As my third trimester comes to an end, I’m really worried about my second birth experience. I don’t just mean the normal labor and delivery jitters either. I mean that I’m downright terrified that my delivery will be as difficult as my first. Because my first birth was traumatic.
I had read all the books on birth preparation and attended the right classes. But I didn’t know that a large percentage of how smoothly my birth experience would go related to factors I couldn’t control like my race and age.
My voice was silenced early on. My very reasonable birth plan was shut down before I even had the opportunity to attempt any of it. It seemed I had one of many medical professionals who saw birth plans as more of a nuisance than an opportunity for a comfortable birth experience. From then on, everything unraveled.
During childbirth, I was in a great deal of pain, my son was sent straight to the NICU, and I was unknowingly on the path to a retained placenta diagnosis — a rare condition that happens in about two percent of pregnancies. In my case, it was the result of my placenta being delivered in pieces and remnants being left in for nearly six weeks.
By my second month postpartum, I had been through so much emotionally and physically. I had to be an exclusive pumper because my son didn’t learn to latch properly until he was a month old. I’d gone through the horror of wondering if my newborn would need a kidney transplant due to severe fluid on both kidney’s (diagnosed as hydronephrosis) — thankfully he did not. I also had to have an emergency surgery to remove the retained placenta that left me mentally and physically weak.
A large part of those early memories are hazy due to the pain and discomfort that created a fog over my experience. But, I was determined to remain strong for my little one — even when my body felt weak.
Almost three years later, I’m well-versed in the risk factors that I face as a Black woman giving birth in America. I know my chances of preterm labor are substantially higher. I’ve personally studied (and experienced) the way medical professionals might ignore me when I express pain. And I’ve read plenty of research on the fact that I am 3-4x’s more likely to die during labor in the midst of our maternal mortality crisis.
Sadly, there are also many factors and health disparities that will put my newborn daughter at risk too. But the pain of considering those factors would just be too much.
Giving birth, especially as a Black woman in America, is scary business. The weight of that reality weighs heavy on my shoulders. It’s at the forefront of my mind each day. I hope and pray the stress isn’t impacting my children (born and unborn) as much as it impacts me.
One thing that makes me particularly anxious is that finding out who will deliver my baby is a lot like a game of Russian Roulette. There are six OB’s at my prenatal facility and assuming I’m given a chance to go into labor spontaneously, any one of them is possible. I tried to calm my fears by meeting them all, but with six care providers, it’s hard to feel close to any of them. I’d like to know who will be there for my baby and me. I think that would alleviate some of my worry. However, I’m not willing to schedule an induction for the added comfort.
Similarly, if something serious goes wrong, I’m screwed. Giving birth in a rural area comes with its own set of obstacles and disadvantages. The nearest hospital capable of handling serious issues is nearly an hour away. I’ve heard multiple stories of individuals having to be flown from our town to a hospital in a neighboring state because ours isn’t equipped to handle certain medical emergencies.
I don’t know what I will do if I end up in a similar situation the second time around. My husband and I have been through it already, so we hope that if we look for the signs, things will go better this time. But it’s impossible to prepare for everything. And I know that you can never fully prepare for the unknown.
Even though I would love to spend my free time in a corner with my arms embracing my knees while rocking back and forth, I can’t. I have a two-year-old son who needs his mother to be strong. I have a second child coming who will need me for every aspect of her life, especially for the first few months. But most importantly, I have myself. I can’t be defeated that easily. I won’t let that happen.
I have absolutely no idea how this next birth experience will go. It could play out much like the last one, or it could be obstacle free and wonderful. The truth is, I’ll just have to wait and see what life has in store. There are a lot of factors working against me and equally as many fears in the back of my mind. But I refuse to go out without a fight.