It’s not often easy to develop a rapport with someone who was introduced to you through an email, a perfectly worded pitch that not only must be brief, but also has to draw you in. It’s even more difficult when two people can’t talk in person and see each others’ reactions and facial expressions, especially when the nature of the conversation is a stranger asking another woman about her health, motherhood journey, and raising her daughter. Even with more than a decade of experience as a writer and editor, I had some apprehension about interviewing Christina Wilds (Hammond), the author of Dear Little Black Girl who launched Tristyn’s Book Club last year. You see, I don’t have any children and have never attempted to start a family, but I wanted to handle this interview with the level of care Wilds and her experience deserve. So, I ran my questions by my cousin whose journey to motherhood also wasn’t typical. This isn’t something I usually do before an interview, but I was worried about prying into Wilds’s private life. My apprehension, however, quickly subsided minutes into our discussion because Wilds was warm, honest, and open. She was ready to have a frank conversation about healing from a miscarriage, delivering her daughter despite having a bicornuate uterus, the role changes in her physique played in her postpartum depression, the power of affirmations, building her daughter’s legacy from birth, how other Black women can advocate for themselves regardless of their income level, and more.
The past two years have been quite the whirlwind for Wilds. In 2019, she learned she was pregnant two months after experiencing a miscarriage as a result of having a bicornuate uterus. Fortunately, that pregnancy went full-term, and Wilds and her now-husband Tristan “Mack” Wilds welcomed their daughter Tristyn Naomi Wilds on Dec. 11, 2019, according to Mack’s Instagram. In April 2020, Christina launched Tristyn’s Book Club, an enterprise that was born from sharing the books within her daughter’s library. The website is a resource for Black parents to find books with characters that look like their children and relate to the Black experience. It quickly gained attention, including that of Beyoncé who featured Tristyn’s Book Club in her directory of Black-owned businesses in June 2020. A couple of months later, Christina released her debut children’s book Dear Little Black Girl, a celebration of affirmations that features the illustrations of Ana Latese. Shortly after celebrating their daughter’s first birthday, Christina and Mack married during an intimate ceremony. Below Christina frankly shares her inspiring journey in the hopes of helping other Black women.
You were diagnosed with a bicornuate uterus? Can you explain what that is, and what your experience with the condition has been?
Christina Wilds (Hammond): So bicornuate uterus is when you're born with either a completely split uterus or, in my case, it's a heart-shaped uterus. … I did not find out until I was 19 — that was something. I was experiencing like severe pain, easily from the age of like 10 until I found out. Just like random, sporadic, painful stomach-like things going on. And then we discovered that I had a split uterus. … So for a normal person with a bicornuate uterus, this could potentially mean that [their pregnancy doesn’t] go full-term. There's a high risk of second trimester miscarriages, as well as the baby being born breeched because they don't have enough room to turn because of how the uterus is split. So, for me, I ended up going full-term, which is a blessing. But my daughter did not have enough room to turn, so she was breeched and I ended up having to have a C-section. So that's my experience with it. But it can vary based on the woman. But they did say now that I have gone full-term and delivered her, my uterus may have enough room to stretch the next time that I'm pregnant and I'm able to deliver it a natural way.
Oh yeah, I did read that in your Motherly article. I was wondering whether there were any other obstacles you faced during your motherhood journey.
Christina Wilds (Hammond): So honestly, I did have a miscarriage about two months prior to getting pregnant with Tristyn. And all of that can be attributed to, again, the split uterus, but I also only have one ovary. I had one removed when I was 26, my left one removed. So I’m up against all odds as it relates to my reproductive system. But I mean, again, I believe in God and miracles. And because of that, I did not have a difficult pregnancy journey at all. I never ran out of fluid. I never, you know, I didn't have that second trimester miscarriage.
But I will say post-pregnancy, now that I am breastfeeding — I'm still breastfeeding 14 months later — I only have milk, enough milk in one of my boobs. So I have been solely feeding Tristyn on my left breast, because my right one does not produce milk. It produces milk but almost not at all to the point where she doesn’t even want to be on that one. My left boob is probably a full B cup and my right one is almost barely an A cup. So there's some you know, it looks very weird. And that’s something I've kind of had to just accept because I know that I'm giving my daughter the greatest nutritional value she can have. But it has definitely played a part in my postpartum depression because I had to get used to my body kind of being deformed.
