WThe news came out earlier this year that Rihanna was expecting her first child with rapper A $ AP Rocky. She looked so happy in the snow with her precious baby. It was obvious that this was not going to be an average celebrity pregnancy – Riri would do things her own way.
I applauded her with every interview and modern photo shoot — especially the epic silver Miu Miu set she wore on Mother’s Day. Yes girl, I declared, but the haters were many. It turned out that a black woman celebrating the surprise of her pregnancy made people Big Mad ™: Why is he not hiding? Who does she think she is? The criticism was not lacking, but Rihanna did not seem to be bothered. Her contagious smile made me wish I had more joy during my pregnancy last year.
I was afraid to feel joy because joy meant that it was real – that all our prayers and hard work paid off.
After several rounds of in vitro fertilization (IVF), my husband and I learned that we were expecting. Do not misunderstand me. I was grateful, but the excitement gave way to anxiety when I found out I had to come for an extra test to confirm the pregnancy results. We had never been so far in an IVF cycle and I had no idea what to expect. But the second test was positive and I learned that I would have to go back to the clinic for three consecutive weeks to do ultrasound on my own, during a global pandemic.
Every time I drove to the clinic, I murmured prayers and squeezed the steering wheel so hard that sometimes I forgot to breathe. I did not know what I would do if I got there and they could not find a heartbeat. Yes, I would be devastated, but worse than that: I would be alone.
Eventually, we “graduated” from the fertility clinic to a regular clinic, but I would not let myself get too excited. I was afraid to feel joy because joy meant that it was real – that all our prayers and hard work paid off. And if that were true, it would be just as quickly removed if we had it very excited or very comfortable. I wanted to shout from the rooftops and inform our family, friends and strangers on the Internet that we were waiting, especially because so many people had followed our fertility journey. But I was afraid to disappoint these people if something went wrong. Better to suffer in silence than to nurture people’s hopesI thought.
WWhen the time came to share it, I did it in a majestic fashion – hiring a videographer to create an announcement inspired by Beyoncé’s success, “Crazy in Love”. I looked glamorous on the outside (this #pregnancyglow is real), but I trembled for fear that something might go wrong at any time. I wish I could be more right now instead of worrying too far into the future, as Rihanna seemed to do throughout her pregnancy.
As my body began to change, I stretched my regular dresses as much as possible and felt limited by the available pregnancy fashions. In a world full of “mom” sweatshirts and meadow dresses with paisley prints, I did not want my pregnancy wardrobe to look like this maternal. Sure, I was raising a tiny person inside me, but being an expectant mom was not my only identity. I wanted to look and feel like myself — just pregnant.
“I hope we have been able to redefine what is considered ‘decent’ for pregnant women,” Rihanna told Vogue. “My body is doing incredible things right now and I’m not going to be ashamed of it. “This time it should feel festive.”
We had worked so hard for this pregnancy and everyone else was happy for us. I wondered why I could not feel the same.
In the third trimester, I developed perinatal depression. While I was familiar with postpartum depression and knew it was common, I had never heard of depression. while pregnant. I did not realize it affected between 10 and 20 percent of generators in the United States. All I knew was that I did not feel like myself: I was sad, empty and more exhausted than normal. There were also frequent seizures with crying and loss of interest in hobbies, such as my Peloton (although I made sure to connect every day lest I lose my turn with blue dots). I knew something was wrong, but having IVF, I felt I had to be incredibly happy and grateful at all times. We had worked so hard for this pregnancy and everyone else was happy for us. I wondered why I could not feel the same.
There were also more universal reasons to be less happy. I tried not to stick to the statistics of black maternal mortality because I had to maintain my logical and emotional well-being. However, the numbers – that black women are three times more likely to die from complications related to childbirth and pregnancy than white women – were running through my head. How could I radiate joy knowing what could happen once we got to the hospital? How could I be carefree when money and privileges do not make blacks give birth free? If Beyoncé and Serena almost lost their lives giving birth, what could happen to me?
My daughter was born safely by caesarean section and after a short stay in the ICU, we started to settle down as a new family of three. A few months later, when Rihanna announced her pregnancy, I realized I was not enjoying my own pregnancy as much as I could. Although I know the result is what really counts, I mourned what it could have been – just so obvious watching Rihanna’s pregnancy.
Of course, we do not know what is going on behind closed doors and no details have been made about her actual birth yet, but seeing Rihanna look happy my cheerful. He showed me what is possible: I can still look and feel like myself against the control and stress that plagues pregnant black women. I can be bold, pregnant and triumphantly happy.
For now, I enjoy the joy of seeing my daughter try new foods and try to crawl, but if and when we add our offspring, I will channel my inner Rihanna and not just her style and confidence. . I will try to embody her incomparable joy and liveliness — because black women are worth nothing less.
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