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8 Birth Stories From Black Moms That'll Make You Ugly-Cry

Every mom has a birth story that drums up emotions ranging from warm and fuzzy to traumatizing and anxiety-inducing.

The maternal mortality crisis makes America the most dangerous place to give birth in the industrialized world, and it’s especially dangerous for Black women, who are 3–4 times more likely to die because of pregnancy- and childbirth-related complications than white women, according to the CDC.Despite this huge disparity in experience and representation, eight women prove that the black motherhood narrative is a beautiful one, and one that adds richness and depth to the breadth of birthing stories out there.Some of their stories happened at home, some happened in hospitals. They’re sweet, they’re beautiful, they’re magical, they’re painful, they’re upsetting…and they’re all a part of what is celebrated when we think of motherhood.And by the way, you can check out Mater Mea for more stories that celebrate Black motherhood.
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The maternal mortality crisis makes America the most dangerous place to give birth in the industrialized world, and it’s especially dangerous for Black women, who are 3–4 times more likely to die because of pregnancy- and childbirth-related complications than white women, according to the CDC.

Despite this huge disparity in experience and representation, eight women prove that the black motherhood narrative is a beautiful one, and one that adds richness and depth to the breadth of birthing stories out there.

Some of their stories happened at home, some happened in hospitals. They’re sweet, they’re beautiful, they’re magical, they’re painful, they’re upsetting…and they’re all a part of what is celebrated when we think of motherhood.

And by the way, you can check out Mater Mea for more stories that celebrate Black motherhood.

1. “I hovered, above myself, yet fully in my body.”

"As I write this, my giddy 8-year-old son flitters in and out of the room like a hummingbird. He peers over my shoulder, asking questions and offering feedback. The days before I was his mother are so distant a memory they sometimes feel like a dream."When the day of his birth arrived, I shed the accumulated fear and anxiety like a heavy cloak and lathered myself in serenity. It was a choice. An intention. This baby would be born into joy and self-knowing, and take it with him through life with each breath. "There were elements that weren’t quite what I imagined. I was induced with the infamous Pitocin, and since the nursing staff and phlebotomists weren’t able to find a large enough vein in my arms, they had to use a vein in my neck for the IV drip. Still, I wheeled my IV bag around the labor and delivery room, moaning, swaying, feeling my way into this new time and space. I did not ask permission. By now we had learned the importance of knowing our rights, and asserting them. My partner and I moved, hand in hand, dancing through the hallways. As labor progressed, he sat and read me poetry and sang my favorite songs. I hovered, above myself, yet fully in my body. "In the final moments, before I could call myself Mother, I felt a great strumming of peace and loss. I surrendered to my body’s knowing and my spirit’s desire to split myself open, and let in the most true and uncomplicated love. And I was home." —Nuola Akinde
Nuola Akinde

“As I write this, my giddy 8-year-old son flitters in and out of the room like a hummingbird. He peers over my shoulder, asking questions and offering feedback. The days before I was his mother are so distant a memory they sometimes feel like a dream.

“When the day of his birth arrived, I shed the accumulated fear and anxiety like a heavy cloak and lathered myself in serenity. It was a choice. An intention. This baby would be born into joy and self-knowing, and take it with him through life with each breath.

“There were elements that weren’t quite what I imagined. I was induced with the infamous Pitocin, and since the nursing staff and phlebotomists weren’t able to find a large enough vein in my arms, they had to use a vein in my neck for the IV drip. Still, I wheeled my IV bag around the labor and delivery room, moaning, swaying, feeling my way into this new time and space. I did not ask permission. By now we had learned the importance of knowing our rights, and asserting them. My partner and I moved, hand in hand, dancing through the hallways. As labor progressed, he sat and read me poetry and sang my favorite songs. I hovered, above myself, yet fully in my body.

“In the final moments, before I could call myself Mother, I felt a great strumming of peace and loss. I surrendered to my body’s knowing and my spirit’s desire to split myself open, and let in the most true and uncomplicated love. And I was home.”

