What does it look like to heal? To come home to yourself?
These are questions Chloe Dulce Louvouezo has explored her entire life,and on her popular podcast Life, I Swear. (Chloe describes herself as a passerby, a cat with nine lives who has lived in different cities and amongst different people all over the world ever since she was a child.)
Now Chloe has taken those conversations she’s had with herself and guests like Elaine Welteroth and Alex Elle, and turned them into a beautiful collection for her first book, Life, I Swear: Intimate Stories from Black Women on Identity, Healing, and Self-Trust. (The book is available on Amazon, Bookshop, and anywhere you buy books.)
Read one of the essays from the book below! Written by Qimmah Saafir, founder of Hannah Magazine, “Recollecting Me” is about Qimmah coming to terms with motherhood and how she finds herself once more.
I grew up surrounded by powerful women, the main one being my mother. And as the middle child of her nine, I’ve always been privy to the realities of pregnancy, childbirth, and postpartum experience. When it came time to have my baby girl, I decided to have an [unmedicated, vaginal birth*]. In my living room, in a pool, with a midwife.
I experienced what is called prodromal labor, which is when labor starts and stops. Intense labor off and on for almost a week. By the time the actual labor that brought her earth side began, I was exhausted. It was the hardest work I have ever done, but I have no regrets. There was such beauty in having my daughter laid on my chest right after she was born, looking at me, wide-eyed, in full health. To be able to lie with her in my bed without strangers, without wires, without cords. It was a true blessing.
We know we’re going to be mothers, but no one talked to me about motherhood replacing individuality.
After birth, I had her father, my mother, and a family of friends there to support me when they could. I can’t imagine what those early months would have been like without them. So many women around the world are forced to do it alone. So, I am in full gratitude.
But even in having that love and support, I felt alone at times. After family and friend visits, everyone goes home. As mothers, we’re charged with keeping the baby healthy, alive, and thriving, despite not having a blueprint or reference point for just how to do that… all while being significantly sleep deprived, with little energy.
There are so many developments in those early months. Unless you have books to reference or people to push you in the right direction, you will feel absolutely lost and discouraged, particularly if you don’t feel maternal instincts naturally and immediately kick in.
I knew that the fourth trimester existed and that it wasn’t something that was often discussed. It can feel very isolating, like something is wrong. We don’t always have the tools or the language to pinpoint what it is.
Sometimes it’s diagnosed as postpartum depression, sometimes it’s just trying to find yourself again after birth. And often, it’s the simple realization that you’re not going to be the same person you were beforehand.
I don’t think we’re really warned about that. We know we’re going to be mothers, but no one talked to me about motherhood replacing individuality.
For 10 months, you are serving the purpose of growing your baby internally and bringing them earth side. That’s your focus. That’s your purpose. Your love, health, and energy are pouring into that.
As mothers, we often ignore our own needs as we pour into our little ones.
Once that baby is here, a new mother might sometimes lack a sense of purpose or even identity, which can extend well beyond childbirth. As mothers, we often ignore our own needs as we pour into our little ones. Returning back to Qimmah and redefining Qimmah means paying attention to how I’m loving myself, how I’m honoring myself, or how I’m pouring into myself.
I have always been so hard on myself, across the board. With so many siblings in our home, I always felt like I had to be A-plus in order to get some extra recognition or focused attention from my parents. They gave all of us love. But, that’s a lot of children! They always told me they never had to worry about me.
Unfortunately, never having to worry about me also meant knowing they could place their focus elsewhere. As a parent, I “overstand” that. As a child, that reinforced a level of self-expectation. A need to overachieve. And that definitely followed me into adulthood.
Self-love through action is something I am still learning. My parents made sure we had a home, but we weren’t well-off by any means. So as a large family, our love language was sacrifice. And that also followed me into adulthood, especially in romantic partnerships. It didn’t feel right, in my body, to not constantly be of service and pour into others, even when I was empty. I am now working on undoing that. Learning how to say no to people and not feel guilty, to take pleasure and not feel guilty, to prioritize myself and not feel guilty.
The newest part of my motherhood journey is allowing for reinvention and reassessment of self. It feels like a rediscovery. Womanhood never leaves, the feminine never leaves. It just takes a redefining in this new space.
My daughter is 4 years old, and I still grapple with who I am when she’s not around. By taking care of everyone else, I have very much leaned into what I see as my masculine energy.
As a provider and caretaker, when you’re always being depended on, you have to carve out spaces to be more fluid. As hard as we are on ourselves, sometimes we need to have conversations with ourselves as if we’re one of our own good girlfriends. It allows for a moment to intentionally step out of your mind to look at all that you do, and all that you are, and give yourself forgiveness, grace, upliftment, and room for reinvention.
And when I find myself feeling lost or alone or down or unable to see outside of the present moment, I create a room in my mind where I see myself at almost every age. There’s something about returning to that vision of walking up to myself, greeting her, embracing her, and thanking her.
Returning to myself means returning to that room, and having some time with all of me.
* The original version of this essay included the phrase “natural birth,” which we no longer use on mater mea as all birth is natural.