Yes, yes, I could understand that. You wrote on Motherly, that having a full-term pregnancy was a mental battle rather than a physical one. Can you expound on that? And also, why you advise other expectant mothers just to stop googling?
Christina Wilds (Hammond): Absolutely. So I would say was more mental than physical because, again, I know the odds that are against me, you know. Once I hit the second trimester, I could potentially lose my baby that I had, over the past 12 weeks, grown to look forward to meeting at the end of the third trimester. And so every appointment, I would ask, you know, “Does she have enough room? Does she have enough room?” Because if they run out of room, they would like to come out. ... Mentally, I hadn't recovered from the miscarriage going right into a new pregnancy.
And then, I say stop googling it because I literally every day — and this is not an exaggeration — I would google every day, horrible stories about women with bicornuate uterus [who] had babies or did not make it all the way full-term. And so feeding yourself that negative media consumption can play a horrible role in your pregnancy journey, mentally, because you're not able to focus on the blessing that is happening. You know, you think so negative about it, that you forget that there could be hope at the end of the tunnel, as there was for me. And so I definitely recommend finding those baby community centers that have those positive stories. So instead of typing in, “bicornuate uterus not going full-term,” you type in “bicornuate uterus success stories.” That way, you're feeding yourself positive information and hope.
I didn't make it to the second trimester in the first [pregnancy], but it shook me. It was very depressing to know that I lost something that I felt that I connected with. You connect with it as soon as you find out. You connect with your baby as soon as you find out you're pregnant. And so I had a nurse after my miscarriage named Ruth, Nurse Ruth Dodson, [who] told me … [which] kind of helped me start recovering from the miscarriage, was that it's just all about timing. It just wasn't the time and you have to accept that. And she said that the baby knows when they're entering a good space and environment. And to be honest, I wasn't in the best space when I got pregnant the first time. And so I believe that that baby knew it just wasn't coming into a good situation and made an executive decision for themselves. But when I got pregnant with Tristyn, I was in a much better place, a lot happier, and that was evident through the pregnancy, because we made it full term. There was never any complications with her whatsoever. But again, me beating myself up mentally knowing what I had going on inside, as far as my reproductive system, it was a thing. And I was like, “I don't know, I don't know.” But then again, one day, I was in a lot of pain, and I really feel like that was her telling me to slow down, relax, regroup. “We're in this together.” And from then on, it was just feeding myself positive things, downloading meditation apps, and just anything that could feed me positively.
You were definitely on top of your health condition or issues that you may have had and did a lot of research, but how would you advise other Black women to advocate for themselves within the healthcare industry? From Serena on down, we hear so many horror stories in which Black women aren't being taken seriously. Even if it doesn't involve giving birth or pregnancy, but just in general, their healthcare issues. How would you advise them to just advocate for themselves?
Christina Wilds (Hammond): I was fortunate enough to have, you know, my husband was there every step of the way. My mother was there the delivery day, and she plays no games, none. Like not a one. I have this picture of us when I first delivered Baby Tristyn, and the face that she has, because after I gave birth, my temperature was really low to the point where I had to stay in recovery, almost three and a half to four hours, which is usually like a 20-minute to an hour situation. And you can just see it in my mother's face like, “What’s up? What’s going on? What y’all doing?” (laughs) And then, prior to because of all of the statistics about Black mortality, I had a birthing plan. Not that typical, like, “OK, I'm delivering naturally or home birth or C-section.” I meant like, if anything went wrong. I talked with my husband about it, “If anything happens to me on that table, this. If anything goes wrong, this.” And I put it in writing, as well, in my notes, so that he would know what to do.
But as far as advocating for yourself, don't stop asking questions. I asked literally 100 questions every visit, and I didn't care if they wanted to answer them or not. I was going to get the answers to the questions that I needed. … So if you don't have that partner that's there with you, especially in COVID I know they might not allow another person to be in the room with you, asking those questions. And again, making sure that someone, even if it's not your partner, someone knows exactly what's going on at all times.
The other thing, especially … in my case at the time, I had Medicaid. I wasn't married when I first became pregnant with my daughter, so I had Medicaid. And I think that there is a stigma that comes with having Medicaid, but I am an advocate for it when your job isn't providing health insurance. Get Medicaid. (said with emphasis) And then the other thing, I feel like when you have Medicaid, they pretty much tell you you have to go to the clinic down the street, right? That's not the case, if you do the research. … Even with Medicaid, I was able to go to one of the top-five hospitals in the nation. I'm an advocate for doing your research. Don't settle for the clinic down the street, nothing against the clinic down the street. But you don't have to settle if there's something better out there, if there's someone [who] can give you better care throughout your pregnancy journey. … It's your right to advocate for yourself and be like, “No, something is wrong. I want you to run every single test three times until I feel better.” And I know that gives off the angry Black woman stigma. I'd rather be a healthy angry Black woman than a dead angry Black woman.
