Jazzy Roulhac is nine months pregnant. Overjoyed, filled with love, and anxious.
New parent angst is to be expected. But this is different.
We’re living in a pandemic. We’re living in a time when reproductive rights are under attack and baby formula is hard to find. We’re living in an era in which some leaders would rather ban books about race and racism than enact gun laws.
For today’s expectant mothers, the flood of racism, classism, and sexism is too much to wade.
“I have been feeling so many things, obviously some of it’s hormonal, because pregnancy,” says Roulhac, 28. “But with our ever-changing world, with what’s happening politically with Congress, and then, with what is happening to Black moms, it’s been a bit overwhelming right now if I’m being honest.”
“I have been prioritizing feeling calm and not allowing my anxiety to consume me,” says Roulhac, a retail sales manager and the creative behind The Beautiful Bostonian. “It’s why I wanted to take some time before the baby got here to make sure I had time to mentally and physically prepare before the baby arrives.”
But that hasn’t been easy. We are one of the only countries without national paid parental leave. Her difficulty taking time off led her to be less than shocked by the formula shortage.
“A lot of leave opportunities do not allow you access until the baby is physically here,” Roulhac says. “There is not a lot of aid for families. A lot of changes can happen as you journey through pregnancy.”
Roulhac and her fiancé, Rain Bloomfield, opted out of gender reveals. They know their baby’s name and that they will be raising a Black child in America.
“I want a boy. He wants a girl. He’s horrified to raise a Black man in this country and having to process the things he’s endured throughout his life. I have a similar reason as to why I was scared to have a girl. I have been really taken aback after the shooting in Buffalo,” she says.
“There is not a lot of support for moms in America, not new moms, young moms, old moms. But being Black on top of that? Now more than ever, I am surrounding myself with a bunch of progressive-minded people and my hope is we band together to make change and use our voices to overshadow the negativity that is forcefully trying to take over this world,” she adds.
Sofi Madison was pregnant during the first several months of the pandemic.
Because of the virus, she had to go to appointments alone, without her partner. For safety, her South End business, Olives & Grace gift shop, became delivery and pickup only. And when her baby Nico arrived, feeding him was not easy, nor was diagnosing the causes of his upset stomach.
“There is so much ignorance around breastfeeding,” she says. “With Nico, he had a sensitivity that we never even figured out because of the pandemic. I couldn’t get him to a lactation consultant in person. No one could solve it over the phone. We were rolling with the punches and had to try a couple of different formulas.”
That meant a lot of trial-and-error. And a whole lot of formula.
Now, he’s one-and-a-half. COVID still looms. Madison is seven months pregnant with her second child. And we’re experiencing a nationwide formula shortage so severe the government just airlifted 70,000 pounds from Europe.
“You’re sort of on the verge of tears for the first few weeks and months as a mom, because it’s so overwhelming. I can’t imagine having fear over food at the center,” says Madison, 38. “What’s really scary is this is going to impact the communities that are already hit by disparity the hardest. That’s the part that breaks me as a mom.”
The hope is breastfeeding goes smoother for her this next go-around. But the politics of pregnancy, the policing of a woman’s body, all whilst we are in the middle of an infant food shortage, is a lot to grapple with.
The Supreme Court is more than likely to overturn Roe v. Wade, clearing the way for states across the country to criminalize abortion and force women into pregnancy. And most of those Republicans supporting this revocation voted against the $28 million in aid to the Food and Drug Administration to address the baby formula scarcity.
For Madison, protecting choice is both political and deeply personal.
“It feels terrifying to think our rights are going in the wrong direction as women. I know my life would look a lot different if I didn’t have access to my own choices,” she says. “Now, I am so happy with the family I have. I am ready to be a mom. But if I didn’t have the options to make those choices, I wouldn’t be able to offer the love, the wisdom, the time that makes a good mom.”
Years ago, when Madison made her choice, her friend stuck by her side and told her to remember her why.
“It’s out of love,” she says. “It was out of love for things I didn’t know I had yet. Love for the babies I have now, the life I live, the person I am. I repeated, throughout the process, to myself, over and over, it’s out of love, Sofi. It’s out of love.”
Angie Gomez believes to be a mother is to voyage into parenthood both together and alone.
“I have my village, I have my loved ones, I have my fiancé, but I am the mother carrying the baby,” says Gomez, 29, a Lawrence nail artist and entrepreneur. “I have done my best to have a very intentional and conscious pregnancy journey.”
In her third trimester, Gomez feels empowered. As an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, she thinks about the way society tries to tell you who you are and what you are worth. No more of that.
“To bring your own daughter into this world and raise them to be conscious, to not have the traumas we had growing up, we are excited to play that role.”
Protecting the celebration of motherhood, of girlhood, of women, is important to her. Watching what we are going through as women today, she says, is like watching an episode of “Mad Men,” an era in which women were expected to remain silent in the corner.
“There are moments when I think I am inevitably carrying what will be a woman one day, her little unborn body in my womb, all of the eggs in her body already exist, she is already in some way who I am right now,” Gomez says. “If she chooses, and hopefully she has that choice, to give life. The endless fight in history tells us and shows us women have always been on the short end of the stick.”
With mothers like these, the fight for liberty and equal protection is raising a new army.