Wednesday, March 21, 2012


I spent nearly thirty-five weeks pregnant with Belle and blissfully unaware. It happens! It happens more often than you might think. There is an entire television show devoted to this phenomenon. I used to watch and wonder just how a woman could survive an entire pregnancy and not know it. Then it happened to me.

I had the shock of a lifetime when my water broke. Having never observed a pregnant woman up close (I have no sisters. All of my friends with babies gave birth far away from me.), it took me a couple of hours to put it all together and get myself to a hospital. Belle came quickly and relatively pain-free. My entire labor and delivery, from water breaking to birth, lasted less than five hours.

Sadly, my birthing experience was akin to a police interrogation. I know I was racially profiled. Doctors and nurses offered neither sensitivity nor compassion. It was assumed that I had been with a married man and had been ashamed to face the facts. It was assumed that I had been the victim of domestic abuse, and that me and my new baby were not safe. It was assumed that I would surrender my baby for adoption. Certain agencies were notified. There came a moment when I thought I would be separated from my baby.

I gave birth alone, to make matters worse. I had no family or friends flooding the waiting room. I had no one to call and no one to advocate for me. My own parents and grandparents were long deceased. I had no siblings. I had ended my relationship with Belle's father many months before her birth and had erased his phone number. It was just me and my new baby against the world.

Belle lost more weight after we returned home and regained it more slowly. The pediatrician we were assigned to offered no breastfeeding support. Instead of immediately directing me to the resources I needed to facilitate a successful breastfeeding relationship, where the baby thrives solely on mother's milk, the doctor scolded and accused until he ordered Belle into the hospital.

I had more questions to answer once we arrived at hospital. I wasn't feeding my baby, for all they knew. Lactation and nutritional consultants blasted my efforts and ordered my baby be put on formula. I even had someone assume that I, a university educated woman, a degree holder, was not capable of following the simple directions on a can of infant formula. I was heartbroken when I was informed I had lost my chance to exclusively breastfeed my baby.

It took six weeks before tensions simmered down. It took an understanding social worker to finally realise I am not that sort of young, irresponsible [black] woman who has a baby in the streets by a man she doesn't know and goes back out there. You know, the type of woman who leaves her baby with whomever, or, worse yet, leaves her baby home alone, while she goes out partying?

Today I am a proud baby-wearing, breastfeeding mom. I finally receieved the breastfeeding support I needed from Belle's new [woman] doctor. The milk is in! I am very hands-on and very interested in my infant daughter. I fall in love with her each time I look at her. I may have gone to Maui during my pregnancy, but that doesn't mean I am not fit for motherhood. Belle is well cared for and well loved by me. I will never let anyone tell me any different.

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