Nuola Akinde

2. “Little did we know that delivering placenta feels like delivering another baby.”

Kanishka Sonthalia

“We wanted to be two mommies, so our baby was definitely planned. At 1:30 a.m. on Feb. 12, my partner Samantha (who is known as Umi in our family) felt a sharp pain that woke her up. We knew the process was about to begin.

“We headed to the birthing center with our doula and began the birthing process. For us that meant walking up and down the stairs, bouncing on a ball, and counting the longest squats ever.

“Umi took it one contraction at a time, and at about 10:30 p.m., asked if she could go home and start the process again the following day. She tried the birthing tub, the bed, and the floor to find some sort of comfort, but the pain remained the same. After seven more hours, Umi began screaming “SOMEBODY HELP ME! PLEASE, SOMEBODY HELP ME!”

“At that point Abigail was almost Earthside and began to make her debut. Umi got to the edge of the bed, on all fours. Abigail’s head slowly peaked out and after about three pushes, she screamed, frustrated that we interrupted her comfort zone within the womb.

“We thought it was over, but then a couple of minutes later the midwife said it was time for the placenta. Little did we know that delivering placenta feels like delivering another baby. But once that was done, Abigail climbed up to the boob to begin to nurse and latched right away. After a short nap, Abigail had her initial checkup and four hours later, we were at home as Two Mommies and a Baby.”

Nyesha “Uma” Davis

Kanishka Sonthalia

“We wanted to be two mommies, so our baby was definitely planned. At 1:30 a.m. on Feb. 12, my partner Samantha (who is known as Umi in our family) felt a sharp pain that woke her up. We knew the process was about to begin.

“We headed to the birthing center with our doula and began the birthing process. For us that meant walking up and down the stairs, bouncing on a ball, and counting the longest squats ever.

“Umi took it one contraction at a time, and at about 10:30 p.m., asked if she could go home and start the process again the following day. She tried the birthing tub, the bed, and the floor to find some sort of comfort, but the pain remained the same. After seven more hours, Umi began screaming “SOMEBODY HELP ME! PLEASE, SOMEBODY HELP ME!”

“At that point Abigail was almost Earthside and began to make her debut. Umi got to the edge of the bed, on all fours. Abigail’s head slowly peaked out and after about three pushes, she screamed, frustrated that we interrupted her comfort zone within the womb.

“We thought it was over, but then a couple of minutes later the midwife said it was time for the placenta. Little did we know that delivering placenta feels like delivering another baby. But once that was done, Abigail climbed up to the boob to begin to nurse and latched right away. After a short nap, Abigail had her initial checkup and four hours later, we were at home as Two Mommies and a Baby.”

Nyesha “Uma” Davis

3. “As a woman of color, the concept of birthing in a traditional hospital is daunting and terrifying.”

Jessica Lipscomb and Ruta Smith Photography

“Pregnancy is one of my favorite chapters of life. I’ve only experienced it twice, but they were both great experiences!

“With my oldest, Jackson, pregnancy was completely new. We planned for him but honestly, I had no idea what to expect. Because I didn’t have my mother and had a background of anxiety and depression, I had a feeling my pregnancy and birth would take its toll on me and invested in a doula for positive maternal influence. The pregnancy was a breeze, despite the most insane heartburn.

“My second birth was also great, but it taught me something new — to surrender. During his pregnancy, I researched WOC (Women of Color) maternal rates and was appalled. I became a spokesperson of this rising epidemic and had the discussion with my husband about my desire for a water birth outside of a hospital. I decided to give birth at the only birth center in South Carolina that allows water birth within four hours of arriving with contractions.

“These phases of life — pregnancies and births — taught me something new each time, and that’s how I’ll most likely plan to continue looking forward to them. As a WOC, the concept of birthing in a traditional hospital is daunting and terrifying, but this also explains the recent increase in home births. We need to be there for ourselves and other mothers. Listen to each other, support, and remember that mothers are born too, not just babies.”

