A Cultural Awakening
- Written By
- Geena Whyte
When I think of how far I've come since the birth of my first daughter in 2015 I feel proud of what I've accomplished so far in raising my three daughters. My birthing experiences are special and each unique in their own way. From Hawaii to New Jersey and back, I have experienced some highs and lows that will forever mold me and have deepened my perspective of our cultural and human differences. I understand the strengths of two very opposite ends of our country and I see them through the experiences of having given birth.
My eldest (Paloma) and youngest (Olena) daughters were both born on the beautiful island of Oahu where the salty air and scent of always blooming flowers is enough to feel easy and free. My first signs of labor with Paloma came full-force, around the time I was awakened by the birds at 6 a.m I was at my local birthing center with a labor nurse and eventually my midwife arrived.
There were so many feelings leading up to having my first child. So many, unknown, excited and fearful emotions arose that my memory of that experience is blurred—except for the moment they handed Paloma to me and the feeling I had in holding my new baby. I have to say, I was nowhere as in tune with my two youngest daughters when we first touched as I was with my first—no matter the support or energy in the room. I was less focused on the pain because I had an epidural and although the pushing was still very intense, Paloma and I locked eyes and we instantly became one.
With my second, Amaris, I was living in New Jersey and chose to have a natural birth at home. I could not hold her immediately and my body went into a complete shock. I was shaking profusely. Later, I realized my midwife missed a very important part of my prenatal appointments. I felt out of control physically and it was not a good moment. My experience was not related to race, although I believe that is a major factor on the mainland.
Before having my third daughter, Olena, I decided it was time to move back to Hawaii. I missed the laid back and warm culture of the islands. I am originally from Jamaica and can not deny the strong pull I have to an island. I wanted my girls to experience people smiling at each other as they pass by and connecting on a different level that felt natural for me.
I chose to have another home birth and I remember it was a beautiful sunny day. I felt peaceful and ready to have the last addition to our family. I thought I knew, at this point, what to expect with a natural birth and I fully embraced every feeling and emotion that came with it. My midwives this time were so attentive and caring, supporting me with knowledge and the constant reminder to take care of myself. The moment Olena was born, I did not go into shock and I was able to hold her perfectly fine. The pain was quite present, but as soon as it subsided, there was bliss. It was the most intense experience of my life. Bringing my daughter into this world, being happy to be exactly where I wanted to be, and feeling well taken care of by all three of my midwives was the best birthing experience I’ve had and I'm grateful. My midwives felt like my mothers. They took such good care of me. I truly wished I had that care the first and second time around.
Birthing Olena at home was a completely different experience than birthing Amaris at home.
I truly believe having a solid team full of nurturing women plays a part as well as environment. All of my midwives were women of color and it wasn’t until birthing my third daughter I realized I had been deprived of proper care. I think when women are in the process of birthing we are like children who need extreme nurturing and it is a very personal thing, so deeply vetting medical personnel is crucial. With my third birth, my three midwives made me feel surrounded by love and support and I've held onto it since.
As I continue my journey, I am raising my girls to respect the Aina (land) as well as themselves. The Hawaiian culture has so much Mana (spiritual culture) and it feels right here. If I hadn't given birth and experienced raising my child in her first months on the East Coast, I may not have come to this deeper appreciation for where I am now. Every place is different and has something for everyone and I want to encourage any woman reading this who is thinking of having a child or is with child to never feel that anything is too big for you to experience.