[Birth Stories] Why It Mattered That Her Team Prioritized Her Emotional Safety

Nana Eyeson-Akiwowo, co-founder of the socially impactful Fourth Phase aftercare boxes, shares how her expectations of when and how she should bond with her baby tarnished her otherwise wonderfully supported and respected birth experience. She tells Adriana how this hyperfocus on bonding impacted her postpartum, and how her mom helped her shift things with lots of wisdom and laughter.

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Nana Eyeson-Akiwowo, a Black Ghanian woman, smiles amiably, with one hand on her hip accentuating a rounded belly underneath a teal and gold colorful patterned dress, covered by a mustard yellow cardigan

Image description: Nana Eyeson-Akiwowo, a Black Ghanaian woman, smiles amiably, with one hand on her hip accentuating a rounded belly underneath a teal and gold colorful patterned dress, covered by a mustard yellow cardigan

 

Transcript

[Birth Stories] Why It Mattered That Her Team Prioritized Her Emotional Safety

Adriana Lozada: Welcome to Birthful, Mighty Parent or Parent-to-Be. I’m Adriana Lozada, and I’m so happy you are here for today’s birth story with Nana Eyeson-Akiwowo, first of all because Nana is a fantastic storyteller and there’s just so much laughter in this episode, even when we’re talking about the hard stuff, but also because her story exemplifies many of the concepts we’ve been talking about in our care provider series.

Now, one of the things that keeps coming up when we talk about how to find the right care provider for you is TRUST. Of how you need to feel comfortable enough with your provider to be able to call them at 3 in the morning with your questions. Of your being able to trust that your provider— and frankly everyone in your team— is going to respect you and your wishes, and do what they can to protect your space and energy, regardless of what type of birth you end up having, and this is very much the case in Nana’s story.

Nana is a seasoned humanitarian and social entrepreneur, founder of Fourth Phase aftercare boxes, and as she shares her story, you can really feel how much trust there was between her and her care provider, but also how the other members of her birth team— specifically her husband and her mom— were so fundamental in setting the tone for their joyous and respected experience.

Now, for Nana, the surprises really started coming after her baby was born, when she didn’t feel the intense love and euphoria her friends had talked about, and she worried she’d missed the initial chance to bond with her baby. Between hemorrhaging several weeks postpartum, having to exclusively pump, and being in the thick of the fourth trimester while feeling that no one had really told her how hard it was going to be, Nana even found herself confusing her baby’s poop for A&D ointment. Yup, A&D ointment. I promise you’ve got to hear this story.

You’re listening to Birthful, here to inform your intuition.

Adriana: Welcome, Nana! It is so lovely to have you here on the podcast. And why don’t you tell the mighty parents and parents-to-be a little bit about yourself and how you identify.

Nana Eyeson-Akiwowo: Thank you so much for having me. I identify as she/her, and I am a mother to a precocious nine-year-old girl. I’m married. I live in New Jersey. I am a social impact entrepreneur. And I’m from Ghana, West Africa.

Adriana: And so today we’re going to be talking about the birth story of that precocious nine year old…

Nana: I remember it!

Adriana: Nobody forgets.

Nana: No one forgets!

Adriana: So before, when you got pregnant and you were, you know, just starting to think about, “Oh my gosh, I have to give birth!” What were your wishes? How did you prepare?

Nana: So for me, I don’t know if I had any wishes to be honest, other than just deliver a healthy baby— and that is because of my GYN, my OB/GYN. And I remember we had a very difficult time getting pregnant. And so when we got pregnant, it was like, okay, so just, we just need a healthy baby.

And my doctor was very much like, “Don’t come in here with all your preconceived notions about this magical birthday experience.” And I was like, “No, no, no, I’ve read…” and she was like, “Don’t read any more books!” And she was like, “Put it down, because there’s a particular mom who can read those books and internalize and separate… you happen to not be that mom.” And so every single word I would read, I would call— and I have her personal number, she’d been my GYN forever.

