Sunday, April 25, 2010

in her own words: Darcel Harmon...

Oftentimes, I sit and ponder about the personal strength it takes to live outside the established norm. Today, I take you along a road less travelled with my special guest and dear friend Darcel, author of The Mahogany Way. Natural living, although widely unaccepted by many who surround her, fits her family's lifestyle perfectly. We recently had a little reasoning session about it. I am happy to share with you the unabridged, unedited words of this strong and beautiful Empress, as she prepares for the homebirth of her third child. Can you believe she's actually doing an interview 34 days before her due date? Well, that's our Darcel. Wishing her all the best in the days to love Sis.

Greetings dear friend. Could you please introduce yourself and give a brief description of your blog(s)?

I am Darcel, Wife to Charles and mother to my beautiful girls. Nakiah is five and Ava is almost three. We're expecting our 3rd in 3-5 weeks.

Our old blog Luv N Harmony was about our unschooling journey. I started that one back in 2007. I started another blog in May 2008. The Mahogany Way. I merged the two, and this is now my main blog. I talk about Unschooling, Homebirth, Attachment Parenting, and Motherhood, among other things. A few months ago I started a website called The Mahogany Way a website for Mothers of Color who live and parent with the natural lifestyle, it's hosted by Ning.Most people think it's a site for only black women, but it's for all women of color. I'm really happy with my blog and website right now. I've met so many great people over these last several months.

Can you tell us a little bit about your family structure?

My husband works, and I'm a stay at home mom. I always said that I wanted to get married and have a family. I am living my dream! It's not always easy, or fun. We have challenges and hard times like everyone else, but it works for our family. My husband works hard and long hours so that I'm able to stay home. Some days he can be gone for 12 hours. For me being a mother is the most important job in the world. I cook and clean, do the laundry. Charles helps me clean up the house, too so I'm not a traditional 50's housewife.

What do you enjoy most about pregnancy? motherhood? marriage?

The best thing about marriage, is that Charles is my best friend. We laugh a lot together, and we joke around. He helps to keep me balanced. I'm a planner, and he's more spontaneous. I like that we are growing together through the good and bad times.

Pregnancy is wonderful in so many ways. I love that I'm growing a human in there, ya know? I love feeling the baby move around. I think that's my favorite part.

Motherhood is way more than I ever imagined. My girls have taught me so much about myself since they came into my life. I'm the biggest female role model in their life. It's a big job, and a lot of pressure, but my girls are forgiving of my mistakes. I think we will have a really good mother/daughter relationship. I become more confident with each child. I'm always changing and growing because they are, too. It's amazing.

Can you discuss what your emotions are like these days, as you near the end of your pregnancy?

At 37 weeks I'm starting to feel a little anxious. We decided to be surprised by the baby's sex, and I can't wait to see if we have a boy or girl. Mentally I feel ready for the baby to arrive. I used to worry about how I would handle the transition of adding a 3rd baby, but now I feel pretty relaxed and I'm confident that everything will flow and work out.

What are you anticipating most about your planned natural birth experience? the arrival of the newest addition to your family?

This will be our 2nd homebirth. I'm really looking forward to it. My husband played such and important role for me the last time. I know he will this time. I am one of those people who really love pregnancy, and birth. I understand labor and birth so much better now, so I welcome the process. I don't feel scared at all. We plan on using water as a pain reliever, and hope to birth the baby into the water. Homebirth is safer than hospital birth for women who are low risk. We are using Midwives. They bring equipment with them, and we already have a hospital selected in case we would need to transfer. You can read about Ava's homebirth on my blog.

I love that my husband and kids can be with me. My dad will watch the girls, but they are free to stay with us as long as they want to. If they want to leave and come back, he'll take them out for a bit. I'm free to move around. I can go for a walk. I'm free to eat and drink. I can labor and birth in any position that is most comfortable for me. The cord will not be cut until it stops pulsing, and I can bond with my baby right away, establish breastfeeding. The best part, I get to crawl right back into my own bed with my family. Our midwives clean everything up, do laundry for us, and give baby a newborn exam. They will also come back in a couple of days to check up on us.

I just love all of it! I love seeing and feeling what my body can do when it's not messed with by outside intervention. I have tons of resources on my blog for anyone who might be interested in learning more about homebirth. I could go on and on about it :)

Could you tell us how breastfeeding became a serious consideration (and choice) for you as a mother? What was it like for you as a breastfeeding mother in your local society? How is your neighbourhood demographically composed?

My mom never breastfed me, and I never got a reason why out of her either. I knew when I was pregnant with Nakiah that I wanted to breastfeed. I knew breast was best. Even though we had a rough start with her birth, she latched on well, and nursed like a pro from the beginning. She had to spend the first 24hrs in NICU. I told the nurses to call me whenever she woke up during the night, and Charles and I would go down to the nursery and I would nurse her. I also made him promise that he would not let them give her formula when he first went to the NICU with her.

