Expect the Unexpected: Why This Mother of Two Wants Us All to Share Our Birth Stories

Tina Cartwright

Expect the Unexpected: Why This Mother of Two Wants Us All to Share Our Birth Stories


When it comes to birth, the only thing we can really be sure of is to expect the unexpected.

Birth plans are wonderful and important for working out what you would like to try for, where your comfort level is, ensuring your team and providers are aligned and supportive, and as a roadmap for birth partners to advocate for you.

However, as anyone who has given birth will tell you, there are parts of the experience that end up beyond the plan. That doesn’t mean that unexpected things that arise are always negative; they are just different. So, in the spirit of being compassionate truth-tellers, something that is at the core of all we do at Needed, we are launching our series of birth stories, covering a vast spectrum of birthing experiences but all celebrating positive outcomes even while sometimes dealing with complicated circumstances, with the idea that knowledge is power and the more you know, the less you might be blindsided by your own birth story. 

For the latest installment in this series, Needed asked Tina Cartwright, a mother of two and the founder of Rebranding Motherhood, a purpose-driven brand that unites mothers and builds a space with a mission of unlocking maternal mental health support, maternal healthcare resources, and unfiltered education surrounding the female body and motherhood, to share her birth story and how it has changed her.

The Importance of Sharing Birth Stories by Tina Cartwright

I like many mothers had two very different birth stories. Even though I had the same OBGYN deliver both girls in the same room. But the first was definitely the most impactful.

My first birth was most difficult. It began with my water breaking while sitting on the toilet peeing at a friend's house. It was my friend's birthday party so there were so many people there that I couldn’t find my husband at first. We hadn’t even packed our hospital bags yet (my stuff was strategically chucked in a pile in the corner of our bedroom) and my husband only had his golf clubs in the trunk of the car. Luckily those golfs clubs were there! Because it was a golf club towel (the super absorbent ones) that captured all that water breaking fluid. Needless to say my first birth started out like an episode of 90’s sitcom!

I eventually made it in to the hospital after I got a green light from the doctors. Once at the hospital, my labor didn’t progress swiftly enough so I got the pictocin and things really turned up. Eventually after 7 cm’s of dilation I gave in and got my epidural and finally I could sleep a little. After that there were honestly a few more rough moments at the hospital and finally my baby girl Cayla was born.

It was seconds however after she flashed that first beautiful smile at me that I knew something was off. In retrospect that is probably when my PMAD was beginning to brew. 

I think for me one of the wildest moments is how I felt very unprepared for what birth was, for example I didn’t even know that doula’s existed and would have LOVED to explored that further.

Needless to say, the only thing that was aligned with “going-in birth plan” was that I was able to deliver vaginally.

For me the biggest challenges I faced through my pregnancy and childbirth journey was the “sanitized imagery” of motherhood. It was that imagery that left me truly unprepared for birth, labor, the 4th trimester, or the postpartum reality that is waiting for every new mother but NO ONE tells you about, especially things like postpartum mental health.

Society prepared me to have a baby shower and go to a bunch of doctors appointments it did not prepare me for what motherhood really is. I felt so unprepared. Could you imagine if society expected people who were about to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, to just show up with limited information, minimal supplies (but not the stuff you actually need) and with NO understanding of what physical impact that climb would have on you during, after and for years after you made that climb.

For me, my biggest challenge was attempting to reconcile the almost instant grief I felt once my child was born, facing the hard truth that everything society told me motherhood is was NOT true, and attempting to rebuild and start new relationships with every single person I knew before the baby was born. Once the fog settled and I finally began to grasp motherhood, I developed a great postpartum depression treatment plan to address my mental health, and the baby began sleeping and developing more routine habits. I realized that motherhood wasn't just hard; it was also a spiritually healing, enriching, and challenging experience that allowed me to meet my true self for the first time in my 36 years on this planet.

"Rebranding Motherhood" was born. For me my experience was so disconnected to reality that it forced me to build a new perspective on motherhood, which finally allowed me to find resources, brands, products, experts that provided me with real support.