So I’d call Dr. Greene and be like, “Dr. Greene, it said…” She’s like, “If you call me again…!” But we had such a great relationship together that it wasn’t dismissive. It was very much like, “You’re worrying for nothing.” Our goal is to have a healthy baby. We would like to have a vaginal birth, but we will have any kind of birth that is necessary to give us a healthy baby and give us a healthy mom at the end.

So, it was.. that was our birthing plan. That was whatever needs to be done to get the baby out. What do you think we got to do? What’s best… What’s not best… And we talked about everything and she had a great rapport with my husband and it just, she made us feel easy. Like this is going to be easy.

Adriana: So there was a relationship of trust and of open conversation…

Nana: And open conversation.

Adriana: …which is huge!

Nana: Which is so huge.

Adriana: And for her to know you enough to say, “You’re going crazy with the books. Back off!” and for you to realize, “Oh, she’s not being patronizing to me, and actually she knows me and that’s kind of true.”

Nina: I was kind of being a little coo-coo for her.

Adriana: 3:00 AM: “Hey, doctor…”

Nana: At 3! I was. Oh my God. It was horrible. And I was like that before I even got pregnant! I was the person that would, like, take a picture of my vagina. It’d be like, “Dr. Greene, what does that look like…? Before I come into the office…” and she’s like, “If I wake up to another image of your vagina… there’s going to be a problem.”

Adriana: There was a lot of trust.

Nana: There was a lot of trust.

Adriana: So then, how did it all start?

Nana: The birth or the actual delivery process?

Adrian: Well, like, what else started, Nana?

Nana: Well, because the birth thing… the road to getting pregnant was so difficult that I didn’t know. So that for us was its own process. So for us, the journey of her is, is not just the delivery portion— it’s really the, how did we even get to her? Because it wasn’t what we expected.

We thought we would just like everybody else, and you would just do, do, do, do, do, do, we’re pregnant! And it was like do, do, do, do- ectopic- do, do, do, do, do, do- miscarriage- do, do, do, do, do, do… something else. And so we went through that journey and we went through it with her, and she was equally as honest and brutal and loving, and so that was the beginning of the journey. But then the pregnancy journey… I’m also epileptic. And so being epileptic and being pregnant was its own, had its own challenges because I had never medicated during my lifespan of having epilepsy, but being pregnant and epileptic meant that the seizures that I was accustomed to managing on my own, I had to think about how they would affect her. But oddly enough, after delivering her, I never had another seizure. So that was really great!

So, I just had to be a lot more mindful about my body, and what my body could manage and do, and where I could go, and all those stuffs.

Adriana: Well, and that pregnancy is always such an almost rude awakening of: you are no longer an “I”, you are now forever a “we”, and it doesn’t get more real than when they’re inside you.

Nana: Yes. That everything that happens to you is essentially happening to them in that. And so, just adjusting to that, adjusting to my morning sickness, but taking everything in stride and taking everything… and “in stride” is my personality and that of my husband, so it works for us.

And so I think the day before she was actually born, I’d kept going to the doctors and then they realized that I was lacking fluid. And, so she was like, “We may have to induce.”

Adriana: How far along were you?

Nana: Oh, I went all the way to 40 weeks and a day!

Adriana: Okay.

Nana: But then she started to… her fluid started to go low. So we were thinking of inducing, but what she said was, “Why don’t you go home and try this tea out? See if this tea is going to work for you. It may, it may not, but if it works, that’s great because then it will do it naturally and we don’t have to come in and induce. If it doesn’t work, you’ve still got to come in tomorrow.” Anyway…

Adriana: Do you know what was in that tea?

Nana: It was the red raspberry leaf tea. And I don’t even think I had a full cup! I remember my husband came home and I’d gone out to eat with my mom.

