Why Pro-Choice Matters…Especially for Non-Viable Pregnancies

“Carrying a non-viable baby to term may not physically be a determinant to a mom’s health but it sure as heck is to her mental health”

First Lady Michelle Obama’s IG post hit me hard yesterday! “For the mother of a non-viable pregnancy, who is now forced to bring that pregnancy to term..” 

Post from First Lady Michelle Obama on the Overturn of Roe v. Wade 

The unimaginable pain and trauma for any woman that has to hear the words – “your baby has a condition not compatible with life” at any point throughout your pregnancy and especially when you are well through your 2nd trimester.

The only option is termination because the baby won’t survive. These are real life changing decisions and women should have the choice to make the best healthcare decision possible for them and their families! Personally, I’ve been there! I stand with all women that have been down or will go down this road! 💕

The photo below, I snapped over four years ago, 20 weeks pregnant with my miracle baby girl, Nia. I was inconsolable. Why would I snap this photo many may ask? Reasoning: I never wanted to forget the raw pain and agony inside of me having to make a life-altering decision with a tight turnaround deadline  due to a limit on late term termination in our area. I reflect on this pic often as it really inspire MY WHY to  get in the fight for #maternalhealthequity.

June 1, 2017 – My Life Changed Forever! My Maternal Health Advocacy was born at this moment!

Carrying a non-viable baby to term may not physically be a determinant to a mom’s health but it sure as heck is to her mental health. Those painful emotional scars never go away! My DNA changed on that fateful day of June 1, 2017. I was chemically never the same #facts! To be forced to carry a baby knowing the likely outcome with no options is literally torture. 

Part of my Pregnancy Journey: I was advised to terminate my sweet miracle Nia at 20 weeks. I was never mentally the same afterwards. The postpartum anxiety and PTSD I endured was unreal,, despite a great healthcare plan. This is another painstaking gap as a Black Mama and shows our government should have no say in my reproductive choice!

As a Christian Woman, I maintain my stance on pro-choice. Not every pregnancy is black or white. Truthfully, many pregnancies are very gray! Think about this – my baby was said to be “perfect” at 12 weeks gestation and by 20 weeks she was so imperfect that termination was the only reasonable option. While my hubby and I ultimately decided to continue our pregnancy at the last minute – less than 24 hours to the appointment time, it was an agonizing decision to make. The other painful reality was this procedure would cost us a whopping $10,000 as our insurance company denied our authorization. At the time my hubby and I both were public servants. The whole process was gut-wrenching and disheartening. First an unfavorable prenatal diagnosis and then the astronomical costs tied to this critical reproductive procedure. The justification to not cover the cost was Nia didn’t pose a risk to my physical health.

The healthcare system and legislation completely disregarded the implications of my mental health without initially providing appropriate behavioral health resources to continue this pregnancy. I couldn’t imagine today not having options about my own body.  My hubby and I  had sleepless nights trying to determine what to do! I was left to find my own behavioral health team, and to make matters worse –  some referrals that did not accept insurance.  Thankfully we were in a position to be able to afford the out-of-pocket cost but not everyone is that fortunate. Yet it was still a complete nightmare. 

In the WorkPlace: While I was mulling over this grueling decision – I still went to work and walked the halls of my former agency as a public servant and national security leader professionally together on the outside in high heels with beautiful proud belly, all smiles – yet broken on the inside.  I pretended  all was well during the day and cried my eyes out at night with my hubby trying the best way he knew how to be there for me –  for an additional 17 weeks – with the realization that my baby was destined for certain death.

This is why #CHOICEMATTERS! I am grateful my little miracle is not only surviving but thriving despite being so close to death at birth, then at exactly 2 months (coding twice), and then open heart surgery. However, my trauma scars remain and my healing is a daily journey, and it’s costly to continue my behavioral health. Yet our healthcare or justice system isn’t designed to handle the unique needs for BLACK AND BROWN WOMEN LIKE ME! But you say pro-life while not understanding that the baby I might be growing is sucking the life out of me. #RAWTRUTH  This is why #CHOICEMATTERS! I made the CHOICE to move forward. It was physically, emotionally, and mentally costly, but it was #MYCHOICE alone!