Jessica Lipscomb

Jessica Lipscomb and Ruta Smith Photography

“Pregnancy is one of my favorite chapters of life. I’ve only experienced it twice, but they were both great experiences!

“With my oldest, Jackson, pregnancy was completely new. We planned for him but honestly, I had no idea what to expect. Because I didn’t have my mother and had a background of anxiety and depression, I had a feeling my pregnancy and birth would take its toll on me and invested in a doula for positive maternal influence. The pregnancy was a breeze, despite the most insane heartburn.

“My second birth was also great, but it taught me something new — to surrender. During his pregnancy, I researched WOC (Women of Color) maternal rates and was appalled. I became a spokesperson of this rising epidemic and had the discussion with my husband about my desire for a water birth outside of a hospital. I decided to give birth at the only birth center in South Carolina that allows water birth within four hours of arriving with contractions.

“These phases of life — pregnancies and births — taught me something new each time, and that’s how I’ll most likely plan to continue looking forward to them. As a WOC, the concept of birthing in a traditional hospital is daunting and terrifying, but this also explains the recent increase in home births. We need to be there for ourselves and other mothers. Listen to each other, support, and remember that mothers are born too, not just babies.”

Jessica Lipscomb

4. “I’ve always struggled with being firm in my decision making, but giving birth under my own conditions certainly created a brand-new me.”

Jahqué Bryan-Gooden

For me, giving birth was not about pain — it was about trust. Trusting my intuition, my body, my baby, and, lastly, trusting those in the room with me.

“Every day I looked down at my belly and said “I love you, I trust you, I need you, and I’m ready when you are.” On Saturday, September 15, my baby decided to follow my ideal plan — I gave birth and everyone was in attendance.

“I had an unmedicated hospital birth with a midwife because I wanted to trust my own body. Prior to going into labor, I had no clue what trusting my body looked like aside from not giving in and requesting medication. It turns out that trusting my body and intuition meant acknowledging how my thoughts and mental state impact my physical body. I trusted myself to know when to push, when to rest, and how to breathe deep enough to avoid screaming. Staying calm was critical. With the help of my support system, I swag-surfed through labor, danced in the shower, rocked back in forth on a creaky chair, and fittingly welcomed my daughter into the world to Alicia Keys’ “Brand New Me.”

“I’ve always struggled with being firm in my decision making, but giving birth under my own conditions certainly created a brand-new me. As I used the days, hours, and minutes before to set a tone for her environment, I needed my little Black girl to enter calmly and loved in a world where little Black girls are often unprotected. My journey, and hers, all started with trust.”

Jahqué Bryan-Gooden

Jahqué Bryan-Gooden

For me, giving birth was not about pain — it was about trust. Trusting my intuition, my body, my baby, and, lastly, trusting those in the room with me.

“Every day I looked down at my belly and said “I love you, I trust you, I need you, and I’m ready when you are.” On Saturday, September 15, my baby decided to follow my ideal plan — I gave birth and everyone was in attendance.

“I had an unmedicated hospital birth with a midwife because I wanted to trust my own body. Prior to going into labor, I had no clue what trusting my body looked like aside from not giving in and requesting medication. It turns out that trusting my body and intuition meant acknowledging how my thoughts and mental state impact my physical body. I trusted myself to know when to push, when to rest, and how to breathe deep enough to avoid screaming. Staying calm was critical. With the help of my support system, I swag-surfed through labor, danced in the shower, rocked back in forth on a creaky chair, and fittingly welcomed my daughter into the world to Alicia Keys’ “Brand New Me.”

“I’ve always struggled with being firm in my decision making, but giving birth under my own conditions certainly created a brand-new me. As I used the days, hours, and minutes before to set a tone for her environment, I needed my little Black girl to enter calmly and loved in a world where little Black girls are often unprotected. My journey, and hers, all started with trust.”

