I gave birth to my beautiful son this year, Donovan Shalom Boyd, a few days after COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic. All birth stories that lead to new life entering the world are beautiful. However, as Black women, we are now constantly bombarded with negative birth stories and news articles about the mistreatment and maternal mortality rates for Black women. We are now shining a light on birthing practices that have had disproportionate negative impacts on Black women.
I believe that stories matter and hearing positive stories and positive statistics can provide healing as we reclaim sacred birthing spaces. I believe that pregnancy should be a peaceful time of going inward and preparing for the journey of bringing new life into this world. Much like my son’s middle name, Shalom, my pregnancy and water birth were filled with peace. My hope for sharing these tips is to play a small part in helping to reduce anxiety and support women in having an empowering birthing experience.
The World Health Organization has declared 2020 as the Year of the Nurse and Midwife.
I desperately wanted a Black OB provider for my pregnancy and delivery. There is so much in the news about Black women’s complications during birth and on top of that there had recently been a string of articles written about the high maternal mortality rate in Louisiana. I remember going to my first appointment to get my pregnancy confirmed and felt rushed with no connection with the OB who was seeing me. I could tell I was just a number. In addition to that, there was no way for me to know which OB would be on call to deliver my baby. I knew that I wanted to try for an unmedicated birth from early on in my pregnancy.
I decided to look into Ochsner’s Alternative Birthing Center (ABC). When I went to my appointment at the ABC it felt more like what I was looking for. The nurse who did my initial screenings at my prenatal appointments was a Black woman who always made me feel so comfortable. The waiting room and exam rooms were filled with images and books about the beauty of pregnancy and childbirth.
There was one midwife that stood out to me, Sydney, at my prenatal appointments. She showed me so much care, answered all of my questions thoroughly at each visit, and just had such a lovely spirit. I actually prayed that she would be the midwife on call when I went into labor - and she was!
My Birth Story
I was one week past my due date. I had taken a long walk to the lake and back from my house. I laid down around 7:30 pm to get some rest. I was actually texting my husband some new information about ways to support me during labor when my water broke. My husband came home from work a few minutes later. I labored at home for about 4 hours until the contractions were coming on pretty strong. Around midnight we decided to head to the birthing center. I got checked in and my midwife checks my dilation - I’m 5 centimeters. I'm in active labor. Perfect!
When things got really intense my midwife asked me if I wanted to get in the tub. I did. They began preparing the tub. I got in and the water was such a relief. Suddenly I felt the urge to push. I told my midwife and she told me to listen to my body. At one point while pushing I began feeling defeated. The background song playing from my birthing playlist was “There Can Be Miracles” by Whitney Houston & Mariah Carey. It was such a fitting song. After about 45 minutes of pushing, my son made his appearance into the world after nine hours of labor.
In the end, though not without hiccups, I was blessed to have my birth plan to closely align with my actual birthing experience. I remember while I was in labor my midwife told me two things that helped me feel empowered to see my birth plan through even when I wanted to give up, “listen to your body” and “be brave”. Like her words of encouragement, I have compiled some of my most helpful tips and resources for moms preparing for a water birth.
Like any mother, the birth of my child has changed me. Birthing my son has taught me that I can do anything. I am thankful for this new perspective as I embark on the sacred journey of motherhood.
Justina lives in Gentilly New Orleans with her husband and son. In her leisure time she enjoys reading, traveling, research, fitness, going to the public library, connecting with new moms, and outdoor nature adventures with her family. You can find her on Instagram at @donovansfirstteacher