is no “going back” to anything. Life is drifting me along like a river that washed me from my comfort on the shore, and I won’t ever go back – but I’ll end up somewhere new. And one of the major things about this new place? I’ll be a mom of two.

I wonder how I’m going to love two children equally. So many parents have told me that I’ll be amazed at how my heart will swell to meet the capacity of loving BB, so I figure it’ll be an extension of the phenomenon when Little Magician arrived and love took on new definition.  I wonder how I’m going to continue to integrate the other parts of my life (career, social life, etc.) into this renewed motherhood identity. I wonder how the spiderweb of connections between HomieLuva, LM, BB, and I (and our extended family) will evolve as we welcome a new being into our lives and form new relationships. I wonder how my body will recover after pregnancy #2; if my postpartum depression will come back; if HomieLuva and I will be able to navigate the ripples and waves of newborn life and remember the connection we created when it was just the two of us.

People make me feel guilty about working so much during this pregnancy – my work contract came to an end a few months back, and I’ve been a full-time freelance writer since April. I feel even more exhausted than usual, because May found us dealing with HomieLuva’s ankle surgery and taking LM out of daycare, so my responsibilities at home have heightened. Family and friends have helped in amazing ways, but there’s so much that only I can do. I worry that BB can feel and absorb my stress, so I order myself to not feel that stress, then I stress out when it feels like I’m failing both of us.

I feel like I owe it to BB to make up for the fact that life hasn’t been easy, and I’ve had to think of, manage, and do so much.

When I have a quiet moment to feel the ever-strengthening kicks and punches in my belly, I smile. I talk to BB all the time and let them know how much I love them. When I hum my special lullaby for LM at night, I feel the baby shift and move every time, and I feel like it might become their favourite lullaby too. It’s in those moments that I feel like everything will be OK, and that Boss Baby and I are reassuring each other at the same time.

Change – even change that you set in motion or desire with all your heart – is scary. Knowing that there’s no going back, only going forward, is scary. Realizing that life as I know it is about to evolve again and hoping that I’m ready for what’s to come, is scary. But beyond that fear is the fact that I’m about to gain the ability to give and receive the most love I ever have before – and I can’t wait.

See you soon, BB. We’re so excited for you to get here. <3

Bee Quammie

Big hair+mouth. Word lover. Award-winning blogger. Freelance writer. Media commentator. Wife/mama/daughter/sister/friend. Dancehall Queen for life.

“Toddlers & Snapchat Don’t Mix” And Other Reasons To Put The Phone Down

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The wailing and shrieking from Little Magician’s room woke me out of my sleep at 3am the other night.

There’s her usual whiny cry when all she wants is some company or someone to pull her blankets up under her chin (still a ploy for company, since she’s more than capable of tucking herself in) – but this? This was different. Something was wrong.

I found her sitting straight as a board on the edge of her bed, hair bonnet askew, trembling and crying – and when I asked her what was wrong, all she could do was raise a little arm and point at her dresser.

“The monster…the monster is right there with the googly eyes!”

I patted her back and said,  “Baby – I don’t see one. There’s no monster there.”

She nodded furiously and cried “Yes, mommy! The monster is there with eyes like our silly face pictures!”

And that’s when I realized it was Snapchat’s fault that I was up, trying to calm her back to sleep at 3am.

Lately, I’ve been working on limiting the mental noise that comes with excessive social media use. I love the connections that come from it, but recognize when I need to tap out from the constant influx of opinions and discussions and annoyances that exist across the mediums.

I’ll take a week off of social media here and there, but what I’m really working on is limiting my screen time before bed. It’s too easy for me to succumb to FOMO and the “let me just refresh the TL one more time” reflex – but as research has shown, it’s a much better sleep hygiene practice to leave the phone alone for an hour or so before bed.

But silly me. I’ve gravitated to Snapchat because it’s a fun way to engage without being inundated by others’ opinions, and Little Magician gets way too much enjoyment out of the filter feature on there. I thought Snapchat was safe, but that 3am wake up call – and other such events – have proven otherwise.

There’s the time she slapped the make-believe flower crown off her head so hard she almost cried.

Then, the time she nearly broke my real glasses because she tried to snatch the Snapchat filter glasses off my face.

Then, the time she had a meltdown because she kept opening her mouth, but her dog filter tongue wouldn’t come out.

Then, there’s the fact that she knows exactly how to get to Snapchat and its filters on my phone, and nearly snapped a (somewhat blurry but still slightly inappropriate) pic of me to my public story.