As a Black woman I believe real truth is, that all mothers face challenges when trying to raise a child in the United States. At the same time, we are aware that in recent years, the narrative surrounding data such as 'the percentage of single mothers among Black women has been higher compared to other racial and ethnic groups in the United States' is often accompanied by the implicit assumption that it is expected for this group of marginalized mothers to 'parent solo,' given that these statistics have shown a 22% increase since the 90s. Misconceptions about 'how challenging motherhood can be' are already difficult enough to overcome, and adding to that misconception the idea that ANY mother should 'do it alone' only perpetuates a cultural norm that we must break down.

I believe Black mothers have an opportunity to expose the world to the unique and diverse challenges we might face as part of navigating into motherhood.

One of those unique challenges Black moms experience, that has gotten a lot of air-time the last few years, is ‘the black maternal death rate’. These horrifying stats illuminate we clearly need more Black mothers to share their experiences giving birth, in hospitals, with doulas, at home and everything in between. The more stories that can be shared ensures the zeitgeist begins receiving new, holistic, and inclusive imagery, ultimately leading to a more accurate narrative of the Black mother’s birthing experience.

My advice would candidly be the same for any first time mother. The following items have to be mission critical for you: educate yourself on the postpartum experience, find a safe resource that provides a realistic illustration of the life transformation to come, and lastly proactively research the PMAD resources in your area.

This is important not to scare new moms but so they have the correct education so they can build their own support, find impactful resources, and most importantly understand the changes ahead for your physical and emotional self so you can understand if professional resources will be needed to get you through. Most importantly, ensure you ground yourself early in your “gut” and what is most aligned with your personal family vision.

Expand your support systems, find the communities that offer support, resources and education aligned to your unique motherhood vision. That way when your deep in the throws of postpartum fog, and in the middle of a challenging motherhood storm you don’t find yourself stuck in a social media doom-scroll ultimately filling your psyche with shame, guilt, mis-education, and judgment. 

My #1 mission with all the content, events, clients, resources and education we share through my Rebranding Motherhood platform and support is to eradicate sanitized imagery. I whole-heartedly believe the only way we will achieve real systemic and generational change for mothers is to ensure society deeply understand what motherhood entails.

The truth is, many mothers are drowning in insolation as a result of societies chronic neglect of the daily physical, mental, career, emotional, and social sacrifices that mothers make. Rebranding Motherhood is a community where they can feel seen and learn somethings that might make even “5-minutes” of their day a little easier and little less alone. For me the future of healthcare for mothers will be accessible, affordable, absent of systematic racism, and most importantly SAFE.

Holding space and processing our unique birth stories is a foundational step for all mothers.

As Barbara Katz Rothman so beautifully puts it, “Birth is not only about making babies. Birth is about making mothers."

Birth is where our motherhood journey begins and for many birthing people - there were moments, minutes, or maybe even the entire experience was filled with some level of trauma. On the flip side birth also yields moments of magnificent intrinsic power and strength.My birth story is a moment in my life where I relish in my deepest feelings of being proud of myself. Proud of what I did, proud of what’s to come, proud of the adventures I will have with my new baby!

This is something I feel so strongly about I am partnering with my fellow mom friend Nicole Katz, founder of Rebranding Birth, to launch our virtual birth story event. This will be a chance for mothers and birthing people to share in a safe community their unique birth stories and how that moment changed them permanently.

We will have these incredible breakout group leaders called Maha Mama’s,  Maha is the Sanskrit word for great. These “great mama’s” are already FEARLESS founders, changemakers, disruptors and leaders in the space of motherhood, mental Health, reproductive Health, reproductive Justice, and maternal Health. To learn more,  head to my IG page to register for this FREE event.

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Tina Cartwright, Founder of Rebranding Motherhood

Founder of Rebranding Motherhood a healing community for moms by a mom, eradicating sanitized imagery of motherhood, sharing education, tools and support for all.