Doula Mode, Mamazine Moment, Uncategorized, Wellness

Self-Compassion, A Girl I Want To Know: Reflections from a Mama Glow Doula

Raina L. Baker, Doula in Training, Freelance Writer, Community Storyteller | February 20, 2023

Self- Compassion? I don’t know that girl! Well, for most of my life, I hadn’t. I am no stranger to shame, and self-criticism or sacrifice. Perfectionism is a home girl, too. I know those girls well. But self-compassion is a girl I am trying to get to know… intimately.

I am a recovering undercover over lover, over worker, over criticizer, over doer.

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t hard on myself. As I child, I strived to be the best at everything and when I wasn’t, I became easily discouraged. I maintained a 4.0 GPA for most of academic career. When I received a 3.5 my first semester of high school, it was catastrophic. My parents thought I was being ridiculous. While they always wanted me to do my best, they rarely put pressure on me because they knew I put enough on myself.

Two weeks before I was set to begin my sophomore year at Howard, my Daddy unexpectedly passed. I all of a sudden had this mighty Ancestor, but had lost one of my greatest teachers, friends, and supporters Earth side. I stayed in Detroit to make my daddy’s arrangements and be with my family. After the service, I returned to Howard because I could not phantom the idea of resting, sitting, grieving at home in Detroit instead of going back to D.C. hell-bent on graduating “on time.” I suffered through that semester. I tried to own and carry my twin brother’s grief, I tried to keep my grades up, I tried to push through. I didn’t hold myself. I didn’t tell myself that I didn’t need to carry or do or be so much. I instead, found myself sometimes feeling lazy and unfocused all while being completely broken-hearted. I didn’t extend myself any grace, tenderness, or self-compassion and found that some of the folk’s closest to me hand a hard time extending that grace, tenderness, and compassion. I wasn’t good to me and they didn’t know how to be either.

If not for my children, I’m not sure how I’d learn to be good to me. My children have been healing me from the inside out. They have given birth to a new me, one who is working to feel worthy of all the yummy things. 

My oldest child, Zaheera, was born July 6, 2017. In so many ways, she saved my life. I was empty when I conceived her. I had given away so much of my power. I had lost of sense of self-worth. I was navigating an abusive relationship. I was empty. She made me fill myself up, to seek support, to set boundaries. She made me begin to learn grace and self-compassion through counseling and communing with Black women across generations. She made me anoint my own head and womb with oil affirming how beautiful and powerful and magical I was. Truly, it felt like witchcraft the way she made me address the roots, the rigidity, the restlessness of my soul. 

My youngest, Kairo, was born April 3, 2022. I vividly remember the beginning of labor with him. It was the day before my Goddaughter’s 5th birthday celebration and I promised Zaheera that I would be the one to take her to the party. I was so uncomfortable, contractions were 7 minutes apart, but I was determined to get to get her to this party. I could not accept my partner or my brother taking her because I had given my word. I had also been overcompensating in parenting for so long, rearing from my place of lack because her biological father wasn’t consistent, that I was exhausting myself to fill gaps, show up even when empty, and always go above and beyond. My partner reluctantly loaded up the car as I wobbled to the passenger’s door and we went to the party. I walked around in pain and could not see that I, 9 months pregnant and laboring, was being hard on myself. I mean, completely unreasonable.

When we got back home, contractions were closer and I’d lost my mucus plug. I told my family and called my mommy to come over so that Zaheera would be with her as we made our way to the birthing center. When my Mommy got in the house, I was preparing food for Zaheera. I wanted to make sure she had a home cooked meal, especially because life was really about to change for her. She would officially be a big sister and have to share her Mommy. I felt guilty about ordering a pizza or having my mommy prepare her food, as if she hadn’t reared four children and taken care of a ton of grandchildren. 

My Mommy and partner began to fuss at me, saying that I didn’t need to prepare the food and that they could figure it out. Again, I couldn’t let myself off the hook in that moment. I couldn’t show myself the compassion I would show my laboring clients. I couldn’t rest. Rest is not something I know well either. Not without guilt or shame. 

These examples describe my relationship with self-compassion. It many ways, it has been nonexistent but I am actively changing that with the bright lights of my children guiding me. 

Zaheera saved my life. Kairo has added a beautiful fire to it. He loves me in such a fierce and affirming way that it causes me to accept that I am worthy of it. He has reminded me the importance of vigor, not rigor. With him as my newest teacher, I only show up for that which fuels and energizes me, that which feels good. I say “no” more instead of self-sacrificing and over-extending. He is leading me to remember how creative and gifted I am, catapulting me to go after big dreams with passion and compassion and less fear. 

Both my children are mirrors. Each day, their souls ask me if I am really going to live out the things I believe. They ask that while it is true that I have historically been harsh with myself and others, if I will take time to show compassion and grace. They ask if I will show myself some love. 

Lately, when I begin to question my worth, fueled by anxiety and the need for validation, I pause and say “no.” When my mind asks if I will over-extend, I say “no.”

I am lifted in the care of my therapist, a Black woman, who reminds me that just because I can push through, doesn’t mean I should. I’ve always performed and shown up with intention. In this season, I’m simply doing everything with love and compassion. The two are leading me, just like my babies. And the same way I show up every day and those babies love me just because I am here and see me as the closest thing to God, I know that I don’t have to earn compassion. I am deserving because I am here. 

Sometimes my “no” manifests as easy Trader Joe’s dinner, not agreeing to do things I don’t have to do when I’m exhausted, forgiving myself faster, asking for help and grace, and treating myself better as a model but also because I simply deserve it. Sometimes it’s me literally reminding myself how good and capable I am but also, that I’ve been through hurricanes and survived them. That I should have been held more, especially by myself. 

It’s me accepting that I am always doing my best and that doesn’t have anything to do with hitting all the marks. 

I never want my children to question whether or not they deserve compassion because I didn’t model it for them. 

I’ve had to start over many times on this journey toward self-compassion but this is the clearest I’ve ever been. 

I’m clear that moving through life without it will kill me and I’m clear that moving with it, sets me free.

I am acknowledging that I have been in almost full neglect of myself and on my Grandmuva, it is not sustainable. I don’t believe that my Grandma ever felt beautiful, worthy, brilliant. I don’t believe she knew it was okay to be centered. I don’t believe she knew she deserved the same compassion she gave to others. 

So, I’m healing for myself and all the women in me. I’m healing for her. 

Yes, I am resilient and elastic. I am tough. But I am also soft and sweet. I am honey. 

Right now, I’m sitting with my past self-neglect and graciously thinking of more ways that I can honor me. 

Self-compassion is that girl and I want to know her forever. 

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Raina L. Baker Doula in Training – Freelance Writer – Community Storyteller 

Born and reared in Detroit, Raina has been writing since age 5. From writing short stories in her composition notebook, to being commissioned to perform poetic work or writing academic pieces, Raina honors her lived experience and the voices of marginalized groups. As a Black queer feminist, Raina writes with liberation and equity in mind. She has written and performed in multiple states and intentionally worked to create opportunities for other writers, especially mentees. She believes that writing is a ritual, an act of resistance, and a radical act of love. Raina is a mommy of two, Zaheera (5), and Kairo (10 months), an Aborisa, community curator and storyteller, a womanist, a lover of music, dance, and literature, a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated, a graduate of Howard University, and a doula who honors ancestral traditions through birth work.

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