I had like, this really hearty meal from Hillstone, where I just ate, like everything in sight. I was like, great. Went home, took a shower, drank the tea, fell asleep. By the time my husband came home, we were just sitting on the couch, I remember. At about 11, 12 started to get a little… started to kick in and I was like, “Oh, I don’t think the tea works like that!” But then the contractions started to get… I was like, “oh, whoa, this is… she’s getting in there!” And then I… but him being really nonchalant, he texted my doctor and was like, “Hey, I think something’s happening.” She responded via text: “Don’t you ever text me again when we’re having a baby! You call me. This is the time to call me.” He was like, alright. And she was like, “Come meet me at the hospital.”

And we went in and still the contractions were coming in and coming in hard. But it was so… It was eventful in a way, like we had a bad experience with a nurse, and we got through that because, again, my doctor listened to us and prioritized our emotional safety, of how we felt, making sure that our space and energy was secure, that we got through that really quickly.

And then my husband set the tone. It was great, because he’s really a quiet, “take it in stride” kind of guy, but like, we got into the delivery room when we was, when we figured out our staff and team, and he introduced himself and he was like, “I’m the dad. And I really want my wife to have a safe and easy delivery. That means I want her energy to be right. And so I really need everyone to tell us the truth, talk to us and like, just talk to us. Don’t make decisions without us. We really need to do this as a team so that she comes out of it and the baby comes out of it and everybody’s happy.” And they all were just kind of like, “Oh, that’s so.. Okay. Sure. Of course.” And they respected that.

Adriana: That right there is everything— like that was your birth plan. He came in and just told them the birth plan, and made it about teamwork and collaborative care.

Nana: And they met that and it was really amazing that, you know, they, my mom… My mom was there. My mom was doing yoga in the corner! I was like, I got my epidural early enough, like I asked for. I was like, “Hey, I’m not interested. I’m not going out for new awards here.”

Adriana: Hold on, though…!

Nana: I said, “Give me mine now! I want mine now!”

Adriana: So glad you had your epidural when you wanted it.

Nana: I wanted it.

Adriana: And I also want to take away the whole thing of that people that don’t have epidurals are looking for an award, they just want…

Nana: No, they’re not. They just want a different experience. And I was very clear, like my experience was going to be with the epidural. And it’s not about a pain thing, ’cause I’ve had this conversation with so many of my friends who went without the epidural, who went that route.

And it was like, with them, they were like, “No, the pain was there. We felt the pain, you felt the pain. We all feel the pain!” But they really wanted to feel one with that process and wanted to really, really connect with what was happening and I think the common thread was like, that if they, if they did anything, it would take them away from being in that moment. And that was their birth plan. I was like, “Awesome. Love that. I’m gonna go this way!”

Adriana: Do you remember when you got it? How far along you were? Or what were they waiting for?

Nana: I don’t remember how far along I was when I, when I got the epidural. But it was also based off of what I would say in terms of how, “How hard was that contraction for you?” If you scaled it. And for me, they were hard, but it was never a 10. It was just like, “Ow, it was hard. Oh, that was really hard, but I can still manage this.” And so if I could still manage this, let me control what I can control and manage what I can manage. And when I can’t manage it, that’s what I would need the support.

But I don’t know how far along I was in terms of dilation before I got it.

But I remember just being in the bed. My mom was between reading the Bible and doing her yoga poses. My husband was playing video games on his phone. And I think I was laying on the bed just, alright, I’m going to take a nap. “Ow, it hurts.” I’m going to turn my body around. I’m going to get up. I’m going to do the “wade in the water” movement- which is my favorite- like hunched over something. Just… that actually was really the best technique for me in getting through pain and was like, “Oh, this is okay.” If I position myself this way, I can get through.

Even now, when I have cramps, I will get down in this position!

Adriana: I love it. You found your rhythm and your ritual to get you through…

Nana: …get me through everything. I was like, okay, this is it.

Adriana: Was your doctor there the whole time? Would she come in and out?

Nana: She was, I mean, in and out frequently, but she was, she was there. We didn’t have… so by the time we arrived, she was able to come and make sure that we were comfortable and in our room, told us what she was seeing. She was like, “I think we’ll be fine. We don’t have to go through this whole induction. We can deliver like our original plan.” And heart rate was good. I was doing good. And then she left, and she said she’d come back. She came back. In between that we asked to keep one nurse, because it bothers me when you come in and I don’t know your name and once I’ve memorized your name, I just want to be like, “Nancy!”

