Pregnancy

Images of pregnant Rihanna and the words "Raising Anti-Racist Kids"
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Advice For Rihanna On Having A Baby In This Country, From One Black Mom To Another

“Guard your peace.”

Our collective dreams have come true and Rihanna, patron saint of all things stylish and cool, is pregnant and proud. In true form, she’s blessed us with an array of maternity styles that has me wishing I, too, had instituted a “belly out, always” rule when I was expecting. I’ve delighted in seeing her smiling with the growth of her family. I’ve also loved how she’s embracing this phase of her life and is literally shifting perceptions about Black pregnant people. As her due date nears, though, I can’t stop remembering what I did and did not know as a first-time Black mother. Even though some of my friends had been pregnant before me, I was still caught off guard by quite a few surprises.

We unfortunately live in a country where we Black mamas need to keep an eye on the care we receive because of the disproportionate danger to us in the birthing process. So here’s my advice to Rihanna, one Black mom to another, about giving birth and becoming a Black mother in this country. (Note: these tips are not just for Black superstar mommies. They’re also for us regular Black birthing folks, too).

This can be a beautiful, happy time. But it can also be really hard. One doesn’t take away from the other.

Giving birth is a life-changing experience that some find beautiful and joyous. While you can enjoy preparing for the baby, it’s okay for a range of emotions to exist at the same time. It’s okay for you to feel conflicting emotions about it all. It can be joyous but it can also be terrifying and scary. One emotion doesn’t negate the other. So often, Black women are forced to be superhuman versions of ourselves and are pushed to face the hardest parts of our lives with the utmost bravery and resilience. It’s okay to find some (or all) aspects of this journey overwhelming and it’s okay to need some time to process it all at your own pace.

Allow yourself the mental space to just be. You’re the only authority on what is right for you. Let whatever emotions you need to have be present when they need to be.

Rihanna, take all of your unapologetic boldness with you into every doctor’s visit and throughout your pregnancy, because it could be life-saving.

Speak up loud and often about your needs, especially when you know things aren’t right.

I am deeply honored to live in the era of an unfiltered Rihanna but even the most outspoken of us may lean on a doctor’s advice over our own intuition. This isn’t separated by socio-economic class. Serena Williams told a medical provider that things weren’t right with her health after the birth of her daughter. She knew instinctively that something was amiss. But even with her wealth and power, she still faced racism in the health system. She had to insist that the doctors pay attention to her concerns, after which they found that she had developed several life-threatening blood clots.

Rihanna, take all of your unapologetic boldness with you into every doctor’s visit and throughout your pregnancy, because it could be life-saving.

Designate people who will advocate for you when you are in too much pain to do it yourself.

While it’s important to be loud and advocate for yourself, sometimes it’s exhausting and you need a break. Rihanna told Vogue that because of hospital restrictions, she might not get her wish of having friends and family in the room when she gives birth. While that indeed might be the reality of the rules and regulations right now, designating one or two people to be your advocate during the toughest moments of childbirth can ensure that your wishes are kept throughout. This could be a partner, a doula, or a friend. Make sure that person knows what you want and will be a strong and relentless advocate for you throughout.

It is also helpful for your advocates to know what you’re up against as a Black birthing person. Do your research, and consider this: Multiple studies have shown that doula support can really make a difference in improving the laboring and birthing processes and bettering birth outcomes. Finding a Black doula can be a great way to ensure you have the support you need to have the type of birthing experience you want.

Know when to ask for help.

Giving birth and bringing a baby home is a monumental time. It can be overwhelming and stressful. It’s important to know when to ask for help, even as you want to experience so much of it on your own terms. It’s also important to know that postpartum depression can manifest itself in different ways for birthing people, especially Black birthing people, who are at a much higher risk. Rihanna noted this as a concern of hers in her Vogue interview, saying that she wonders, “Will I feel out of control emotionally? Those are the stories I hear from other women that scare me.”

Society tells Black women that we constantly need to prove our worth through productivity. It’s a gross belief that we need to constantly overwork ourselves.

Rihanna, if you’re feeling off, trust your gut, veer on the side of caution, and seek help. You have access to the best help and what that looks like is providers who will listen to you, validate you, and help you get the support you need.

Take whatever you need in those first few months post-birth.

Rihanna runs several successful companies and is working on an album (wishful thinking). While it’s important to do things that bring meaning to our lives, society tells Black women that we constantly need to prove our worth through productivity. It’s a gross belief that we need to constantly overwork ourselves. Those first few months after giving birth are so delicious and intimate and special for bonding with your new family unit. This new person in your world will bring a whole new set of experiences and feelings. Allowing yourself mental bandwidth to just be present for that is a gift to yourself. Making space to give in to the fluidity of those first few months can be a challenge for busy women like you, but it can also be meaningful in your parenting journey.

As a Black birthing person, even one with ample resources and means, pregnancy and birthing brings with it a determination to not let racist marginalizations affect what is a beautiful experience for parent and baby.

Rihanna, guard yourself, guard your baby, and guard your peace. The rest of us will be eagerly awaiting the red carpet debut.

Raising Anti-Racist Kids is a column written by Tabitha St. Bernard-Jacobs focused on education and actionable steps for parents who are committed to raising anti-racist children and cultivating homes rooted in liberation for Black people. To reach Tabitha, email hello@romper.com or follow her on Instagram.