Very, very true. What would you say has been the best aspect of being a mother, and what have you learned about yourself from your parenthood journey thus far?
Christina Wilds (Hammond): I’ve learned that I'm a lot stronger than I thought. You know, having a baby, that motherly instinct does kick in. I know, it's like you hear about it, and you're like, “Mm, I don't know.” It does. Because I will do anything for my daughter and protect her from everything. I've never prayed as much as I've prayed having a baby. I think about even the smallest things. She was learning how to walk. We were outside, and there was a mosquito on her. I’ve become like master mosquito killer, because what you're not going to do is make my baby itch. (laughs)
The most enjoyable part about it is seeing yourself reincarnated in a little person. Her personality, — yes, she has her own personality — but there's so many things I see in her that are me at that age. And her father, my mother, his siblings, my siblings. So just seeing how we’ve made this beautiful person. Like we're one and now we have one. And being able to see that is the most beautiful thing. She is a product of a beautiful love story, and I see that. She's happy. She is silly. She's goofy. So you know, every day, literally every day, I think I'm like, “Wow, this is my kid. And she is the coolest, greatest kid ever.” And her middle name is Naomi, which means my joy, and I’m like, “She is her name.” She brings joy to every situation. She brings joy to every single person [who] she comes in contact with, and that is just is a beautiful thing to see.
I guess switching gears just a little bit. I was just curious about your how your career evolved since graduating LIM College to now.
Christina Wilds (Hammond): Yes, so when I graduated from LIM, I kind of started freelancing almost immediately because I moved back to DC, my hometown. At the time, there really wasn't a space for entertainment media relations. A lot of it was political. We did have BET there at the time, but it was more on the business side. So I felt like I didn't have the opportunities that I would have living in a New York or an LA, so I decided to create those opportunities. I traveled a lot throughout the States, freelancing in the event sector, as well as, media talent relations, PR. And then around 2017, I was still freelancing working at a web festival, and I wrote a poem to myself that I've now turned into a children's book. And so that's how I became a children's author.
Having that PR/marketing knowledge, I use it for my kid now. I started a book club for her. And that's become like my job, Tristyn’s Book Club. Utilizing those skill sets that I've learned over the last 10 years and implementing that into creating a legacy for my daughter and myself. And so that is, where I am. I love being a children's author. I'm working on my second book, which I'm hoping to come out the top of 2022. And I still freelance. I'm still a full-time freelance creative in event production and media and talent relations.
Dear Little Black Girl was initially a poem that you wrote to yourself?
Christina Wilds (Hammond): Yes, I wrote a poem to myself. And I had a friend (Carmen Shamwell), who's actually the editor of the book, who was like, “Christina, this should be a children's book.” Initially, it was like, “Dear little Black girl” and then all the affirmations [listed] instead. But then once she read it, she was like, “You should do ‘Dear little Black girl’ in front of every single affirmation.” And then it evolved into this children's book. And I was working with an artist, and it didn't quite work out with the artist, which was fine. You know, I trust God's timing, so it just wasn't time for the book to come out. Then I found out I was pregnant with Baby Tristyn. And I was like, “OK, I'm giving birth to a Black girl, I need to finish this project. I need to put this out.” I connected with a different artist, Ana Latese, a 22-year-old college student. Phenomenal. Phenomenal. I wanted to work with a Black woman, and Ana was recommended to me. And I was like, “First of all, you are 22 years old. I feel like a senior citizen asking you to do this for me.” But it came out amazing, more than what I imagined, and I released it last year, September 2020.
I mean, it's truly beautiful. When I received it, I said to myself, “Yeah, this is gonna be displayed in my home. I don't have any children, but I definitely want to see this book on a daily basis.” I love the illustrations, as well as the affirmations. I think there are still things I can heed in this book. I just kind of assumed that the book idea came after becoming a mom, but it's really so interesting to me that it was actually beforehand, and it was a poem to yourself. I guess that kind of leads me to my next question: How have affirmations impacted your life? And then also, what was your process for deciding which affirmations to include in the book?