And so when someone else would come in, I’d be like, “No!” Now, I’ve got to tell you, I have to explain my emotional state to you. ‘Cause Nancy knows where I’m at right now in my, or whatever that woman’s name was at the time. So yeah, I think that was probably one of the key things to our experience was that everybody really listened to us and allowed us to be… you know, we played our music, we lit our candle, we really created our vibe in our room.

And when it came time to deliver, Dr. Greene jumped on that bed and was like… she’s a very petite– she’s kind of like a Dr. Ruth, tiny woman, tiny Jewish woman, blonde hair, sassy, had her pearls on– and she was wearing the pearls when she jumped on the bed. And she was like, “Nana, focus. We’re going to get this baby the fuck out!”

And I was like, “Yeah! Get her out!” And she directed my mom and she was like, “Grandma grab that leg!” “Woowoo,” which is what she would call my husband, “Grab the other leg! Get focused!” He was like, “This freaking lady is always yelling at me!”

Adriana: “Don’t call me!”… “Don’t text me!”…

Nana: “Grab that leg!”… She’s always yelling at me. And he, when he grabbed that leg, my mama grabbed the other and I was like, let’s do it. And we pushed, pushed. And that last one, the baby’s head came out. She was like, you and I, everything came out and she wouldn’t tell me.

And I, and I remember, I do remember being like, “I hope I’m not pooping! I just hope I’m not pooping! If I’m pooping I’m sorry!” I remember being like, “Mommy, am I pooping?” My mother’s like, “Nobody cares about your poop. Just push the baby out. Nobody cares!”

Adriana: And everybody poops.

Nana: She was like, “Everybody poops, what is the problem? Like what is wrong with you?”

Adriana: Whatever gets you through it, Nana, whatever gets you through it.

Nana: Now that I think about it, I laugh. Because I literally heard Dr. Greene was like, “You pooped! Like every other freaking woman who has given birth did, ha, big deal.”

Adriana: So your baby came out…

Nana: Yeah!

Adriana: …along with some poop.

Nana: Along with some poop! She was primed and ready to come out. She was like, she was born at 6:18 p.m. and we started pushing at 6:10. We started the push at 6:00– 6:00, 6:10. And she came out 6:18.

Adriana: And then, how did you meet baby?

Nana: Right on top. She came right, she came right out of the body and stayed right on top of mine. Which was great because… oh, so actually, I take that back. She came out, Dr. Greene said, “Can you reach?” And I was like, “I can reach!” And then we brought her out together and then she came… then it was like, “Uh!” And then my husband cut the umbilical cord. I got to do the skin-to-skin and that was great, and we, she stayed that way. So then they wiped her, then Aki got her. I remember him taking his shirt off, and he took his shirt off and laid next to me and then he got her.

And then at some point I think I was able, because my mom was there, my mother was like, “You know, you don’t have milk now, but you have something that you can kind of give to her a little bit, if you want to.” Which was great, because it was my first experience in how to show her how to latch on, how to like, feel what that looked like for me. It wasn’t the perfect latch, but she, she took to it. We then transferred to another room, but we (as a family), we just kind of stayed that, the two of us… it’s four, the four of us, because my mom was still there.

So now the four of us just stayed, but my mom just kind of helped me clean up and when I was ready, she then binded my stomach, which is a cultural thing, which kind of helps. And I don’t remember even asking; at first, I thought I probably didn’t even ask her why, because the whole premise of my mom’s stay was that I knew that she would have all of her knowledge base of being my mother and grandmother to six (at that time), that she got this.

So whatever she said… whatever she says. And I remember them points when my husband was like, “What is she doing?” I was like, “Ah, stop asking questions! We don’t need to know.” I am, I am very good at knowing what I know. And also very good at knowing what I don’t know. And I don’t know what she knows! I’ve not given birth to three children already. So whenever she says let’s just follow suit.

