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5 things I wish I knew about prenatal care before I was pregnant

By Phillisha
March 25, 2024

Being pregnant is no joke!

Going through the steps to become knowledgeable about pregnancy and the things I needed to do to keep my baby healthy was intense. 

My first thoughts were horrifying. From age 12, I raised my siblings, so I had an idea of how to take care of a child, but I hardly knew anything about actually carrying the baby. 

I was worried and focused on the worst things that could go wrong. Growing up in foster care from the age of 3 to 17 does not help with keeping positive thoughts when it comes to starting a non-planned family. 

When I found out I was pregnant, I had no idea where to start to find resources. So here are some things I wish I knew before I was pregnant and some things I learned throughout the process.

1. It’s okay to change doctors

It is important to have a doctor who you trust and feel comfortable with. 

I had terrible experiences with two different doctors. One did not tell me right away that I was pregnant, taking away my options from the start. I was not able to make the decision for myself whether to have a child or not. I love my son and I wouldn’t trade him in for the world. I only wish I got to celebrate every moment and every step.  

The next doctor I went to told me when I was just six months pregnant that he needed to deliver my baby already. When I pushed for more information, he just kept saying “The baby is healthy, why wait!?” He pushed me to go to a hospital and while there told me there was something wrong with my placenta. But it just didn’t feel right to me. So I called my mentor and she told me to go for another opinion. 

Throughout most of my pregnancy, I felt rushed, lost, and concerned. But after finding this new doctor, it felt like everything was going to be ok. 

I went to quite a few doctors, until I met one that didn’t remind me of my past bad doctors. He asked me about a birth-plan and what I wanted. When I told him I didn’t know, he shared resources with me, told me I had plenty of time, and made me feel comfortable. Throughout most of my pregnancy, I felt rushed, lost, and concerned. But after finding this new doctor, it felt like everything was going to be ok. 

2. Have a support person.

There is so much going on in pregnancy: making a birth plan, picking a doctor, going to appointments, making sure you have a ride home from the hospital, and more. Things like that can make a person feel overwhelmed and stressed, which is bad for the baby. 

I am so glad I had my mentor to support me through my pregnancy. When I was faced with the terrible doctor in the hospital, and he didn’t want to discharge me, I was panicking, afraid, and stressing out me and my baby. My mentor helped me to relax and make the choice I wanted. She reminded me it’s okay to leave the hospital, it’s okay to ask questions, and it’s okay to be scared. It is hard to let people in sometimes, but I think it’s worth the risk. If there is help out there, take it, but remember your wants and goals.

3. Health disparities are real and can affect you. 

There are many factors that can affect your health care and can make your health outcomes worse. These can be based on being a current or former foster youth, race, income/socioeconomic status, level of education, and others. The most staggering example is that Black and Indigenous women are three to four times more likely to die during childbirth or in the postpartum period compared to white women, per the American Public Health Association.

The California Department of Social Services recently released a report that shows some of these disparities. What stands out to me, is that youth in foster care who are pregnant are less likely to get prenatal care at the beginning of their pregnancy than youth who are not in care. They are also less likely to get care after they have had the baby (postpartum). The RHEP team talks about this here on the RHEP website

As a Black woman and former foster youth who has experienced many barriers in accessing healthcare, I have seen firsthand the harmful effects of these disparities and the need for addressing them. Lack of insurance or transportation, and limited access to education and resources make it harder for many of us to get the care we need. Plus, many Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) have faced discrimination in the medical or foster care systems, and that can lead them to mistrust providers and seek care less often.

As a Black woman and former foster youth who has experienced many barriers in accessing healthcare, I have seen firsthand the harmful effects of these disparities and the need for addressing them.

All of these factors affected me. It was challenging to navigate the system and advocate for my health needs, which resulted in delayed and inadequate care. However, with the support of the internet and a few nice people here and there, I was able to overcome these barriers and receive the care I needed.

4. Accept that you will experience change.

I changed so much during pregnancy and it was an intense change. I had to learn the mothering side of Phillisha and not the survival side. 

The biggest changes I faced during pregnancy were:

  • Physical changes: Pregnancy leads to significant changes in a pregnant person’s body, such as weight gain, stretch marks, swelling, and changes in hormone levels. I experienced all of these and I really struggled with my weight. I was always hungry and stressed when I was pregnant, so I gained over 100 pounds. After birth, my body was completely different inside and out. I struggled with being overweight and hiding myself because I didn’t know who I was anymore. I had to learn to re-love myself and also to accept that it was okay and a normal experience.
  • Nausea and vomiting: Many pregnant people experience morning sickness, which can cause nausea and vomiting during the first trimester. Even though you may not want to eat, you still have to find something that you can keep down so you’re giving yourself and your growing baby the nutrition you both need.
  • Postpartum Depression: I lost interest in everything I used to do. Being a very active person, it was really hard for me but I didn’t want to accept that I was going through postpartum depression either. 

As a new mother, I was overjoyed t
o finally meet my precious baby. From the moment I held him in my arms, I felt an unbreakable bond forming between us. Despite my strong bond with my baby, I couldn’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of sadness and worthlessness. I hated myself for not being the perfect mother, for not knowing how to be a mother, for being afraid to be a mother. 

I hated myself for not being the perfect mother, for not knowing how to be a mother, for being afraid to be a mother. 

Finally, I opened up to my partner and sought help. Through therapy and starting to slowly get active again, things slowly started to improve. I learned coping mechanisms and ways to take care of myself while also taking care of my baby. And most importantly, I learned that it was okay to not be okay. I learned to be kind to myself, and that my past as a foster youth doesn’t have to dominate or be a part of my mothering story. 

To any mothers and pregnant people who may be going through something similar, I want you to know that you are not alone. Seeking help is not a sign of weakness. You are strong and capable. Be kind to yourself, and know that it’s okay to not be okay.

5. Accept help and use your resources

As the due date approaches, the fear and anxiety of labor and delivery can be overwhelming for some people, and that feeling continues to grow after birth as well. I read so much about preparing for birth but of all that reading it could not prepare me for what I experienced and that’s okay. So I recommend reading everything you come across, you never know what tips that will work for you or what you might learn. Support from your partner, family, and friends. 

Be mindful that when you pick who you have a child with, they will change too. They will have different views and while you are the best advocate, sometimes listening to the opinions of someone you trust is key. 

Finding support isn’t easy so if you find it, use it! Sarah Ferguson from Birthing The Block recently shared with me that the best way to find resources is to Google: Your town name + low cost ______. For example, “Oakland low-cost childbirth classes.”   

Most importantly, attend prenatal classes to learn more about pregnancy and childbirth. There are some free classes. You can also learn a lot from a doula and I found a lot of support through Black Infant Health. Did I mention you can find them for free?! 

Here are some other organizations I encourage you to look into for more resources:

We go through a lot of these resources on our “Self-Taught” episode, so be sure to check it out. 

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