Monday, 26 April 2010

It's Been a Year!

Happy Birthday/Lockday/anniversary to my hair!

Although it seems strange to be celebrating a hair anniversary, I do feel it appropriate to somehow commemorate the day I began this locked down journey to freedom. Do I regret it? No...  In fact I am still very proud of myself for finally taking the plunge after hemming and hawinga bout it for so many years!

Perming my hair was never about a desire for 'more manageable hair' or 'equal hair rights' (with other races); I did it because (almost) everyone else did, it was the 'natural' (LOL) thing to do. Natural hair was for primary school, when you either started secondary school or turned 16 for the die hard girls - you straightened your hair. It was just what you did. It symbolised the demarcation between young girl and young woman.

So, when I was 14 (or 15), I had my first perm. And I LOVED the way my hair lay flat against my head when I wore pony tails. I wasn't so into the curling business... straight and smooth were enough for me. Who knows? I might even post a pic from that era heheh.

Shortly after my 16th birthday, having left secondary school for College, I was again in transition. I was hanging with 'conscious' breddren and exploring social issues, searching for my identity, learning about Marcus Garvey and Bob (Marley), Clement Payne and Sir Errol Walton Barrow; Bussa (leader of the slave revolt in Barbados), Malcolm X and Martin (Luther King). I grew my hair out from that Halle Berry bob to a kinky curly fro... and I was happy.

On from College, throughout my University years, I sported the (much longer) fro, or twists, and braid outs and cane rows. I experimented with colour, shape and form. I grew - my hair grew. I associated its length with how far I'd travelled in my journey of life. It was never a love-hate thing... no matter howo tough I felt it was (sometimes) or how long it would take me to wash and retwist it. It was never a burden - it was just my hair.

About to start my graduate job - I committed the cardinal sin. No - it wasn't that I had relaxed my hair  per se - the sin (in my mind) was that I did it in order to fit in, i felt that I had to have straight hair in order to work at an Investment Bank (IB) and minimise the likelihood of me getting sidelined or negatively stereotyped. My 'sin' and therefore my shame - was that I stopped being true to myself... I think I would have been happier had I relaxed it out of boredom rather than boardroom pressure!

My hair was past my shoulders (armpit length at the back) when I relaxed it in April 2002 but by August it was seriously breaking... by October I was regularly wearing hair pieces to create the illusion that it was still as long and luxurious as it used to be... by January the next year, I was back to the Halle berry bob.

In 2004, I cut it all off again, this along with my biker chick attitude and Piaggio X9 led some to question my sexualty. (What is it with hair and sexual orientation eh? Stupse)  I mention this now because I was at a different IB and it never occurred to me that cutting my hair/wearing it natural would become an issue... for anybody.  And after a while they got used to it. And I faded into the background again - I was non threatening and hard working, nothing for corporate London to worry about - even if I did sport twists or fades :)

As my wedding day approached, I became antsy about my hair. Surely you couldn't wear natties (natural twists or comb coils) on your wedding day, and corn rows just didnt seem 'special' enough... Off I went to the salon and maintained a healthy head of permed hair for about 6 months prior to the 'special ' day...  Would you believe that my Wedding Day hair stylist basically bc'd my hair on the morning of the wedding? She says she thought I wanted x style (which was popular at the time - kinda like Fantasia's short cuts) but I know she just wanted to do it like that - maybe that's the only style she knew DESPITE me going in for several consultations beforehand and showing her pictures of the style I wanted. Shoot - I could have done it better myself! CHAH!

So with tears in my eyes as I dressed for my wedding I swore that it would be a cold day in hell before I ever let another hairdresser touch my hair again. I hated that hairstyle so much - no matter how much my sisters and nieces tried to comfort me or how good people told me it looked; all I knew was this wasnt what I wanted. It would be

As soon as I got back from the honeymoon, I stopped at a barber shop and told them to cut it all off. If I couldn't have it how I wanted it - I didn't want it at all.  This was pretty much me - round headed tennis ball head me for the first 6 months of 2007.  Slowly I started growing my hair back - but then I had the whole battle with alopecia yada yada. I avoided chemical processing since then. - and I kept my vow (the other vow I made on my wedding day) - it would be another 2 years before I let a 'stranger' put their hands in my hair.