Adriana: What was the most transformative part of all this for you?

Nana: I… I don’t know if the transformative part came at delivery. I think I went into delivering very much task-oriented. I have a goal. Get out, healthy baby, check. What I didn’t do or didn’t have a vision for was how I would feel when said baby would now be out. Now what? And what was different was that the euphoria that my friends expressed and they had experienced prior, of just like, seeing this baby and falling so deeply in love with this baby– and I, it wasn’t my initial thought. I went into this very– my husband will laugh, but I went into this weird kind of like, mama tiger, tiger mom type of thing– and I started sniffing her and it was very weird.

Adriana: I love that primal thing.

Nana: It was very primal! I was like, “What is happening with me?” and this need to sniff and make sure that this baby is mine. Don’t take it anywhere!

Adriana: But it’s such an instinctual mammalian thing to do; there are all these physiological processes that get activated through that sent through those through the skin-to-skin.

Nana: Yeah. So that… I was going through all of that. That’s what– but they didn’t talk, my friends didn’t talk about that. So I thought that there was– to be quite honest, I was like, there’s something wrong. I didn’t bond with the baby. Damn, I missed it! But I think if I’m being honest, my experience, it was very much like, not so much what I even expected, because I didn’t have any expectation of what it was supposed to be like (other than: just get baby out of body).

I think we took everything in stride and whenever something didn’t fit with our energy, we shifted, and we made sure that everyone was aware, “Hey, this doesn’t fit with us,”— shift! And because we were able to also do this in partnership, it didn’t feel bad. Like nothing felt off; it was so even-keeled for us.

Now, when we got home, it shifted and that was interesting.

We do a naming ceremony seven days after the baby’s born. And I was doing everything normal: my mom was there, I was eating, I was drinking my soups, so I was doing all of the traditional things that I’m supposed to do. We were breastfeeding fine. We were getting milk. All of those things were good, but I was bleeding at a rate that was just like, something about this doesn’t seem right.

So on her naming ceremony day, we have to wear all white, which is probably problematic. We should think that through! Anyway, but we have to wear all white. And I remember sitting there, going in– the ceremony was in our house– and I remember sitting there and I was like, there’s no way I’m still bleeding or there’s no way that I’ve bled out of this brand new pad in the then minutes that it’s taken me to walk from the bedroom to the living room. Because I had just changed and by the time I came from the bedroom, sat down– sat down, was holding the baby– I had bled out.

And so then I got up again, and my husband saw that I had, but he was like, “This is weird.” We went to the, we went back into the bedroom. I’m like, “Okay, let’s change again,” by the time I get up, I’m just… so now at this point, I’ve just, now it’s just, you can’t even get up because I’m just gushing and I’m just like, “Ah, this isn’t working.”

And so as I’m gushing, then all of a sudden, simultaneously it’s like the panic in my brain triggers. Now I’m having a seizure. So I’m like sitting on this toilet, having a seizure, and gushing, and you can hear the baby crying, and the baby crying makes your milk come… and it is literally like all of the cuckoo clocks went off at one time. It was like, “Cuckoo! Cuckoo! Cuckoo!”

It was, that was very problematic. And so we went to the hospital and realized that I was hemorrhaging. And so we needed to find a way to clot up the blood and to make it stop and all of that. So then I was, I was admitted to the hospital and I actually don’t remember a lot of what happened after that, because it was really, we were at a point where it was like, well, we might need a blood transfusion. But thankfully they got it to a point… I think I was let out about a week later, where they didn’t need to do the blood transfusion, but in that week time meant that I couldn’t breastfeed. And so what milk I had pumped the week of delivery was all that she had.

So my mom was like, “I had to feed her. I had to give her the formula.” And I was like, “Damn.” And that was, that was the part where I was sad. That was probably the first time, ’cause I was probably, “go with the flow” with everything. But I really felt that because I didn’t think that I was, that I had bonded with her at point of birth. I thought that breastfeeding would be our moment to bond.

