Jodie Turner-Smith Chose a Home Birth Because of Systemic Racism in Healthcare
British model and actor Jodie Turner-Smith recently opened up to British Vogue about her home-birth experience, saying that she and her husband, Joshua Jackson, chose this method due to fears about Black maternal mortality rates in America.
The Queen & Slim star, who gave birth to her first daughter on April 21st, said that she and Dawson's Creek's Jackson had decided on a home birth even before the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which poses yet another threat to an already-threatened demographic.
"We had already decided on a home birth, because of concerns about negative birth outcomes for Black women in America," Turner-Smith wrote.
She continued, citing her facts: "According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the risk of pregnancy-related deaths is more than three times greater for Black women than for white women, pointing, it seems to me, to systemic racism."
"We never imagined that in the coming weeks, hospitals around the country would begin restricting who could be present in the birthing rooms, forcing mothers to deliver without the support person or people of their choice," she added. "Delivering at home ensured that I had what every single woman deserves to have: full agency in determining my birth support."
The COVID-19 pandemic has only served to highlight racial disparities in the American healthcare system: As of July 2020, almost three times as many Black people died of coronavirus as compared to white people. But these disparities have been documented—and understood among Black and minority communities—well before these alarming COVID-19 statistics emerged. The CDC report that Turner-Smith noted in her essay, which was published in 2019, says that “racial and ethnic disparities in pregnancy-related deaths have persisted over time.” The report adds that “most pregnancy-related deaths are preventable.”
Turner-Smith ended up spending four days in labor.
It was no doubt an exhausting and excruciating experience, but the home birth allowed Turner-Smith and Jackson the “agency” and privacy that they believed would be lacking in a hospital setting.
"Early in the morning on my third day of labour, my husband and I shared a quiet moment,” Turner-Smith shared. “I was fatigued and beginning to lose my resolve. Josh ran me a bath, and as I lay in it contracting, I talked to my body and I talked to my daughter," the star shared. "In that moment, he snapped a picture of me. An honest moment of family and togetherness—a husband supporting a wife, our baby still inside me, the sacred process of creating a family."
She continued to express her gratitude for Jackson, who provided crucial support for her throughout her pregnancy. That was especially important during the early months of her pregnancy, when she was shooting the upcoming action movie Without Remorse with Michael B. Jordan.
"It made me realize how lucky and privileged I am to have a partner willing to follow me around the world, supporting me while I did my job," she wrote. "Both of us had watched our own mothers struggle to raise children without such support. Both of us were determined to create something for ourselves. He kept saying to me, 'There's no part of this that I'm going to miss.'”
And like so many parents, Turner-Smith is reflecting on how she’ll talk to her daughter about the turbulence the world (and her mother) experienced during the year of her birth.
"Sometimes I wonder how I will explain to my daughter what it meant to be born in the year 2020. The historic events, the social unrest, and me—a new mother just trying to do her best," she said. "I think I will tell her that it was as if the world had paused for her to be born. And that, hopefully it never quite returned to the way it was before."