I am Black. I am a mother of two. I am a Black mother in America. I have a two-year-old son, and a four-year-old daughter. I had some challenges with both pregnancies, and unfortunately, despite my greatest efforts, both of my kids were delivered by emergency cesarean sections (c-sections). With my son, I lost a lot of blood during surgery, and needed blood transfusions. Even to this day, I am still dealing with some issues from his pregnancy. There is so much that could have gone wrong during both pregnancies, especially the surgery with my son, which is why it pains me to know that in America, Black women are three times as likely to die from pregnancy complications than White women.
On April 10th, President Biden declared April 11th-April 17th Black Maternal Week to help expose and shed light on systemic inequities towards Black women and how they are sometimes ignored and dismissed in different health settings regarding their health. There are many issues that need to be addressed concerning Black maternal health and President Biden has made a plan to help tackle these issues. He said, “That is why my Administration wrote the Blueprint for Addressing the Maternal Health Crisis, which lays out specific actions that the Federal Government will take to improve maternal health, and secured funding from the Congress to help implement it.” A plan is great, but will this plan make a difference, or will it be ignored like some of the Black mothers in America? How many Black mothers will it save? Why are plans like this needed? Why can’t we just live in a world that sees people as people and not something less than?
I reached out to a few Black mothers to get their perspective on motherhood and Black maternal health. Every woman’s body is different, and every woman’s experience is different. However, every woman should receive the same quality of care regardless of race.
Chaleste Love, a mom of a seven-year-old boy, and who is expecting to deliver soon said that hearing those statistics is appalling and saddening. As she approaches her due date, she does have some fear of what’s to come. “Being pregnant right now makes me more fearful, especially being older now, and it’s my second baby. It definitely kind of strikes some fear in me at this point in my life.” Love is also a healthcare professional and has seen firsthand the inequities within the healthcare system. “As a healthcare professional, I am not too surprised because I see the discrepancies with Black women and patients I’ve had where I had to advocate for them just to be heard about simple things…seeing it firsthand definitely confirms it a little more and also frightens me.” Love encourages Black women to be informed and learn about your diagnosis from credible sources.
Amanda Ewing, a mom of a five-year-old son and ten-year-old daughter, is concerned about the state of Black women in the health care system. “It is concerning because I feel like it’s been an issue for years and no progress has been made because the numbers are going up instead of down. It’s concerning for our pregnant women and for our future.” Ewing stressed the importance of Black women being more aware and more informed, and the importance of asking questions. “Most of the time if you don’t ask, they’re not going to tell you,” she said, which is why women should not be afraid to speak up and speak out.
For Cormisha Burrell, mom of a five-year-old girl, she made sure she expressed her concerns that she had or about anything that she thought could have been a complication. Burrell also discussed how we don’t hear much about these statistics and information regarding Black maternal health. She also stressed the importance of Black women being informed and sticking together. She said, “Maybe the information is hidden so we won’t have an advocate fighting for us. There is power in numbers…. If we as Black women don’t look out for ourselves, no one will.”
Lauren Louisaire, a mom of a two-year-old daughter, took advice from her cousin when she was pregnant who told her to “advocate for yourself and advocate for your baby.” She also took it upon herself to speak to every woman to hear and learn about their experiences. “My entire pregnancy I took the time to ask every single woman who has ever given birth, had a miscarriage, or an abortion, and just listened to their stories.” Her advice to Black women is also to speak up. “If you want something that’s not recommended or vice versa, speak up on it and be firm. If you need a new doctor, get a new doctor. If they say you can’t get a new doctor, don’t believe them. If they say my opinion is right, get a second opinion, and get a third opinion. Be sure that what’s being said by medical professionals is the truth and not just someone’s personal preference.”
Garesia Warfield, a mom of a five-year-old girl, discussed some reasons why she feels the inequities exist against Black women. “I think overall, the perception of Black women from who they think we are, how they think we handle pain, and how we think we handle trauma…there’s this perception that we can handle more, or that maybe when we speak about what we’re experiencing that it’s not true.” She also mentioned how when legislation creates days and weeks like Black Maternal Week, that it’s just a thing to check off the list. She also compared it to painting over a hole in the wall. “It looks good, you know, at first glance. If you look at the hole, you may not notice it right away, but it’s still an issue that needs to be treated. So, it’s almost like just giving medicine for the symptoms and not actually treating what the problem is. We need to go into the infrastructure of healthcare and really change the root of it.”
Black women are just as important as any other race. Although the statistics are high and it may seem like there is no solution, we can hold ourselves accountable to beat these odds. This means educating yourself about whatever issues you are facing, it means eating right, working out, taking vitamins, keeping up with your doctor’s appointments, asking questions, and helping the next woman. Most importantly, we cannot be silent. Share your stories without shame, help our young women make good choices, and teach them about their bodies, and finally love yourself. In a country that may not see you, I do. You are important, and you matter.