Friday, October 21, 2016

You Are Not A Monster: A Message To Parents Who Have Survived Late-Term Abortions

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace. ~Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

I want to sincerely apologize to my friends, family members, and clients who have had to make the gut-wrenching decision to have a life or death, late-term abortion, and now have to relive that pain, remain silent, or feel shame in public. I know that you were prayerful, thoughtful, and hopeful. You were dignified and you were brave. You still are. I know that you were in physical and emotional turmoil, and that you received at least 3 medical opinions before you were convinced that you and/ or you angel baby would not survive further pregnancy, birth, or life after, without constant pain. You made a nobel sacrifice, that was anything but selfish. For you, this is double jeopardy: enduring the loss, then surviving the stigma.

You wanted your baby. You loved your baby. You may have even named your baby, or decorated your baby's nursery. Some of you conceived your baby only after months or years of infertility and $ubsequent treatment$. You imagined play dates, birthday parties, and pre-K graduations for this baby. You still celebrate your forever baby, and include her when counting your children- even if only to yourself. This medically necessary, devastating, and life-changing procedure was never a part of your plan.

Less than 1% of all abortions occur at any point after 20 weeks.

You are not uncivilized. You are not a murderer. You are not a monster. You are among a minuscule group of mothers and fathers who have suffered a very real loss. You are still healing. I know that. I am so sorry that politicians, priests, and perfect strangers feel compelled to speak on your personal testimony and private pain.

October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Month, when we light candles and say prayers for babies lost too soon to miscarriage, still birth, abortion, birth defects, prematurity, illness, accident, and at anytime, for any reason, especially within the first year. This life, once inside of you is worthy of being remembered and celebrated, everyday, but especially during this time.

Perhaps you can celebrate with older children or rainbow babies. Perhaps your rainbow baby has yet to appear. Maybe you've been advised never try to conceive again.Wherever you are in your journey, know that you are loved, you are loving, and you are lovely. 

Friday, September 30, 2016

Inner Fitness, Faith, and Fatherhood

"The righteous man walks in his integrity; his children are blessed after him."
-  Proverbs 20:7 (NKJV)

Have you ever watched somebody do something, and thought, "Now THAT'S how you do that!" That's what I think every time I witness this man love on his wife and children. As you will read, it has not always been easy, but he would not have his life, marriage, or journey through fatherhood any other way. Enjoy this installment of our Fatherhood Series with Taye Walton, The Inner Fitness Coach.

Tell us about your wife and children. 

My wife is Keri Walton and we have been married for a year and a half. I have two daughters from a previous marriage, Briana is my oldest. She is 8 years old, and my youngest is London who is 7 years old. Keri had a daughter from a previous relationship, who passed away before we met. She is also very much a part of our story. 

My wife Keri, and our beautiful daughters London, Nia, and Briana.

When and how did you make the decision to be a hands-on father?  

It was never really a decision made.  I would say it was more of a guided-by-instinct ordeal.  I think most men who grew up like I did, that’s without much father involvement, tend to go one of two ways.  That’s either they repeat the same pattern of being an absent father, or overcompensate for the love the lacked growing up.  I see myself as the latter of the two.

Do you have the same parenting style as your own father?  

Not even close. I think my parenting style is a composite of all the great men that have poured into me outside of my father while growing up.

During your separation and divorce, how did you handle being a single father?  

I felt like I focused even more during my single fatherhood days.  Being the last of the three boys growing up, I always kind of felt like a loner.  I was pretty independent.  I had to unlearn some of those ways when I got married.  During the final years of my previous marriage, I grew up a lot.  I felt like I became an even better man.  That carried over into single fatherhood.  I had no problems giving my all to my daughters and being their whole parent. Cooking and cleaning was never a foreign thing to me.  I was always very involved in their schooling and extracurricular activities.  So it was during that time as a single father, that I felt like I honed in even more on those characteristics.  I even did my daughters' hair sometimes.

How did you manage dating as a single father, with young daughters?  

I was very, very picky. Part of it was being a parent.  The other part was maturity and knowing what I wanted, and also not feeling lonely.  I had two young ladies who thought a lot of me, and they kept me grounded and entertained.  So when I did decided to meet someone, if I could feel like God said that was the one, I didn’t waste any time letting the relationship go.  I took some time after my divorce to make sure I was ready before hand.  I even did counseling to make sure I wasn’t carrying any unseen baggage into the new situation.  During that time, I only dated 3 women before I met my wife.  Only one of those met my daughters.  That one was a great a person, but she was not the one for me, so I let that one go.  I knew after the 1st month of dating my wife that she was the one.  The feeling was mutual and we decided rather than just dating, we entered into an official courtship that was blessed by our then Pastor of our church and mentored by husband and wife ministers of that church.  We grew into not only best friends, but lovers.

