As if that’s not enough, I’m hotter than I’ve ever been in my entire Black life — and I’m from Texas. And so, fresh from a cool, afternoon shower, I lay naked on my bed with the air conditioner on, crunching on tap-water ice, watching a Bring It! marathon on Lifetime, and rubbing Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula on my seven-months-pregnant belly.

In addition to rebuking ashiness, cocoa butter is supposed to keep my skin supple and help reduce discoloration and stretch marks that may come as my body shape-shifts and expands. Plus, it smells like chocolate. But, to be honest, stretch marks are the last thing I’m worried about. After a blessedly uneventful “geriatric” pregnancy at the age of 43, I have been told that it’s very likely I have a potentially life-threatening condition that has completely changed my birth plan. Delivering my child in a private birth room with my husband and longtime OBGYN by my side has now become a public delivery in the hospital’s main operating room with five different teams of doctors and several pints of blood on hand — just in case. But, hey, they won’t know for sure if I have the condition until they operate, so my doctors tell me to stay off of Google and try to relax.

In the meantime, I binge-watch episodes of the Jackson, Mississippi, dance team and their wild-card coach as they practice, compete, and live their Black girl lives.

In red-and-silver, shimmery bodysuits (with fringe!) the Dancing Dolls do death drops, buck down to the floor, and whip their weaves. When the captain jumps into a toe touch and lands in a split, my daughter, who is already a world-class somer saulter, gives an encouraging kick in my belly. I take this nudge as an affirmation, a reminder to stay in the present, and I rub cocoa butter in the place where she punted me. I rest my hands there for a spell and let the heat from my palms work like Reiki.

Palmer’s Cocoa Butter Formula

Mama’s Pearl

Atlanta — September 2018

I kneel on the padded, blue whale bath mat, eye level with my gorgeous baby girl. I’m smiling big and holding open the plushiest towel I can find. My daughter steps wrinkle-toed out of the tub and throws her four-year-old body into my arms, arms I cocoon around her, drying her off while she tippy-taps her feet fast-fast, laughing the laugh of a child who is happy, safe, loved. This little ritual is our favorite part of bath time, just like when I was a little girl, and I can’t believe my luck.

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