Fiona Houston, the founder of Fat Black Pregnant, didn’t find the representation she searched for throughout her pregnancy. So she’s on a mission to help other fat Black pregnant womxn feel seen and have their stories told.
Fiona joins us from London to tell her heart-wrenching and powerful story!
Growing up, Fiona wasn’t sure she wanted to have kids. That was until the age of eleven. Then, she dreamed that she was an older woman with gray dreadlocks surrounded by a cluster of grandchildren.
At 30, she met her wonderful partner Jack.
And at 37, she was pregnant, but sadly, she experienced a loss during the first trimester.
That loss was a surprise pregnancy, as Fiona often heard, “fat people can’t get pregnant very easily.” But, while this pregnancy was unplanned, it confirmed for Fiona and Jack that they wanted to become parents.
A few weeks later, she was pregnant with their daughter Romona.
With a history of mental health struggles, Fiona knew she could have negative thoughts about her body and worried about her anxiety.
She wanted to know she wasn’t alone in all she was feeling. But it was frustrating to go online or pick up a magazine and not see another fat Black pregnant woman like her represented.
It was also extremely difficult to find plus size maternity clothes she liked in her size.
During her first prenatal visit, she was not only called a “geriatric mom,” but the nurse made a big deal about her weight.
Recovering from the recent loss, the treatment she received was overwhelming, and she wished people were kinder. Fiona briefly questioned her ability to have a healthy outcome as a fat Black pregnant woman. But thankfully, that didn’t last long because being pregnant felt so right!
Her husband, Jack, was a great support system and helped Fiona keep her chin up.
Throughout her pregnancy, she continued to search for people who looked like her. And while there wasn’t much, the stories she did find often had a negative slant.
Meanwhile, the stories she read in pregnancy magazines were full of white women sharing their joyful experiences. So, Fiona pondered, ‘where is that carefree mum magazine for people like me?’
Due to her BMI, the National Health Services (England’s healthcare system) protocol was to transfer her care to a team supporting plus size pregnancies. This never happened.
During Fiona’s pregnancy, the care team she had was hypervigilant about weight gain and said having a cesarean birth would be very dangerous due to her size. This terrified her husband! They also struggled to measure the baby’s size accurately and made concerning comments that her baby would be very large.
The day Romona was born was the day the lockdown started in 2020. However, that’s no excuse for the fatphobia and racism she experienced as a fat Black pregnant woman.
Fiona’s mom noticed her hands were swollen four days before her due date. So, with concerns about preeclampsia, they went to the hospital. And when they arrived, Fiona’s blood pressure wasn’t alarming, but her care team recommended an induction and admitted her since it was so close to her due date.
So that day, on a Friday, the induction process began. By Sunday, they broke her water, and on Monday, Romona was born via an emergency cesarean birth.
Her care team had drilled into her and Jack’s heads that a c-section would be extremely dangerous. So, Jack was terrified for the love of his life and his daughter.
Thankfully, the birth went well, but what unfolded next was shocking.
With a global pandemic occuring, the hospital staff was in chaos throughout her labor, but Fiona remained blissfully unaware. However, once Romona was born, she became very aware as hospital policies kept shifting. Due to this, Jack had to leave, but he slept on the floor unnoticed until the morning. He didn’t want to leave his girls, but was forced to go.
Fiona remembers looking at her legs, which were much larger than usual. She showed at least two care providers and didn’t feel heard, so she stated, “I know I’m fat, but I’m not this fat. This is not what my legs look like.” Unfortunately, it took becoming very ill before anyone acted.
While Fiona understood the state of the world at the time, there was a lot about the lack of treatment she received that was utterly wrong.
Statistically, the Black maternal mortality rate is 2 – 3 times higher than white women. And there are countless stories of Black people’s medical concerns not being taken seriously. Heartbreaking accounts of Black women dying following childbirth because care providers didn’t listen!
Then there are also studies to show a medical bias against people of size by the healthcare community.
Romona was born on a Monday and by Wednesday Fiona’s preeclampsia led to septic shock and organ failure. Change needs to occur because she could’ve died!
Today, Fiona is trying to bring more representation for fat black pregnant womxn! Hear her story in her own words during episode 185 of the Plus Mommy Podcast.
Recording & Show Notes: Plus Mommy Podcast Episode 185
Transcript happily provided upon request.
Resources Mentioned On The Show
- Connect with Fiona via Instagram and her website.
- Preparing For Pregnancy Ultrasounds When You’re Plus Size
Plus Size Pregnancy UK - Navigating The System For Better Care
Tuesday 17th of January 2023
[…] For example, a booking appointment will happen around ten weeks of pregnancy. Your midwife should get to know you and explain the pathway of care based on your BMI. But that doesn’t always happen. […]