I’d been anticipating going into full blown labor at any minute for the past two weeks. I felt anxious, excited and a little scared. The unassisted birth experience didn’t seem obtainable even one month before it happened.
I’d been envisioning any outcome but the successful birth of our 3rd son. The fear-mongering of past precious pregnancies and birthing experiences rearing their massively terrifying presence in my thoughts.
With my first birth, I was met with a cesarean and a new fear and mistrust of my instincts and my body.
Past hospital stays after my first two births shared an aspect of discomfort with the lack of freedom given absent of procedure based pushback. So many moments that resembled a lack of care and respect for my changed, vulnerable and healing autonomy.
I didn’t want to have another baby without being able to say that I tried again. My body had gone through an abundance of change in the last 4 years and I was seeking renewed ownership of myself.
By this time I had seen countless pictures and videos; read multiple articles about unassisted home births. Moments captured of mothers’ faces revealing raw pain, joy, and liberation. THAT. That was everything, EVERYTHING, I expected birth to be for me. Trusting my body to change and expel a new life.
I decided to send out inquiries. I sent out three and my midwife responded first - I didn’t need to meet anyone else after we met.
I was 36 weeks so we didn’t have a great deal of time to prepare but I was met with a vast amount of support. Our visits immediately and always filled with positivity and excellent information.
Despite those wonderful interactions, that invisible veil of boundary made itself deafeningly present to me. Not a result of my ignorance or miseducation - this was cultural, marrow deep. All of the articles that I’d read, the images I’d seen were the stories of predominantly white birth spaces. It left me with the feeling that I was out of place in my own situation.
The topics of feminism and the re-establishment of sacred birth spaces are so commonly recognized as affluent, white ones. As absolutely excited as I was to be included, the fact that I went so long feeling as if I needed an invitation stayed in that small, back corner of my joy.
The day before Archer’s birth was chaos. Amassed amounts of worry, doubt, and fluster consumed our space. I tried to stay busy, attempting to oh-so-subtly assist labor’s arrival. I was awaiting my hodge podge tribe of loved ones to be there... ready to help me relax and focus.
I was met with a nervous, disgruntled matriarch and my anxious children. This, in no way, was an ease to my wound up mind. Very much the opposite.
I can’t do it. It won’t work. No one is here to help me, why did I think this would work?
There is no denying that my doubt was firmly rooted and fed by the lack of enthusiasm I was met with by my own kin. Even with the knowledge of my desires and my history, I was not met with positivity or full support - “You’re crazy.” “Having a water birth? Why?” Even up until to the very day and hour, “I still think you should just go to the hospital”. They didn’t solely feel this way, it’d been ingrained into them.
The doctors that overlook and mistreat our bodies are the ones we go to deliver our babies.
We see free bodies giving birth but not our own. The seldom times we do, it’s often in tokenization. A brown face in the sea of pale ones, not commanding space but only quietly mentioned.
I find myself now living as that face and body. That collective narrative the diversity quota in a sea of pale, pink ones. Just as beautiful, just as worthy, just as powerful but not fully embraced or included.
None of this takes away my triumph, but it tarnishes it in a way I can’t help but to acknowledge.
Is it just me?
Why are my other black peers asking me all these questions as if I was the living invitation they needed to feel welcomed to be that face with me?
When I reflect on my experiences, the common conclusion is my lack of belonging. A lack of comfort because, in some way, my body is not really mine. I am a presumed statistic, a stereotype. The diversity client or charity case. These moments of power captured and taken to be used as advertisements in a regularly white line up. This all creates a feeling of the disconnect lived here. Further fed by fear.
It all holds true.
With the help of my mother after her arrival, I finally relaxed in my space so that my body could make change. My husband checking in on me in between rearing our children, and my beautiful matriarch trying her best to be present despite her fear and mistrust of the situation. My birthing support echoing cheers while encouraging me to give in to the body that I no longer understood or had the time to learn to trust again, this was the moment of truth.
The absence of the eagerness to numb my pains yet still control my body was both empowering and unnerving. The comfort of my nakedness, the propping of my bedding, the smells of the frankincense and lavender near my bedside and my mother’s calm, soothing voice felt like light. A spark ignited within me to stop ...breathe, and listen. Though unprepared and still so unsure, I took charge, I knew when it was time to go down my steps and into the pool. Trying to listen only to my body, focusing solely on embracing every part of MY sacred space - MY birthing body.
I screamed. I cursed. I prepared to give in, to give up.
And then, I felt his head.
Two pushes later, he was in my arms. I’d DREAMED OF THIS. Imagined THIS.
No matter what happened after, this was all I wanted. It was not a fairy tale. It was not absent of bias from my family or body. Doubt echoed through my walls and rooms, as well as my mind but they can no longer take away my power.
Holding Archer in my arms, in a pool full of the birthing parts of us was the confirmation I needed that my body was capable and my choices were mine.
This is true.
The fact that I am now an outlier to a movement that preaches inclusion but is still limited, exclusive and privileged is just as true.
Mine now, another singular black body, in a sea of equally powerful, beautiful, white ones. Presented with questions, met with skepticism, and left still feeling entrapped by that veil.
In my bones, uncertainty lingers, even as I write this.
The “free birth space” is open to all but somehow women of color are still not welcomed there. My takeaway as I reflect on my own experience, is that the invitation isn’t needed.
My body belongs in this space, as does any women who wants to be there. No matter how this body is seen. No matter the background it presumably comes from. No matter who finds it to be taboo or eccentric or the privileged thing to do. It is obtainable and you absolutely have the right to choose it. Do not ask, DEMAND.
I’m honored to share this space, this freedom, with you too.