In 2009, while enjoying my maternity leave in Barbados, I finally made peace with the idea of locking my hair. The seeming 'permanence' of it had always put me off in the past, so I was as averse to locking my hair as I was to perming it.  I liked the versatility that came with having loose natural hair: one week you could have corn rows, the next week a braid out; followed by a bun (or two!) and of course my favourites - two stranded twists or a  'wash and go'.  What I didn't like was all the detangling, and combing and retwisting (aka maintenance) required. Recently I had a conversation with a 'loose' haired natural who mentioned wearing her hair in a ponytail for ages, only brushing the edges - only to discover a matted afro underneath hahahahha - I could so identify with that! Sometimes I just couldn't be bothered! 

I suppose the decision to lock my hair also had some element of laziness in it because I didn't want to have to do this whole hair routine anymore... my son had been born and with his arrival came the realisation that I really didn't have - nor could I justify spending - as much time as before.  I guess I was ready for something 'else'.

The year before, I had been envious of my niece's hair: (she started her journey 18 months before me); and I remember thinking how brave she was... didn't she miss running her fingers through her hair? A comb? A brush? What if she didn't like it (the look of the locks)?  Come to think of it - I haven't yet met anyone who didn't like the look of their locks (although I have met some who got tired of the maintenance and took them down/cut them off). A year later I was no longer worried about any of those things: if I didn't like MY locks I would just cut them off/take them down.  I was ready for something else.

I was ready to do this 'locking thing'. Almost everywhere I went in Barbados, I was seeing beautiful brown men and women with locks, black, brown, red and gold locks, long and short, thin and thick; micros and maxis.

I wanted the micro kind. I did my research, chose a consultant and booked a date. After 15 hours over a two-day period I emerged with that telltale 'plucked chicken' look, a new member of the sisterlock family and part of the global sisterhood (and brotherhood) of the Locks... but enough of me waxing lyrical...Knowing how 'fickle' I am when it comes to hair affairs - my family fully expected me to 'unpick all those sisterlock plaits' within 3-6 months, so I'm pretty proud to be 12 months in muhhahahahhahaha.

Look out for the other anniversary posts and in the meantime enjoy my
Images over time....
 (what a trip down memory lane, you have my permission to laugh at me too!)

Tennis Ball head (2007)










2007- long enough for tiny comb coils. (Try not to choke while you chuckle)
2007 with pink eyeshadow and a zit - this was one of my fav styles while growing my hair back (plus the band helped hide the alopecia). Yeah - I thought I was HOTTTTT.

2008 (work function and wedding)


2009 ponytails and 'wash and go's
and then.... sisterlocks!
much nicer a year on I think...
(taken during my extended hospital stay post baby - so dont laugh at these - at least not as loudly!)

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

What's In A Name?

I get it now... or at least I think I do.
Well... at least it's starting to make sense... a bit.

This is Anthony McLean's latest single: 'My Name',



Most importantly (for the purposes of this article that is) here are (some of ) the lyrics:

Baby you got me falling uncontrollably in love, 
Never felt this way (before)
(You) got my heart, my soul, but baby that just isn't enough
Hey, I wanna give you my name...


and the second verse goes on to say...

my everything and all that I possess
cos you deserve to be offered nothing less
you know i'm there for you like you've been there for me
cos whenever I'm without you girl i find it hard to breathe
you take the pain away, you make it worth the wait
i was broken but you came along and mended me
...


Ok,  that's enough, to read the full lyrics you can click here , but let me get to my point.
When I got married many many moons ago (after previously coming to the conclusion that I would NEVER EVER get married because it seemed like the woman was getting a raw deal...) HRH and I had a bit of a skirmish about the surname.

Was I a feminist? I don't know, some may have seen me as such... I was definitely one of those independent women - you know the ones who own their own homes, own cars, own jewellery, own everything. Nothing had been handed to me on a platter and definitely nothing paid for by any man and given to me as a token of ownership love.

I had done some modelling and TV commercials, and I had won a few street dance competitions in Barbados  (very good 'old days'!); I had excelled academically  - to the surprise of many - and so my name had been in the papers a couple of times and I knew who I was. I liked who I was. I went to University, I made new friends and I started my career. Professionally I was 'Bajan Lily' (me). And I guess I have to admit that I felt threatened when this man, whom I loved dearly, was now asking me to change all that... to give it all up. To me - changing one's surname felt like the ultimate submission... no longer would I be 'Bajan Lily' from that moment onward, my identity would forever be wrapped up in his, I would be 'Mrs HRH', I felt as though I would disappear into him and I resisted it strongly.