Jahqué Bryan-Gooden

5. “We have very little in the way of public protections against discrimination.”

Jasmine Banks

Birthing as a queer Black woman with a nonbinary wife in Arkansas can be really terrifying. Stigma for LGBTQ families exists globally. The mix of radical Libertarian ‘values’ and religious influence in the Midwest and Southern United States makes it especially toxic and dangerous for LGBTQ families. Moreover, we have very little in the way of public protections against discrimination.

“We were deeply grateful to our incredible nurse midwife, Samantha Corral. We chose a midwife because it was essential that I be trusted with my own body. Black women often come away from the medical birth industrial complex traumatized and harmed. This pregnancy was my last of four, and I was very protective of the experience I wanted to have. My midwife was so dope. She was culturally responsive and deeply kind. She not only provided us with excellent care, but she was also intentionally affirming of us and celebrated our queer family. Our baby was born 20 minutes after I arrived at the birth center with one push, and was greeted by their ecstatic siblings.

“In a world where Black maternal and infant mortality is the norm, I felt incredibly fortunate to be trusted and provided responsive and quality care. Black motherhood, queer Black motherhood, is inherently political.

Jasmine Banks

Jasmine Banks

Birthing as a queer Black woman with a nonbinary wife in Arkansas can be really terrifying. Stigma for LGBTQ families exists globally. The mix of radical Libertarian ‘values’ and religious influence in the Midwest and Southern United States makes it especially toxic and dangerous for LGBTQ families. Moreover, we have very little in the way of public protections against discrimination.

“We were deeply grateful to our incredible nurse midwife, Samantha Corral. We chose a midwife because it was essential that I be trusted with my own body. Black women often come away from the medical birth industrial complex traumatized and harmed. This pregnancy was my last of four, and I was very protective of the experience I wanted to have. My midwife was so dope. She was culturally responsive and deeply kind. She not only provided us with excellent care, but she was also intentionally affirming of us and celebrated our queer family. Our baby was born 20 minutes after I arrived at the birth center with one push, and was greeted by their ecstatic siblings.

“In a world where Black maternal and infant mortality is the norm, I felt incredibly fortunate to be trusted and provided responsive and quality care. Black motherhood, queer Black motherhood, is inherently political.

Jasmine Banks

6. “I decided no way in hell did I carry this blessing for what was more than 10 months to risk losing her because I didn’t want to be cut open.”

"It was May 24, her due date, and she still was not here. The child we had prayed, planned, and impatiently waited for was taking her sweet time. I did everything in my locus of control to help her enter this Earth, but she didn’t budge (and she still does things on her own time, lol). My consolation? My doctor reminding me she can’t stay in there forever. "Every day after her due date, I thought, today is surely the day. I hit 41 weeks and still my sweet baby girl had not arrived. I had read enough articles, blogs, and heard all the stories about the horrors of being induced. As I tried to remain calm, I tried to remain focused on simply giving birth to a healthy baby. "Another week had passed and still no baby. On June 1, I checked into the hospital and my induction process began. You name it, they tried it all on me. They swept my membranes, they tried Cervidil and at last, Pitocin. June 2 rolled around, 24 hours of pain, discomfort, constant praying, and hoping had passed and I had not progressed past 2 centimeters of dilation. "I decided no way in hell did I carry this blessing for what was more than 10 months to risk losing her in the next two days because I didn’t want to be cut open. I took a deep breath, called a couple of relatives who are medical doctors, spoke to my parents, and prayed. Thirty minutes after mustering up the courage and trusting my doctor to cut through my skin, fat, fascia tissue, abdominal muscles, a couple layers of peritoneum and move my bladder and intestines to slice through my uterus, he removed my little girl from her amniotic sac. Her cry was the beginning of what remains my most 'prideful beginning' and is exactly what her name means: Ure, meaning pride in my Igbo language, and Genesis, meaning the beginning."—Nwamaka Unaka
Nwamaka Unaka

“It was May 24, her due date, and she still was not here. The child we had prayed, planned, and impatiently waited for was taking her sweet time. I did everything in my locus of control to help her enter this Earth, but she didn’t budge (and she still does things on her own time, lol). My consolation? My doctor reminding me she can’t stay in there forever.