Unfortunately I didn't read up much on breastfeeding while I was pregnant the first time. I thought to go out and about she would need formula, so I introduced her to formula after several months. It didn't feel right, but I thought that is what I was supposed to do.
Nakiah nursed for 10 months, and I enjoyed it. I loved our nursing relationship. I'm thankful for the 10 months I had with her.

With Ava I read more about breastfeeding, and decided that I would not give her formula. There was no need for me to. She nursed within an hour of being born.She was a little more demanding. Wanting to nurse every 30-45 mins in the beginning. I learned how to nurse in public with no problems, and found that no one even noticed most of the time. She nursed for 29 months. I'm pretty sure the only reason she stopped was because my milk had changed since I was pregnant. It was bitter sweet for me. Charles was in total agreement with me that she would self wean, and he was always supportive even with Nakiah.

Back in Minnesota and here in Virginia there are excellent Attachment Parenting groups. I love getting together with them. Everyone there is pro breastfeeding, and no one cares if you whip it out. Mothers even bring their nurslings to Moms Night Out, and I think that's great! It feels so good to know that I won't be excluded from a mommy get together because I'm bringing a breastfeeding baby with me. Or that I'll have to give her formula so I can go.

I do wish I would see more black women breastfeeding. That is something lacking across the country. Here in my specific neighborhood, it's composed of mostly black families, and it's rare to see a black woman breastfeeding. In fact the only time I've seen a black woman breastfeed was with a local AP mom I was out with a few weeks ago. We've been here a little over a year, and that's the first time I've seen a black woman breastfeeding.

Now, you are mom to two beautiful princesses, at least for the moment. Have you ever explored the traditional school system for them? Can you please explain why you chose to become an "unschooling family" and what benefits you have seen in your everyday life as a result?

You can read how we came to unschooling, and then on my blog there is a Q & A for families considering Dionna at Code Name: Mama

Unschooling has become a lifestyle for us. It's more than just "educational" for the kids. Allowing them to make more choices, treating them as people, instead of kids who are in the way, saying yes more.I feel free, and the girls are free. I see them for who they are, not who I think they should be. I think our school systems are broken. How can you take each individual unique child, and tell them they have to learn like everyone else, and learn the same things as everyone else on the same time table? It doesn't make any sense to me.

I don't understand why a three year old needs a curriculum. Our kids have learned to walk and talk without our help. The fact that they can learn the English language on their own speaks volumes. It's the hardest language to learn! Kids are naturally curious, and unschooling allows them to follow their own interest. I don't sit around all day waiting for them to come to me with a question or waiting for them to find something that interest them. We get out into the world, as well as being at home. There so much to learn that extends outside the walls of a school.

A lot of people have said that school exposes children to things they would never be exposed to. I think that statement is completely wrong. I think schools limit what our children are exposed to. There are so many more ways to learn besides looking something up in a book. While school is going on here, my girls are learning about the world, and people in a natural way. We are out in the real world. I don't need a test to tell me what they are learning. I see it all day everyday. They are learning Spanish and Chinese from watching their favorite shows on TV. They are learning how to treat other people from being out in the world with people in real situations.

Another thing that I think is great. My children are not afraid to talk to adults. They speak to them just as they do me and my husband. They have no fear of asking questions or carrying on a small conversation with another adult. They also know they can share how they feel with us. They know that what they are interested in, and how they feel is important and it will be recognized.

Could you tell us how you practice Attachment Parenting? Do you co-sleep? If so, what benefits have you personally experienced from co-sleeping?

We do co-sleep. We started when Nakiah was a few months old. We all started to sleep better, and breastfeeding was much easier. Ava was brought right into bed with us from the beginning. Charles would tell me that we would always breathe together. Now we have a twin bed pushed up against ours, and the girls sleep there until or unless they wake up and want to get in bed with us. Nakiah ends up in bed with us more than Ava does at this point. It has always felt natural to us, so we do it.

I also breastfeed on demand, we babywear. I LOVE babywearing! It's so nice to be able to keep baby close at all times, and still continue on with our day. I can breastfeed in the carrier, baby can nap. Grocery shopping isn't a problem because I don't have the carseat taking up space, and I won't have to wait for Charles to get home either. I have a older blog post about my babywearing journey. I am so excited to snuggle a newborn in a wrap again. I can't wait!

We feel that being so attached to our children has made the family closer. Most people think Attachment Parenting makes a child more dependent, but we've seen the opposite. Our girls are very independent. They also know if they need us we will be there. No one will ever be left to cry, no matter what age they are.

