Beyonce’s “Maniac” Work While Pregnant: Please, Baby—Slow Down!
By Denene Millner
Writer/Producer The Dream, nee Terius Nash, who worked with Beyonce on her hit, “Single Ladies” and several tracks on her latest album, 4, including MyBrownBaby favorite “Love On Top,” told AOL’s The Boombox that, creatively, Beyonce hasn’t slowed down one bit. “She’s ready to work,” Dream said. “She’s crazy! She never stops doing anything. I don’t know if [pregnancy] is going to slow her down. She’s just incredible with doing things, I don’t know how she’s going to do it, she’s just a maniac… in a good way.”
Okay, um, raise your hand if hearing this worries you just a little bit. I mean, I don’t want to knock Beyonce’s hustle—she’s a hardworking woman whose talent, coupled with an unparalleled work ethic, has made her a household name in every corner of God’s green Earth. But as a mother who carried two babies to full term and a black woman who is keenly aware of the dangerous stakes associated with African American pregnancies, I worry for Beyonce and her baby. Because being a “maniac” while pregnant can be do serious harm to black women and their newborns.
The truth of the matter is that black women are two to three times more likely than their white peers to have low-birth-weight or pre-term babies, and die during childbirth—even professional, college-educated black mothers who’ve had good prenatal care, money and education. Indeed, according to statistics cited in this Colorlines story, college- and graduate school-educated black mothers have a higher infant mortality rate than white moms who didn’t finish high school; black women who’ve gotten prenatal care in their first trimester have double the infant mortality rate of white mothers who’ve gotten the same care, and; when compared with Hispanic women who’ve gotten similar levels of prenatal care, black women still have higher rates of low birth weight, preterm deliveries and infant mortality. And now researchers are taking a serious look at how stress—the kind that comes from physically demanding jobs, lack of control in the workplace, single parenthood and financial worries, the very things that black women contend with on a daily basis—plays into this practically unexplainable stats.
Of course, Beyonce doesn’t have to contend with single parenthood and she sure isn’t worrying about money or proper prenatal healthcare, but her “I Am Woman, Hear Me Roar, I Can Do It All Even With A Baby In My Belly” work ethic is worrisome because all of it—the touring with Jay-Z, the work on the fifth album, the promotional spots for her DVD, the ducking and dodging of paparazzi, the worldwide fascination with her impending birth—could very well be harmful to her and her baby. It’s great to be strong and independent and hardworking and have the whole entire world thinking you’re a “maniac” and can do it all, but is it worth it really?
I get it: while I’m in no way on Beyonce’s level in success, I wasn’t pulling any punches, either, when I was pregnant with my two girls. While pregnant with Mari, I was working full-time as an entertainment reporter at the Daily News, which meant I was running to parties, Broadway shows, movie premieres, and interviews like nobody’s business, all while doing a promotional tour for my second book, What Brothers Think, What Sistahs Know. I remember having to talk my doctor into giving me a doctor’s note so that I could take a plane to a signing in Washington, D.C.—you’re not supposed to fly after six months of pregnancy—and I spent the entire time there laid up in the bed with the flu. In my mind, I was just doing what I loved and what I needed to do to make sure my career was on point before I ducked out to have a baby. Reality was, my body—and my baby—was suffering because of my refusal to slow down.
I wasn’t much better when I was pregnant with Lila. By then, I was a magazine editor at Honey, working long hours, caring for a two-year-old, writing books in the middle of the night and traveling the country promoting Love Don’t Live Here Anymore, the first novel I co-authored with Nick. I remember being at the podium giving a speech somewhere—Indiana? Tennessee? Idaho?—and getting so dizzy I almost fainted. One of the organizers saw me swoon and literally made me sit down.
We’d been so many places while I was pregnant with my two babies that people thought it was weird when I did a book tour without a baby in my belly. I used to laugh at this, but now I know: what a dangerous position I put myself and my babies in. Both of them were born healthy and full-term—thank God—but they were low birth weight babies. We escaped a slew of pregnancy and birth problems, but surely, our story could have been tragically different. I know now that I should have focused on my health and my babies first. As much as we African American women all want to pretend like pregnancy shouldn’t have any affect on our work, productivity and superhuman ability to carry the world on our shoulders, the fact of the matter is that it is not easy to carry a human being in our bodies; pregnancy changes things for us—mentally, emotionally and especially physically—and we need to honor that and ourselves by recognizing just how fragile ushering new life into this world can be.
And so I say to Beyonce as she rounds the corner into the final stretch of her pregnancy, please beauty, be careful. The moments you’ll have with your new baby after she makes her debut into this world will be sacred for sure, but right now, you must focus on and respect the journey you and your little one are making right now, today. Pack light and travel easy—for your sake. And that sweet baby’s.