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“Simply put, I feel empowered,” says actress and Black maternal health advocate Tatyana Ali.

Congratulations are in order: Tatyana Ali and her husband Dr. Vaughn Rasberry welcomed their second child Alejandro Vaughn Rasberry to the world on August 15! The couple announced his arrival in an Essence exclusive on October 2.

Alejandro joins his older brother Edward Aszard who is 3.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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On the same day she shared her second son’s birth with the world, Tatyana reflected on her first birth experience in Essence and how it inspired a complete 180 in her and her husband’s approach to what they wanted from their second birth. 

“The birth of my first son, three years ago, went completely off script,” she writes in Essence. “For reasons that I have come to know are pretty much textbook, my low-risk pregnancy resulted in extremely questionable actions on the part of those attending and an emergency c-section.” 

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Tatyana, who wanted to have an unmedicated delivery, was encouraged by her doula to get an epidural, which left her unable to move. In an especially heartbreaking detail, she describes a doctor pressing on her abdomen: “[He] slammed his forearm on top of my belly in order to force my son down as though I were a tube of toothpaste.”

“My delivery room had become a circus,” she writes. “There were people everywhere but no one to help me deliver.”

After a number of failed attempts to suction her son out, Tatyana, fearing for her son’s safety, asked for a c-section. She was unconscious during the surgery having passed out from another trauma—having her son’s pushed back into her birth canal to prepare for his delivery via c-section, something known as the Zavanelli maneuver.

In the trauma of bringing Edward Aszard into the world and the joy of surviving to be his mother, Tatyana Ali became a staunch Black maternal health advocate. She’s worked with Black Mamas Matter Alliance, and in the essay, outlines the facts that lead to the tragic reality we are birthing under: Black women are 3-4 times more likely to die from pregnancy and childbirth related complications than white women.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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“After being educated in this new paradigm,” she writes, “I felt deeply in my heart that midwifery care in the Black birthing tradition and a VBAC birth in my own home would be the best choice for me and my family this time around…

“Simply put, I feel empowered.”

 

 
 
 
 
 
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“I feel empowered. I chose sugar cane as the backdrop for my maternity shoot because it signifies reclamation. It is the crop that my ancestors—from India to Trinidad on my father’s side, and from Ghana and Benin to Panamà on my mother’s side—cultivated before coming here to the United States. They built the wealth of the modern world and their blood, resilience and dignity are my children’s inheritance. I will keep it safe.” —@tatyanaali in @essence⁠ ⁠ Congratulations to Tatyana Ali and her husband Dr. Vaughn Rasberry on their second child, Alejandro Vaughn Rasberry! He joins his 3-year-old big brother Edward Aszard.⁠ ⁠ Photo credit: @eyekonicphotography

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You can read the full essay on Essence.

Tatyana Ali is the latest celebrity to share the trauma behind her labor and delivery story. Athletes Serena Williams and Allyson Felix shared the aftermath of their emergency c-sections in personal essays. And Beyoncé let fans know that Rumi and Sir Carter were born via emergency c-section, and that the family spent time in the NICU for weeks in Vogue and in her Netflix special Homecoming .

By telling these stories, the hope isn’t to scare women and birthing people, but to let everyone know what can happen when birthing Black. Hopefully the awareness will lead to a new reality where Black mothers don’t have to step into their labor afraid of the outcomes.

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