Christina Wilds (Hammond): I honestly didn't start affirming myself until I wrote this book. I really didn't know. I was just winging it in life, to be quite honest. Then the affirmations were things that I needed to hear. I took a step back and I was like, “I do not like, where I am right now in life. What could have happened? What could I have done differently?” Not that I'd had a horrible upbringing — I had literally, probably the best upbringing you could ever — but … there are things that my mom did differently than what my grandmother did, there are things that I now will do differently with my daughter based on how I was brought up.
So when it comes to finances, I think about: “Save and keep your piggy bank full.” My mother gave me everything, so value and understanding of money, I didn't get that until I was an adult. And by that point, I was failing at it. … Now with my daughter, she doesn't know it, but she has her own bank account. She's earned money, and she has stock investments that she'll be able to understand, as she gets older, why and what to do with those things.
I haven't even shared this story with anyone. In the “Dream big and you will go far,” there's a little girl and she is daydreaming, and there's a picture in a bubble of Italy. Ana took a picture that I took when I lived in Italy and put it in that bubble. I volunteered as an English teacher [in Naples]. I just think about the dream, you know, “I want to go there.” I didn't have a passport at the time. I saw this volunteer program. It was the first stamp on my passport. And from then on, I started traveling with a purpose, that's what I like to say. But you dream big, and it can take you wherever you want to go in life.
The “Be confident, be you.” You know, we live in a world where we face racism, we face colorism, you know, all of that. And for me, as a child, I was always like really skinny, so I got teased because I was little. So telling my daughter to learn how to be confident, be you. Being confident in your skin, regardless of what the world says about you, what your friends say about you. These are all things that I needed to know that I now know, and can pass on to my daughter. I know she'll face her own trials and tribulations. But these are the things that I think are core values within our community that I can teach her through these affirmations that I honestly recite to myself.
I can completely relate especially with being very slim or skinny growing up, especially in the Black community, that’s not necessarily something that's celebrated.
Christina Wilds (Hammond): You know, it's not, it's not. It's already hard when you're Black, but then in your own community you’re teased for other things. And it's not just the skinny girl, it's the big girl too. We all face some type of scrutiny within our own communities. So learning how to be confident within ourselves, it’s so important because we, as Black women, get it always in every single direction.
That relates to your commitment within the book to feature a variety Black girls. You could have simply just used the same girl throughout the book. But just having multi-hued girls with different hair textures or hairstyles, can you just talk about why that was important to you?
Christina Wilds (Hammond): Absolutely. OK, so with my daughter, I'm Black, my husband is Black and Dominican, so he's Afro-Latino. I wanted to make sure that she knows that heritage. … I don't know enough for me to be able to tell her anything. But her grandmother does, her aunts on that side do, her uncles, her father. They can tell her about that side and embracing that part of her. Then for me, my side, I think about my mother and my father. My father is a chocolate man, a super-chocolate man. My mother is super light-skinned. And so I think about how my mother was teased coming up, because she was this super, super light-skinned Black woman. Then for me, with the hair, people expect — because they see my mother and they see that I'm light-skinned — that I'm supposed to have this certain texture of hair when I have very coarse 4C hair. So I identify with every single character on the cover of that book. Even though I have a brown-skinned girl with a ‘fro, that's my ‘fro on her! I’m learning to embrace that. I usually cut my hair all the time, but now that I have a daughter, I said I won't cut it or color it for 10 years, so that she can see me with my natural hair. That doesn't mean I won't have protective styles and things of that nature. But I want her to see my hair and understand how much I love my hair.
There's a lot to being Black, you know. We come in different colors, we come in different shapes. Our hair comes in different textures. And I just want young girls to be able to look at a little Black girl and see themselves in every single character. So if you don't relate with how she looks, the affirmation that you're reading, you relate to that. So in every aspect of the book, I wanted a little girl to say, “OK, this is me here. This is what I want to do. This is me here.”
What inspired you to launch Tristyn’s Book Club? Like, was there kind of a hole within the children's book sphere that you saw needed to be filled? And does Tristyn’s Book Club fill that void?