“Every day after her due date, I thought, today is surely the day. I hit 41 weeks and still my sweet baby girl had not arrived. I had read enough articles, blogs, and heard all the stories about the horrors of being induced. As I tried to remain calm, I tried to remain focused on simply giving birth to a healthy baby.

“Another week had passed and still no baby. On June 1, I checked into the hospital and my induction process began. You name it, they tried it all on me. They swept my membranes, they tried Cervidil and at last, Pitocin. June 2 rolled around, 24 hours of pain, discomfort, constant praying, and hoping had passed and I had not progressed past 2 centimeters of dilation.

“I decided no way in hell did I carry this blessing for what was more than 10 months to risk losing her in the next two days because I didn’t want to be cut open. I took a deep breath, called a couple of relatives who are medical doctors, spoke to my parents, and prayed. Thirty minutes after mustering up the courage and trusting my doctor to cut through my skin, fat, fascia tissue, abdominal muscles, a couple layers of peritoneum and move my bladder and intestines to slice through my uterus, he removed my little girl from her amniotic sac. Her cry was the beginning of what remains my most ‘prideful beginning’ and is exactly what her name means: Ure, meaning pride in my Igbo language, and Genesis, meaning the beginning.”

Nwamaka Unaka

7. “Soon, my spacious delivery room was ready and the nurses wheeled me in to greet an answered prayer: a Black midwife who had just started her shift.”

Carrie Wilkins Averbuck and Clarissa Koenig

“I’ll never forget the midnight rain while we sped down winding roads to the hospital. My husband and I joked about our little bruja, pressing my insides, ready to greet the world on Friday the 13th.

“This baby would be my last. And the joy that filled the room when the monitor indicated a girl was mine too. So as my ankles swelled and my skin stretched over my rounding belly again, I reminded myself to be present — soaking in every transformative moment in the months leading up to her arrival.

“As we walked into the chaos of the overcrowded Labor and Delivery unit and the nurse informed me there were no beds available, I didn’t feel afraid like the first time I paced those hallways. My husband was a beacon of light, jumping into action to fill out paperwork, hold my hand, and get his girl a bed. He rubbed my back and snapped some pictures with a reassuring and emotional smile. Soon, my spacious delivery room was ready and the nurses wheeled me in to greet an answered prayer: a Black midwife who had just started her shift. She was in tune with me at every step, gently guiding me through the final pushes with warmth and wisdom that seemed sent from above.

“She slid into this world, loud and vibrant, into the capable brown hands of the midwife and straight onto my beating chest. My husband and I shared a defining moment in that hospital room. It was like finding our missing piece, abruptly, joyously. I learned later that Friday the 13th was once a day dedicated to the goddess; a symbol of female strength and power; a befitting arrival for our sweet, strong, healthy girl. We laid our hands on her little body and whispered our prayers and our dreams into her skin on this, the ‘unluckiest’ day of the year.”

Carrie Wilkins Averbuck

Carrie Wilkins Averbuck and Clarissa Koenig

“I’ll never forget the midnight rain while we sped down winding roads to the hospital. My husband and I joked about our little bruja, pressing my insides, ready to greet the world on Friday the 13th.

“This baby would be my last. And the joy that filled the room when the monitor indicated a girl was mine too. So as my ankles swelled and my skin stretched over my rounding belly again, I reminded myself to be present — soaking in every transformative moment in the months leading up to her arrival.

