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Beyonce’s Birth Story Busted The Black Superwoman Myth, & That’s All That Matters

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In a groundbreaking cover story for Vogue, Beyonce Knowles-Carter talked about her emergency c-section, in the process demystifying the many complications of birth, the messy aftermath, and the idea that a strong black woman can simply ~overcome~ their experiences through force of will. Her message couldn't be more crucial, says Ashley Stoney.

“You know you that b*tch when you cause all this conversation. Always stay gracious best revenge is your paper.” I lowered the volume ten decibels and smiled through tear-streaked cheeks. I was having a moment.

After weeks of self-doubt, self-loathing and postpartum anxiety, culminating in a terse come-to-Jesus moment after a family member’s critique of my ability to style my daughter’s naturally tightly curled hair, it felt good to bask in a song written entirely, exclusively for me — or so it seemed — right down to liking babies' hair in afros. Beyoncé has set the gold standard for songs that uplift us in our dark, painful moments, giving us the Sasha Fierce reassurance that when in doubt, we are indeed flawless ladies fully capable of getting in formation. After she became pregnant with twins, Beyoncé appeared to us straight out of the Renaissance. Then she gave birth and embarked on a world tour. Is there anything she can't do — and by extension, anything I can't do?

But an hour or two later, I experienced another crying spell. There were several that week. After struggling with postpartum depression after the birth of my first daughter — and actively writing about and advocating for women with similar struggles — I made a promise to myself to be kind and astutely aware of my mood following the birth of my second daughter. And after a cozy winter maternity leave, I hit the rat race, returning to work and on-boarding an important, complicated project. Though I was working diligently with a loving and fun team, the honeymoon bliss of snuggling up with my two girls ended swiftly. So did my personal bliss.

I neglected to make time to have fun after the delivery of my first daughter — I was ready to work motherhood. Part of that notion comes from being raised by a single mom who unabashedly let me know how much she had given of her life to raise me. I took on that energy, much to my detriment.

I had kept suppressing my inner thoughts, thinking things would pass, until they eventually came to fruition and boiled over — now, not even Beyoncé could help.

This time around, I proactively invested in "self-care" by splurging on two Coachella tickets and a cross-country pilgrimage with my partner to see Queen Bey, bask in her strength, live my best life, and so on. In reality, the grueling travel, the expenses we incurred, the long hours in the sun, and lack of time to really reconnect meant that rather than mask what I feared was happening, the trip served to bring it all into sharp relief: another disconnect in our relationship, post-baby, and the return of those God-awful bogged-down feelings.

Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

I had kept suppressing my inner thoughts, thinking things would pass, until they eventually came to fruition and boiled over — now, not even Beyoncé could help.

A few days after a family blow-up back at home, Facebook surfaced some "memories" from four years ago, just after the birth of my first daughter. I was reminded of an uncharacteristic family blow-up back then, and an undeniable tie to now. I actively tried and failed to be “happy” postpartum for the second time. There’s simply no Sasha-Fiercing your way through depression, anxiety and anger — there’s therapy and spirituality and support systems.

Beyoncé's beauty and perfection don’t make her any more immune from complicated labor and delivery or the increased potential of death in our black baby-bearing bodies.

So, when the very same Beyoncé — who seemingly has it altogether — opened up about nearly dying in childbirth, coming to terms with the reality of coming from a lineage of broken male-female relationships, and surviving her ride through hell and back, grateful for every scar, I found a bit of consolation in the knowledge that my feel-good guru is just as human as the rest of us. Her notoriety didn’t keep her from nearly dying in childbirth — she’s unfortunately just as at risk as the rest of us. Her beauty and perfection don’t make her any more immune from complicated labor and delivery or the increased potential of death in our black baby-bearing bodies.

As celebrities like fellow Destiny’s Child group member Michelle Williams have spoken out about living with depression, mental health loses some of its stigma. Their stories are validation that it can be temporary and it can be managed, but most importantly it needs to be addressed. Similarly, new moms Serena Williams and Cardi B have both opened up about their struggles with postpartum feelings of inadequateness and emotional overload — in the process, each busting their own personas as stronger-than.

It’s overdue for black women to be more open about our struggles and vulnerabilities. For far too long, we have been prescribed this superwoman ideal. And while women like Beyoncé, Serena Williams and Cardi B are actually extremely accomplished and deserving of those titles, it’s incredibly important to know they’re allowed to struggle, too. When we normalize hurt, we heal.