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What Shakima Woolward, 35, wanted most with her third baby was a natural birth.

Her first two children were born via cesarean section for reasons, she said, that were never adequately explained by her doctors. With her second child, now 7, the decision to perform surgery was abrupt. Woolward was almost fully dilated when her doctors stopped her labor and ordered the operation, citing her previous C-section. No one listened to her pleas for a vaginal delivery and she hadn’t educated herself enough to put up a fight, Woolward said.

“I didn’t want to go through being home for months with a big cut. It’s very painful, even holding the baby is painful, and if you don’t have someone at home helping you … it’s just the worst feeling,” she said. “I just wanted to experience delivery vaginally.”

But when Woolward started prenatal visits at a hospital near her apartment in Brownsville — a poor neighborhood in Brooklyn with the highest concentration of public housing units in New York City — she said she discovered that “natural” was not an option.

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The Amazing People Who Are Changing How Low-Income Moms Give Birth  was originally published on