People took this to mean that I didn't love him (or that I loved myself more) but I felt that they didn't understand me. I am one of five, number 4 to be exact, and the concept of family was a BIG deal at home. We were the 'Whites of Mayfair' as far as I was concerned and the family tree, its traditions and legacies were part and parcel of our everyday life. We were proud to be this clan from this place.

When our mother took us on holiday or even daily excursions - there was the whole spiel about being a 'White' and what it meant, and how we shouldn't embarrass her or our father with any bad behaviour (and of course a similar spiel afterwards when we committed some unpardonable infraction). "You're ruining my good name!", "You're bringing disgrace on the family!"... come to think of it, most of those statements were directed at me during my teenage years (I just wanted to dance!!!)

Anyway - bottom line was - this was our name and we were proud of it. Everything we were, where we came from,  from whom we were descended was wrapped up in that name! And sitting here analysing it - it makes me smile a bit because my mother married into that name and yet, the way she said it, you'd think it was her own. Come to think of it, I'd say now that it was more a matter of shared identity than assumed identity - because when she said we (the family) were 'Whites' she was giving equal respect to her maiden name as well, so she could just as easily have been saying: 'we are Fleur-Whites' - such was the pride she instilled into us.

The importance of family and a shared identity were driven home (on a daily basis) and from that fertilised ground I sprang up: at times an unruly vine weaving and intertwining my way through thickets and other adversity, always travelling the road less travelled, carving my road away from the beaten path, living to learn, learning to love and loving to live.

So there I was soaring with eagles, 'making a name for myself' and here's this person asking me to give it all up. At least that's what it felt like - like a clipping of my wings. No more professional Lily, gotta build this new identity up; no more homegirl Lily from 'Mayfair' - no more, no more, no more... it just felt like a really long list of 'no mores'. Of course some will say - well you could have made a link between 'Lily White' and the new 'HRH Lily' and eventually that is what I did (in my own way) but at the time the effort just seemed phenomenal and unjustified. |Why should I have to pay to change the name on my passport, and go through the hassle of changing the name on my bank accounts and legal documents etc when my husband doesn't have to change one darned thing? How is that fair? What part of that is creating an equal partnership?

I keep mentioning I work in investment banking so these are the examples I draw from: when (Swiss Bank) Credit Suisse merged with American bank First Boston - we were presented with Credit Suisse First Boston (a mouthful yes, but we knew the faces behind the name); when Bank of American and Merril Lynch got married we again got a mouthful but again we know the players. In 1935 when Henry Morgan and Harold Stanley left JP Morgan... and is now Morgan Stanley Smith Barney - we still know the players! Compare that to the so-called Bear Sterns 'merger'.... there is no JP Morgan Chase Bear Stearns... just JP Morgan Chase which to me says it all... if you get swallowed up by a bigger fish you don't get your name on the door; only partners appear on the door. I wanted to be a partner not pudding!

I also wanted my children to embrace their dual heritage - yes, that meant double barrelled surnames - because kids today are cheeky and I would go berserk if I said to my kids: 'You don't behave that way, YOU are a 'White'; and the little blighter responded: "well, actually mummy, I am a 'Black'"...

I make no bones about being a daddy's girl, I have 2 brothers: both are fathers (to daughters).  Only one of my brothers is married, and me - being the sentimental silly that I am - felt great pain at the thought of daddy's name (the one mummy made us so proud of) just fizzling away into history... my son wears my daddy's surname like a prize tag (or at least he will once he's old enough to be schooled into the pride lol); but officially he belongs to the HRH clan (not the 'Whites').

Which brings me back to Mclean's song. I rather like it. I think it'd make a good wedding song, maybe not for the first dance but for at least one of them. It surprises people that I like it - particularly when one reads everything I've said before. BUT as I said right at the beginning - I think I finally get it.

Maybe (MAYBE) taking a man's name is not about ownership or being chattel or being swallowed up in someone else's identity; maybe as McLean says it is simply the man's way of offering everything he has. Material things will fade away, possessions can come and go, a man is born into his name and he will die still bearing that name - therefore it is the only thing he has which is everlasting.

Hmmmm....


ps. Surnames have been changed to protect identities (but of course if you know me - you already know this hahah)

Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Hair... Sisterlocks Update

So I thought I'd shock you all by writing TWO posts on one day (lol) after not writing for ages... AND I thought I'd switch things up by actually writing about  - wait for it.... yes.... HAIR! Lol.

