(This article is published in recognition of Black Maternal Health Week, which takes place every year from April 11–17. The week is intended to deepen the national conversation about Black maternal health in the US; amplify community-driven policy, research, and care solutions; and center the voices of Black mamas, women, femmes, families, and stakeholders.)
Childbirth is often thought to be the most magical experience one can have. But for Black women, the road to motherhood can often be paved with horror due to the racism they face in the medical field.
Shayla Akande gave birth to a baby girl on January 24, 2021. Although her story ends with a happy and healthy baby, the birthing process wasn’t the smooth transition she had been hoping for.
In the United States, Black women are three times more likely to die in childbirth than white women. Many researchers believe the deep, structural racism embedded in so many aspects of Black women’s lives, as well as in the medical care they receive, is the most significant factor. Conscious of these statistics, Akande worked to create an environment that recognized her Blackness and supported her in every way.
“I chose to do a waterbirth; based on everything that’s going on with Black women in the maternal community, it just seemed like the safest thing,” Akande said. “I wanted a calm environment to birth in. I’ve also heard a lot of benefits about giving birth in the water.”
Akande and her husband chose a local birthing center, Seattle Home Maternity, in Columbia City. Akande sought out both a midwife and a doula for her daughter’s birth. She wanted to be able to get to know the people who would be delivering her baby. The saving grace of her experience would be her doula, who she found through The Perfect Push.
At 4 a.m., Akande’s water broke. By 8:30 a.m., she was at the birthing center. Everything was going smoothly for both Akande and her baby until she began to deliver.
“It was a shift in energy in the room,” Akande said. “It went from, ‘Hey, baby’s coming, baby’s coming,’ to the breath being taken out of the room.”
This was the moment when things began to take a turn. The baby was born with the cord wrapped around her neck, cutting off her oxygen. She needed immediate attention. When Akande heard the midwife ask for scissors, she knew something was wrong. They had begun to veer off her birth plan, which meant things were not going as expected. Akande had intended to cut the cord with her husband.
Akande’s mother, Bridgette Hempstead, stressed the helplessness she felt in those moments.
“My whole heart is broken because the room went from excitement, anticipation, to sheer terror,” Hempstead said. “I start praying. I’m praying for my son-in-law, my daughter. And I don’t have time to be scared. I just have to do what I can in a situation I can’t put my hands on.”
Author : Chamidae Ford
Read more in the original article : https://southseattleemerald.com/2021/04/11/how-medical-racism-robs-black-families-of-joyous-birth-experiences/