Having children can be a beautiful and exciting journey–and when my partner and I decided to have a baby, we were as ready as two naive people can be about embarking on this journey.
I recently had our second baby and we’re over the moon with both kids. What I’ve learned though, is that, as a Black mom, there were things I wish I knew in the beginning. So, if you’re a Black pregnant person or you’re thinking about having kids, I’m going to be real with you about a few things.
Here are 5 tips to giving birth from a Black mom.
1. Choose the Pregnancy Care and Birth Plan That’s Right for You
Some Black people have a justified distrust in the medical system. For some, this dates back to the Tuskegee Study, although experts have shown that many Black people who distrust the medical system have actually never heard of the Tuskegee Study.
Today, some of that distrust is linked to Black people currently experiencing or being in community with people who have been failed by the medical system. Many people who don’t share this experience are dismissive of it and misclassify it as ignorance. Interactions with medical systems can be traumatizing for some Black people.
It’s OK for you to choose alternative safe pregnancy care and a birth plan that is right for you. This may look like exploring different birthing centers or choosing to work with only midwives of color. You may explore the option of giving birth at home, surrounded by people you trust. Whatever you decide will be the best decision for you and your family.
“Interactions with medical systems can be traumatizing for some Black people."
2. Surround Yourself with a Team Knowledgeable about the Experiences of Black Pregnant People
When I gave birth the second time, my doctor was a person of color and my lactation consultant was a Black woman. This was important to me because Black mothers in this country are 3-4 times more likely to die than white mothers, so I wanted to surround myself with a doctor and team who would be more likely to be aware of my experience coming into the birthing room as a Black woman.
There are many ways the medical system routinely fails Black people. For instance, implicit bias plays a role in how medical providers treat us and Black people who give birth are routinely not listened to or believed, especially when it comes to treatment of our pain. (Take, for instance, the story of Serena Williams, who suffered a life-threatening blood clot after an emergency C-section and was initially dismissed by her nurse as being “confused.”)
Find providers—whether they be midwives, doulas, doctors, lactation consultants, or nurses—who will listen to you and take your health seriously because your life can depend on it. To get you started, here are 8 questions to ask your doctor about your care.
“Find providers who will listen to you and take your health seriously because your life can depend on it."
3. Remember that YOU are the Best Expert on Your Body and Your Experience
Even if this is your first baby, this is an important aspect of your pregnancy to realize. You know yourself. You know your body. You know what feels good and what is right for you. So after you intentionally pick your support team, you need to trust yourself and your body.
When I was pregnant with my second, I wanted to be active and exercising and doing all the things that society tells you healthy moms should do. But every time I walked, I felt stabbing pains in my thighs. My first reaction was a sense of failure that I couldn’t be more active. Then, I intentionally pushed myself to validate my own feelings without judgement. I shared this with my doctor who told me that if my body was telling me to rest, just rest.
Pregnancy can be difficult but the body knows what it needs. Encourage a habit of listening and trusting yourself so that you can encourage others to listen to you. So often, Black people are forced to be superhuman versions of ourselves but that’s neither healthy nor sustainable.
“So often, Black people are forced to be superhuman versions of ourselves but that’s neither healthy nor sustainable.”
4. Indulge Yourself, if Possible, and Lets Others Do the Same
We live in a country where being Black can be dangerous. Your existence should be a celebration. If you have the means, indulge in some pregnancy care: get that pre-natal massage and get it as often as you want. Allow your friends to throw you multiple baby showers. Take that foot rub. (Heck, ask for that foot rub!)
Now is the time for you to be showered with positivity and love. Bringing a life into this world is a miracle. You are a vessel of love and joy and should be treated that way by yourself and others.
“We live in a country where being Black can be dangerous. Your existence should be a celebration."
5. Find Black Parenting Support Groups
When I had my first baby, I joined a bunch of Facebook parenting groups. For my second pregnancy, I specifically sought out parenting spaces that center the experiences of Black moms and parents, like Moms Of Black Boys United.
Being surrounded by people with a shared experience was hugely affirming for me as a Black woman. I got advice on how to talk to my kids about things from colorism and police violence to self-love for kids of color. Black parenting support groups can be invaluable in tackling your fears and anxieties as a parent and can also be a wonderful place to share your joys.
Becoming a parent can be a joy and, even though we live in a country that does not affirm us as in so many ways, as Black people, we can fight against the system and bring our kids into the world in a way that is empowering, loving, and beautiful.