What qualities did you look for in a wife, who was going to co-parent your daughters?  

Mainly a sound foundation in faith, and heart of compassion.  I knew the amount of love I had for my daughters and if someone was not capable of seeing me as a package deal, then it was no deal.  My wife had an extraordinary big heart.  She help me grow in some areas.  She often prayed for others, stopped and gave money to those on the side of the road, and babysat for those with special need kids for free so they could have a break from a often very demanding life.  That stuff blew me away, as well as her love for God.  She laughs when I call her Mary Poppins, but it really does seem like she lights up a room everywhere she goes.  I have never been so proud to be in the presence of someone.  My daughters are just as intoxicated by her warmth and elegance as I am.

How do you and your wife make the most out of your joint custody agreement with your daughters' mother?  

It’s been a rough road.  I have paid for many counseling sessions to get us all on the same page.  I used to be ashamed of my ex because she had become very confrontational and I didn’t want my current wife to feel like she gotten herself into a terrible situation.  I used to try and shield her from the drama and deal with it all myself.  But man, it’s amazing how you can go into a situation thinking you’re gonna be the hero, when in fact, you’re the one that needs saving.  Being that my wife has been a social worker for 9+ years, she has experience in dealing with people in difficult situations.  She is great at handle my ex even when she is at her most difficult.  Even in her frustration, she often kills her with kindness.  The situation still has it twists and turns, but being that we have shared custody and have the girls every other week for a week, our stable lifestyle has a profound effect on the girls.  We have seen so much growth in them despite the very different households they go back and forth from.  We just focus on their well-being and when their mom throws a tantrum, we just kill her with kindness and give it to God.

My girls and their three parents. I am glad that they have this memory, so they will always know that we tried.

What is the best part of being a father? 

I can’t speak for others, but the feeling of love you get. The look of security and admiration I get from my wife and daughters makes me feel like the luckiest man on earth.  Nothing quite compares to it.  There is nothing like hearing your daughters talk to other kids about how much they love their Dad and how cool he is.  Makes me poke my chest out.

What is your least favorite part of being a father?  

Sigh, not having full custody of them.  I often feel like they don’t have the best life they could have because of my mistakes.  But I do realize, they would not be here if it wasn’t for my mistakes as well so I take it in stride.  But, my ex can make co-parenting very difficult sometimes, and that’s my least favorite part of it all.

What is the most unexpected part of being a father?  

Sometimes we get no credit. There have been times I have put together outfits for my daughters and did their hair, and when someone sees them, they immediately assume my wife did it.  LOL, I don’t mind it so much, but Dad’s often are less glorified than moms.  Mother’s day is all over the tv and social networks when it comes around.  Father’s Day, not so much.

What frightens you about being a father?

Not being there to protect my wife and kids when they need me.

What excites you about being a father?  

Watching my kids grow up to be productive Christians in this society.

What do you want your daughters to learn about boys and men from you, as a father?  

To look deep.  To look at a person’s character, intentions, and heart rather than what’s on the surface.  Our culture often promotes the opposite.  Hopefully them seeing me walking the walk as well as talking the talk, they will require more from anyone who interested in them.

Tell us about the ministry that you and your wife lead at your church.  

We are Pre-Marriage Facilitators.  We help couples who are interested in building a Godly marriage in the future discover God’s blueprint for marriage, and how to take that from concept to reality.  Our courtship was not the normal courtship we feel like God elevated us in that arena so we could be doing what we are doing now for others.  We scored off the charts often during our premarital courses.  We try to give others some of those same tools before they move forward.

Where do you go to find fatherhood role models and advice?  

Football coaches, Ministers, and family.  God always provided good men in my life for me to use as guides.

What advice do you have for fathers who are single, divorced, or struggling within their marriages?  

Become a spiritual leader of your home.  Regardless if you’re single, divorced, or married, learn how to follow so you can learn how to lead.

