Greetings, Mamas! My name is Tanisha Garnier. My husband Victor and I have lived in the Birmingham area since the summer of 2013. As a child I moved around a good bit since my dad was in the Air Force. I was born in Fort Walton Beach, Florida; I started kindergarten and gained a little brother in England. We moved back to the States in 1992 — goodbye cute British accent, hello Southern drawl! In 1997, my family transferred from Goldsboro, North Carolina to Montgomery, Alabama, where I graduated high school. I spent the next 10 years between The University of Alabama and Virginia Tech. The summer after we were married, my husband and I moved to Birmingham and began our newlywed life in the Magic City.
For as long as I can remember I’ve viewed Birmingham through starry eyes. This city has always drawn me in, and it holds so many treasured memories. My family spent many Thanksgivings with my great-aunt in Ensley. As we entered the city limits, I would crane my neck to view the skyline of downtown Birmingham. If there was ever a chance to hop in the car with someone going to Birmingham, even for a quick turnaround day trip, I was game. Years later, when the time came for me to decide where to look for internships as I finished coursework for my doctorate in family therapy, my choice was an easy one.
Over the past seven years I have loved getting to know the many enclaves of Birmingham. When we first arrived, we lived in Birmingham proper, near the Glen Iris area. We are members of a church in Homewood, and between the two of us we’ve worked downtown, Acton Road, in Gardendale, Centerpoint, Adamsville, Alabaster, Vestavia, and Bessemer. Four years ago we moved to Irondale and I’ve discovered East Birmingham. I’ve watched Avondale bloom into a thriving entertainment district and witnessed the redevelopment of areas like Woodlawn and Crestwood. I’ve cheered on local startups as they blossomed from pop-up-shops and food trucks to brick-and-mortar, multi-location businesses, and it fills me with pride to support these enterprising men and women.
Birmingham has opened up to me in an entirely new way since having my daughter Ezra Joy. I love the way this city invites my girl to dream, play, and explore. Walking through the Botanical Gardens on cool fall mornings as she napped in the stroller. Riding the carousel in the Galleria the day before her first birthday. Taking wobbly first steps in the Library in the Forest. Eating her first popsicle at Steel City Pops — strawberry lemonade. We’ve stamped our memories all across this city, and I can’t help but smile even now just thinking about it.
Our photos may depict us as a family of three; however, there will always be someone missing from our pictures. After dealing with fertility struggles as a result of polycystic ovarian syndrome, I became a mom back in 2016. My first child, a boy we named Xavier, died as a result of preterm birth at 21 weeks gestation. He lived 10 short minutes, but the impact he’s had on my motherhood is immeasurable. This experience of infant loss and grief continues to guide the way I mother, and the way I connect with other mothers who find themselves along similar paths.
As I’ve already mentioned, I am also mom to Ezra Joy, a spunky two year old who is Birmingham-born and raised. Delivered at 24 weeks gestation, Ezzi spent the first 116 days of her life at the UAB Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU). She has been a fighter since Day 1, and I am immensely grateful that we had access to such amazing care for our preemie warrior. In the midst of such a tumultuous birth experience, I was comforted by the fact that the UAB NICU is renowned nationwide. Our girl was in the very best hands.
These days we’re spending more time at home than usual, but we find the fun no matter what. One of our favorite things to do together is read — and with 40 libraries in the Jefferson County Library Cooperative, a new and interesting book is never too far away. We’ve also been exploring more local parks and nature trails . . . anywhere we can let Ez burn off some of that never ending toddler energy! Living through a global pandemic definitely comes with its challenges. But each day is a gift, and I try (key word, try) to meet her radiant joy each morning with open arms and a grace-filled heart.
With so much of in-person community at a standstill, I am excited for this opportunity to get to know women in various stages of motherhood. As part of BMC, I’m thrilled to share my own multi-faceted journey of motherhood. I am a mama with fertility challenges, a loss mama, a NICU mama, a rainbow mama, a PhD dropout turned stay-at-home mama. And as a Black mama I’m living out my dream: raising a little Black girl in a Magic City.