I am relearning how to love my body and I know you might be in this lifelong learning circle as well. It is my hope that through this blog entry, we can vibe on healthy and sustainable perceptions of body image and choice.
When I discovered that I was pregnant with my daughter, Adaora, in May 2020, I was filled with a bundle of nerves and excitement. Not only were we amidst a pandemic but I had just started to fall in like with my body. I wasn’t quite proficient on the love part. At my heaviest pre-pregnancy, I was 195-197 max. As my body changed, I threw myself into a whirlwind of doubt that I could ever reach a state of loving my body. After delivering, I experienced all sorts of physical, mental and spiritual pitfalls, many of which can be attributed to postpartum and not confronting trauma of my past. When I was pregnant with my little one and finally tipped over 200 pounds, I panicked as the stretch marks creeped across my stomach. At my heaviest, I was 240ish. I was distraught and started manifesting all these false ideals of the type of woman I would be in this new body. It was complete loser talk. Fast forward, I’ve been feeling positive about my belly fat and hips until I finally had my first full body examination since giving birth. I weighed in at 208 and felt a slight wave of disappointment. How could this be? I was working out and eating better. Right there on that scale, I had to calmly and kindly remind myself that a scale is not the judge, jury, or executioner on whether I will live a life of body love or suffer eternally measuring myself to body images that are oftentimes unrealistic, unhealthy and created for the admiration of others, not self.
When I gave birth to my little God on February 11, 2021 at 11:04am, I think she breathed life into me. Looking at my daughter, I realized that I had to do something and fast because I wanted her to get to know me on the other side of trauma, fear and anxiety. So, I started eating right, working out and got a therapist. I went deep into spirit work. I even booked an appointment with a dentist so I can finally get my version of a perfect smile. We sometimes ignore the smallest ways to improve our body image and confidence when we focus on flesh goals. As women, especially Black women, we must confront unhealthy perceptions of body image and choice by first dealing with the things that people can’t see, our spirit, mind and heart. It is through this shadow work, that I am learning to love my body again and consider it sexy, cool and fun.
Like our hair, our body is another vessel to be adorned. To be honest, I had no clue about the history and ancestry of waist beads. I figured that there was some sort of ancestral connection but never really dug deep until I was preparing to write this blog. I didn’t want to just start wearing waist beads because of their popularity. The goal is appreciation over appropriation. Yes. We can appropriate our culture if we don’t honor its histories and only acknowledge the aesthetics for social admiration. I respect the ancestry and culture of traditions. I research tribes, customs, rites of passage that our Queen Mothers once followed and traditions when I prepare to adorn my crown and wanted to do the same as I prepare to wear my first waist beads.
Upon research, I discovered that in Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, and other West African countries, waist beads are a symbol of femininity, fertility, sensuality, and spiritual well-being. The tradition of African waist beads are thought to be made popular by the Yoruba tribe of Nigeria. They were worn as symbols of womanhood, fertility, protection and spirituality. Waist beads can be traced back to ancient Egypt, as shown in hieroglyphs depicting dancers adorned with braids and waist beads. Sometimes beads are worn as a status symbol when they are outside the clothes. In the northern part of Nigeria, waist beads are referred to as Jigida while the Yorubas, people of Southwestern Nigeria, call it Bebedi. In Igbo, the mother language and tribe of my father and I, it is called Mgbájí, a very common accessory during special occasions, like weddings. Some West African cultures use waist beads during ceremonies, something I wish that I would have understood when I named my daughter. Adaora is Igbo for “daughter of the people” or “the peoples daughter”. Since I didn’t get the chance to integrate waist beads during a naming ceremony, I’m going to create a new tradition and give her waist beads when she has her first menstrual cycle. Reason being is that our menstrual cycles are socially seen as an inconvenience and emotionally viewed as a disturbance. I want to change my family’s culture on how this inevitable life event is perceived by throwing her a Woman’s Party, inviting the elders and other important women in her life to a celebrating the transformation from Black girlhood into womanhood. I am looking forward to tying her first waist beads. As Black girls in the United States, we often are stripes of the rites of passages that our Queen Mothers once followed and it certainly time to start honoring our past by adorning our crowns, adorning our bodies and charging our spirit.
Before I leave you, I wanted to share some affirmations to empower healthy body image and choices that I think you and I can use now and forever, hopefully passing on the vibes to our young ones if you choose that path:
1) My body, My Choice.
2) Generational body trauma ends with me.
3) I love my waist and belly.
4) My body is dope because my heart, mind and spirit is healthy and free. Áse,
Nneka (But you can call me Gigi 😘)