And so I really wanted to maintain a fully-breastfed baby and going to the hospital for that week, took us off-track, because by this time a week of her having to get formula, she really was looking at me like, “Ma’am, I don’t know what that is, but it’s not what it’s, what, it’s not where it’s at. ‘Cause when I go to this other lady– this old lady over here– whatever she gives me just be comin’. When I come over to you, I feel like I gotta do.” It was funny because you could see it in her face… when she would go to, my mom would feed her. She would just be like, Oh!” Her whole body would just be like, “Yeah! Granny, you got me.”

It was so sad. But I was like, “Mommy, if we feed her and then she can come, maybe she can like, the nursing isn’t necessarily for the food, but for the soothing.” So then it became that I did a lot of the feedings because that way that was our time.

And so whether it be, whether it be a little bit of nipple, just so she could get on it, or if it’s nipple at the end, or if it’s when she’s crying, so she would feel like being on me was, was like, “That’s where I should be.”

Adriana: Did you find that after all that, you got to that point where it was, you were soothing to her and you felt the bond?

Nana: Yes, I finally started to feel like I felt the bond. And I think my mom had a very African perspective of like, I think Americans have made this thing feel like you have to have this like, “oh, love” romanticized experience about it.

This baby is hungry and they just want to eat. Your bonding comes when they see your face and they smile. Your bonding comes when, when they cry and you come to them. That’s where you also are bonding because that for them is like… when I am feeling this weird feeling of emotions, the person that makes me back to my happy feeling is this lady here. So this notion that you only could bond, if you breastfed her, or you could only bond after you deliver, that’s not real.

Adriana: Well, and even that idea of, “Oh, falling completely in love with you”– if that doesn’t happen immediately, it’s totally fine.

Nana: It’s totally fine.

Adriana: That can happen months, years later. You still love ’em! And then suddenly at one point you’re like, oh, I’m in love with you.

Nana: In love with you!

Adriana: But it’s totally fine if it doesn’t happen right away. And I think we need to say that over and that over again.

Nana: And that’s what no one said. And everyone said to me, “Oh my God, I just fell so deep in love with the baby. As soon as I held the baby, it was just like magic.” And I was like, sniffing baby. Nobody said shit about sniffing. It was kind of creepy.

Adriana: I love it.

Nana: It was, but it was good, because even now she’s nine years old, when she falls asleep next to me, I sniff her. And she’s like, “Mommy why are you…?” And she, one day she said it– maybe like in the past year or so– she was like, “Mommy, can you sniff me?” And I was like, “Yes. Of course I can!” And I was like, “You, why do you say that?” She goes, “Because you used to always sniff me.” And I was like, “You remember that?” She was like, “Yeah, you were always sniffing me. I thought it was weird, but I like it,” and I was like, “Yeah, I like it too.”

Adriana: It was your own special, unique…

Nana: …our bond! We never had our unique bond!

Adriana: Nobody’s gonna take that away ever!

Nana: I like sniffing my baby.

Adriana: Sniff away! So good.

Nana: Yeah. So that, so that was… that was probably the biggest thing for me. One of the biggest things. And then realizing that I was different than I, the emotional part about it was also like, I was really hell-bent on getting this milk out and really wanting her to latch onto this milk.

And she was like, “It does not come fast enough.” But my… we pumped because I was still producing the milk. And I remember being so mad at that machine; that machine would put me into such a depressive crying state. And I didn’t know why I was crying. And it was like, I say now, like, I have tubular-style breasts, right?

And I’ve never liked my breasts. So on top of having these tubular-style breasts, I then had to put this thing on it and then it made a sound and I felt like Milky the Cow. I was like, “Wirh, wirh, wirh, wirh.” And I was like, “I’m being milked.” And I just… it didn’t feel like I was getting… like, what was the benefit? I didn’t feel like this reward because she wasn’t taking the milk from me directly.

