Jaycina Almond is a mother, model, and founder of the non-profit Tender, a nonprofit dedicated to uplifting new moms in need in need by providing bill pay, food assistance, and essentials. Here, she shares her totally unique birth story.
I become a mother to Syx Rose Valentine in February of 2017. I was 21 years old. I was nine months pregnant and fully body painted for a music video. It was about 10 days before my due date. My two best friends were with me and in the middle of getting body painted, I pulled one into the bathroom. “I think my water might have just broke or something,” I told her. “I'm feeling a lot of wetness down there!”
My friend kept saying we should leave: “We don't have to do this. You're pregnant. Everybody's going to have to understand you're pregnant!” But I wasn’t in pain. “I’m fine,” I promised her, and told her I’d let her know if I felt any contractions.
I think labor has been hyped up to be very painful. It's supposed to be excruciating. I think that's why it never registered to me that I was actually in labor because it wasn't what I had hyped myself up to expect. Towards the end of the day, around 6PM, I was feeling what I thought were contractions.
Every time I had a contraction, I’d look over at my best friend who’d keep track in her notepad. By the end of the shoot, contractions were two minutes apart. She's like, “I think you're really in labor.”
We were an hour outside of the city of Atlanta when the video shoot wrapped and we needed to get home. Despite the fact that I knew the contractions were two minutes apart, I kept telling my friends it wasn’t real. I was 37 weeks. I had just hit full term. This couldn’t be it! “I'm not in labor!”
Both of my best friends came home with me and they started getting ready to go out. One had a date and one was going to a party. I, on the other hand, called my midwife who told me to lay on my side for 45-minutes. “There's no way this is happening,” she assured me. “It's your first baby.” My mom's a nurse and I called her. She said the same thing: “Left side! 45-minutes! It's going to go away after 35-minutes.”
But the reality was I was on the ground on all fours. I call my midwife back and she tells me to meet her at the hospital.
I had to call an Uber to take me to the hospital. My friends canceled their plans even though I kept urging them to “just go, guys! It's fine!" We were 21! I was in a shitty loft, showering, trying to get all that body paint off of me. Meanwhile, they’re in the mirror doing their makeup…
We get to the hospital and my midwife arrives. She checks me and tells me that I am fully dilated. She actually could feel her head. They got me into a room and that was it. We just started. I want to say I pushed for about 45 minutes. she was born at 1:12AM. I never got an epidural. I didn't want one. I originally wanted a water birth with, you know, like, candles.
Syx’s dad is a musician and he was doing a show in L.A.--a festival, which was supposed to be his last booking before the baby came. When her dad got off stage, he listened to me giving birth while Erykah Badu was performing. So he's watching Erykah perform and listening to me to give birth. He hears her first cry while Erykah is performing.
I know everybody is going to call me crazy, but birth didn't hurt. In my head I imagined it was going to be the worst thing I had ever felt my life. And it wasn't! I didn't even realize I was in labor! Bodies are so weird. I had no clues that I was going to have her.
Right after birth we did skin to skin. I didn't let them wash her. She didn't get a bath. No Vitamin K shots. We declined that. I just held her. She took to breastfeeding right away. That's why I tell everybody I had the easiest pregnancy, the easiest labor…
The first year was a whirlwind. You spend so much of those first months in newborn baby bliss. And you're tired and you try to adjust to how to be at home and still be yourself. I feel like I didn't even leave my house. Also, I was the first out of all my friends to have a baby. They're now all starting to get pregnant.
I think being a mother has been the only thing that I felt I was meant to do…and what I'm good at. It just fulfills me. If you asked me when I was growing up what I wanted to be I wouldn't answer a set thing. But I knew I wanted to have a bunch of kids. I wanted to be a mom.
I only know how to be a mom with this untraditional type of job. I don't have the traditional 9 to 5. I've gone months without seeing Syx just because I'm in a whole different state working and she's home or she's with her dad. It's all I know. I got signed professionally when she was 8 months old. Modelling was something I always wanted to do but I was young and I was in Atlanta. But when I had her, I was though, "You have to do something with your life.” That’s also why I started Tender.
Originally, Tender was going to be a subscription service: a box tailored to each trimester of your pregnancy. But I got it ready to launch—the products and packaging--and for a year I just put it off. I realized I didn’t care about just selling a product. We changed Tender to a nonprofit that will provide bill assistance, food assistance and essentials for women in need. We're starting off local and in Atlanta, by supporting the preschools in Atlanta that low income families can apply to in order to get quality education for their kids.
If I had one piece of advice for new parents in their first year… it would be to savor every moment. That first year flies by. Don't get so caught up in everything being perfect-- if the house is clean or clothes are washed. Tend to the baby. Spend that time with them because eventually you're going to look through your phone and look at the pictures and cry and want those moments back.
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