After these near-accidents and 3am freak-outs, I can see that the effort I put into managing my social media use will help her just as much as it helps me.  We clearly both need the sleep hygiene assistance so that social media doesn’t continue to seep into our subconsciousness the way it so effectively has.

It’s funny how our kids can motivate us to do better for ourselves than our own self-assessment. With that being said, I’ll definitely be renewing my efforts to put the phone, laptop, and any device with access to social media down well before bed. Hopefully I’ll get a more restful sleep, and hopefully Little Magician will too, without the interruption of googly-eyed monsters dancing her her room.

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Bee Quammie

Big hair+mouth. Word lover. Award-winning blogger. Freelance writer. Media commentator. Wife/mama/daughter/sister/friend. Dancehall Queen for life.

“Black ‘Oman, Hold Yuh Heart” aka Boss Baby Is Coming

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A few weeks ago, I was at the HERStory In Black event, hosted by How She Hustles and CBC. The entire evening – honouring 150 Black women in the GTA who are doing amazing things – was incredible, but there was one particularly poignant moment for me.

Dub poet d’bi Young Anitafrika performed a piece she wrote specifically for the event – a powerful and emotional poem that had most of the room in tears. d’bi guided us through the recognition and celebration of who we are as Black women, with a constant refrain: “Black ‘oman, hold yuh heart!”

Most of us placed our hands to our chests, but I had a moment of hesitation about where to place mine. You see, I currently have two hearts. One has lived, loved, broken, and mended more than the other, but the newer one beats strong with the rhythm of promise and potential.

All that to say – I’m pregnant with Baby #2!

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This pregnancy so far has been very different from 3 years ago when I was carrying Little Magician, and has frankly been a rougher ride. Morning sickness and extreme exhaustion took over the first trimester, and there were days where I couldn’t raise my head for anything except to take a sip of lemon water. This one also took a hit to my vanity – with LM everything flourished, but this time around my skin, hair, and nails suffered until the second trimester. I had more food cravings with LM, and this time (aside from my never-ending desires for ackee and saltfish), my diet is driven more by my aversions – namely chicken, most juices, and dairy.

It also feels like my emotions have also been on an even bigger roller coaster this time around. One of my biggest sources of anxiety is, how will I love two children equally?

I remember being pregnant with LM and wondering what it was going to feel like to be connected to another human being in such a way. I couldn’t imagine what that love would look and feel like, but it came, in all its beautiful and overwhelming glory.  Now, I’m clearly not the first person to give birth to more than one child, but I wonder how my heart will stretch to give another baby the same quality of love I’ve given to LM all this time, and how I’ll be able to keep loving her so that she never feels like she’s lost part of me.

Personally, I felt so changed when I gave birth the first time, that I’m also a bit anxious about how I’ll evolve after I go through the process of bringing another being into the world again.

Who will they be? Who will I be? How will LM adapt? How will HomieLuva and I maintain our identities as individuals and a couple while raising two children? As has been my trend lately, I have more questions than answers – but I know the answers will make themselves plain in due time. If previous life experience has shown me, I never know what I’m doing, but somehow always figure it out – or at least get by without anyone getting hurt. Lol.

For now, I’m enjoying the smoother sails of the second trimester (though I’m still hella tired thanks to chasing one Little Magician around) and awaiting the arrival of Boss Baby aka El/La Jefe aka Lil Remix. The story behind Baby #2’s nicknames deserves its own post, so stay tuned for that – and for all the fun times ahead as I become a mama of 2!

Bee Quammie

Big hair+mouth. Word lover. Award-winning blogger. Freelance writer. Media commentator. Wife/mama/daughter/sister/friend. Dancehall Queen for life.

Childhood Traumas & Triggers: How They Shape Us, How We Avoid Them

BSM-protectWhen we think about the things in our childhood that shaped us as adults, do we first think of the positive memories, or the negative ones?

Childhood trauma is something I’ve been thinking about lately, and figuring out how to avoid unnecessary anguish in my children’s lives is at the forefront of my mind. I know I can’t control every aspect of life and society that will impact my child – but can I steer around some of the homegrown traumas that could leave a scar? That’s the plan.

Anything that makes me assess my own childhood inevitably finds me shifting the lens to assess as a mother as well. An example of this was an episode of one of my favourite podcasts, The Friend Zone, called Theater Masks. Co-host Hey Fran Hey led a discussion on the patterns we recreate in relationships – either attracting the same types of people who don’t serve us well, or feeling the need to act a certain way in relationships to receive love. The question she posed was hard-hitting:

Who was the parent whose love you craved the most? And once you have that parent in your mind, ask yourself ‘what was the performance that I had to put on to receive that love?’

Mind = blown.

