The prospect of giving birth as a Black woman is currently as daunting as it is joyful. Black maternal health has become a major topic of discussion in recent years—one we’ve covered extensively here at The Glow Up—as mortality rates for Black mothers have risen to three to four times those of their white counterparts; the COVID-19 crisis adding another terrifying and complicating layer to the persistent threat.
Queen & Slim star Jodie Turner-Smith cited the above statistic in a post-pregnancy personal essay for British Vogue’s September 2020 issue, writing “According to the [CDC], 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” (h/t Page Six). It was for this reason that the 33-year-old and her husband, fellow actor Joshua Jackson (Dawson’s Creek, The Affair), chose an at-home birth in Los Angeles for their first child, a baby girl who arrived in April.
Reflecting on the experience of first-time motherhood, Turner-Smith writes.“Every stage of my pregnancy brought its own challenges and lessons,” including nausea and subchorionic bleeds due to a detached placenta in her first trimester. “Nobody really teaches you about what your body goes through to bring a child into the world until you’re actually doing it.”
“God knows what my baby thought was happening, because I spent most of that trimester either on set, tearing around the center of Berlin with tactical gear and a rifle while blowing things up,” she says, referring to the challenge of simultaneously shooting the action film Without Remorse with Michael B. Jordan. “[O]r rushing through an airport to catch a flight back to America to promote Queen & Slim,” she adds.
Jackson was steadfast in his support, telling Turner-Smith: “‘There’s no part of this that I’m going to miss,’” she recalls. “And there wasn’t.”
The couple quietly married late last year, and Turner-Smith also writes: “Both of us had watched our own mothers struggle to raise children without such support. Both of us were determined to create something different for ourselves.”
The couple’s home birth would turn out to be a nearly four-day process. “Early in the morning on my third day of labor, my husband and I shared a quiet moment,” she recalls. “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. 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.”
The picture accompanies Turner-Smith’s essay in Vogue, in which the actress-model also muses about the turbulent world her first child entered into.
“Sometimes I wonder how I will explain to my daughter what it meant to be born in the year 2020,” she writes. “The historic events, the social unrest, and me—a new mother just trying to do her best. 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.”
Jodie Turner-Smith’s essay is available to read in full in the September 2020 issue of British Vogue, on newsstands now.
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