The Power of a Black Woman’s Birth Plan
Making decisions about my prenatal care, on my own terms, allowed me to have the experience I wanted
I didn’t want any more ultrasounds. It wasn’t the cold jelly on my stomach skin or the awkward small talk with the sonographer while I sat scooched down, half-naked wearing a medium paper sheet when I clearly needed an extra-large that made me most anxious. It was the thought that I didn’t know. I didn’t know what the dozens of ultrasounds I had gotten over the years to diagnose my polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and ultimately endometriosis had done to my body. I wasn’t convinced the answer was “nothing.” I didn’t have any proof — just my anxieties. I was convinced that there was a rare percentage of women who got more ultrasounds than they should and that studies on the safety of ultrasounds had not been done to account for us. I also didn’t know what happened to the women who sat here before me. What energies were lurking in this dim, cold room and in this convertible medical bed?
“Have you made a birth plan? Have you decided where you will give birth and who you will want in the room?” The thought that these were decisions I could make was a novel idea to me.
I was always here in this room with this machine hoping for news that wasn’t bad. This pregnancy was marked with complications that are surprisingly common for Black mothers — premature birth risk, bed rest, and hyperemesis gravidarum. Two weeks after my positive pregnancy test, and more than a year after trying to conceive, my joy was quickly put back in its place when I began violently throwing up everything and nothing. The advice du jour was to suck peppermints, chew ginger, and it would all be better by the second trimester. My anxiety said otherwise. I told my obstetrician, a Black woman, and she promised to keep an eye on it.
She was careful with me. She listened to my seemingly minor concerns. After non-Black gynecologists before her had dismissed my painful periods and cramps, chalking them up to common and treatable with ibuprofen, she dug deeper. She asked me the right questions and gave me the right tests until I was…