“Jodie Turner-Smith was never going to have an entirely ‘normal’ experience when it came to becoming a mother,” begins a recent piece published in British Vogue. It’s true. The 33-year-old model and actress was fresh off the heels of her breakthrough role in the controversial film “Queen & Slim” when she got pregnant, and aside from the customary red-carpet events and glitzy award ceremonies to attend, there was the unpredictable matter of a global pandemic on the horizon.
But it’s not that Turner-Smith’s pregnancy turned out to be a little bit different from what she expected. It was drastically different.
“Nobody really teaches you about what your body goes through to bring a child into the world until you’re actually doing it,” Turner-Smith wrote of her pregnancy in British Vogue’s September 2020 issue. She didn’t know, for example, that her first trimester would be punctuated by persistent nausea, fatigue, and subchorionic bleeds — a pooling of blood between the uterine wall and a membrane that surrounds the embryo — all while juggling her busy schedule shooting “Without Remorse,” her first action movie, with Michael B. Jordan.
But it wasn’t just that she was busy “tearing around the centre of Berlin with tactical gear and a rifle while blowing things up,” or that she was “rushing through an airport to catch a flight back to America” that complicated the pregnancy. Once the pandemic hit and hospitals became flashpoints for COVID-19, the actress and her Canadian-American husband, Joshua Jackson, decided together that it would be safest to welcome their baby to the world at their home, in Los Angeles.
“We had already decided on a home birth, because of concerns about negative birth outcomes for Black women in America — according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the risk of pregnancy-related deaths is more than three times greater for Black women than for white women, pointing, it seems to me, to systemic racism,” she wrote.
Also according to the CDC: Black babies are twice as likely to die before even reaching their first birthday than white babies, no matter the mother’s income or education level.
Throughout the tumultuous pregnancy, Turner-Smith says her husband never left her side. She ended up being in labour for nearly four days before finally giving birth, and her husband promised her that he wouldn’t miss any part of the delivery process. Both Turner-Smith and Jackson had seen the way their own mothers struggled against their own circumstances to raise kids without much support, and they resolved they wouldn’t repeat that history. For the days she was in labour, they became inseparable, and the support made her realize how “lucky and privileged” she is to be with someone who would follow her anywhere, someone to be at her side as she does her job.
“Early in the morning on my third day of labour, my husband and I shared a quiet moment. I was fatigued and beginning to lose my resolve. Josh ran me a bath, and as I lay in it contracting, I talked to my body and I talked to my daughter,” Turner-Smith wrote. “In that moment, he snapped a picture of me. An honest moment of family and togetherness — a husband supporting a wife, our baby still inside me, the sacred process of creating a family.”
On her first Mother’s Day, Jackson took to Instagram to share a love letter to his wife. In it, the Vancouver-born actor profoundly thanked Turner-Smith “for the passion with which you threw yourself into nurturing and protecting our child when she was in your womb,” and “for the dedication and will you showed bringing her into the world.”
“Thank you for making me a father. For trusting me enough to embark on this journey together,” he wrote. “I am humbled more and more every day by that. I love you. I love seeing you enter the pantheon of mothers. And I look forward to walking this path by your side as we nurture this little engine of joy you have blessed the world with.”
Turner-Smith has no clue how she’ll explain to her daughter the meaning of her birth in the year 2020. Many new parents are probably in the same position, wondering what the social unrest will mean for the birth. It’s an odd time where so much still remains uncertain, and for those whose bodies have suddenly become oriented toward the future, with a pregnancy, it must be strange to think about. “I think I will tell her that it was as if the world had paused for her to be born,” Turner-Smith concluded. “And that, hopefully, it never quite returned to the way it was before.”