Login to any social media platform, whether it be Facebook, Instagram, Twitter etc. and you’ll be inundated with a gazillion and one ideas on ‘self-care’. Articles on what is self-care, why self-care, how to do self-care are and what will happen to your mind, body and soul if you don’t practice self-care are everywhere.

I read these posts daily; being in the birth and women’s reproductive health world, I can’t avoid them. Some (a few) I read and quickly incorporate the easy to do stuff into my daily routine, some I bookmark for reading later (although I have good intentions, I never seem to find the time to revisit said posts), some elicit a dramatic eye-roll, snort and an “oh purleeeease!”
All of this makes me wonder what we (by we, I mean black women) did before self-care was ever a thing and, as black women, what self-care practices do we subscribe to now. Maybe we’re doing what we always did, maybe not.

Disclaimer, I don’t have the answers to the above so stop reading now if you’re looking for answers or expect me to extol the virtues of the latest self-care fad. These are merely my musings.

Firstly, let me go back a step or three.

The reason why I’m interested and sometimes confounded by the subject of black women and self-care practices is because, I feel that, as black women we need to nurture ourselves more than ever before. Our minds, bodies and spirits are constantly under attack; we are feared, belittled, unfairly judged, undermined, uncared for, rejected, dismissed, mimicked etc. in the workplace, in our homes, in the world.

As a woman, doula and Mizan Therapist who supports other women through pregnancy, birth, early parenting and all manner of reproductive ailments, I have observed that there are fewer black women investing in these services/self-care practices than say white women or Indian and Asian women.

I bemoan this fact to my fellow birthworkers and therapists; we discuss the topic ad finitum. The conversation tends to go something like this –

They say they’re woke but don’t they realise that black women and babies are dying or suffering needlessly when birthing? Don’t they realise that the health system is an institution and just because they’re in the caring game it doesn’t mean that institutional racism isn’t as rife as in other institutions?

Why are they spending £100’s on weaves and nails rather paying to protect their birth experiences and their health?
Why aren’t black women seeking gentler, more natural solutions for their fibroids, heavy bleeding, raging menopausal symptoms etc. Why are they so ready to put themselves in the hands of the surgeon, don’t they know the risks?
Why have black women they turned their backs on their ‘granny’s medicine’ only to jump on the bandwagon when the latest white celeb spouts off about their ‘latest self-care practice’ (nods head towards Gwyneth Paltrow and the whole vaginal steaming thing).

For those who aren’t in the know, vaginal steaming has been going on in traditional societies for many, many years before Gwynie was even a twinkle in her mother’s eye!

Of course, there is never a conclusion to the above; we talk about finances (i.e. reducing our fees), promoting our services more widely, accepting that it is what it is etc., etc. The discussion goes around in circles until we’re exasperated and turn to the next topic.

We try our hardest not to be come across all judgey; we all work hard for our money and should spend it however we feel fit. Right?

I must admit though, I do feel a bit saddened that as black women (yes, I know I’m generalising) we seem to invest less time and money in our physical and emotional health compared to what we invest in looking sweet.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all into looking good and know how much looking and feeling fly can raise your spirits (until the weave/braids/nails work themselves loose and end up in the bin).

But what about nurturing ourselves at a deeper level, what about learning about and incorporating the self-care practices that really speak to us? It doesn’t matter if eating raw kale morning, noon and night isn’t your thing, how about finding out what does feed your soul?

Here’s a radical suggestion – what about taking your power back from healthcare professionals and learning how you can make your own decisions when it comes to birthing your baby? How? Inform yourself, hire a doula, do both!
Black women, it’s time that we truly woke up and invested in the betterment and protection of ourselves. Our daughters, sisters and nieces are watching and learning from us as are the boys and men in our lives.

If we don’t care for and nurture ourselves, who will?