AQUIS Unfiltered is a series of honest conversations with strong women who share how they’ve evolved and come to embrace transformation in their bodies, their careers, and their lives.
Dana Oliver is a mother, Beauty Director for Yahoo Lifestyle, and Beyhive member.
“Your grandmother’s prayers are still protecting you.”
These words from author Lalah Delia couldn’t be truer when I think about my pregnancy.
I never really planned on having children. I was always career-focused and my goals consisted of finishing graduate school, getting a full-time job as a journalist and learning as much as possible so that I could climb the proverbial corporate ladder. Though growing up in the Deep South and being raised by strong Black women, who made “having it all” look seemingly easy, there was no way I would escape the pressures of becoming a mother.
At 33 years young, I had accomplished pretty much everything I had set out to do professionally. So when I made a lifestyle change that would allow me to conceive naturally, I felt like I was in a good place to embrace being a mom.
Sitting in the pew of my childhood church on the Sunday before Christmas 2017, I felt my late grandmother Annie Ruth’s presence sweep over me and guide me to place my right hand on my belly. This was her way of telling me that I was with child. I know that this may sound strange, but the bond between my grandmother and I was always strong.
As the compass of our family, she knew exactly how to steer me in a direction that was spiritually sound. Whether that was by simply holding me in her arms and whispering, “Trust in the Lord” or reminding me to count my blessings in the midst of trials, my grandmother’s nurturing spirit became the blueprint for my own motherhood journey.
Just as my grandmother provided me with a sense of security and assurance, I took steps early in my pregnancy to do the same for my child. I nourished my soul and body with mindful meditation and consistent yoga practice, as well as chanted mantras aloud so that my baby could hear me speaking positivity into existence. This wasn’t always easy to do, especially with my demanding work schedule, but it allowed me to maintain a peaceful nature that would set the tone for this life-changing experience.
While many women choose to share every aspect of becoming a mother, my motherly instinct to protect motivated me to keep my pregnancy a secret for the first five months. Instead of posting weekly progress snapshots with witty captions to Instagram, I wrote to my child in a journal and recorded photos and videos that personified the intimate connection we were already developing — a bond that I hope will mirror the one I shared with my grandmother.
The last four months of my pregnancy flew by — so quickly that I often wondered if I had documented enough. My small bump was now a burgeoning belly. I could feel every hiccup, kick and waking stir from my baby. As their heartbeat grew stronger and stronger, the idea of being a mom became even more real. In those final weeks, I started to question if I was really prepared. Then my faith was tested the very moment I went into labor.
I had no clue that the process had actually started. Two days past my due date, I laid on the couch breathing through what I thought were just intense cramps. I reached for my phone to time what I now understood were contractions using an app my doula recommended, and they were coming in fast at four to five minutes apart.
I could’ve easily panicked, especially since my child’s father had just stepped out and I was now home alone. But I wasn’t really. I thought of my grandmother, who gave birth to nine children, and the immense strength she had even after losing a toddler son. I thought of how impenetrable her spirit was when faced with circumstances beyond her control such as raising her children as a widow. I thought of her selflessness when I’d call in the middle of the day and she’d put everything on hold to comfort me. Tapping into that generational strength carried me through five hours of laboring at home and 20 minutes of pushing drug-free.
Eight months later, and I’m still grateful for the unpredictable, yet fearless path I took to becoming a mother. But even more importantly, I’m grateful for my grandmother’s spirit and prayers for allowing me to trust in my body’s ability to do what so many women before me had done: give birth.
Now that I am a mom and, more specifically a “working mother,” the lens through which I view the world has drastically change. I ask myself one very important question before doing anything: how does this impact my life as a nurturer? I’ve had to make really hard decisions and sacrifices that allow me to focus on my family. From starting my work day two hours earlier than most of my colleagues to declining invites to industry events, my role as mama has taken priority over my career and I wouldn’t change that.
Motherhood has breathed new life into my mantra to “work with purpose.” Just as my grandmother dedicated her life to raising her children while still contributing to her community as a voting rights activist and a missionary, I’ve managed to find a balance between my working as a journalist and fulfilling my duties as a mom, daughter, sister, and friend. Sure, there are many weekend mornings I’d wish my sunshine would sleep in past 7 a.m so that I could read a chapter or two of that book that’s been sitting on my bedside table. And having another set of watchful eyes could certainly come in handy when it’s just the two of us and all I want to do is take a long shower before bedtime. However, knowing that I am able to provide for my baby boy and still witness so many of his milestones is worth juggling it all.
***Pro Tip from Dana: I like to put on a conditioning hair mask and cover my hair with a plastic cap before layering the Rapid Dry Hair Turban on top. This helps to mimic a “heating” effect, which allows the product to deeply penetrate into my curly strands.