There are nuances and challenges to navigate in every marriage—and certainly in every pregnancy. But as actor Joshua Jackson (The Affair, Little Fires Everywhere) recently shared with Esquire, his marriage to fellow actor Jodie Turner-Smith (Queen & Slim, Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse) has been one punctuated by not only love and new parenthood, but profound and growing awareness of the racial disparities she encounters as a Black woman.
America’s healthcare system made its way into Jackson’s own home in an entirely new way last spring when he and his wife, actress Jodie Turner-Smith, prepared for the birth of their first child, a daughter. In the early months of the pandemic response in America, many hospitals weighed making women give birth alone, sans partners, to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. Turner-Smith is Black, and as Jackson says, that added an extra layer of unease to approaching labor alone. “The American medical system has a horrendous track record with Black women,” he says. They decided on a home birth for her April delivery.
“She wanted to be in a place where she was as comfortable as possible, understandably,” Jackson, who will ironically next star in Peacock’s Dr. Death, added. “And I wanted her to be in a place where she felt like she was being heard at every step along the way, rather than having to go through that filter of being a Black woman interfacing with the American medical system.”
While coincidental, the publication of the article was well-timed, as July 19-26 happens to be Black Maternal Health Week. As previously reported by The Root, Turner-Smith reflected on the choice herself in an 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.”
Not willing to risk letting his wife labor through her first childbirth alone, the couple opted to give birth at home, a process that unfolded over the course of three days, as Turner-Smith shared with Vogue.
“[Labor] is lonely at times,” Jackson reflected, “and scary at times, and also transcendental and beautiful, and you want to have your partner there. I’m grateful for every second I got to be a part of bringing our daughter into this world. It’s a magical experience—we don’t talk enough about the positives.”
In Turner-Smith’s words, it was “An honest moment of family and togetherness—a husband supporting a wife, our baby still inside me, the sacred process of creating a family.”
In just over a year since, that’s not the only support Jackson has found himself needing to provide, according to Esquire:
As protests turned widespread following the murder of George Floyd, Jackson says it brought on necessary conversations inside his own mixed-race home. After the birth of their daughter, Jackson says his mother-in-law and nanny, both of whom are Black, moved in with the couple. “It’s a constant conversation between myself and my wife, but to sit with the pain of these Black women, as they’re trying again to understand why this country that they choose to live in, and choose to love, hates them so much,” he recalls, “there was an intimacy, inside of that space, that I had never experienced.”
As he told the magazine, the intimacy was coupled with an unease that he hopes “doesn’t go away.”
“Over the course of that summer, the discomfort of white people of feeling complicit [in structural inequities] became more uncomfortable than the admission that we have a massive problem,” he said, later adding: “There was a mental space that white people didn’t really have before to focus and concentrate on the specific inequities of policing...[Last year] allowed white people to take that moment to say, I really cannot abide by this anymore. And it can’t be reactive, it has to be proactive. It has to be, I don’t want this done in my name anymore.”
In the aftermath, as a large portion of the white populace remains obstinately in denial about systemic racism to the point of politicizing (and deliberately distorting) critical race theory, Jackson notes: “We’re only truly defensive about the things we feel insecure about,” later adding “We don’t like not being the heroes of our own stories, right?”