Favorite fatherhood quote:  Joshua 24:15 - But if you are unwilling to obey the Lord, then decide today whom you will obey. Will it be the gods of your ancestors beyond the Euphrates or the gods of the Amorites here in this land? But as for me and my family, we will serve the Lord.” (TLB)

Anything else you'd like to add?

There are a lot of good Fathers out there in the struggle.  We need more avenues to encourage each other.  We have to keep making it cool to be a good Dad.  My hope is for one day, we can all walk in the light that we were created to.

Octavais "Taye" Walton is a 36 year old native of Birmingham, AL. He is a proud alum of Auburn University, where he pledged Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, and majored in environmental engineering. He currently works as a Senior Civil Engineer, and resides in Kennesaw, GA, with his beautiful wife Keri, and his two daughters. He owns Inner Fitness Coaching and can be found at @your_inner_fitness_coach on Instagram.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Pregnancy And Breastfeeding Body Art

Body Art is an ancient and outward expression of admiration, adoration, loyalty, homage, pride, commitment, gratitude, fanaticism, obsession, infatuation, love, lust, and sometimes lunacy. Although tattoos have been traced back to Neolithic times, they have not always been viewed as acceptable in Western society. Over the past several decades, tattoos have made a resurgence in America, and have transitioned from low class to upscale, from the jail house to the board room, and from discreet to prominently placed. Today, with tattoo-inspired reality shows, magazines, museums, festivals, and even Barbie dolls, it is common to be "tattooed and employed", and even more common to be tattooed and pregnant, or tattooed and breastfeeding. It is thought that nearly 33% of Americans under the age of 30 have at least one tattoo. 
Mrs. M. Stevens Wagner, one of the earliest Tattooed Ladies that performed in the circus sideshows, 1907
This increase in popularity, visibility, accessibility, and acceptability, means that more and more women of childbearing age are feeling free, and maybe even compelled to wear their hearts... and everything else, AS a sleeve, literally. As with nearly anything related to pregnancy and breastfeeding, having tattoos, and getting tattooed during these times are controversial. The primary concern with getting a tattoo during the childbearing year(s) is the risk of contracting an infection, such as Hepatitis B and HIV. Although the risk is small, it is commonly recommended that you postpone your next tattoo until your family, and you breastfeeding journey are complete. 

Henna Tattoo
According to The American Pregnancy Association,"Little information is available about the safety of skin dyes used for tattooing during pregnancy. It is possible that the chemicals in the dye may affect the development of the baby during the first 12 weeks. However, the risks are unknown, as are any effects on the baby during the remainder of the pregnancy. Some women may have also heard that if they have a tattoo on their back, they will be unable to get an epidural. Very few studies have been done on the risks that could exist for women who have back tattoos and receive an epidural. So far none of these studies have conclusively found any data that indicates there are risks, so most anesthesiologists have no problem giving an epidural to a woman with a back tattoo."

Amazing C-Section Scar Tattoos

According to La Leche League International, "It is very important to screen the tattooist and the shop carefully, checking with the local health department for local laws and regulations. Professional tattooists will follow universal precautions such as sterilization of the tattoo machine using an autoclave, single-use inks, ink cups, gloves and needles, bagging of equipment to avoid cross contamination, and thorough hand washing with disinfectant soap. Most tattooists will not knowingly tattoo a pregnant or breastfeeding mother. It is suggested that mothers wait at least until the child's first birthday to give their bodies a chance to recover completely from childbirth before getting a tattoo." 

T. C. Poole, Memphis, TN

However, there are many pregnant and breastfeeding moms who, after taking certain common sense precautions, fearlessly, and unapologetically choose not to wait. What To Expect reminds us that: "A new tattoo that looks symmetrical on your 15 weeks pregnant skin might become lopsided or distorted after you regain your pre-pregnancy shape — if you opt to get it in a spot that’s prone to expand during pregnancy, like your belly or your side, that is. There’s also the potential for stretch marks, which could appear smack in the middle of your new design (most common locations: abdomen, buttocks, breasts and thighs)." 

This Breastfeeding Mom Isn't Feeling It!

This Mom and Lactation Consultant Offers These Facts

According to Breastfeeding Today, "It is estimated that 20% of people who get tattoos later regret the decision and wish to have them removed (M. Armstrong et al., 2008). The medical literature says little regarding the safety of tattoo removal while breastfeeding. Tattoo removal is accomplished with the use of Q-switched lasers. The laser causes the tattoo pigment to fragment into smaller particles that are picked up by the immune system and filtered out via the lymphatic system. The most common side effects include pigmentation changes, local infection (due to not following the aftercare regimen) and possible allergic reaction to the ink that is now “free” in the mother’s system. However it is unknown whether the ink particles can enter into breast milk (Kaatz et al., 2008; Vasold et al., 2008)."

