Unbothered's Birth Rights acknowledges inspiring mothers and showcases the beautiful diversity and depth of Black parenthood. As Black birthing people continue to reconsider what motherhood looks like, we are spotlighting Black maternity, reproductive health, and exploring cultural conversations on re-parenting ourselves and the next generation.
I try to do everything with intention. It’s how I offset the craziness of this world. It’s why my boyfriend and I didn’t have our first child, London, until we were 11 years deep into our relationship.
These are the tenets that I use to fortify my life and, hopefully, what will make my soon-to-be two daughters feel secure in this world, too.
Today is rough. I am 35 weeks pregnant and I am feeling every single one of those weeks. Pregnancy is hard for me, and for honesty and transparency’s sake, I don’t enjoy being pregnant.
Honesty. There’s another one of those tenets that I love.
There is so much about pregnancy, birth and postpartum recovery that is — still in 2022 —, shrouded in secrecy for so many expectant moms. Having a baby is a true trial-by-fire initiation. There is no easing your way into it, no transition time, no probationary onboarding grace period. Once your baby has arrived, you are responsible for this tiny human’s life. And it was shocking to me.
I take being honest about motherhood seriously. I see it as my responsibility. Giving birth to and raising a child are enormously complex events, with lifelong implications, and I believe that women are owed the truth. I don’t think you should be scared, but you should be prepared. A culture of silence persists in motherhood; of not talking about things, not sharing how we’re really feeling, or what we’re struggling with because so many of the challenging aspects of motherhood have been presented to us as inevitable, something that all mothers are condemned to just endure. But it’s in the sharing of our stories that we as women, especially Black women, can start to take our power back. This is why I try not to sugarcoat things for new or expectant moms because someone has to tell you this stuff! And I think so many new moms suffer in silence because they feel alone or feel like this is just what comes with being a mom. And that part is true. Yes, being a mom comes with intense challenges but it doesn’t need to be a solitary experience.
And as a Black woman who has already gone through one traumatic birth experience, I owe it to myself to be honest about my experience. Because if sharing my story helps someone else or gives someone the tools that they need to go into their delivery feeling informed and prepared, then I will have done my job.
I know all too well how quickly a birth can turn from happiness and excitement to confusion and fear. Throw in a system notorious for ignoring Black women’s voices, and you have the makings of disaster. After laboring for nearly 28 hours, I was still progressing very slowly and my daughter, London, was in distress. They administered pitocin, to help speed things along, but my daughter’s heart rate began dipping significantly with every big contraction.
During my pregnancy, my previous insurance provider had me seeing rotating doctors since it can be hard to predict who is going to be available to deliver your baby, but when it came time to give birth, none of the doctors I saw over the last nine months were present for my delivery. It was really frustrating for me because I was now dealing with strangers who don't know me, don't know my medical history or anything about my pregnancy, and don't know my birth plan.
When it finally came time to push, London was still too high up and the doctor wasn’t comfortable having me push due to my lengthy labor, so they ordered an emergency c-section for me. Things started moving so quickly. They were preparing me for surgery and handing me and my boyfriend forms to sign. I didn’t have any time to think or process what was happening to me and my baby.
From there, it felt like a domino effect of things going wrong. I wanted to keep my placenta so I could encapsulate it later but my doctor fought me on it. Which didn’t make any sense to me — how are you going to tell me I can’t keep something that came from my own body?
As a Black woman dealing with the healthcare system, it’s easy to feel like you’re being treated as just a body of symptoms rather than a person with a voice. Nobody was listening to me. Everyone was so busy and in their own heads and weren’t treating me like a human being. They just wanted to get on to the next thing. You have to really fight to be heard and advocate for yourself. And that’s hard to do when you and/or your baby are in distress.
My traumatic birth took a serious toll on me and recovery was difficult. I had postpartum anxiety — something I didn’t even know existed before, I had only heard of postpartum depression. I was having panic attacks during those early days, too. Recovery is both a physical and mental battle; you’re trying to heal from this incredible shock to your body all while taking care of a baby that is completely dependent on you.
Enocha wears a Keama dress; Hanifa shoes, $369, available at hanifa.co; DM Jewelry Designs earrings. London wears a Keama dress.
It wasn’t until around the six-month mark that I had established any type of solid routine and a full year until I felt somewhat like my normal self again.
That was super important to me — feeling like me again. Being a millennial mom, I think we’re probably the first generation to really attempt to break free from the negative tropes of motherhood. So much of mom culture and what we see in media are mothers depicted as frazzled, lonely, drab, shells of their former selves who are coupled with a cold, unfeeling and unhelpful partner. I knew that when I eventually had children, I was going to make a concerted effort that both my partner and I were our whole selves raising whole children. I wanted to make sure that we were the best humans we could possibly be before deciding to make little humans of our own. And that we continued to work on ourselves after our children got here.
There it is again: Intention. I want to infuse it in every aspect of my motherhood journey. In previous generations, it seemed like having children was just something you did. It was just something out of an adulting starter pack: get married, buy a house, have children. But I want to make sure that my daughters know that they were so much more than something to check off on a life to-do list, I want them to know that they’re here because their father and I wanted them here.
Children absolutely change the dynamic of a relationship and I 1000% understand why it breaks a lot of relationships. I thank God that my boyfriend and I had already established a solid mechanism of working through issues, even if we don’t get it perfect all the time. Raising a child is like the ultimate collaboration, except with monumental consequences because this isn’t just about what color to paint the kitchen — it’s shaping and forming a human life. My boyfriend and I will often reset during difficult moments and remind ourselves that, no matter what, we both want only the best for our daughters. We know we're on the same team.
It’s funny because we’re complete opposites, too; I’m the spontaneous dreamer, and he’s the more grounded and cerebral one. These differences were difficult when London was still a newborn but it’s what I’ve come to love about our parenting styles now. We offer our daughters two different sides of the spectrum. I think it’s really important for them to see different approaches to life from two Black parents.
Early in our relationship, one of the reasons I knew my boyfriend would be a good partner to me was because I could see how great of a father he’d be. I can thank my dad for that. He was very active in the home: cooking, cleaning, picking me up from school. I already knew what to look for in the person who I was going to have a child with because I saw it every day in the man that raised me.
I find myself wondering what the future will hold for my own little girls. What will they think of me as their mom? Parenting can sometimes feel like a minefield with no guarantee or obvious markers of success. How do we know we’re doing the right things, imparting the right lessons? How do we know when to step in and guide versus staying in the background and letting our children take the lead?
How will I know I’m doing any of this the right way?
For me, I envision my two daughters growing into Black women who unflinchingly know themselves. I will see it in the way they carry themselves in the world, how they speak about themselves, and, how they speak to me.
I couldn’t come to my parents with everything when I was a child, I didn’t always have that level of comfort. I hope that my daughters will have a different relationship with me and their father, knowing that, above all else, mom and dad are their safe place and that they can trust that we will keep them safe — always.
And I hope that they’ll see me, their mom, as a woman who was trying, constantly striving to learn and be better, to be teachable in my teaching, and that in seeing me living and breathing into the fullness of myself as a whole, Black woman, they, too, will have the confidence to do the same.
I don’t want my daughters to be afraid of this world. The most dangerous thing is an insecure woman, a woman who seeks out other people to give her power. I want my girls to know that they are the power themselves. They don’t need anybody to give it to them because they already have it.
If I can instill that in them, I’ll know I got it right.
As told to Gloria Alamrew. This interview has been condensed from its original transcription.