Sugar & Spice: Being Ignored as a Black Mother in Labor
by Ashley Danielle
My labor story is pretty normal.
My water broke, we went to the hospital, my daughter arrived, and we were all overwhelmed with joy. However, things quickly took a turn just moments after my daughter took her first few breaths.
I was asked if there was anyone else who needed to be contacted and I gave them the name of my Certified Nurse Midwife (CNM), Cindy. She’d been working with us for months and the plan had always been to have the hospital contact her so she could make the drive from Mississippi, which would only be about 40 minutes.
She’d also advised me to bring some of my favorite light snacks to munch on while I was in labor, so my then husband handed me one of my granola bars shortly after being admitted to our room. One of the nurses immediately told me that I couldn’t have anything to eat and I just looked at my ex-husband. We were confused and didn’t really know what to do because our CNM had informed us of the physical demands the labor would place on my body. But believing the nurse knew best, I put the granola bar away.
This was the first instance, to my knowledge, of the staff disregarding my wants.
Research has shown that the amount of energy a woman uses during labor is equal to or more than the amount of energy used when running a marathon. So, just as we give runners snacks and hydration along the course, a woman in labor should be given the same if not more.
After waking up from a deep nap following my epidural, I noticed the sun was beginning to rise. Searching around the room, I saw a nurse reading over my chart and made a little grunt so she’d realize I was awake. She walked over to my bedside and told me it wouldn’t be too much longer until my princess would make her debut. My ex-husband began to fidget a little and made his way to the foot of the bed and asked me was Cindy still coming.
“I don’t know. They said they called her,” I replied.
He went out into the hall to talk to some of the staff at the nurses station and came back with some very startling news; no one ever contacted my midwife. Apparently, she had a reputation of being “difficult” and several of the doctors preferred not to work with her.
This was another example of no one following the requests stated in my birth plan. I’d been through so much planning and preparation when it came to my daughter’s birth plan and for someone on the staff to intentionally attempt to remove her from my birthing team without my knowledge was a blatant act of disrespect.
Cindy arrived about an hour later and was in full force.
She immediately began to advocate for me, demanding someone bring me some apple juice and handed me a snack from my bag. I remember her telling me and my ex-husband that I should’ve been eating something and for me to have gone without food for almost 12 hours was ridiculous.
My daughter’s actual birth was quite smooth. I couldn’t feel much pain thanks to the epidural, and everyone in the room remained calm and encouraging until the moment my princess entered this world. My CNM placed her on my chest and she immediately latched on to begin nursing before I slowly closed my eyes in pure bliss.
My daughter was here; I was a mother. It was the sweetest moment.
Then, it all went south.
I quickly opened my eyes to the sight of nurses scrambling to get my daughter from my arms and noticed she’d sort of gone limp. No one was saying anything to me, but spewing medical jargon that I didn’t understand. My daughter was taken to an infant examination table on the other side of the room, out of my view, and I told my ex-husband to go with her.
Then, I blacked out.
I was later told that my glucose levels had dropped to 32 and my daughter’s was at 17. We were both in serious danger of not waking up had my midwife not brought my daughter’s slowed suction while nursing.
I should have eaten something earlier.
I told them and no one listened.
In 2020, a sweet friend of mine, Dr. Chaniece Wallace was also ignored while giving birth to her daughter, Charlotte. Her story gained national coverage as it brought attention to the discrimination Black women often face while receiving medical treatment, and how it has caused us to have a significantly higher maternal mortality rate. For me, it was their intentional disregard for my requests for food, ignoring my family’s history of Type 2 Diabetes, and attempting to sabotage my desired form of medical care from my midwife. For Chaniece, it was an inadequate since of emergency after showing signs of preeclampsia weeks before Charlotte was born.
Preeclampsia is a blood pressure condition that usually begins after 20 weeks of pregnancy, according to Mayo Clinic. It can sometimes develop without any symptoms but signs of the condition include a rise in blood pressure, vision changes, severe headaches, signs of kidney and liver troubles, and upper abdominal pain.
Additional data from the National Center for Health Statistics show that “Black women are affected by maternal mortality at a higher rate than white women. According to the data, the national maternal mortality rate was an estimated 17.4 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births in 2018, when 658 women died.”
Black women, you deserve to be heard.
We deserve to bring life into this world in a safe and professional environment.
We deserve to not have our concerns written off as simply us being “dramatic”.
I am forever grateful for my CNM and my ex-husband for speaking up on my behalf. My primary advice to all expectant mothers is to make sure you have someone who will advocate for your best interests and your desires throughout your birthing journey.
I truly believe it saved my life.
Connect with Ashley Danielle on her website at https://www.imalwaysashley.com/ and on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/_imalwaysashley/, @_squareupmedia, and @thesquareuppodcast.
Ashley Danielle is known for being a lifestyle blogger and Christian speaker who travels the country sharing her personal abortion story in hopes of truly spreading a “pro-family” message. Ashley is a native of Mobile, AL, and pours into her community as a speaker, entrepreneur, youth mentor, yoga instructor, and crisis pregnancy center advocate. After earning her Bachelor’s degree in Communications from the University of South Alabama in 2009, she went on to earn a Masters’s in Executive Leadership from Liberty University. In 2015, she launched a successful health and wellness multilevel marketing business, and continues to inspire others through her popular online platform ImAlwaysAshley.com, Ashley Danielle is also the Founder and CEO of SquareUp Media Management which offers web design and social media management services.She currently lives in Mobile, AL with her two children, Felicity Grace and David where she serves at the Director of Council Communications & Community Engagement for the City of Mobile.