I've had mad bunching since December(ish) and it drove me nuts... but after looking at Naturally Sophia and Clouds in My Coffee blogs, I decided to undo some of the badly bunched locks (as far as the bunched bit) and then plait them to the ends. This resolved that issue but I am sure there must be a better way... OTHER THAN SNIPPING  AWAY AT THE BUNCHED BIT.  Comments welcome of course. Why did I undo/replait them? Because the big fat middles/ends (where the bunching was) couldn't make it through the teeny tiny roots of the lock... so bunching is not a problem if you're palm rolling or twisting, but it's a nightmare if you're interlocking like you do with SLs.

Michelle has been doing my maintenance while I concentrated on growing the baby - many thanks! I've kept up the d-i-y on my edges but who knows when I'll have the energy to take on full retightening sessions again. Maybe in June...or July... or maybe September.... 2012... *grin*

Approaching my 1 year anniversary - gosh time flies! My niece (the one whose hair I envy) pointed out yesterday that I made it past 6 months and that made me laugh because HRH would've bet money that I wouldn't stick with this 'hairstyle' - but I did and I have so there :P (EVEN WHEN I DIDN'T LIKE HOW THEY LOOKED and my hair was falling out!)

Enough chit chat - I'll save that for the official anniversary post. Here are some recent pics. Still looks a bit messy to me- but fuller than when they were first installed (which is VERY good) rofl.

Later!


Better IN than OUT

No, I haven't made an error in the title of this post - I really mean it!

When it comes to the NHS and prenatal vs post natal care, I've found that you're much better off BEFORE your baby arrives.
Speaking to a friend of mine who has two children of her own, we found ourselves giggling because - as she put it -

" when you are pregnant they can't do enough for you, you can go to them with any little pain or ache and they will bend over backwards to put it right.... after the baby is born, they can't get you out of the hospital fast enough!"

Now why is that? Is it that the welfare of the baby is more important than that of the mother? While the mother is a carrier and protector of this new life, is her health and well being of paramount importance only because this affects the health and well being of the baby inside?  Is the NHS required to report stats to different bodies or according to different targets when comparing the occurrences of 'happy mummies and live/healthy births vs. the length of stay in hospital or the well being of children aged 0 to 12 months?  Or is it because the medical staff dealing with ante natal care are a different breed to those handling post natal care?

I don't know, but after laughing and joking about it, I really started to wonder.... I compared my experiences with these 3 pregnancies... if you call your GP for an appointment - the likely answer is "the clinic is full today - please call again tomorrow"; mention that you're pregnant and all of a sudden there is space!
"Sure - we can fit you in this afternoon, can you come at 2?"

You can get the most comfortable chairs; they'll turn a blind eye to you parking in the designated 'Doctors Only' car parking spot close to the front door... You'll be swamped by all manner of free samples and alternative therapies: 'want to try some pregnancy massage? How about an acupuncture taster? Here are some free Pampers/Huggies/Sudocream samples" - you think you can't afford to eat healthily? Don't worry - the government will give you £190 so you can buy some vegetables... "What's that you want? A trip to the moon? You got it!" No demand seems too ridiculous.... you come away feeling as though you're carrying a VIP and therefore you are a VIP and must be pampered/protected at all costs... and let's not mention all the information you are given: leaflet after leaflet, "your little toe hurts because the baby is lying sideways on the left and you ate too much icecream last night... try bananas instead"

Fast forward to your baby's birthday... or rather the day after the birthday... because in some places they're still trying to keep up the illusion that they care about you (or maybe they haven't handed over to the other team yet).  You've given birth to your gorgeous VIP, only to find that he or she is not royalty or special in any way whatsoever, not to them (the OTHER team), nope - your kid is just one of many kids mewling and roaring in plastic cots next to bewildered mothers in communal rooms on the maternity ward. One of many... and all the wonder and romance of pregnancy vanishes, only to be replaced by the cold hard facts. In the UK, there is one new baby born every minute. The NHS staff are (or appear to be) overworked and the wards are understaffed (how else can you explain the miserable looks on their faces? Or why you can ring the buzzer for H-E-L-P and wait up to an hour for the 'help' to arrive (even though you can hear them out there in reception...) you're just too weak or in too much pain to get up and go wallop them!

You, your friends and family are all abuzz with excitement over your the new addition to your family and these staff are like: 'yeah, whatever, seen it all before.. like just a minute ago'... talk about KILLJOYS! Lol.

