The coronavirus has amplified Black moms justified fears of giving birth in this country. But while the pandemic and Black maternal mortality crisis are real, mater mea is committed to sharing positive stories and empowering resources to support Black moms giving birth now.
Pediatric nurse Leah Marie Noble-Robinson and her husband construction worker Michael welcomed their first child, daughter Mia Grace Robinson on March 29, 2020. Leah shares her birth story with us.
My whole pregnancy was pretty complicated. I found out in October that I had a short cervix so I was put on bed rest—my own quarantine—and went on medical leave from my job.
I needed to have a procedure called cerclage to keep my pregnancy. My mother had multiple miscarriages before I was born and I knew the pain she went through with those losses. One of my older sisters also had the same procedure done with my nephew. Both of them said the procedure was relatively painless—they returned to work 1-2 weeks after—so when I found out that I needed one I wasn’t too worried.
My husband Michael was actually the one who pressed me to tell my doctor that “incompetent cervixes” run in my family, so we were able to get the cerclage done pretty early in the pregnancy—I got it placed when I was 16 weeks pregnant.
I went into the hospital early in the morning, was brought into the OR and given an epidural, and then my OB-GYN placed two stitches in my cervix. I was awake during the procedure and got super emotional during the whole thing just thinking about how much I wanted it to work so that I would be able to see my beautiful daughter—I found out her sex at 9 weeks!—at the end. I also thought about how much my mother had to go through in order for me to be here. It’s insane how much us mothers have to endure in order to bring a life into the world.
‘This Is Really Getting Serious’
When I started hearing about COVID, honestly, being a nurse and knowing that the media can hype things up, I wasn’t really worried in the beginning. I didn’t take it seriously until maybe two weeks before I was due when the flights for my mother-in-law and father-in-law got canceled. My husband is from Ireland, and his family was supposed to be here for the delivery. That’s when I was like, Oh wow, this is really getting serious.
When I was 39 weeks, I had to go for my check up to see if I was dilating or not. The day I went in, I had been having contractions since 5 that morning. Before I even entered the office that afternoon, I had to fill out a questionnaire and they checked my temperature. They won’t let you in obviously if you’ve had any symptoms.
There’s a bathroom as soon as you walk in, and they made me wash my hands for 30 seconds. Then I went into a room; they don’t let you into the waiting room any more. There were four chairs in each corner of the room where patients would wait to be seen, but there was only one patient at a time.
I just wanted to get on a monitor and hear her heartbeat.
I thought, This is nuts! I can’t believe two weeks before this, we were all sitting in the waiting room together. Now I’m sitting in this room in a corner by myself waiting to be seen by the doctor. My husband was out in the parking lot, not even able to come into the office.
My OB told me I was only 3 cm dilated despite the contractions I’d been having all that morning. He told me I could go and labor a bit at home or I could go straight to the hospital, be given Pitocin, and have my baby girl.
Michael and I had to think about a couple things. It was during the time certain hospitals were starting to not allow companions for birthing mothers. Our hospital was still allowing one visitor at the time, but we didn’t know what the future held so we were too nervous to wait.
I went home after the office visit, cleaned the house, washed my hair, ate dinner, and went to the hospital around 9 p.m. I was super nervous on my way to the hospital. I just wanted to get on a monitor and hear her heartbeat.
Masks, Bunny Suits, And A Beautiful Surprise
I honestly didn’t want to go into the hospital, just knowing that’s where all these COVID-19 patients are going to be and it’s the hub for all of these diseases.
Michael and I were both were wearing N95 masks and gloves. The entire time we were in the hospital we had to wear masks, even in the delivery room.
My husband wasn’t allowed to leave the hospital and come back, which was really hard because I have a dog at home. My mother had to come to my house and walk my dog, but she’s also a nursing assistant at a hospital that they’re calling “COVID Central,” so I didn’t want her in my house at all. For her to come into the house, one of the nurses actually gave me what we call a bunny suit. It’s basically a full-on plastic suit, gloves and mask. She walked my dog in that.
When the contractions started, they weren’t that bad. Then the Pitocin kicked in and OMG. It was honestly the worst pain I have ever felt. I couldn’t sit, I couldn’t stand. I tried to do some deep breathing and swaying of the hips to help…nope. Nothing worked for me. I called in for my nurse and asked her for the epidural ASAP.
As with many things in the hospital, nothing happens right away and it felt like I was waiting forever. Michael had to step in for me and ask what the timeline looked like because I couldn’t even talk. He advocated for me. He wasn’t scared to speak up.
I think this is an American—also maybe an African-American—thing, but most of the moms I know have had C-sections. My sisters have all had C-sections, my mother had a C-section with me. So I went into this whole process from day one thinking I was going to have a C-section. But when my doctor finally came and he said, “Ok, let’s have a baby. We’re going to practice pushing,” I thought, Wow, I’m actually going to be able to do this.
They kept saying, ‘She’s right there, her head’s right there!’
I was so scared. I honestly was just in disbelief that I was about to be a mom. Yes I had this big belly and had experienced some of the worst pain from those contractions but I was still shocked I was going to have a baby!
This might be too much but I want to be honest, pushing a baby out feels like having a really large bowel movement. When the contractions came on, I thought I would have the urge to push in my vagina area but that was not the case. I remember with each push I felt there was no way I could push again, but with every contraction, I got a new wave of energy.
At one point I heard beeping in the background from my monitor that I was attached to. Being a nurse I knew something was wrong. Then I heard, “Get her some oxygen.” I was so out of breath and my saturations were in the 80s (normal would be 95% and higher).
I didn’t push for too long, although it felt like forever. It was probably 10-15 minutes total. They kept saying, “She’s right there, her head’s right there!” And at one point I wanted to curse everyone out, but I only took it out on my husband, lol. I said to him, “No, she’s not stop lying!.” But she was out, like, two pushes after that.
We taped it. The nurses were so involved. It was a minimal amount of people, it was my husband, the bedside nurse, there was a NICU nurse just in case anything was to happen, and then my doctor and that was it. It was amazing.
I have the video of the ugly cry and everything. My husband cut the cord. The nurse actually took my husband’s phone and videotaped him cutting the cord and videotaped her. It was really nice. I didn’t want anybody to touch the baby, I didn’t want anybody to bring the baby into another room, I just wanted her to be there with me the entire time.
We wanted to run out of that hospital and get Mia home.
There was a lady handing out the lunches and she asked “Oh, did you just have a baby?” and started to walk into the room. I was like “Wait, I’m sorry ma’am, but with everything going on right now, I would really like you to not come into the room.” She was like “Ok, no problem.” A little bit of tough love, but you’ve got to do it.
We went in on a Saturday, and my OB said that we would have to stay until Tuesday. I was planning on leaving Monday AMA (against medical advice), but I was surprised when he came in Monday morning and asked if I felt ok to leave that day. Michael and I practically screamed yes. We wanted to run out of that hospital and get Mia home.
I was happy that she was born at nine months, because I was preparing myself to have a 24 weeker but she was 39 weeks 5 days. You feel the baby moving inside you for nine months, and to see her face? Oh my God, it was insane. It was the most amazing feeling to know that one, I birthed this baby. This baby came out of me. I pushed her out. Not to downplay mothers who have C-sections, either way it’s beautiful. It’s just the process of being able to push your baby out and then for them to lay her on your chest as soon as she comes out… Her face was beautiful. It was honestly amazing.