High Risk w/High Hopes: The Threat on African-American Women's Mental & Emotional Health w/High Risk Pregnancies

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As I prepare for my appointment with my high-risk pregnancy specialist this morning, I couldn’t help but to get a bit teary-eyed. Here lately, I’ve been consumed with identical thoughts of many African American women expecting and hoping to conceive someday. The what ifs flood my thoughts every day. The possibilities, more negative than positive, keep my insomnia company in the late night hours with promises of misery, agony… and more tears.

Black babies are twice as likely to die at birth and black women are four times more likely to die due to pregnancy related causes than caucasian women. If I must be honest, I’m scared shitless of those odds. Not only am I to be concerned for my child, but myself as well. The truth of the matter is we’re dying, and those odds include more “healthy” pregnancies than high-risks. My God are the words I find myself reciting more and more lately knowing that he is the only person who can redirect this epidemic.

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Since 22 weeks, I’ve known my status. I’ve been aware that I may go full term or that my body may decide it is ready to deliver. An unborn child is considered “viable” at 23 weeks gestation. This means that at 23 weeks, the odds of your child surviving are likely but not guaranteed. If your child is birthed at 23 weeks, you can look forward to months in the NICU and a plethora of possible health issues (mentally and physically). I was diagnosed and referred to a specialist at 22 weeks. From week 22 to week 23, I nearly lost my head with these possibilities in mind.

My emotional health completely derailed. The happiness I’d finally obtained due to this pregnancy flatlined. I was a mess, privately. Because, one thing about mothers, we aren’t allowed much time to process our emotions or see them through. Stress at any capacity during pregnancy is toxic to both you and baby. My doctor was sure to reiterate the fact that I should try to remain stress free. And, with an 8 year old running around expecting me to be mother and nothing short of, there wasn’t much room to be in my feelings.

That’s where the threat is posed. Women can hardly process information properly or react naturally because there is so much life going on in front of us that time isn’t on our side and neither is energy. We need it to care for the little ones we already have, work or keep our house in order. I must not forget that “keeping busy” is so many of our method to keep ourselves from going into that dark hole, but is not so good for us in the long run. At some point, we will have to think about it or face it -whatever it may be,

Talk about spiraling… tumbling… falling. Sanity? What is that is what I wanted to ask the world.

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While many women’s biggest threats to pregnancy and bodily concerns are not obtaining stretch marks during the course of their pregnancy, what brand of bottles they’ll use, if their child will have a head full or hair or come out bald, I don’t have those luxuries. Well, of course, I do but they are minute and things that I can hardly concern myself with because I’m so worried about the larger scale of things. You know. I can’t even have a bowel movement in peace without worrying about straining too hard or pushing too much. It is heart wrenching, the visuals of my newborn child emerging from my vagina and the toilet being it’s first method of contact with the world.

  • Restricted activities

  • More hours in bed

  • No sexual stimulation or penetration

  • Eat more, do less

My God. There were so many things that needed to be done. So many things that needed to be stopped. So many things I was told to look out for. And the most daunting of them all was the medication that I was given to secure this pregnancy and keep this little baby baking for as long as possible. There are so many good days when my mental or emotional health aren’t of concern. Yet, the minute I’m ready for bed I’m forced to the bathroom where I must pop a bottle, remove a pill and push it up my vagina as far as my fingers will reach. At that moment, I’m reminded of everything I’ve tried to forget that day.

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Yes, I’m getting graphic here, but I need you to understand the mental and emotional anguish that women are facing out here with little to no support. The chances of reassurance we’re expecting from our doctor appointments are slim to none, because every time there is good news it is almost always accompanied with something as equally bad. There aren’t any breaks. We don’t get those until baby is out of our bellies and thriving in the world. It was said that a mother’s womb is the safest place for a baby and I’m beginning to wonder how true that may be with women as myself.

Imagine celebrating your progress in pregnancy by viewing photos of infants born at the very week that you currently are. Every time I mark another week in my calendar, I lay in bed on google and watch videos of babies born at the exact amount of weeks that I just marked. I note their complications, weight, the mother’s emotional state and other things as well. It is dreadful preparing yourself for the worst while expecting nothing but the best.

At the stage I’m in, many women are huffing and puffing and claiming they’d wish the baby would come on up out of ‘there’. Every time I’m met with the question of if I’m ready to have my baby, the answer is always the same. No. I’m not. I want my child to stay in as long as it possibly can so that I’m not forced to deal with complications that I’ve been warned about.

I have faith that this little baby and I will get through and come out victorious, but I’m a realist at heart. I can’t help but face facts when they are staring me in the face. It is that simple.

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As I conclude this blog, I’m asking myself what the point of it is. There are so many.

  • I want to let anyone that is experiencing the hardship of a high-risk pregnancy that you are not alone. I may smile, laugh and joke on the internet streets, but I’m terrified.

  • I have a newfound respect for motherhood. You should, too.

  • Pregnancy isn’t always related to happiness and joy. There are some lows and their are some risks. When a woman decides to bring a life into this world, please be aware of the fact that she is literally putting her life on the line.

  • If your mental, emotional or physical health during pregnancy are at risk, then here are some ways to combat the ugliness of it all:

    1. Do more of what makes you happy.

    2. Take at least an hour of your day to reclaim your victory.

    3. Cry. Don’t be afraid to let it all out.

    4. Talk to someone. Spouse, co-parent, mother, friend or stranger. Don’t harbor those emotions or thoughts because they will boil over.

    5. Take it easy.

    6. Don’t let anyone convince you that your feelings aren’t valid. They are.

    7. Ask as many questions as you can during doctor’s visits to help you feel better about odds.

    8. Do your own research as well.

    9. Enjoy as much of your pregnancy as possible. It only last a few months.

    Best wishes. Off to see the doctor, now.