I remember having two drips in, the nurse who checked me into the ward, kindly attached the bags to some contraption above my head. Given the trauma below, I could hardly walk and spent a few hours psyching myself up to half hobble, half crawl to the bathroom (which luckily for me was in the corner next to my cubicle). Bear in mind that I was also STILL CONTRACTING as Mr Uterus tried to get back to his pre-pregnancy shape (or whatever it does during the aftermath) and this was not helped by the fact that they had left the Oxytocin drip in (when did I authorise that?? Using Oxytocin during a VBAC can cause the previous c-section scar to rupture and usually you give Oxytocin to INDUCE labour but I was already seriously progressed before I even got to the hospital, so this makes me really MAD... but discussing this error is for another post)....

So there I was... about to slither off the bed when I realise that these tubes in my hand are stuck to the bed somehow and I can't work them free... so of course I press the buzzer for H-E-L-P.... mind you I am already at bursting point but now I have to wait another 40 mins for someone to come and H-E-L-P me... all the while all I can see is the drip -drip- dripping of the (whatever it was) dripping from the bag into the tubing... into me.... do you have any idea what strength of mind it took not to wet myself? Hahahaha.  If I were still pregnant they'd have been in there in a flash! And who came to help me? THE SECURITY GUARD! I guess the midwives were very very busy that night... (and HE still gave me a look like - you called me to unhook these drips? That's it? chah!)

I keep saying I am gonna do a proper write up about the whole birth experience - not because I am mad but because in hindsight it was just hilarious - honestly, it's the sort of thing you'd expect to happen on a sitcom... it can't REALLY have happened to me... but it did, and I am just thankful that both I and my baby lived to laugh about it!


Back on the ward, when I told them there was something wrong with my baby (1. she wouldn't wake up and 2. she was the colour of saffron rice), the junior doctor I spoke to insisted it was the lighting in the room. A room which was filtered BLUE by the blue curtains and flooring...
After they whisked the baby away to NICU (I was bed bound so couldn't follow) who came to tell me where they'd taken her or what was happening or how long she'd be gone? That's right ... noone. So after visiting hours, I hobbled out to the front desk (I think they assumed I was disabled because I was walking with a serious limp and yet noone asked if I was ok/needed a chair or anything) and I asked where my kid was...

response: "oh Baby x is in NICU"
(clearly I know she is in NICU but how do I see her? Are there visiting hours? When is she coming back?) 
me: "Uh-huh... and where is that?" 
response: "downstairs"
me: "...."
response: "..."
me: "!@*!"
response:" oh... take the lift down 2 floors and follow the signs" (why are you still standing in front of me asking dumb questions?)

If I were pregnant, they'd have whipped out a wheelchair and offered to take me/show me... talk about me being persona non grata! ROFL.

And all the while my child was in NICU I lived in fear of being booted off the ward, noone checked whether my stitches were healing ok etc, too concerned with stats I guess... one day I received my discharge papers and I was like: "Sorry, but I am not leaving this hospital without my child. You can tell the manager I said that" (cos it's not like the ward was full and there were no empty beds, at least 7 more women could have come on!) I later learned that they're supposed to move 'people like me' to private rooms so that we don't have to endure the agony of hearing other families laughing and cooing over their bundles of joy, while we sit there with no cot, no baby, and no cooing.... just a massive breast pump and all our fears and worries as we wonder whether our babies are going to make it.... but it's all good, what don't kill does fatten (as Bajans say)... so I have emerged stronger. Prayer and a strong sense of humour got me through and it gets me through every day, I'm going to stop apologising for it and just be who I am.

Anyway - I digressed a bit there, that was meant to be in the other post. Anyone who can shed some light on why the VIP treatment stops at birth - holler!

Thursday, 1 April 2010

In All Things Give Thanks

I Thessalonians 5:18

7 days ago, I unexpectedly gave birth to a little girl (about 3 weeks before she was due).

What followed was nothing short of a 7 day emotional roller coaster that has left me so very drained (physically and mentally) yet at the same time so very grateful for my blessings.

And I am blessed. I have been blessed. I continue to be blessed.

After a traumatic (and often ludicrous) delivery - my daughter spent the first 5 days of her life in Neonatal Intensive Care. I had barely time to recover from the unexpectedness of the labour, or the suddenness of the birth before I found myself clutching my dressing gown, watching a tiny baby fight for her life in a sterile incubator... I am still dealing with it all...

But know this - despite being unprepared, despite everything and in spite of myself (*grin*), God proved himself faithful to His word and I saw His Hand move in my situation...

I want to thank everyone who participated in the prayer chain, who interceded on our baby's behalf. Thank you so much for your support - may what you have given return to you sevenfold.

I am now a mother of three whole and healthy children.

I am blessed, and I give thanks.

xx

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