I’ve thought about the ways to protect my child from abuse. We’ve made the decision to not spank or “give licks” as punishment. I try hard to not raise my voice (and fail often) and I monitor my frustrations so that I don’t take something out on my child that she didn’t create. HomieLuva and I work hard on our relationship so that we’re healthy as individuals and a couple to support our family structure. We’re trying to nourish our child with the skills, confidence, and self-love that will hopefully provide a buttress against those things that seek to chip away at her. Our children’s wellbeing and potential is paramount in everything we do – but am I missing something? Will she struggle in future relationships because of something we’re unconsciously teaching her now? Those insidious things are where my mind focuses these days. I don’t have a crystal ball to see what’s to come, but that episode of The Friend Zone put me on to a new level of awareness as I move through this mommy game.

The other side of the coin is that no matter how perfectly we create a safe space at home for children to thrive, you never know what they may face once they step out into the world. Additionally, is it viable to consider a life where a child faces no hardship and doesn’t carry any kind of negative experience with them through life? (No.) Is it realistic to think that Little Magician will always look back at memories of her father and I without saying “I wish they had done this” or “I wish they hadn’t done that”? How do we balance out the fact that bad things do happen in life – and definitely have a crucial role in shaping us – while still avoiding those superfluous traumas that didn’t need to exist in the first place? And how do you navigate trauma as a parent if you experienced trauma yourself – particularly if you haven’t worked through it yet?

As you can clearly see, this post is more question than answer, because that’s all I really have at this point. Even with the multitude of unanswered questions, I’m thankful for the reminder of awareness. Even moreso, I’m thankful for the fact that I have never worked so hard at something while knowing that I have no clue what I’m doing – but I’m accepting that as what motherhood is.

Maybe I’ll do an interview with Little Magician when she’s older to see how she feels about it all. Stay tuned.

Bee Quammie

Big hair+mouth. Word lover. Award-winning blogger. Freelance writer. Media commentator. Wife/mama/daughter/sister/friend. Dancehall Queen for life.

Motherhood, Activism, & Sharpening Oyster Knives

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Photo courtesy of Samantha Clarke Photography

No, I do not weep for the world. I’m too busy sharpening my oyster knife. – Zora Neale Hurston

I remember a time while I was pregnant when all I could do was weep. While the joy of bringing a new life into the world never waned for me, it was constantly challenged by the foreboding of knowing that my child was coming into a world that would threaten their existence at every turn. I don’t know how many times I cried and how many times I apologized – first to my belly, then to the squirming brown beauty who entered the world one sunny morning.

I never want the light to dim for her.

Activism in various forms isn’t new to me. Whether through writing, volunteering, attending rallies and demonstrations, or taking the time to read and listen to others whose experiences vary from mine, I work on myself to ensure that I can better do The Work in liberation, resistance and fighting for rights, justice, and joy.

But.

Becoming a mother? That inevitably put a new battery in my back when it comes to activism. Now, let me say here that activism and motherhood do not require each other’s existence. But for me? My desire to bring her here and force her to inherit everything that this world contains means that my work on her behalf goes beyond providing food, shelter, and love.

What will her future look like? What possibilities will be available to her as she grows? Will the world allow her room to be whoever she wants to be during her time on this earth? Will she be safe? Will she thrive? Because of the society we live in, I know that the answers to these questions will not solely be determined by how well I raise her. Once she steps out into the world, the answers to these questions will also be determined by the people she encounters and the systems she partakes in, so I see my work taking place in two areas: privately, in the home, as her father and I do our best to help her bloom; and publicly, out in the world, helping to shape and reconstruct the people and systems that she will inevitably come across so that they are ready for her.

When I think about how parenting and activism intersect for me, I inevitably think about my own parents. I acknowledge the ways that my privilege allows me to say and do certain things that were not possible for them, but I also acknowledge the multitude of ways that they fiercely worked on my behalf to try to right the wrongs in the world I grew up in. I recognize that nothing is truly 100% safe for me in this society and that I have my own limitations – but I also know that there are other parents for whom their and their children’s safety and level of capacity is paramount to their activism. We take up the mantle for each other in our own ways.

I always think about what kind of model I’m showcasing for Little Magician, and I want her to see the power in various forms of activism. I want her to see that her voice, words, and actions can effect change, and I want her to be emboldened by that. I want her to see that she doesn’t have to wait or ask for permission to demand her rights, and I want her to see that she can be an effective support to others whose concerns may vary from hers, but are no less important.