Present Day: Here we are today at the mercy of each individual state to be reasonable and empathetic, which over the last few years it’s becoming more apparent that’s not possible. Being forced to carry a non-viable pregnancy to a full pregnancy term is just downright cruel – inhumane. If you are reading my blog, and have not had to make this difficult choice, don’t allow religion to fool matters of the heart! Decision-making starts looking really differently when it hits your home! If you have been in my shoes, I will continue to stand with and by you!  I am a safe space for you! #WOMENMATTER #MAMASMATTER

Final Thoughts: Let’s be clear, you can’t be pro-life yet also want to limit health and human services to families – food, shelter, healthcare etc. Minimum wage won’t cut it!

Also, it’s quite interesting that this country is screaming pro-life, yet Black Mamas are dying at an alarming rate – 3 to 4 times higher than other non-colored women to be exact! Oh and our babies have a much higher mortality rate as well! So are we really pro-life or just when it doesn’t involve black and brown women. We matter and our babies do too!   It should still be OUR CHOICE!!! PERIOD! All Women should be the decision-makers of their own bodies. 

I will continue to fight like hell as a #maternalhealthadvocate 💕

#ProChoice #ChristianMom #RoevWade #ReproductiveRights #MaternalHealth #ReproductiveChoice #MaternalMentalHealth #MaternalHealthStrategiest #WomensRights #HumanRights #BlackMamasMatter #BETHECHANGE 

Mental Health Reflection: Surviving Nia’s Latest Surgery and COVID-19

Today marks one year post open heart surgery for Nia! As I write this blog post I am literally in tears! My God! My baby girl’s fate was death, but through supernatural healing she is here!!!

I believe this is a perfect opportunity to revisit my postpartum mental health journey. As most who follow Nia’s Journey are aware that my pregnancy and postpartum mental health journey have been quite the rollercoaster ride – but I am transparent about my own journey as Ive received so much feedback that it i has help others- mothers and non-mothers / men and women alike.

This COVID-19 crisis has definitely attempted to play on my psych and cause my postpartum anxiety and PTSD to to peak its ugly head, but it can’t and will not win!

Before the COVID-19 crisis was fully a thing, it was already on my mind, one because of Nia being a congenital heart and lung defect baby- anything respiratory related always puts us on heightened alert.

I should back up to the day before Nia’s latest surgery…Nia had her cardiologist appointment in Lancaster, PA with her godsent physician. This visit was routine until it wasn’t.. She had an echocardiogram, which was required for approval of her tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy (tonsils and adenois removal) the next day…

The Emotional Rollercoaster – Cardiology Visit

…Her cardiologist was concerned regarding the pressures on the right side of her heart being too high!! Let me just say, my heart sank and so did Antoine’s… I could see the worry in his eyes which is rare- he looked at his baby girl, and I could see his eyes saying not my baby girl again… My PTSD had me almost wanting to scream in the echocardiogram because Nia had to have two screenings to be sure….

The rest of the visit is was full of additional education and theories of what may be happening… again we are so thankful for the details we receive by Nia’s care team as they know we expect nothing less… the two hour drive is worth it!

Despite the news seeing Nia being so happy and wanting to check her doctor’s heartbeat was a little bit of sunshine and she is truly our light! She is full of joy no matter the circumstances – Sweet Nia is always so sure of herself and the love she has for others…

Nia would now need to go under again at a different time to the cath lab to be sure the echo was accurate…sooner rather than later…For now she was approved to have her tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy with the coordinated care of a cardiac anesthesiologist…

That afternoon Nia was seen by her skeletal dysplasia orthopedic team – truly blessed to have them as well! Dr. Stewart Mackenzie’s (Dr. William Mackenzie’s son) this go around…..

That evening we paid it forward to the NICU families and staff with a hot meal – doing this always brings positive to energy to my mental health…. feels good to do good for others!

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