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Arizona: Finding Peace in the Desert as a Black Mother

The perfect place to relax from the pressures of motherhood.

Finding Peace in the Desert as a Black Mother
Embassy Suites by Hilton Scottsdale Resort | Credit: Mark Boisclair Photography, Inc.

When I was asked in March whether I wanted to go to Scottsdale, Arizona, as part of a self-love-geared trip for moms, I was ecstatic. Who wouldn’t want to spend four days in the desert after dealing with New York’s harsh winter? I began to anticipate the time away, but like most days being a mom, there’s always an impending crisis. We had discovered that my nearly 11-month-old son suffers from severe food allergies and a weight-gaining issue.  

I immediately began to regret my decision to travel because, up until this point, I had not allowed anyone to watch him for more than eight hours, except for his father, who works from home. Unfortunately, we both had to be out of town during the same weekend. The Monday through Wednesday before my trip, I prepared all of the things my son would need: 100 ounces of breastmilk for an exclusively breastfed baby; all the safe foods; his emergency allergic reaction kit, including a couple of EpiPen Jrs, which took me nearly three weeks to secure; and clothes, blankets, towels and rags washed in the only detergent that doesn’t irritate his eczema. 

I was apprehensive and distraught, which is nothing new for a mom. It can be hard to go from being your child’s first home to having him experience an often-negative society. As a first-generation Black mother, every fret was doubled knowing that I had to raise a Black boy who America wouldn’t see as the blessing that I do. Through my pregnancy, birthing and raising him, doctors and others consistently did not take me seriously or brushed off my doubts as a first-time mom. I soon began to understand my privilege of living life outside the 9 to 5 corporate structure and how that intersected with my mother’s career as a teacher, and why she rarely went on vacation without our family throughout my childhood. 

Thursday morning, when it was time to leave my son, I nearly bailed out of the trip. I was uneasy for my more than five-hour flight to the West Coast. On arrival to Scottsdale, the first thing the group of mothers did was have lunch at the Herb Box, which had a menu full of fresh ingredients with loads of vegetarian and vegan options. I‘ve been a pescatarian for eight years, but I had to limit my fish intake to adhere to my son’s allergies since he drinks only breastmilk. That was my first appreciative moment in Arizona because traveling on a restricted diet has been tough.

After lunch, I headed to my room at Embassy Suites by Hilton Scottsdale Resort, a 16-acre property overlooking Camelback Mountain that had the feel of a modernized Western town. Later that evening, our group of four attended the hotel’s complimentary evening reception and met with Catherine Belknap and Natalie Telfer, the unfiltered and hilarious hosts of the podcast Mom Truths, which is now a memoir of sidesplitting mishaps mixed with advice about motherhood. My anxiety was written over my face, and Belknap told me that the first time she left her children, she was also miserable. “The first night is always the worst—trust me. You make it through, and the rest of the weekend will be a breeze,” she said. “He doesn’t even know you’re gone. It’ll be a different story once you have a 3-year-old ruling your home.”

She was right. I had a spectacular weekend sharing anecdotes about my son and experiencing what Scottsdale had to offer. Friday morning, I enjoyed another complimentary breakfast before the group met for yoga in the hotel garden with instructor Alissa Will. That evening, we had an interactive cooking demo with the resort’s executive chef, Ken Arneson, who shared tales about his time on the Food Network’s competitive cooking series Chopped. He also offered to give me recipes and food suggestions to help with my son’s allergies because his daughters had similar issues as well. For the first time, I felt I wasn’t alone in my perceived dietary nightmare.

Morning yoga in the garden area of
Embassy Suites by Hilton Scottsdale Resort

The entire Embassy Suites staff was more than helpful and welcoming. I didn’t have a freezer in my room, so a team member stored my breastmilk in one in her office. The team also suggested places for me to shop and sightsee when traveling around “The West’s Most Western Town” alone. As a group, we visited the Desert Botanical Garden, where I got to taste crickets.  

The next day we woke up for sunrise hot-air ballooning with Arizona’s Hot Air Expeditions. While being away from my son, it was the opportune time to do other firsts and conquer my fear of heights. In case you were wondering, the hot-air balloon has not had many technological upgrades since its first successful human-carrying flight in Paris in the 18th century. My nerves were nearly paralyzed when I discovered it was, indeed, simply a large wicker basket, some heat and the wind in control of my fate. Once we were approximately 5,000 feet up, I was taken aback by the beauty of the world under the clouds. I knew in that moment that I could confidently tell my son that some fears are only momentary. 

Our mommy group also visited the Spa at the Boulders, where I was able to fully relax during an 80-minute turquoise wrap, a dry exfoliation treatment mixed with a wet massage and turquoise clay wrap to soothe muscles. Though I was under six shower heads of running water, I was so relaxed I fell asleep only to awaken to feel as if I had bought a new body. 

Hot air ballooning with Hot Air Expeditions in Phoenix, Arizona

Arizona was everything I needed. 

I thought Scottsdale would be a weird place for a Black mom born and raised in the Bronx. Everyone who knew of my trip had great things to say about the city, and I now know why. It was much like New York City, with transplants traveling from far and wide for a different living experience and a bevy of shopping corners, art galleries and museums close to the resort. Instead of skyscrapers and elevated trains, I saw mountains and open sky outside of my windows. It was peacefully quiet and I was able to connect with nature and feel grounded. Learning the history of Old Town and the resort, formerly a top 10 destination for the country’s greatest tennis players, was enough to keep me entertained. All these things became cute stories for me to share with my son, whom I plan to take for a familial experience. 

I returned home refreshed and recharged with cactus candy and toys, and a garden home-growing kit. Most important, I have a new sense of understanding that time spent alone is crucial to maintaining a healthy mindset to continue to break the generational traumas linked to Black motherhood. 

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