My first pregnancy was my “ignorance is bliss” chapter. I was only 23, so none of my close friends had babies yet. My mom was the only person I knew who had gone through a pregnancy and she was 18 years removed from it. Basically, I was walking into uncharted territory. Looking back, I was potentially in danger and didn’t even realize it. I wasn’t aware that each year in the U.S., 700 women die related to pregnancy and childbirth. I had no idea that black women are 243% more likely to die from pregnancy or child-related causes than white women. Being completely honest, I walked into that hospital with full trust in my doctor and nurses thinking they would naturally do everything in their power to take the best care of me. I didn’t go in thinking about how I needed to advocate for myself or my baby. I just assumed it would happen. My husband, then boyfriend, was playing basketball overseas during this time. When I went into labor, he was doing everything possible to hop the next available flight home from Europe. I was just me and my parents and the doctors I trusted with our lives. What started out as a typical birthing story ended up taking a turn that could have been deadly for me and for my son.
My contractions started at home and out of fear of being sent home because it was too early, I tried to wait until I reached active labor. I was in constant contact with my OBGYN, who was very attentive throughout my pregnancy and always made me feel heard; but he was out of town when I went into labor and that immediately increased my anxiety. When I arrived at the hospital, the attending doctor was cool, but not nearly as attentive as my usual doctor. I was only 6 centimeters dilated and things were progressing very slowly. I opted to get an epidural, which was always a part of my birth plan. After hours of labor and not really progressing, I was induced with Pitocin and told we were just waiting for “things to pick up tempo.” It started to get late and me and my family fell asleep.
I woke up out of my sleep to my belly monitor beeping and the wave on the screen was really low. I paged my nurse to ask if it was normal (no one was on the way). Once she got there and checked the monitor, I saw her eyes get big as she paged my doctor and the rest of the nursing team. Not the reaction you want to see at all! They rushed in and after a second assessment from my doctor I was told I would be rushed into an emergency c-section because the babies’ cord was wrapped around his neck causing his heartrate to drop.
This was definitely NOT a part of the birth plan.
Scared doesn’t even begin to describe what I was feeling. I was young. A baby having a baby. I felt alone. My man wasn’t there. My mom couldn’t walk into the room with me because she had to be dressed in full surgical scrubs. Everything was happening so fast. I didn’t have time to ask questions or even process what was happening. They immediately whisked me away to perform the c-section.
This entire experience was completely different than what I saw romanticized in the movies. I thought it would be more like a bunch of “hee hee hoo-ing”, cursing, my mom lovingly looking me in the eyes and telling me how proud she was of me as she wiped sweat from my brow, and Dre would come bursting through the doors just in time for the arrival of our beautiful baby boy as we embraced as a new family of three.
But that wasn’t the case. Instead, I was rushed off to a cold empty room with fluorescent lights where all of the hospital staff were completely covered aside from their eyes. My arms were strapped down to the bed, and from my belly down was completely numb. There was a sheet hung to keep me from seeing what was happening but the sound of the doctor’s voice narrating her every move gave me some sense of ease. My mom was next to me now, but she wasn’t looking at me, she was watching my doctor’s every move like a hawk. I feel a tug at my belly, my mom gasps, and the delivery nurse yells out, “He got a big ole head!” (Not untrue but sis, really?! Could’ve picked better timing, I’m just saying). I feel like I held my breath until I heard my baby cry. My entire body breathed a heavy sigh of relief.
While my birth story wasn’t perfect, it was far from the worst-case scenario. It could very well have ended up like the story of Kira Dixon Johnson, who tragically passed away while giving birth to her son in what should have been a routinely scheduled c-section but after was allowed to bleed to death internally before the staff at the Sinai Medical Center took action. I could have very well been Kira. And the reality of that is almost too much to bear, as I’m sure it is for Kira’s husband Charles and their two children.
Life doesn’t come with a manual, it comes with a M.O.M.,
Tierra, aka Mommy On the Move