Do you have any particular social causes that are close to your heart? Why did you adopt these issues as your own?

As I said before, I would love to see more black women breastfeeding. I would also love to see more black woman birthing naturally, and at home. I would love to see more black midwives. It's in our history, and I would love to see more of these things in our present lives, and in the future. I have thought about seeing if I could get into the local hospitals around here and talking about my personal experiences with natural birth, homebirth, breastfeeding and babywearing. I have my blog to share my life, and I know I'm only one person, but I believe I can make a difference. Not because I'm an expert, but because I've been there. Like I said I'm always growing and changing, and I would love to help in any way that I can.

Any parting words for our friends reading this interview?

I hope you all enjoyed reading more about me and my family! If you want to know more, check out my blog. The Mahogany Way, you can follow me on Twitter, or you can Email me if you have questions that you would like to ask privately.

Thank you Se'Lah for allowing me the opportunity to share pieces of myself with your readers.

*and thank you Ms. Darcel for sharing this moment with us. one love Sis.


Lyn said...

Very insightful for all expectant moms, regardless of coulour. So many good points made regardng the benefits of breastfeeding. I was not brave enough to have a home birth but I admire you for sticking to your birth plans and the experience you want.

Wanda said...

Sounds like a lovely family. I'd like to meet them!

Cinner said...

Sounds like a very loving family. I wish them all the best with the pregnancy and soon a new child. congratulations to them. hello to you Se'lah

Birdie said...

Se'lah!!! Thanks for this interview. I so enjoyed reading it. I relate so much to the breastfeeding part as I did breastfeed my son for 28 months and we also co-sleep :-) So this lady definitely resonate with me :-) You always bring something that feels 'just for me' ;-) thanks dear friend and have a lovely day

Darcel said...

Se'Lah, your words are too kind!
Thank you so much for asking me to do this interview with you. I enjoyed it.

Thank you all, Lyn, Wanda, Cinner, Birdie for the lovely comments.

margie said...

you have the coolest friends. and i should know. xoxo

Tracy said...

Hello, Darcel! You are an amazing MOM! It was enlightening to hear your family story. I think your approach to parenting is very empowering and creative. I think traditional schooling is very limiting to the child's mind--your homeschooling, or rather unschooling, makes so much sense! Wishing you all the best for safe, happy delivery of 3#! Thanks for for this chance to meet Darcel, Se'Lah :o) ((HUGS))

Kathryn Grace said...

I am grateful that so many young moms today are home birthing and breastfeeding, and that so many dads are taking an active role in parenting, raising and loving their children. Grateful, too, that midwifery is increasingly recognized and accepted as an important contribution to society. This is how we need to bring our children into the world--at home whenever possible, with loving family, nesting tenderly.

If all children could be so welcomed and nurtured, close to the body, their needs met and understood, their minds fed as lovingly as their bellies, there would be no more war. Gentle, thoughtful parenting is the path to peace.

Thank you for widening the path.

Kim Living Life said...

Se'Lah and Darcel, thanks for the sooooo wonderful interview. I really enjoyed reading about the choices you have made Darcel. What a strong and confident woman you are and what a wonderful supportive husband you have. Your children will be able to conquer the world, beacause you are teaching them they can and that always there will be someone to watch their back. Fantastic and good luck Darcel in the coming weeks happy birthing.

Execumama said...

Excellent interview! I echo so many of Darcel's sentiments and I love how Darcel and her husband have committed to raising their Warrior Princesses on THEIR terms, and not based on what society says they should or shouldn't do. I'm especially happy about Darcel's viewpoint on breastfeeding! More blessings to you and yours, Darcel! And thanks for highlighting such a postive women, Se'Lah!

Gayle said...

Thank you, Se'Lah and Darcel! What a great interview!

Marilyn said...

Loved reading about the breastfeeding experience. I had a similar experience with the first than the second one. I do hope more women of all colors will find out and take advantage of breastfeeding their babies. Eventhough my babies are adults I still enjoy counseling new moms when they are having difficulties with breastfeeding. Thanks for sharing!

Teresha@Marlie and Me said...

Darcel is a shining example on how to write your own parenting script. great interview! thanks ladies!

Birdie said...

Se'lah and I had to come back and comment. Yes yes, it takes lots of a personal strength to live outside any established norm... that brings us to more acceptance ... etc.
You are amazing, always bringing up all of these important topics! hugs.

Kass said...

Beautiful post. I admire this woman so much.

Darcel said...

Thank you all for such kind, and supportive words.
I'm so glad you enjoyed the interview.

I can't wait to come by and visit your blogs. I hope everyone has a fabulous weekend!

Blessings to your families :)