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A Personal Birth Story: Celebrating Black Maternal Health Week

As we close National Public Health Week and kick off the 5th anniversary of Black Maternal Health Week, I have my own lived experience to share with you all today. The 5th anniversary of Black Maternal Health Week is significant as I wrote this personal birth story at that same time to celebrate and memorialize the birth of my son, my rainbow baby. As public health experts, we know that maternal child health is a strong indicator and reflection of our society and I am grateful to be able to share my story with you on this important day.

Black Maternal Health Statistics

Black women in the United States of America are three to four times more likely than white women to die from pregnancy-related causes.

Black women are two to three times more likely than white women to experience a pregnancy-related death. Pregnancy-related deaths are defined as deaths that occur during pregnancy or within one year of the end of pregnancy, regardless of the cause.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that black women are also more likely than white women to experience a range of adverse pregnancy outcomes, including preterm birth, eclampsia, placental abruption, and maternal infection.

Even when differences in wealth, education, and location are removed from the equation, black women are more likely than white women to die from pregnancy-related causes.

So what can we do about this?

The first step is to talk about it and bring awareness to the issue. This black maternal health week, let's have conversations with our friends, families, and communities about black maternal health. So while my story is just one voice, I hope it sheds some light on the Black maternal health crisis in America and the importance of this week.

For context, this story is about the birth of a "Rainbow Baby", this term refers to a baby born after the loss of a previous baby due to miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death. Originally Published on my personal blog in 2017.

Motherhood: Natural Birth Story

Thank you all so much for your support and kind words as we shared such a scary moment in our lives. Baby Zuend, whose name is Langston Raffael was born on April 4, 2017 at 2:24 pm.

He is 6 months old today!

And is an active, happy, loud, and fun baby boy with the determination of an old soul. He rules our home with more personality than I could have ever imagined, he loves to eat and play and he lets you know when it is time to do either!

I wasn’t too sure what to make this first post about but a lot of my friends are scared sh+tless to have a baby so I’ll start the “Motherhood Series” with a good ole birth story… only continue if you’re into that (or nosey like me) if not just browse photos of this cutey, despite all my work he looks just like his dad. It’s a medical miracle because I pretty much cloned a human being.

I woke up around 6:30 am on April 4th- actually I’ll start the night before, on April 3rd. I was having a very bad toothache. It was one of those in your temple and eyes, all you can do is lay down toothaches. I couldn’t take anything because I was 39 weeks pregnant. My sleep was already disturbed because my unborn son thought of my uterus as a bounce house and loved kicking all night. So there I was lying in bed with a box of frozen coconut water on my face, I had read that coconut water may be helpful during labor so I had frozen a couple of juice boxes but I needed them now to ice my face.

Bennie's alarm clock went off around 6:30 am and I got out of bed with him. I was in a bit of a daze from rotating between makeshift ice packs all night and I think at some point I took a Benadryl, I knew it was a “safe” drug, in hopes of getting some sleep- it only added to me desperately wanting sleep.

Bennie left for work at 7:00 am and I was finally starting to feel the pain go away. I turned on Netflix and laid down in bed to relax, as I started to dose off I felt a mild pain in my stomach. A few minutes later the pain came again.

So here’s the crazy part.

I just knew I was going to be in labor for a long time. So I prepared a few things to do so I would not go to the hospital too soon, since I wanted a natural birth. I told my sisters I was going to bake a cake while in labor, because for some reason that made total sense.

So, after the first two contractions, I was pretty sure I had a stomach ache. Some type of rationale but I didn’t want to psyche myself out because I had read all of these stories about women being in labor for days or “false” labor for weeks. So I kept going back and forth to the bathroom because the contractions really move some “stuff”. By 8 am I was texting Bennie that he needed to come home because now this mild pain was picking up and steadily coming. I started to time them- I said I’d go to the hospital when they are 5 minutes apart but they started at 5 minutes apart, but some are 6 and maybe 7 or maybe I was losing track.

I decided to get in the bathtub because I read that can relax the “discomfort”, I say discomfort because I now know a new definition of pain! And if you haven’t gathered so far, I did a lot of research/ reading about pregnancy to prepare myself for labor.

Bennie gets home around 9 and I am in our bathtub, he’s a bit confused as to why I am in the bathtub but fairly certain it was in something that I read. At 9:45 am Bennie calls the hospital and we are told to wait till 11:30 to come, so that was my cue to try to take a nap. I go lay down in bed and ask Bennie to massage my back; another thing I read. Actually, I made Bennie watch the youtube birth class video (because I was too cheap to pay for classes we could get from YT for FREE). As soon as he touched my back to help the contraction pass my water broke.

We were at the hospital by 10:30 am, after some rushing through the apartment and a very awkward cab ride. In Switzerland, at least at my hospital, I could choose from giving birth with just the midwife, with a doctor and midwife, and because it is the University they asked if a couple of students could watch. As a note, by this time in your pregnancy, you don’t really care who sees your body, as long as they get the baby out safely and quickly. I asked for the doctor to be present but in the end, somehow ended up in the birthing tub. At this point, it becomes a bit blurry. I remember some animalistic moans that I couldn’t try to reenact.

My midwife never offered me drugs and I brought it up once but she told me Bennie and I were doing great and the labor was going really fast. So I had what my friends like to call a “Hippie Birth”. Bennie made a playlist with all the old-school hip hop, at one point Lauryn Hill was playing and I was zoning out into some “I AM WOMAN, HEAR ME ROAR” type zone. The midwife must have eaten cheese and sausage (#SoSwiss) on her break because she was coaching me to breathe and her breath smelled horrible. It took everything in me not to ask her to brush her teeth.

I mean it hurt, a lot. Yet, it was amazing. It was fast! (HINT: I read if you eat dates every day in the final weeks you’ll have a fast labor, it worked) I didn’t have any serious trauma to my body and healed VERY quickly. Langston Raffael was born underwater and then the midwife sort of swam him up to me for his first breath of air on my chest. He didn’t cry at first but was looking around, taking it all in.

I was in labor for almost 6 1/2 hours from the very first contraction till he was born. Bennie was amazing, we’re talking about a man that hates when I watch those TLC health documentaries because “they show too much”. He was in there cheering me on and coaching me, not to mention deejaying. So that’s the story! If you have any questions/ fears of your own leave them in the comments and I will write you my answer. I got some crazy questions from friends so don’t be afraid.

We bought donuts for the staff as we checked out of the hospital.

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