“As we walked into the chaos of the overcrowded Labor and Delivery unit and the nurse informed me there were no beds available, I didn’t feel afraid like the first time I paced those hallways. My husband was a beacon of light, jumping into action to fill out paperwork, hold my hand, and get his girl a bed. He rubbed my back and snapped some pictures with a reassuring and emotional smile. Soon, my spacious delivery room was ready and the nurses wheeled me in to greet an answered prayer: a Black midwife who had just started her shift. She was in tune with me at every step, gently guiding me through the final pushes with warmth and wisdom that seemed sent from above.

“She slid into this world, loud and vibrant, into the capable brown hands of the midwife and straight onto my beating chest. My husband and I shared a defining moment in that hospital room. It was like finding our missing piece, abruptly, joyously. I learned later that Friday the 13th was once a day dedicated to the goddess; a symbol of female strength and power; a befitting arrival for our sweet, strong, healthy girl. We laid our hands on her little body and whispered our prayers and our dreams into her skin on this, the ‘unluckiest’ day of the year.”

Carrie Wilkins Averbuck

8. “In the back of my mind, I wondered if I would die in the empty room. But he whispered in my ear, ‘Yes, you can. Be brave.'”

"When I think about what awaited me the day my son came into this world, nothing could’ve prepared me for the cold, sterile, white room — the bare layout, with just a bed and two broken chairs surrounded by unfamiliar sounds and faces as my water came gushing all over the floor. I looked up to see my partner staring back at me, concern etched across his face. Neither of us knew how to wrap our minds around the big, painful word looming in that room: 'prematurity.' "Just an hour before, the nurse directed me to lay down, noting in her chart that I was 'difficult and combative.' She prescribed rest and a sleeping pill, and when I refused, she just left us alone in that room. I looked at my partner again, this time to say it out loud, 'I’m scared. I can’t do it.' In the back of my mind, I wondered if I would die in the empty room. But he whispered in my ear, 'Yes, you can. Be brave.'"So I pushed, with my partner holding me — the soundtrack he made for us playing in the background. And then, as if the sky had cracked open and breathed life into that room, my son appeared. He screamed, loudly, and then stopped the second he was placed on my chest. But it was only for a blissful moment. Nurses whisked him away. "When I finally saw him again, his eyes were closed. He had goop on your face. And Dad had tears in his eyes. They had to put my son under. My whole heart sank and all I could do was let my partner hold me, hold us, together. Now he's here: vibrant and beautiful — full of energy and life. And so deeply loved. But I’ll never forget that cold, sterile room and two broken chairs. They will always be a part of our story, on the day I became a mom."—Amber Anderson
Amber Anderson

“When I think about what awaited me the day my son came into this world, nothing could’ve prepared me for the cold, sterile, white room — the bare layout, with just a bed and two broken chairs surrounded by unfamiliar sounds and faces as my water came gushing all over the floor. I looked up to see my partner staring back at me, concern etched across his face. Neither of us knew how to wrap our minds around the big, painful word looming in that room: ‘prematurity.’

“Just an hour before, the nurse directed me to lay down, noting in her chart that I was ‘difficult and combative.’ She prescribed rest and a sleeping pill, and when I refused, she just left us alone in that room. I looked at my partner again, this time to say it out loud, ‘I’m scared. I can’t do it.’ In the back of my mind, I wondered if I would die in the empty room. But he whispered in my ear, ‘Yes, you can. Be brave.’

“So I pushed, with my partner holding me — the soundtrack he made for us playing in the background. And then, as if the sky had cracked open and breathed life into that room, my son appeared. He screamed, loudly, and then stopped the second he was placed on my chest. But it was only for a blissful moment. Nurses whisked him away.

“When I finally saw him again, his eyes were closed. He had goop on your face. And Dad had tears in his eyes. They had to put my son under. My whole heart sank and all I could do was let my partner hold me, hold us, together. Now he’s here: vibrant and beautiful — full of energy and life. And so deeply loved. But I’ll never forget that cold, sterile room and two broken chairs. They will always be a part of our story, on the day I became a mom.”

Amber Anderson

Check out Mater Mea for more content at the intersection of motherhood and career.

J. Quazi King for mater mea



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