Show us your Mommy Ink! What's been your experience with tattoos during mommyhood? 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

One In College And One In Kindergarten: A Dad's Perspective

The quality of a father can be seen in the goals, dreams and aspirations he sets not only for himself, but for his family. ~ Reed Markham

As we continue to celebrate fathers, I absolutely love sharing this story of this quintessential family man. I enjoyed his stories, posts, and pictures about his wife and daughter, and I actually squealed when I saw what was next to come for them. Enjoy! 

Most people have a season in their lives where they have kids. Usually they space the kids out to be 2-3 years apart. But what do you do when your kids are 16 years apart? 

When I found out I was going to be a father for the 1st time, I was 20 years old. I was in summer school, between my sophomore and junior years of college, when my girlfriend told me that she was pregnant. (I actually knew she was pregnant before she told me, but that’s a story for another time.) Although it was a life-changing surprise, I was more excited than scared or nervous. I always knew that I wanted to be a father and I knew that I wanted a few kids. It wasn’t the timing I had in mind, but I immediately got excited about being a dad. It was surreal when we went to the doctor for the 1st checkup and he announced that the baby’s due date was March 8, 2000. When the doctor asked why I was laughing so hard, I told him excitedly “That’s my 21st birthday!” It was going to be the perfect birthday present. But my sweet daughter Taylor decided that she wanted to come into the world showing me who’s the boss. She took her time and made her debut on March 10th, 2000 instead. When I got a look at this face, I forgave her. 

Welcome to the world Taylor! 

Taylor’s mother and I never married, but we became great co-parents. Over the years, we have always worked hard to make sure that Taylor knew that her parents love her. School, work, and other life changes have put physical distance between Taylor and me, but I always make sure that she knows her father is there for her no matter where I am and where she is. 

Taylor's First Christmas

In 2008, I got married to a wonderful woman named Patrice. I was so excited to start the new chapter of being a husband. While we were dating, we knew that we didn’t want to have kids right away because we were still young (29 and 26). So we wanted a few years before we started trying. Well, sometimes the process of starting a family takes a little longer than you think it will because it’s not your plan that matters. It’s in God’s hands. So in August 2015 at the ripe old age of 36, I found out the great news that I was going to be a father again! We were expecting a child that would be born in April 2016. If you’ve been doing the math, you know that would put a whopping 16 years between children. That led me to create this meme: 

Stages of change: You're happy when you find out your wife is pregnant. But then you do the math & realize... You're going to have a kid in kindergarten & college at the same time...But then you remember that kids are a blessing & you can't wait to be a dad again!
So our family was blessed with a new addition on April 17th, 2016. A boy named Dwayne Dan Morrow, III or as we call him “Trey”. 

Just 2 Dwaynes Hanging Out

The main thing I can tell you about the difference between being the father of an infant and at 21 & 37 is that those sleepless nights take a much bigger toll on the body. It’s going to be a challenge to help 2 kids that have such a big age difference develop that sibling bond. But they are working on it already.  

Tay and Trey

I still know that fatherhood is the greatest responsibility that I have. I was blessed to have many examples of great fathers in my life to look up to like my own father, my grandfather, and various uncles. I aspire to live up to their example in shaping the lives of my children.  So to all of you fathers out there, I say take the responsibility seriously, but have fun being a father. I hope fatherhood puts a smile on your face like mine. 

Dwayne Morrow, Jr. is a graduate of Tennessee State University. He has served in various community education roles over the past decade. He is the executive director of the nonprofit, Individuals Providing a Positive Presence, Inc.  You can follow Dwayne on Twitter and Instagram @ddmjr79, You can follow IPPP on Twitter and Instagram @IPPP_INC If you would like to contribute to IPPP's important programs, please visit them here

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

A Present and Devoted Dad: The Real MVP

"My father didn't tell me how to live. He lived a let me watch him do it" ~ Clarence B. Kelland

At Blossom Health and Maternal Wellness, we love to celebrate mothers, but the reality is that, without dads, there would be no babies, and without babies, there would be no moms for us to celebrate. That's why, we're taking time to celebrate dads too! First up, is The MVP, Vincent Payne. His wife and I were pregnant at the same time in 2012. As a result, he and I traded war stories over Facebook and Twitter about the process. As we grew closer to our respective due dates, we were both trying to get that end of the year tax refund. They made it, we didn't. I got over it, and since then, we've shared photos and stories of our little ones on social media and have had many of the same laughs and experiences. Just when I was catching my breath as a newish mother and thinking about taking another plunge into pregnancy, I learned that the Paynes were out to win it all. They went for a full rout! Undefeated! Take a look! 