Christina Wilds (Hammond): When Tristyn was first born, we were challenged to read her 500 books before she started school. So we were reading to her and I was like, “Maybe I should share these books with the people?” So nothing against the parents who start influencer pages for their kids. I'm here for it, I love the content, I buy the clothes, you know. But I wanted my daughter's Instagram page, if you will, to be different to have more of an impact versus an influence. Ironically, it happened in the middle of a pandemic, so parents are in the house with their kids a lot more, creating more moments, family moments amongst black communities. Let's put down the iPad and read. As we progress in the book club, I did notice that in the beginning, I was sharing all types of books. But then I realized and I had parents reach out to say, “We don't have books to read are children that look like us.” So I made it a point to make sure that now the books that we share are by Black authors and their Black stories, whether that be from a major publishing house or independent authors. … If we have the audience, if we have the eyes, I want to share all the stories that I possibly can by people in the Black community. And that's what we're doing. And I love it. I love the feedback that we're getting. … Now, again, my daughter is part-Dominican, so I do have some books that are in Spanish, which I think is perfectly fine because it's teaching our children another language. Teaching them to be bilingual early in the game. I don't know, if I'm filling a void, because the stories are out there. I'm just a resource to make sure that they are seen.
How did it feel to get Beyoncé’s stamp of approval?
Christina Wilds (Hammond): That was wild! It was a surprise. Someone called me was like, “Check Beyoncé’s website.” That was when she was rolling out all these Black businesses. And I was like, “Check Beyoncé’s website?” ... And I saw Tristyn’s Book Club, on it. I mean, I can't even describe it. … It wasn't even about me, it was about my daughter. It’s a picture of my daughter. So for her to be aligned with someone great, someone [who] represents greatness in our community, that’s setting the tone for her path and her legacy. So it's Tristyn’s Book Club, it's her name. And that was essentially why I didn't name it to some random book club. This is, again, my daughter's legacy. So that came out when she was six months. At six months, you see, she was stamped in the Black community. (laughs) And again, it wasn't for the influencers. It was for the impact that she's having within black families and their community. So that meant a lot to me and my husband. And when she's old enough to understand that, I promise you, that's gonna be her Throwback Thursday, every Thursday. And so that just lets me know that God is looking out for her. She’s on the right path for doing the right thing.
You mentioned that you have a second book in the works. You've also written for Motherly and KristenDarcy.com. Do you have plans like to write more, not necessarily books, but on the web? And what are some of the topics you're you might be interested in?
Christina Wilds (Hammond): Yes, so my pen game is stronger than what I give it credit for. Yeah, I don't consider myself a writer, but then I am a writer. … I would say the Motherly piece was definitely amazing, just my pregnancy journey, in general. I've written a piece for Essence on having a C-section. And then one of my favorite pieces, it's early on, so people don't really know about it. And I wasn't a mom at the time, so it’s very interesting that I wrote it. It was on Slick Woods, the model Slick. There was a point where people were calling her ugly on the internet. And I was outraged because it was when she walked in a Fenty show, but what people didn't know was that she was in labor. So not only are you like calling her ugly and spamming her with it, [but] she was in labor. And so I talked about the Black mortality rate, and her being in labor, and what that looks like.
So I definitely want to continue to write about Black motherhood as a whole. Whether that be our journey during pregnancy, postpartum, mental health, what that looks like. I'm working on another piece to speak with a psychiatrist, who is also a new mom, Dr. Jess, on how we can protect our mental health and mental health practices as a new mom. Just being a beacon of hope for mothers, in general. You know, like I said in this interview, I have so many things that go on with my reproductive system that we don't talk about. We see these perfect pregnancy journeys online. And that's not everyone's reality. So I want to be transparent in my writing with everything that I face, the good, the bad, the ugly, the perfect and not so perfect. So you can definitely expect some more writing from a motherhood perspective in the near future.
That was supposed to be my last question, but I thought of something else while you were speaking. Do you think Black women are left out of the mainstream conversations surrounding motherhood and conception? And just in general?
Christina Wilds (Hammond): I would say two things. Yes, because we're dying on tables, so we can't tell our stories. But at the same time, I would say yes, as well, because we're not mainstream news. You know, unless it's a big celebrity, we’re the most disrespected person in America. So our stories aren't being told. We might tell it to our friends … but on a mainstream level, our stories are not being heard. And that is the purpose behind my writing. I don't have a perfect body. I didn't get a mommy makeover. Shout out to those who do, no shade. But there are real women out here [who] face real issues, [who] have real stories. And I want to be able to tell those stories, so that they do become mainstream, and they start paying attention to us. They start giving us more respect at these hospitals and these doctor's offices. I'm gonna demand that respect on behalf of all the Black women.