We were pumping it into a bottle and she would only take it from the bottle. And that’s when she… it was just so like, “What am I doing all of this for? And do I…?” and I wanted to do, I was like, I was like, I’m going to do a whole year of this and committing to milking and trying to get her back to latch onto the breast.

And she was like, “Nah, I’m really not coming back there unless it’s nap time. Like, that’s not my source of food for me.” And it was, that was probably equally as painful. And just like trying to deal with that emotionally, and also identify what that was emotionally, because everybody thought I was sensitive.

Adriana: No. And from somebody who also had to end up exclusively pumping, I see you, so much. I see you.

Nana: I was depressed, depressed. That was probably my biggest point of depression was, or sadness was really just like, you know, I really can’t get this. The one thing I gotta do– you got one task! And then one day my mother was like, “Actually you have a few more tasks…”

Adriana: Ah, I already love your mom so much.

Nana: “If you think this is your one task, my friend, you are sadly mistaken.”

Adriana: Did they ever figure out why you started bleeding so suddenly?

Nana: Apparently I didn’t clot. Apparently I had clotting issues and that was the cause. And so I hadn’t clotted.

Adriana: Okay. Is there anything that we didn’t talk about that you want to make sure we say about your broad experience? We kind of focus on the birth, but really we know this is a spectrum from getting pregnant to…

Nana: …all the way to today.

Adriana: Exactly.

Nana: No, I think that all of the emotions that I felt during my fourth trimester, and also not knowing that there was a term for it, that it was called “fourth trimester.” That the sadness that I would feel, the kind of rushed emotion of anxiety, like all of those emotions were valid emotions that I was feeling. All of those things that I was going through were valid.

I was not the only person in the world to have breasts crack and other people were having that. They weren’t talking about it. They weren’t posting it on Instagram. And everyone made birthing look so beautiful and glamorous, and so for a really long time, I felt that I didn’t have a good birthing experience. And I felt that– I remember telling someone else, I felt that all of my friends prior were liars and that I didn’t want to talk to them ever again, because none of them told me the truth. My mom told me, but I wasn’t listening to my mom because I was thinking my mom’s experiences, like “That was 1977, Mom, like things have changed.” And I was expecting that my girlfriends, who I thought were having the same kind of experience, would share that.

And they didn’t share that. They just talked about how beautiful it was and all their pictures were great. And I was like, I blindly changed a newborn’s diaper, not realizing that that was not A&D Ointment, but that was her shit. I was just rubbing her shit all over her. It wasn’t A&D Ointment.

Adriana: This feels like full circle back to your concern!

Nana: Back to my, my concern about pooping! Did I poop? Not only did I poop, she pooped on me. I changed my daughter’s diaper one night, in the middle of the night, I was like, I’m not turning on any lights. And I thought it was a pee pee diaper. I don’t know what my mom finally was like, “What is that God-forsaken smell?” ’cause my mom and I slept in the bed together with the baby and my husband slept in another room because she was like, “He has to go back to work, and I’m here.” So she was really like a night nurse for me and her, night nurse-type, of, like, taking care of us. And she turned on the light.

Adriana: It turned into a Jackson Pollock painting.

Nana: Oh, boy, I smeared that baby in poop. It was tragic.

Adriana: I love that story. Thank you for including it. I’m so glad you did. But, you know, like the fact that she turns around and asks, “Can you sniff me?” You know, you did it right.

Nana: Yeah. We did it right.

She’s a good kid. She’s nuts. But I think she’s all the things that she was going to be with us as parents.

Adriana: Nana, thank you, so, so much for this lovely conversation and all your stories. I love it.

Nana: Thank you. Thank you. Thank you so much. I appreciate it.

Adriana: That was Nana Eyeson-Akiwowo, co-founder of the wonderful Fourth Phase aftercare boxes, where each box purchased also generates a box to be donated to new mothers in Sub-Saharan Africa, or those experiencing homelessness in the U.S. You can find Nana on Instagram @fourthphasebox!

