A place where Black Mothers can celebrate excellence and motherhood.

Oxygen Mask by Brittany Brady

It took me a long time to sit down and write this, to really reflect on a moment that was one of the most terrifying and love affirming of my life – the birth of my son.

My husband was out of town on business and was sad about not being there for my doctor’s appointment. He had only missed one other appointment and at 34 weeks, it was a quick check-in with a blood pressure check, urinalysis, and so on… nothing major to miss. His flight home was canceled and so he drove to a nearby city (2+ hours) to catch another one because he wanted to be home so badly. That’s the kind of man he is, willing to do whatever he needs to be the person he desires. He holds himself to a consistent standard of excellence and it is one of my favorite things about him.

As I went to the appointment he reminded me to mention the swelling I had and the random bruises on my leg because in almost every appointment, he would remind me of something to mention. At prior appointments, the nurse would check my vitals and comment “nice” or “great” when going through each step. On that day though, she stopped as soon as she checked my blood pressure. I asked “what’s my blood pressure” and she replied “I will let the doctor talk to you.” It seems that I developed pre-eclampsia (yes, the same thing Beyonce had although she calls it toxemia )  in a week’s time.

I started going to therapy when I found out I was pregnant in an attempt to develop a rapport with a therapist prior to motherhood to ensure that I am able to take the best care of myself, to take the best care of my son. I wanted to address anxiety surrounding the season I was in and entering motherhood. In the event that I had postpartum depression I wanted to be sure the diagnosis could be accurate so I would not fight it because I know myself and know that I would’ve taken convincing because I plan like that. My husband and I had gone to a few birthing classes and he watched almost an entire series on the Pampers channel of YouTube. We had already had one baby shower and had been very blessed with virtually everything we needed for the baby and already had his bassinet set up and a few essentials because again, I plan. But what I did not plan for was a condition that could have cost me my life and being immediately admitted to the hospital after the doctor told me that the condition was severe and that I would not be going home. 
 Photographer: Denzel Golatt

As I sat in triage, I was alone. I’m rarely alone. I’m married and have a million friends but for that moment, I was alone and thanks to therapy I know that was purposeful. A barometer, if you will, of my growth to that point and a reminder that “whatever I am given I can handle” like my therapist reminds me. I told my husband and family I was being admitted and was feeling pretty strong until I was lying in that bed, alone. I called my father and wept and he cried too, I think. They planned to come on the first flight they could. My sister, a physician, was doing the same. I told my good friend Geva that yes, I did need someone to come. She’s an amazing woman who would leave company to be by my side. Yet another reminder of how God can orchestrate things to be exactly what you need in that moment because Geva happens to be a nurse. I had no idea how sick I was but she did and stayed with me until another friend, Tia, could come meet me. I was not alone anymore. 
It was close to when my husband arrived that the doctor told me that the baby would either come that day or in the next two weeks but I was definitely not making it until my due date of September 11th and this was on August 3rd. They took me to a perinatal specialist, who I ironically already knew because my son had a choroid plexus cyst as he was developing. When my primary doctor, a Black woman, saw it she told me that she did not want me to freak out and google but she knew I was going to freak out and google. She said that it is like a mole, something that should be monitored but generally nothing to worry about. She was right but it took me to this specialist anyway who my husband and I call “Mr. Rogers” because his demeanor is that soothing. Seeing him, on that day, made me feel better and reminded me that I could not have planned any minute of this occurrence this well. He looked at the baby and calmed me and said the baby looked great, in spite of being on the small side. I wrapped my mind around delivering premature and what that may mean for myself and the baby. 

Photographer Denzel Golatt

My blood pressure continued to rise and it became apparent that I would need to deliver the baby because I was at risk of stroke or seizure. My kidneys and liver were also in danger because of how high my blood pressure was. It should be mentioned here that the doctor I had was not my primary doctor. I purposely picked my physician because she was a Black woman and you hear so many stories in the news about Black women not getting adequate maternal care. I was of the mind that a Black woman would not doubt a Black woman’s pain and could give me a high standard of care. However, she is part of a physician’s group and I was at the part of the pregnancy where I rotated through different doctors. This was actually my second time rotating to this doctor because he happened to be the one with availability and I remembered liking him. He has not disclosed to me but I believe he is a white male with some of the best bedside manner I think exists. He tried everything to get me to deliver vaginally and after 24 hours he told me that I would probably need a c-section. I want to emphasize how incredible his standard of care was and how much he tried to get me to do what I originally planned, so much so that some of the nurses kept mentioning how careful he was being. It was actually me who had brushed off every symptom I had. The blurry vision was because I needed to wear my glasses. The swelling was typical of pregnancy, I thought. The mild headache was ignored because I suffer from migraines. Thankfully, I was under the care of doctors who informed me that none of these things were coincidence and took my life very seriously. I am grateful that this was my experience and that he was not attempting to rush me or brush me off. I felt the sincerity of my entire care team, every doctor and every nurse. 
Within 5 minutes I was in the operating room with my husband holding my hand as they began the incision. My son was born at 10:49 a.m. at a whopping 4 pounds and 9 ounces. He was able to breathe on his own and was ready to be discharged from the NICU before I was even dismissed from the hospital. My parents stayed with me and my husband stayed by my side. My sister was present for the birth of her nephew/godson and there to answer any medical questions I had. None of this was planned. My family was not originally going to be there as I birthed my parents’ first grandson. My mother stayed with me as I recovered from the c-section and high blood pressure, giving me the 40 days postpartum to be cared for and rest like I desired. My son is healthy and happy and not born in September like my husband and I, giving him August to celebrate on his own. I could not have planned it better and I would not have planned it differently.
As I laid in the hospital bed, the morning that I would give birth, all I could think about was how badly I wanted a cheesesteak and how much I wanted my son to get here safely. They put oxygen on me because they stated that the baby was starting to lose it and with the oxygen mask on my face all I could think of is when they tell you to put yours on first on the airplane. My commitment to addressing my anxiety and getting better during pregnancy is the only reason I made it through the entire ordeal without a panic attack or a breakdown. I felt peace. I had my coping mechanisms. I was in a good enough state (be clear, I was terrified) that I did not let fear rule me but I was open to what life was presenting me in the moment. I was helpless, literally helpless, but not weak or defeated. I knew there was strength and purpose in my forced vulnerability and I gleaned every lesson possible from every moment of the experience. I put my oxygen mask on first and we all made it through just fine. 
Photographer: Marrica Evans 

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1 comment:

  1. Absolutely loved this! Praises to the most high that you were able to have a successful delivery for both you and baby and be surrounded by a supportive team. Mental health is such a taboo in our community so the fact that you made the commitment to therapy prior to embarking on your journey of motherhood is AWE-inspiring! Still learning to navigate self-care and motherhood as I type. Thank you for sharing!