Woke Mama: Ziada

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Want to know WTF a Woke Mama is? Each week, we’re introducing awesome women who are making the world a kinder place, one happy baby at a time.

Name: Ziada
Age: 29
Baby: Didier, August 16 2016

What does being a woke momma mean to you?

Three things really, being awake to the world, awake to my son and importantly awake to myself. Nothing could have prepared me for the way Didier would impact my everything. Having him made me desperate to make the world better, to create a space that he was welcome in, a world that recognizes the importance of innocence, one that he could safely navigate even when I am no longer able to protect him. I wasn’t prepared for how deeply I would feel this urge.

Being awake to my son for me means being present in every moment with him, forgetting all of the ‘shoulds’ and just going with my instincts, putting him first and respecting his need to just be a baby—this has been much harder than I imagined and I’ve needed support from other woke mamas to stay true to this.

Finally, being a woke mama means being awake to myself as a woman, as a mother, as a daughter, as a wife, as a friend –- all of my selves have changed since Didier arrived and I’ve had to take a look in the mirror and ask myself who it is I really want to be. He makes me want to be better and to stay woke.

What made you choose gentle parenting? And what is your favourite aspect of it?

I’ve always wondered what kind of mother I would be; my mum has been an unbelievable rock and head of our family and I knew I wanted to be that for my children. But then I was thrown into motherhood and was anxious and uncertain and looked for reassurance from articles, from people, from anything. But it wasn’t the reading that made me choose the gentle way—don’t get me wrong there are some amazing articles written about why gentle parenting is the best approach—but there are also so many confusing stories about what a baby ‘should’ do and what it ‘shouldn’t’ do. It wasn’t even the people, because as good willed as people can be, this whole parenting thing is an open invitation for scrutiny and everyone wants to put in their two pence. It was my son.

I cracked one day and couldn’t take the sleep deprivation and couldn’t handle everyone telling me about how their baby just sleeps perfectly since they did cry it out and I decided to try it. I did the bedtime routine and then we closed the door and waited outside. We lasted 3 minutes. Didier was crying in hysterics and so was I. Every part of me knew this didn’t feel right: he was upset and I could comfort him and make him feel safe or I could leave him to cry to sleep. It was an obvious choice for me—teach him the world is a safe place. I brought Didier into bed with me the next day, I stopped worrying about putting him down for naps and started babywearing. I decided to shut everyone out and listen to my heart and listen to my baby. I’ve always been gentle but this reminded me to practice what I preach.

Most awesome moment so far?

IMPOSSIBLE!! So many moments with him are awesome! Okay um, if I had to choose one I guess it would be the first day I returned home from being back to work. I was so nervous about going back. Leaving the house without him felt foreign and I was desperate to have a badge or something that said ‘I am not just the same old me I am a mother!’ I left Didier with his father and after the longest, busiest day of my life I returned home, put the key in and opened the door. When I looked up the two of them were at the top of the stairs. The look on Didier’s face is permanently imprinted in my mind—in that moment I realized how much I mean to him and how much he means to me. Every day with him is a gift and he reminds me of that.

Biggest struggle so far?

Being kind to myself. Before Didier I had all the time in the world and I produced so much in my work and this made me proud. Then all of a sudden I had a baby and I was sleep deprived and felt vulnerable and overwhelmed. I have to remind myself to be kind to myself and to set reasonable expectations. That I need balance and that I can’t be on all the time—Didier is actually the best reminder of that.

I cope with stress by getting outside, if it’s a walk, a sorry excuse for a jog, or even just sitting in a park—any time outside makes me feel better. I also talk with my husband, he’s gentle and woke af. I’m not the best about opening up when I feel stressed but he is great at sensing it and then sitting me down kicking and screaming and telling me to just open the hell up and say what is worrying me. This always helps. Finally it’s the crew—it’s the ladies, it’s the woke mamas that I surround myself with. When I think I can’t do this or I feel like a good cry they are there. Always.

How have you balanced everything going back to work?

I’m doing it now and it’s the only thing that feels right. Co-sleeping for example is the only way I can get into work and be a semi-functioning human. It also means that no matter how busy my day is I get to cuddle Didier through the night and that does as much good for him as it does for me. When I am working from home and it’s been a busy week and maybe he hasn’t seen as much of me as he normally does and so is battling with separation anxiety—I just wear him. These things mean that I can make up for the physical contact I miss during the day and in being gentle with him, I feel like he has dealt with this new transition really well. We are all juggling, whether you go back to work or you are home with baby all day—hats off to ya!

Advice to new mums?

Listen to your heart—if it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. No matter who tells you that you ‘should’. These little bubs don’t have a voice for a long time so stick up for them and when you feel you don’t have the fight in you, turn to someone for support. Motherhood is one of the most rewarding but most challenging things you will ever do. Be kind to yourself. Be forgiving to yourself. Know you are doing your best. Oh and if it doesn’t feel right, or if you feel down—open up. Never suffer in silence. When you are well then baby is well.

What is on your soundtrack to motherhood?

Taking it back to our roots! Didier is constantly jamming to the African beats. For example Jose Chameleon is a big player in Ugandan r&b and I always have him going in the background—also there is a song called ‘I love my life’ by Demarco. We listened to that song for 5 days straight during my labor. Me, my husband and my mother always have to fight back tears when it comes on because it reminds us of all we went through together to bring him into this world. That and black umfolosi—those beats get you ready for having a baby ladies! Then we try and keep it current, for example Kendrick Lamar is always thrown into the mix. Hubby is half French so I come home to him singing old French songs at the top of his lungs with Didier rocking on his hip.

Like what you see? We’ll be introducing more awesome Woke Mamas. Follow us on Instagram and share your stories with #WokeMamas. We want to hear what being a Woke Mama means to you. Send your answers to us here

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