Life as a Black girl/woman consists of clear intersections, but as time rolls on, those intersections can become even complex. Fighting against homophobia, transphobia, ableism, racism, sexism, poverty, and other forms of bigotry is a priority to me, not simply because my daughter could face them, but because eradicating them will expand the possibilities for self-actualization exponentially, and that is something we all deserve.

If becoming a parent is the catalyst that inspires people to action, then I say, “Welcome.” However, I’m weary of the mentality that uses kinship as the singular reason for support or activism. “(Insert marginalized group here) deserve support because they’re our children/mothers/husbands/etc.” – while personal relationship will always motivate our desires to fight and resist, that cannot be the only value determinant we place on each other. Activism is one of the terms I agreed to within my personal motherhood contract, but while parenting has deepened my activism, it doesn’t solely define it.

I used to weep and sometimes I still do. But now, I take more of my cues from Zora and spend my time sharpening my oyster knife, ready to fight and teach Little Magician how to sharpen hers, too.

Bee Quammie

Big hair+mouth. Word lover. Award-winning blogger. Freelance writer. Media commentator. Wife/mama/daughter/sister/friend. Dancehall Queen for life.

How I’m Managing Toddler Meltdowns With Mindfulness

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The Terrible Twos with Little Magician have definitely had their moments of terribleness. She’s impatient sometimes, but headstrong and independent all the time – so tantrums and meltdowns have become an expected part of life with a toddler.

I’ve been on my own anxiety and stress management journey for a couple of years now, actively working on making meditation and mindfulness regular practice. Ever since Little Magician could listen and take direction, I’ve been working on the same with her. Mindfulness for her looks like stopping everything, sitting still, inhaling deeply and exhaling slowly – we sit together and I guide her through the process whenever she’s frustrated, too wound up, or on the verge of a meltdown – and it really works for her.

It looks like we might be on to something. In this Upworthy article, Baltimore’s Robert W. Coleman Elementary School is featured as a case study in what happens when you replace detention with meditation and mindfulness – and the results are positive.

Instead of punishing disruptive kids or sending them to the principal’s office, the Baltimore school has something called the Mindful Moment Room instead. The room looks nothing like your standard windowless detention room. Instead, it’s filled with lamps, decorations, and plush purple pillows. Misbehaving kids are encouraged to sit in the room and go through practices like breathing or meditation, helping them calm down and re-center. They are also asked to talk through what happened.

In addition to the meditation room, the school also offers mindfulness techniques and yoga in after-school programs for kids from pre-K through grade 5.

The school has reported zero suspensions in the current school year and last school year, and other schools have started to implement mindfulness strategies, with similarly positive outcomes.

For me, this is a sign to continue along the journey of teaching meditation and mindfulness to Little Magician.  Benefits include stress reduction, better focus, improved memory, and higher emotional intelligence, so why wouldn’t I want to instill that in my child? And hopefully, she’ll be able to absorb this as a natural practice since we’re starting so early. Mindfulness and meditation can be difficult for me because it’s hard to turn my brain off – but hopefully I can start to normalize the practice for her now, before she has more stressors and responsibilities battling for room in her mental space.

The fact that schools are now starting to look at mindfulness as a positive approach and intervention for children is a good sign. Compared to the U.S. and the UK, Canada hardly collects or makes race-based statistics public, but a 2006-7 report from the Toronto District School Board showed that Black students were 3 times more likely to be suspended than White students. Black students made up 12% of the high school population, but accounted for more than 31% of all suspensions (comparatively, White students made up about 33% of the high school population, but accounted for 29% of suspensions). In the 2011-12 TDSB report, it showed that suspension rates have dropped across the board, but Black students are still disproportionately suspended – in grades 9-12, 8.2% of suspended students were Black compared to 2.9% being White.

Curbing these skewed suspension rates requires a multi-pronged approach, but as Robert W. Coleman has shown, meditation and mindfulness may be among those possibilities. Teaching students to be more attuned to their emotions and more mindful of their behaviours helps to re-centre their locus of control – and giving our children tools in their arsenal is part of what parenting and educating is all about. Best believe I’ll be tucking this info away in case I need to introduce this concept at Little Magician’s future school.

Wondering how to introduce your little one to mindfulness? Check out the Breathe, Think, Do Sesame Street app on iTunes and Google Play, aimed at teaching children problem solving skills, resilience, stress management, and emotional intelligence.

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So while I work on my own practice of mindfulness, I’ll keep involving Little Magician in the journey. Tantrum management now, possibly improved school outcomes later, plus a host of other benefits? Mindfulness is more than worth it to me.

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Bee Quammie

Big hair+mouth. Word lover. Award-winning blogger. Freelance writer. Media commentator. Wife/mama/daughter/sister/friend. Dancehall Queen for life.