I hope your main takeaway from our conversation is that there are many ways to bond with your baby, and there’s nothing wrong with you if you’re not in love with your baby from day one. The time from trying to conceive through postpartum is ripe with all sort of emotions due to hormones, expectations, and circumstances, and all your feelings are valid. And since it can be extra hard when reality doesn’t match your expectations, it’s so incredibly important to be surrounded by people who you trust, who know you, and who will create a safe and protected space for you to feel all these feelings— like Nana’s husband, mom, and doctor did for her. Now, if at any point you feel like something is off— during pregnancy or postpartum— trust your gut and reach out to your care provider or another trusted resource. It does not need to be an urgent situation like it was for Nana, and you don’t have to wait until your next check-up to be seen.

You can connect with us on Instagram @birthfulpodcast.

In fact, if you are not driving, it would be so lovely if you could take a screenshot of this episode and post it to your stories sharing what your biggest takeaway was from the episode. Maybe it was hearing that you don’t have to immediately fall in love with your baby, or maybe it was the primal instinct of sniffing your baby. Whatever it was, make sure to tag @BirthfulPodcast so we can see it, amplify it, and help normalize the broad range of experiences that can happen both in birth and postpartum.

You can find the in-depth show notes and transcript of this episode at birthful.com, where you can also learn more about my birth and postpartum preparation classes and download your free postpartum preparation plan.

Birthful is created and produced by me, Adriana Lozada, with production assistance from Aysia Platte.

Thank you so very much for listening to and sharing Birthful. Be sure to follow us on Goodpods, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music, and everywhere you listen.

Come back for more ways to inform your intuition.

CITATION: 

Lozada, Adriana, host. “[Birth Stories] Why It Mattered That Her Team Prioritized Her Emotional Safety.” Birthful, Birthful. September 28, 2022. Birthful.com.

 


 

Nana Eyeson-Akiwowo's dark brown skin pops in contrast to the warm orange background, as she smiles at the camera in a portrait, with her hair cropped short, wearing a gray t-shirt, jeans, and a watch

Image description: Nana Eyeson-Akiwowo’s dark brown skin pops in contrast to the warm orange background, as she smiles at the camera in a portrait, with her hair cropped short, wearing a gray t-shirt, jeans, and a watch

About Nana Eyeson-Akiwowo

Nana Eyeson-Akiwowo is a social entrepreneur and seasoned humanitarian with a strong commitment to advocating adequate and accessible health care for all under-resourced women, children, and families. She’s the co-founder of Fourth Phase aftercare boxes, which are curated to support and unify mothers across the world during the time in their lives when their bodies and spirits are most delicate, so they can heal, feel, and be heard. Every box purchased allows for the donation of a curated box through African Health Now in Sub-Saharan Africa, or through Passion Meets Purpose for new moms experiencing homelessness in the U.S.

Fifteen years prior, Nana founded African Health Now (AHN), a global public health organization, to provide information and access to primary and maternity health care to women, children, and families living across Sub-Saharan Africa. To date, her work with AHN has serviced over 30,000 people in Ghana and Nigeria who are in need of basic health services readily available in America.

Over the years, Nana has been recognized for her philanthropic efforts: World Remit named her as one of their 2020 Top Influential Africans; the Center for Social Innovation awarded her their 2018 Agent of Change Fellow award; The National Council of Ghanaian Associations named her their 2017 Humanitarian of Year; in 2016 she was given a New York State Senate Proclamation for Commitment to Health Advocacy, and in 2009 she received the Andrew Heiskell Humanitarian Award by Time Inc.

Nana speaks English and Twi, the latter a language native to Ghana. She and her husband are the proud parents of a beautiful girl. When she’s not working on Fourth Phase, she’s in DIY heaven making balloon garlands, resurfacing furniture, and watching HGTV.  

You can connect with Nana on social media via @neyeson + @fourthphasebox + @africanhealthnw

Heal, feel, and be heard with a Fourth Phase gift box. Better yet, gift one to a birthing parent in your circle, to let them know you really see them.

 

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