I was asked about being a father, and didn't know where to begin. First of all let me say that being a father is more of a blessing than I could have ever imagined. I guess you can say I was a late bloomer, since I had my first child at the age of 34. I don't know if there's a right way to do it, but my wife and I decided to travel and get to know each other better as husband and wife, before adding children to the equation. That worked out well for us. We have no regrets. 

My wife told me she was pregnant with our first child on Easter Sunday 2012. I was filled with so much excitement that I did not know what to do except smile for like half of the day. The next big moment was finding out the sex of the child. I was totally nervous. The second I found out I was having a little boy I pretty much jumped out of the building with excitement. By then, I was ready for all of the festivities, I swear between myself and my wife we had like four baby showers. Of course having so many family and friends to give us the baby showers was blessing and Lord knows we accept all blessings this way. We are so grateful for our village.

Regarding fatherhood: I have a father who was very much in my life from the second I was born. He was a great role model and SHOWED me what a father is.  As long as I can remember I knew that when I became a dad, I would be a completely hands on father. I didn't want to miss a thing. First words, first step, first poo poo in the toilet, all of that! Well needless to say, I was present to catch all of "the first" with my first born. It has been wonderful!  

At some point, my wife and I started the conversations of having a second child. We thought we had planned it out so perfectly. We didn't want to have two kids in diapers at the same time so once our first son was potty trained at 2, we thought we were good. We made another baby. We were so excited to add to, and likely complete, our family.  At a regular doctor's visit, we got the news that we were having twins. God got jokes! We were initially stunned and overwhelmed, but it wasn't long before my wife and I realized that having twins was an extreme blessing that we wouldn't take lightly. Once again came the nervousness of finding out the sex of the twins. There couldn't have been better news to find out we were having a boy AND a girl! 

I sit here now a 37 year old father of 3! I promise fatherhood makes me feel 10 years younger. At least for now. I'm sure more stressful days are yet to come. There is soooo much out there that you have to think about as parents. Schools, neighborhoods to live in, extracurricular activities, foods to give them, etc. But like anything else, having faith in God is how I face all of these challenges head on without worrying about them one bit.

I can't wait to see what the differences will be between raising our sons and our daughter. 

Vincent is a 37 year old native ATLien. He is a proud alum of Tennessee State University and Georgia Tech. He has lived and worked in Dallas, Detroit, Cleveland, and Winston Salem, as an architectural engineer. He has been married for 8 years and is the father of three. He has returned to Atlanta and works as a senior construction manager. He is a proud member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc., and in spare time, he loves spending time with his family and playing golf with his childhood and college friends. 

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Muhammad Ali The Legendary Father

I wish people would love everybody else the way they love me. It would be a better world. ~Muhammad Ali

International Icon, Activist, Humanitarian, and Athlete Muhammad Ali loved life and loved children. Celebrate The Greatest through these amazing photos and videos of his children, grandchildren, and family friends. 

Because of Them, We Can: Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali on Getting Ready to Meet God

Muhammad Ali's Advice To His Daughter's 

Muhammad Ali History For Kids

Malcolm X on Cassius Clay

Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X 

10 Great Ali Quotes

Ali's Daughters

Prince's Hero

 I Am The Greatest

Muhammad Ali Cartoon

Muhammad Ali- Full Animated Episode

Muhammad Ali Spars With Michael Jackson

Muhammad Ali and The Jacksons

10 Knock-Out Facts About Muhammad Ali

Stories For Kids: Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali on Why You're Younger Than You Believe 

Muhammad Ali KO'd By A Kid

Muhammad Ali Meets The Public

Muhammad Ali's Childhood in Louisville

Muhammad Ali's Youngest Daughter 

Muhammad Ali's Wives and Children

Lessons From Laila's Father

Muhammad Ali's Grandsons Find Their Way 

Muhammad Ali's Final Days

We love you, Champ.